Index 
Texts adopted
Thursday, 10 September 2015 - StrasbourgFinal edition
Russia, in particular the cases of Eston Kohver, Oleg Sentsov and Olexandr Kolchenko
 Angola
 Azerbaijan
 Migration and refugees in Europe
 The EU's role in the Middle East peace process
 Situation in Belarus
 Social entrepreneurship and social innovation in combating unemployment
 Creating a competitive EU labour market for the 21 st century
 30th and 31st annual reports on monitoring the application of EU law (2012-2013)

Russia, in particular the cases of Eston Kohver, Oleg Sentsov and Olexandr Kolchenko
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European Parliament resolution of 10 September 2015 on Russia, in particular the cases of Eston Kohver, Oleg Sentsov and Olexandr Kolchenko (2015/2838(RSP) )
P8_TA(2015)0314 B8-0845 , 0847 , 0850 , 0852 and 0855/2015

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Russian constitution, in particular Article 118 thereof, which states that justice in the Russian Federation is administered by the courts alone, and Article 120 thereof, which provides that judges are independent and are subordinate only to the Russian constitution and to federal law,

–   having regard to its resolution of 12 March 2015 on the murder of the Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and the state of democracy in Russia(1) , and to its previous reports and resolutions on Russia, especially its resolutions of 15 January 2015 on Russia, in particular in the case of Alexei Navalny(2) , of 30 April 2015 on the case of Nadiya Savchenko(3) , and of 10 June 2015 on the state of EU-Russia relations(4) ,

–   having regard to the statement of 19 August 2015 by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR), Federica Mogherini, on the verdict against Estonian police officer Eston Kohver,

–   having regard to the statement of 25 August 2015 by the VP/HR on the sentencing by a Russian court of Ukrainian citizens Oleg Sentsov and Olexandr Kolchenko,

–   having regard to its previous reports and resolutions on Russia, in particular its recommendation of 23 October 2012 to the Council on establishing common visa restrictions for Russian officials involved in the Sergei Magnitsky case(5) , its resolutions of 13 June 2013 on the rule of law in Russia(6) , of 13 March 2014 on Russia: sentencing of demonstrators involved in the Bolotnaya Square events(7) and of 23 October 2014 on the closing-down of the NGO ‘Memorial’ (winner of the 2009 Sakharov Prize) in Russia(8) , and its recommendation to the Council of 2 April 2014 on establishing common visa restrictions for Russian officials involved in the Sergei Magnitsky case(9) ,

–   having regard to the seventh periodic report of the Russian Federation(10) considered by the United Nations Human Rights Committee at its 3136th and 3137th meetings(11) , held on 16 and 17 March 2015,

–   having regard to the EU-Russia human rights consultations of 28 November 2013,

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

A.   whereas the Russian Federation, as a full member of the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations, has committed itself to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights; whereas, as a result of numerous serious violations of the rule of law and the adoption of restrictive laws during recent months, there are grave concerns about Russia’s compliance with international and national obligations; and whereas the European Union has repeatedly offered additional assistance and expertise to help Russia to modernise and abide by its constitutional and legal order, in line with Council of Europe standards;

B.   whereas Estonian police officer Eston Kohver was abducted in September 2014 from Estonian territory by the FSB and subsequently illegally detained in Russia, an action which constitutes a clear and serious violation of international law;

C.   whereas the Ukrainian film-maker Oleg Sentsov and the civic activist Olexandr Kolchenko, who opposed the illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia, were arrested in May 2014 in relation to alleged activities conducted in Crimea; whereas they were treated as Russian citizens despite holding Ukrainian citizenship;

D.   whereas in the case of both Oleg Sentsov and Olexandr Kolchenko there have been allegations of torture and severe mistreatment leading to the illegal extraction of depositions which have subsequently been given legal value;

E.   whereas Oleg Sentsov and Olexandr Kolchenko were tried in a military court for crimes over which civilian courts have full jurisdiction; whereas the trial was marred by numerous and grave procedural violations;

F.   whereas the UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, in her report released in April 2014 following an official visit to the Russian Federation, expressed strong concern about allegations of direct and indirect threats to, and improper influence, interference and pressure on, the judiciary;

G.   whereas there is an increasing need for a firm, coherent and comprehensive EU policy towards Russia that is respected by all the Member States;

H.   whereas the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements envisaged the release and exchange of all hostages and of all those unlawfully detained, on the basis of the ‘all for all’ principle;

I.   whereas several trials and judicial proceedings over the last few years, including in the Navalny, Magnitsky and Khodorkovsky cases, have cast doubt on the independence and impartiality of the judicial institutions of the Russian Federation;

J.   whereas the EU has repeatedly offered additional assistance and expertise, through the Partnership for Modernisation, to support Russia’s efforts to democratise and abide by its constitutional and legal order, in line with Council of Europe standards;

1.   Strongly condemns the judgment handed down by the Pskov regional court as well as the entire trial of Estonian police officer Eston Kohver, who was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment after his abduction in 2014 from the territory of Estonia, which is part of the EU; considers the case to be in breach of international law and of elementary standards of justice;

2.   Urges the Russian Federation to act in accordance with its international obligations, to release Eston Kohver immediately and to guarantee his safe return to Estonia;

3.   Expresses its deeply held belief that from the very beginning Eston Kohver was not afforded the right to a fair trial, given that there was no public hearing of the case, that the Estonian consul was not allowed to be present at the hearings, that Eston Kohver was deprived of adequate legal aid, that – moreover – he was refused visits from his wife and family, and that he has been ordered to undergo unfounded psychiatric examination, the details of which remain unknown;

4.   Strongly condemns the illegal sentencing and imprisonment of Oleg Sentsov and Olexandr Kolchenko; calls on the Russian Federation to release them immediately and guarantee their safe return to Ukraine; demands that the Russian authorities immediately investigate, in an impartial and effective manner, the allegations of torture made by defendants and witnesses in the case, which were rejected by the prosecutor during the trial; calls for this investigation also to be opened to international observers;

5.   Calls for the release of all illegally detained Ukrainian citizens, including Nadiya Savchenko, this being in line with the agreed Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements and the commitment to release all hostages and all those detained in connection with the conflict in Ukraine;

6.   Deplores the fact that in the Russian Federation law and justice are being used as political instruments in breach of international law and standards, thus allowing the sentencing of the Ukrainian film-maker Oleg Sentsov and of Olexandr Kolchenko to 20 years’ and 10 years’ imprisonment respectively for expressing their views reflecting an active pro‑Ukrainian position against the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation; points out, in any case, that they should not have been tried in a military court and that all testimony gained through torture and other illegal methods should be excluded;

7.   Strongly condemns the blatant violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and Estonia through the illegal kidnapping of citizens of both countries so that they could be charged before a Russian court;

8.   Emphasises that Russian courts are not competent to judge acts committed outside the internationally recognised territory of Russia, and points out that the judicial proceedings in all three cases should not be regarded as legitimate; calls on the Council and the Commission to address these cases in their contacts with the Russian authorities and to report back to Parliament; calls on the Member States to do the same in bilateral meetings;

9.   Emphasises that the Russian authorities and judicial personnel bear full responsibility for the safety and well-being of those detained, and that their right to family visits, to contact with their diplomatic representatives, to adequate medical assistance, to judicial and consular counsel and to comprehensive access for both them and their legal representatives to all documents and evidence pertaining to the charges against them must be fully respected;

10.   Reiterates its condemnation of the government’s continued crackdown on dissidents by targeting independent NGOs through the so-called ‘foreign agents law’ and the persistent and multiform repression of activists, political opponents and critics of the regime;

11.   Reminds Russia of the importance of full compliance with its international legal obligations, and of the fact that judicial decisions have to be taken in an effective and impartial manner and must be independent, comply fully with the law and be based on legitimate evidence, without any political interference; takes the view that the Russian Federation, as a member of the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, should honour the obligations to which it has signed up;

12.   Calls on the Council to establish a common EU list of the officials responsible for the abduction, illegal detention and sentencing of Eston Kohver, Nadiya Savchenko, Oleg Sentsov and Olexandr Kolchenko, to impose and implement an EU-wide visa ban on these officials, and to freeze any financial assets that they, or their immediate family, may hold within the European Union;

13.   Calls for increased permanent monitoring of human rights violations in Russia and in the territories currently annexed by Russia; expresses its deep concern at the deteriorating state of human rights and calls on the Russian authorities to respect such rights, including the right of freedom of expression, association and assembly and the rule of law, in Russia and in Crimea following its illegal annexation; notes that Russia continues to breach the European Convention on Human Rights;

14.   Urges the President of the European Council and the VP/HR to come up with a comprehensive policy strategy which would enable the EU to regain the initiative and to pursue a more clear-cut policy towards Russia;

15.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the President, Government and Parliament of the Russian Federation.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0074 .
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0006 .
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0186 .
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0225 .
(5) OJ C 68 E, 7.3.2014, p. 13.
(6) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0284 .
(7) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0253 .
(8) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2014)0039 .
(9) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0258 .
(10) CCPR/C/RUS/7.
(11) CCPR/C/SR.3136 and 3137.


Angola
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European Parliament resolution of 10 September 2015 on Angola (2015/2839(RSP) )
P8_TA(2015)0315 B8-0846 , 0848 , 0853 , 0854 , 0857 , 0859 and 0861/2015

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on Angola,

–   having regard to the statement of 12 May 2015 by the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Angola,

–   having regard to the joint statement of 17 October 2014 following the 1st Angola-European Union Ministerial Meeting,

–   having regard to the EU-Angola Joint Way Forward document of 23 July 2012,

–   having regard to the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders and on Freedom of Expression,

–   having regard to the Council conclusions of June 2014 on the 10th anniversary of the EU Guidelines,

–   having regard to Article 21 TEU and the EU Strategic Framework on Human Rights, in which the EU commits to ‘continue to throw its full weight behind advocates of liberty, democracy and human rights throughout the world’,

–   having regard to the Cotonou Partnership Agreement signed in June 2000,

–   having regard to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,

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

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

A.   whereas in recent months the Angolan Government has intensified its clampdown on any suspected challenge to its authority, thus violating human rights as enshrined in the Angolan constitution; whereas freedom of association and assembly in Angola continue to be suppressed and there is growing concern that the military and intelligence services have become the driving forces behind the arrest and prosecution of human rights activists;

B.   whereas on 14 March 2015 human rights activist José Marcos Mavungo was arrested without a warrant, and on 28 August 2015 prosecutor António Nito asked the court in the Angolan province of Cabinda to sentence Mavungo to 12 years imprisonment on the charge of inciting rebellion, despite no evidence being presented that he had committed any crime;

C.   whereas lawyer Arão Bula Tempo was arrested on the same day for alleged involvement in the organisation of the same protest; whereas Arão Bula Tempo was subsequently released on 13 May 2015 pending his trial on sedition charges;

D.   whereas the journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques was condemned on 28 May 2015 to a 6-month jail term suspended for two years for the publication in 2011 of the book, ‘Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola’, which detailed more than 100 killings and hundreds of cases of torture allegedly perpetrated by security guards and soldiers in the diamond fields of the Lundas region; whereas the complaints submitted by Marques to the Public Prosecutor concerning human rights violations in the Lundas region were not subject to investigation;

E.   whereas 15 youth activists were arrested between 20 and 24 June 2015 in connection with a private political discussion; whereas Captain Zenóbio Lázaro Muhondo Zumba was subsequently arrested on 30 June 2015 on the grounds of alleged links with the 15 activists arrested;

F.   whereas all those detained were illegally and arbitrarily arrested and accused of preparing a rebellion and a coup attempt against the President and other government members;

G.   whereas the 15 activists detained are held in pre-trial detention, have not been formally charged, are without full access to legal counsel and visits from family members attempting to provide food, and are held in solitary confinement;

H.   whereas the activists were arrested and had their homes raided without the authorities presenting any warrant; whereas it has been reported that they were subject to physical and psychological torture as well as death threats;

I.   whereas the authorities are making threats against the mothers of the young prisoners who are getting mobilised, and the ruling MPLA party has prevented demonstrations by supporters to ask for their release; whereas a peaceful demonstration by relatives of the prisoners in Luanda on 8 August 2015was met with attacks and violent repression by the security forces on the ground;

J.   whereas in July 2015 four human rights defenders and a Radio Deutsche Welle correspondent were temporarily detained while visiting other activists in a prison in the Luanda province, on the accusation of intending to make politics in prison;

K.   whereas the right to peaceful protest and the right of association and expression are recognised in the Angolan constitution;

L.   whereas there have been reports of a massacre in Huambo in April 2015 by the police forces of followers of the religious sect Luz do Mundo; whereas the figures reported by diverging sources range from dozens to thousands of deaths and many displaced persons; whereas for months the Government has failed to address the urgency of conducting an independent investigation, while fiercely denying the high figures; whereas the Ombudsman is currently preparing a report on the events;

M.   whereas the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for an international inquiry into the incident, which sparked the Government to open a judicial investigation;

N.   whereas the Government of Angola has also stepped up both mass and small-scale forced evictions in Luanda and other cities in order to remove people living in informal settlements and eliminate street traders, including pregnant women and women with children;

O.   whereas new legislation was introduced in March 2015 outlining increased control over non-governmental organisations;

P.   whereas civil society has repeatedly denounced the link between corruption, the depletion and misappropriation of natural resources by the ruling elite and human rights abuses committed against those who pose a threat to and denounce the status quo;

Q.   whereas, despite commitments by the Angolan Government to step up efforts to improve its anti-money laundering/combating financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) system and some progress made, the Financial Action Task Force – an intergovernmental organisation founded in 1989 on the initiative of the G7 to develop policies to combat money laundering – continues to identify strategic deficiencies in Angola’s AML/CFT system;

R.   whereas independent reports have established that oil income, the Government’s main resource, has not been directed towards sustainable development or local communities, while the ruling elite has become richer;

S.   whereas Angola has vast mineral and petroleum reserves, and is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, especially since the end of the civil war; whereas its economic growth is highly uneven, with the majority of the nation’s wealth concentrated in a disproportionately small sector of the population;

T.   whereas the economic crisis in the country following the sharp drop in oil revenues is likely to trigger further social unrest and protests against the government;

U.   whereas in October 2014 Angola reaffirmed its commitment to the political dialogue and cooperation agreed in the EU-Angola Joint Way Forward document, in which good governance, democracy and human rights are essential pillars;

V.   whereas, in accordance with Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement between the EU and Angola, the exchange of information on good governance and human rights takes place within a formal political dialogue at least once a year in the framework of the 2012 EU-Angola Joint Way Forward document;

1.   Is deeply concerned about the fast deteriorating situation in terms of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic space in Angola, as well as the serious abuses by the security forces and the lack of independence of the judiciary;

2.   Calls on the Angolan authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders, including Marcos Mavungo and the 15+1 activists arrested in June 2015, and to drop all charges against them; calls also for the immediate and unconditional release of any other activists, prisoners of conscience or political opponents arbitrarily arrested and detained solely for their political views, journalistic work or participation in peaceful activities;

3.   Urges the authorities to ensure that no acts of torture or ill-treatment are performed on the detainees and to guarantee full protection and access to their families and lawyers;

4.   Calls on the Angolan authorities to immediately put an end to cases of arbitrary arrest, illegal detentions and torture by the police and security forces; reiterates that prompt, impartial and thorough investigations must be carried out into all allegations of human rights violations, including torture, by police and security forces and that the perpetrators be brought to justice;

5.   Is gravely concerned by the continuous attempts to limit freedom of expression and media freedom, peaceful assembly and association, and the increased breaches of these freedoms by the authorities, and calls on the Angolan authorities to ensure the immediate and unconditional upholding of these freedoms; further calls on them to fully implement the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Angola;

6.   Asks the EU Delegation in Luanda to deliver on the EEAS’s commitments to support and protect human rights defenders (HRDs) worldwide through concrete, visible steps that especially include trial observation, political and material support to HRDs, their lawyers and families and systematic engagement by the EU and its Member States with the Angolan authorities on human rights at all levels of relations, including at the highest level; further asks the Delegation to step up the political dialogue with the Angolan Government in all political, trade and development relations, to ensure that it upholds its national and international human rights commitments as promised during the 1st EU-Angola Ministerial Meeting of October 2014; urges it to use all appropriate tools and instruments, including the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, to do so;

7.   Calls on the EU and the Member States to acknowledge the high level of corruption by the Angolan authorities which seriously undermines respect for human rights and development, to implement the principles of the human rights approach toolbox ahead of any dealings with Angola, and to review the focal sectors of its National Indicative Programme under the 11th EDF;

8.   Regrets the fact that, despite the completion of a national survey in 2007 and a major mine action programme, the extent of the APL/ERW threat is still not known with confidence; urges the EU to monitor, control and evaluate the effective use of funds and to ensure that the allocated budget is used in an efficient and targeted manner so that land is cleared as it should be;

9.   Urges the Angolan judicial authorities to assert their independence from any political instrumentalisation and to ensure the protection of rights recognised by legal instruments, such as access to justice and the right to a fair trial;

10.   Urges the Angolan Government to conduct an urgent, transparent and credible inquiry into the Huambo massacre, and to provide support to the survivors who have been displaced; echoes the UN calls for an international and independent complementary investigation;

11.   Remains concerned that measures to combat violence against women and children have not been implemented; calls on the authorities to strengthen the fight against harmful traditional practices, such as the stigmatisation of children accused of sorcery;

12.   Recalls the commitment made by Angola under the Cotonou Agreement to respect democracy, the rule of law and human rights principles which include freedom of expression and freedom of the media, good governance and transparency in political offices; urges the Angolan Government to uphold these provisions in accordance with Articles 11b, 96 and 97 of the Cotonou Agreement and, failing that, asks the European Commission to launch the relevant procedure in accordance with Articles 8, 9 and 96 of the Cotonou Agreement;

13.   Urges the EU and the Member States to address the transparency of trade in all natural resources, including oil, and notably to fully implement and monitor the existing legislation on country-by-country reporting ; calls on the Angolan authorities and foreign companies to help strengthen governance in the extractive sector by abiding by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and to review the implementation of the Kimberley Process; further calls on the Angolan Government to submit a plan to join the Open Government Partnership and henceforth to lay out a concrete plan to fight corruption, increase transparency and enhance public accountability;

14.   Encourages EU and US cooperation and coordination on implementation of Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act;

15.   Calls on Member States’ national administrations and supervisory authorities to step up vigilance of compliance with European anti-money laundering legislation, including due diligence normative principles and proper risk analysis, especially involving Politically Exposed Persons originating from Angola;

16.   Welcomes the Angolan Government’s acknowledgement of problems in relation to compensation in cases of land seizure, and welcomes the media reports which suggest that the distribution and compensation mechanisms are improving; encourages the Government to continue its efforts in this direction;

17.   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 African Union, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the governments of the countries of the SADC region, the President and Parliament of Angola, the US Government, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the UN Human Rights Council, and the ACP-EU JPA.


Azerbaijan
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European Parliament resolution of 10 September 2015 on Azerbaijan (2015/2840(RSP) )
P8_TA(2015)0316 B8-0856 , 0858 , 0862 , 0863 , 0864 and 0865/2015

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on Azerbaijan, in particular those concerning the human rights situation and the rule of law,

–   having regard to the established relationship between the EU and Azerbaijan, which took effect in 1999, as represented by the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) Action Plan, the creation of the Eastern Partnership (EaP), the negotiations on the EU-Azerbaijan association agreement and Azerbaijan’s participation in the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly,

–   having regard to the 2014 ENP country progress report on Azerbaijan of 25 March 2015 (SWD(2015)0064 ),

–   having regard to the EU-Azerbaijan ENP Action Plan,

–   having regard to the remarks of 22 July 2015 by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, following his meeting with the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev,

–   having regard to the visit to Baku of the EU Special Representative on Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, from 23 to 26 February 2015,

–   having regard to the statement of 8 September 2015 by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, condemning the ongoing crackdown on civil society and independent voices in Azerbaijan,

–   having regard to the statements by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and Commissioner Johannes Hahn with regard to the recent detention, imprisonment, sentencing and murders of leading journalists and human rights defenders in Azerbaijan,

–   having regard to the EU statement of 19 August 2015 on human rights in Azerbaijan at OSCE Special Permanent Council meeting No 1064 in Vienna,

–   having regard to the recent statements by the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, on the case of Khadija Ismayilova, the cases of Leyla Yunus, director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy in Azerbaijan, and her husband, Arif Yunus, and the murder of the Azerbaijani journalist Rasim Aliyev,

–   having regard to the Helsinki Declaration adopted by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly at its annual session between 5 July and 9 July 2015, which ‘condemns the continued persecution and imprisonment on politically motivated charges of journalists and human rights defenders in several OSCE participating States and expresses its concern at the continued misuse of tax and administrative legislation to justify these acts’,

–   having regard to the resolution of 23 June 2015 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan,

–   having regard to the opinion of 15 December 2014 of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission stating that the recent amendments to the law on non-governmental organisations ‘further restrict the operation of NGOs in Azerbaijan’,

–   having regard to the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, and to the Council conclusions of 23 June 2014 on the tenth anniversary of those guidelines,

–   having regard to the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998,

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

A.   whereas the overall human rights situation in Azerbaijan has deteriorated continuously over the last few years, with growing intimidation and repression and intensification of the practice of criminal prosecution of NGO leaders, human rights defenders, journalists and other civil society representatives;

B.   whereas the award-winning investigative journalist for RFE/RL Khadija Ismayilova was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison on alleged charges of misappropriation, embezzlement and tax evasion after publishing several stories of corruption concerning the President’s family; whereas human rights defenders Leyla and Arif Yunus were sentenced to eight and a half and seven years’ imprisonment respectively on charges including fraud and tax evasion in a trial that fell far short of international standards; whereas the well-known human rights activist Rasul Jafarov and the highly respected human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev were sentenced on similar charges, following trials marred by due process violations, and are currently serving prison sentences of six years and three months and seven and a half years respectively; whereas numerous other prominent Azerbaijani civil society figures remain imprisoned, including Anar Mammadli, Rauf Mirkadirov, Ömar Mammadov, Tofiq Yaqublu, Ilgar Mammadov, Nijat Aliyev, Araz Guliyev, Parviz Hashimli, Seymur Hezi, Hilal Mammadov and Taleh Khasmammadov, and whereas the health of some of these prisoners is steadily deteriorating;

C.   whereas Leyla Yunus and Rasul Jafarov, before they were themselves arrested, led a group of prominent Azerbaijani human rights defenders and experts that produced a list of nearly one hundred Azerbaijanis who qualify as political prisoners under the definition adopted by the Council of Europe in 2012;

D.   whereas journalists and civil society leaders are being subjected to continuous intimidation and harassment, among them Emin Milli, Director of Meydan TV, who has received death threats and members of whose family have been arrested on trumped-up charges, as well as journalists working with Meydan TV in Azerbaijan; whereas the founder of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) and human rights defender, Emin Huseynov, has sought refuge in Switzerland after facing trumped-up charges and has had his Azerbaijani citizenship revoked;

E.   whereas many more journalists and civil society activists are faced with legal proceedings, travel bans and restrictions on their freedom of movement in relation to their human rights activities; whereas the Azerbaijani government is also clamping down on independent groups through restrictive new laws regulating NGOs; whereas because of these laws many groups have been effectively forced to shut down after their bank accounts were frozen or their sources of funding blocked following the government’s refusal to authorise new grants from foreign donor organisations;

F.   whereas peaceful protesters have been effectively banned from demonstrating in central Baku since 2006, and new, harsh fines and longer periods of administrative detention for those who organise or participate in unauthorised public gatherings have recently been introduced;

G.   whereas the chair of the IRFS, the journalist Rasim Aliyev, died in a Baku hospital after being severely beaten, following continuous threats and intimidation in the aftermath of his criticisms of President Aliyev via social media;

H.   whereas Azerbaijan is one of the founding members of the Eastern Partnership; whereas the EU and Eastern European leaders have on numerous occasions reaffirmed that the Eastern Partnership is based on a community of values and on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law; whereas Azerbaijan aspires to step up and deepen its relations with the EU, aiming at a strategic partnership;

I.   whereas in 2014 the EU was unable to disburse 11 of its 13 grants to NGOs because of the restrictive legislation, and continues to encounter severe limitations on its ability to fund independent civil society groups and activists in Azerbaijan; whereas many of the EU grantees are either in prison – e.g. the human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev – or have fled the country and closed their operations;

J.   whereas the OSCE office in Baku was closed on 4 July 2015 following the Azerbaijani authorities’ decision to terminate the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Azerbaijan and the OSCE;

K.   whereas Freedom House considers Azerbaijan to be ‘not free’, rating its press as ‘not free’ and its internet as ‘partially free’; whereas Azerbaijan has suffered the greatest decline in democratic governance in all of Eurasia over the past ten years;

L.   whereas in November 2015 Azerbaijan will hold parliamentary elections; whereas the European Parliament declined to send an Election Observation Mission, as the assessment was that the background for holding free and fair elections does not exist and limitations on the freedoms of expression, assembly and association in the country make it impossible to create a level playing field for candidates and to organise a genuinely competitive vote;

M.   whereas sectoral cooperation is mutually beneficial, especially in the energy sector; whereas Azerbaijan has the potential to become one of the EU’s major commercial partners;

1.   Expresses its serious concern over the continuing deterioration of the human rights situation in the country, and recalls that the EU attaches special importance to human rights and fundamental freedoms in the context of bilateral cooperation, as key elements of the Eastern Partnership and also as foundational pillars of international organisations such as the Council of Europe and the OCSE, of both of which Azerbaijan is a member;

2.   Calls for the immediate and unconditional release from jail of all political prisoners, human rights defenders, journalists and other civil society activists, including Khadija Ismayilova, Leyla Yunus and Arif Yunus, Anar Mammadli, Rasul Jafarov, Intigam Aliyev, Rauf Mirkadirov, Ömar Mammadov, Tofiq Yaqublu, Nijat Aliyev, Araz Guliyev, Parviz Hashimli, Seymur Hezi, Hilal Mammadov, Taleh Khasmammadov and Ilgar Mammadov, in line with the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and calls for all charges against them to be dropped and for the full restoration of their political and civil rights and public image;

3.   Strongly condemns the unprecedented repression against civil society in Azerbaijan; reiterates its deep concern for the fate of the colleagues of those imprisoned who are still free but are under criminal investigation, in the light of reports from human rights defenders and domestic and international NGOs of the alleged use of fabricated charges against political figures, activists and journalists; urges the Azerbaijani authorities to end the practices of selective criminal prosecution and imprisonment of journalists, human rights defenders and others who criticise the government, and to ensure that all persons detained, including journalists, political and civil society activists, enjoy full due process rights, in particular access to a lawyer of their choosing and access to their families, and are covered by other fair trial norms;

4.   Welcomes the possibility granted by the Azerbaijani authorities to a European medical team to visit Leyla and Arif Yunus, and calls for their release, also for humanitarian reasons; draws attention to the conditions of imprisonment of Leyla and Arif Yunus and Intigam Aliyev, which have led to the serious deterioration of their health with possibly life-threatening consequences; calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to allow a European medical team to examine Intigam Aliyev and to ensure that all prisoners receive proper healthcare when needed;

5.   Calls for a prompt investigation into the death of the journalist and IRFS chair Rasim Aliyev; notes with concern the allegations put forward by a group of journalists that Mr Aliyev died because he had not received appropriate assistance from the doctors assigned to him in the hospital;

6.   Reminds the authorities in Azerbaijan that the wellbeing of the population, which entails respect for rights and freedoms, is an essential component of sustainable economic growth;

7.   Calls upon Azerbaijan to respect and implement its commitments undertaken as a member of the Council of Europe; reiterates its call on the Azerbaijani authorities to comply with all rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) concerning Azerbaijan; calls for the ruling of 16 June 2015 and all other ECHR rulings to be complied with;

8.   Urges the government of Azerbaijan to fully cooperate with and implement the recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN special procedures in regard to human rights defenders, the rights of freedom of association and peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and arbitrary detention, with the aim of amending its legislation and adapting its practices in full conformity with the conclusions of the experts;

9.   Calls on the government of Azerbaijan to immediately end its crackdown on civil society and human rights work, ensuring that independent civil society groups and activists can operate without undue hindrance or fear of persecution, including by repealing the laws severely restricting civil society, unfreezing bank accounts of non-governmental groups and their leaders, and allowing access to foreign funding;

10.   Deplores the continued actions taken by the Azerbaijani government to curb contacts between civil society groups, youth activists and intellectuals in Armenia and Azerbaijan, which are of extreme importance for bridging the long hostility between the two countries; in this regard, again recalls the important work done in this area by Leyla and Arif Yunus;

11.   Calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to respect freedom of the press and media, both in legislation and in practice and both online and offline, to guarantee freedom of expression in line with international standards and to end censorship of criticism of the government via media outlets;

12.   Is extremely concerned over the situation of LGBTI people in Azerbaijan; strongly condemns political hate speech against LGBTI people coming from the highest levels; calls on the Azerbaijani government to stop obstructing and intimidating human rights defenders working for the rights of LGBTI people;

13.   Underlines the importance of serious and mutually respectful dialogue between the EU and the government of Azerbaijan, the opposition forces and civil society;

14.   Reiterates that the negotiations for a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Azerbaijan should be immediately put on hold as long the government fails to take concrete steps in advancing respect for universal human rights;

15.   Calls on the Council, the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to strictly apply the ‘more for more’ principle, with a specific focus on the situation of human rights defenders, in line with the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, the independence of the judiciary, democratic reforms and fundamental rights and freedoms, and to clearly lay down the consequences of lagging behind on reforms; calls on the Commission to review and suspend temporarily, if needed, all funding not related to human rights, civil society and grassroots level people-to-people cooperation granted to Azerbaijan through the European Neighbourhood Instrument, in light of the abovementioned incidents of human rights defenders being targeted for documenting human rights violations in Azerbaijan; calls on the Commission and the Member States to maintain funding for people-to-people contacts and cooperation in such areas as civil society, education and academia, as well as youth and student exchanges;

16.   Calls on the Council, the Commission, and the VP/HR to mount a strong and unified response to the crackdown under way in Azerbaijan, in order to make it clear that the prevailing situation is wholly unacceptable and that it cannot be ‘business as usual’ until the government releases all those imprisoned on politically motivated charges and ends the ongoing crackdown against independent civil society groups;

17.   Urges the European companies that operate in Azerbaijan to be outspoken in demanding high human rights standards and to adopt high standards of corporate social responsibility, taking into account the impact of their actions on the human rights situation in the country;

18.   Regrets that the EU-Azerbaijan human rights dialogue has not made any substantial progress as regards the human rights situation in the country; calls on the EEAS to step up this dialogue with a view to making it effective and result-oriented, and to report regularly to Parliament;

19.   Calls on the EU authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the corruption allegations against President Aliyev and members of his family revealed by the work of the investigative journalist Khadija Ismaylova;

20.   Calls on the Council to avoid double standards in relation to the EaP countries, and to consider, in this regard, targeted sanctions and visa bans on all politicians, officials and judges involved in the political persecutions;

21.   Calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to cooperate with and facilitate visits by representatives of regional organisations such as the Council of Europe and the OCSE; strongly deplores the decision by the Azerbaijani authorities to close the OCSE offices in Baku;

22.   Notes that independent election monitors, including the long-term OSCE observation mission and national ones, have documented major breaches of electoral standards in Azerbaijan for all presidential and parliamentary elections since and including the presidential election of October 2003; expresses its serious concern as to whether the conditions are in place for a free and fair vote on 1 November 2015, given that leaders of opposition parties have been imprisoned, media and journalists are not allowed to operate freely and without intimidation, and a climate of fear is prevalent;

23.   Calls on the EEAS and the Member States to refrain from election observation activities for the time being. Notes that an ODIHR mission is currently on the ground and it would be of the utmost importance to know its analysis of the situation in the country;

24.   Recalls its decision to send a European Parliament delegation to Azerbaijan, and stresses the importance of sending this delegation as soon as possible in order to engage with the Azerbaijani authorities on urgent issues such as human rights and the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh;

25.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the European External Action Service, the European Council, the Commission, the government and parliament of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the UN Human Rights Council.


Migration and refugees in Europe
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European Parliament resolution of 10 September 2015 on migration and refugees in Europe (2015/2833(RSP) )
P8_TA(2015)0317 B8-0832 , 0834 , 0837 and 0842/2015

The European Parliament,

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

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

–   having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,

–   having regard to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the additional protocol thereto,

–   having regard to its resolution of 9 October 2013 on EU and Member State measures to tackle the flow of refugees as a result of the conflict in Syria(1) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 23 October 2013 on migratory flows in the Mediterranean, with particular attention to the tragic events off Lampedusa(2) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 17 December 2014 on the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration(3) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 29 April 2015 on the latest tragedies in the Mediterranean and EU migration and asylum policies(4) ,

–   having regard to the Commission’s European Agenda on Migration of 13 May 2015 (COM(2015)0240 ),

–   having regard to the ten-point action plan on migration of the Joint Foreign and Home Affairs Council of 20 April 2015,

–   having regard to the conclusions of the European Council Special Summit on the Mediterranean refugee crisis of 23 April 2015,

–   having regard to the report of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) of April 2012 entitled ‘Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea’,

–   having regard to the Council conclusions of 20 July 2015,

–   having regard to the EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative, or ‘Khartoum Process’, adopted on 28 November 2014 by African Union and EU Member States and institutions,

–   having regard to the reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, in particular that entitled ‘Banking on mobility over a generation: follow-up to the regional study on the management of the external borders of the European Union and its impact on the human rights of migrants’, published in May 2015,

–   having regard to the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) Annual Report on the Situation of Asylum in the European Union 2014,

–   having regard to the debate on migration and refugees in Europe held in Parliament on 9 September 2015,

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

A.   whereas, as a consequence of persistent conflicts, regional instability and human rights violations, an unprecedented number of people are seeking protection in the EU; whereas the number of asylum applications concerning children has increased by 75 % since last year; whereas the summer period has demonstrated once again that migration is not a temporary issue and that the surge in refugee numbers looks set to continue, highlighting once more the urgent need to do everything possible to save the lives of people who are fleeing their countries and are in danger, and the fact that the Member States should abide by their international obligations, including rescue obligations at sea;

B.   whereas 2 800 women, men and children have been reported dead or missing in 2015 in their attempt to reach a safe place in Europe, according to UNHCR data; whereas refugees and migrants are also losing their lives making their way over land in Europe;

C.   whereas smugglers and human traffickers exploit irregular migration and put at risk the lives of immigrants for their own business profits, are responsible for thousands of deaths and pose a serious challenge to the EU and the Member States; whereas traffickers generate profits of EUR 20 billion per year from their criminal activities; whereas, according to Europol, organised criminal groups actively facilitating the transport of irregular migrants across the Mediterranean Sea have been linked to human trafficking, drugs, firearms and terrorism;

D.   whereas the main countries of origin of asylum seekers in 2015 are Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Iraq, according to FRONTEX data; whereas the vast majority of people fleeing these countries to Europe are granted protection, according to Eurostat;

E.   whereas regional instability and conflict and the rise of IS/Da’esh in neighbouring conflict areas are having an impact on the mass influx of migrants and flows of displaced people and, therefore, on the number of individuals attempting to reach the EU;

F.   whereas the last European Council meeting, held on 25-26 June 2015, and the subsequent Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on 20 July 2015 failed to produce an agreement on a binding redistribution mechanism for the relocation and resettlement of people, and instead settled for a voluntary mechanism; whereas Member States failed to reach an agreement on providing 40 000 places for the relocation of refugees from Greece and Italy and instead pledged only 32 256 places;

G.   whereas on 3 September 2015 European Council President Donald Tusk called for at least 100 000 refugees to be redistributed;

H.   whereas, instead of the current ad hoc decision making, it is necessary to develop a longer-term approach to asylum and migration;

I.   whereas many citizens are demonstrating an unprecedented level of solidarity with refugees, warmly welcoming them and providing an impressive level of support; whereas European citizens are thereby showing that protection of those in need and compassion remain truly European values;

J.   whereas the current situation has highlighted a regrettable lack of solidarity on the part of governments towards asylum-seekers, and insufficiently coordinated and coherent action; whereas this is leading to a chaotic situation and human rights violations; whereas the different positions taken by individual Member States continue to highlight the fact that the EU has 28 fragmented migration policies; whereas the lack of unified asylum procedures and standards in the Member States leads to differing levels of protection, and in some cases even to inadequate guarantees for asylum seekers;

K.   whereas some Member States and their leaders have taken a proactive approach and demonstrated preparedness and a willingness to receive refugees and establish a permanent and mandatory mechanism for allocating refugees among all Member States; whereas other Member States should follow this good example;

L.   whereas the strategic report on a holistic approach to migration by its Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs will address EU asylum and migration policy in its entirety;

M.   whereas under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (Geneva Convention) people may seek asylum regardless of their country of origin, as long as they have a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion;

1.   Expresses its deep regret and sorrow at the tragic loss of lives of people seeking asylum in the EU; urges the EU and the Member States to do everything possible to prevent further loss of life at sea or on land;

2.   Expresses its solidarity with the high number of refugees and migrants who are victims of conflicts, grave violations of human rights, tangible governance failures and harsh repression;

3.   Welcomes the efforts of civil society groups and individuals all over Europe who are mobilising in large numbers to welcome and provide aid to refugees and migrants; encourages European citizens to keep up their support and engagement for a humanitarian response to the refugee crisis; believes that such actions demonstrate true adherence to European values and are a sign of hope for the future of Europe;

4.   Reiterates its support for its resolution of 29 April 2015 on the latest tragedies in the Mediterranean and EU migration and asylum policies; recalls the need for the EU to base its immediate response to the current refugee situation on solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, as stated in Article 80 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), and on a holistic approach that takes into account safe and legal migration and full respect for fundamental rights and values;

5.   Reiterates its commitment to open borders within the Schengen area, while ensuring effective management of external borders; stresses that the free movement of people within the Schengen area has been one of the biggest achievements of European integration;

6.   Welcomes the Commission’s initiatives on relocation and resettlement, including the new one for emergency relocation of an increased number of asylum seekers in need of international protection, covering Greece, Italy and Hungary; endorses the announcement by the Commission of a permanent relocation mechanism, to be activated in emergency situations, taking into account the number of refugees present in the Member State, which is based on Article 78(2) of the TFEU; is prepared to deal with the new emergency relocation scheme under a fast-track procedure and declares its intention to advance all other measures proposed by the Commission in parallel, so as to ensure that Member States do not delay the permanent relocation scheme; reminds the Council that Parliament is strongly in favour of a binding relocation mechanism which, as far as possible, takes into account the preferences of refugees;

7.   Welcomes the operational support which the Commission will provide to frontline Member States such as Greece, Italy and Hungary via ‘Hotspots’ by using expertise from the EU agencies such as FRONTEX, EASO and the European police office (Europol), to help Member States with the registration of people arriving; reminds the Member States that the success of such registration centres depends on their willingness to relocate refugees from the ‘Hotspots’ to their territories; believes that such an approach should clearly provide for effective mechanisms for the identification of people with specific needs and for their onward referral to services;

8.   Notes the Commission proposal to strengthen the ‘safe country of origin’ provision of the Asylum Procedure Directive by establishing a common EU list of safe countries of origin; understands that this approach could limit the procedural rights of citizens of those countries; recalls that the acceptance rate for asylum applications varies greatly from one Member State to another, including as regards particular countries of origin; requests that steps be taken to ensure that this approach does not undermine the principle of non-refoulement and the individual right to asylum, especially that of people belonging to vulnerable groups;

9.   Reiterates its calls on the Commission to amend the existing Dublin Regulation in order to include a permanent, binding system of distribution of asylum seekers among the 28 Member States, using a fair, compulsory allocation key, while taking into account the prospects of integration and the needs and specific circumstances of asylum seekers themselves;

10.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to create significant budgetary room and readiness in the 2016 budget and multiannual financial framework (MFF) provisions, enabling more swift and substantial support to EASO and the Member States as regards their actions for reception and integration of refugees, including in the framework of the relocation and resettlement schemes;

11.   Calls for rapid and full transposition and effective implementation of the Common European Asylum System by all participating Member States; urges the Commission to make sure that all Member States are properly implementing EU legislation in order to ensure that common effective, consistent and humane standards are applied across the EU taking into account the best interests of the child;

12.   Believes that the implementation of the Return Directive should go hand in hand with respect for the procedures and standards that allow Europe to ensure humane and dignified treatment of returnees, in line with the principle of non-refoulement ; recalls that voluntary returns should be prioritised over forced returns;

13.   Recalls that the possibilities for people in need of protection to legally enter the EU are very limited, and deplores the fact that they have no other option but to resort to criminal smugglers and dangerous routes to find protection in Europe, as a result of, among other factors, the building of fences and sealing-off of external borders; considers it therefore a high priority that the EU and its Member Statescreate safe and legal avenues for refugees, such as humanitarian corridors and humanitarian visas; stresses that, in addition to a compulsory resettlement programme, Member States should agree to provide other tools, such as enhanced family reunification, private sponsorship schemes and flexible visa arrangements, including for study and work; believes that it is necessary to amend the Visa Code by including more specific common provisions on humanitarian visas; asks Member States to make it possible to apply for asylum at their embassies and consular offices;

14.   Recalls that the Member States should lay down strong criminal sanctions against human trafficking and smuggling, both into and across the EU; calls on the Member States to combat criminal networks of smugglers, but in the meantime not to penalise those who voluntarily help migrants on humanitarian grounds, including carriers, by asking the Commission to consider revising Council Directive 2001/51/EC; takes note of the EUNAVFOR Med operation against smugglers and traffickers in the Mediterranean;

15.   Regrets that the leaders of some Member States and the far-right parties are using the current situation to fuel anti-migration sentiments while blaming the EU for the crisis, and that this is giving rise to growing numbers of violent actions against migrants; calls on the Commission and the Member States to take urgent steps against violent actions and hate speech targeting migrants; also calls on the leaders of the EU and the Member States to take a clear stance in favour of European solidarity and respect for human dignity;

16.   Recalls that migration is a global and complex phenomenon which also requires a long‑term approach that addresses its root causes, such as poverty, inequality, injustice, climate change, corruption, ill-governance and armed conflict; urges the Commission and the Council to focus the Valletta Summit in November 2015 on such root causes; underlines the need for a comprehensive EU approach, strengthening the coherence of its internal and external policies, and notably its common foreign and security policy, development policy and migration policy; questions plans to link development aid to more border controls or readmission agreements by third countries;

17.   Asks the EU, its Member States and other international donors to deliver urgently on the pledges made at the Financing for Development Conference held in July 2015 in Addis Ababa, and stresses the need to refocus development policy on building peaceful societies, combating corruption and promoting good governance, as specified in Sustainable Development Goal 16 of the post-2015 global development framework;

18.   Urges the EU, its Member States and the international community to reinforce their role in conflict resolution and, in particular, help find sustainable political solutions in regions in conflict, such as Iraq, Syria and Libya and the Middle East, and to strengthen political dialogue, including with regional organisations, encompassing all human rights elements, in order to support inclusive and democratic institutions and the rule of law, to build the resilience of local communities and to foster social and democratic development in the countries of origin and among their peoples; calls in this regard for greater cooperation with countries in the region within the Arab League and the African Union in order to manage, resettle and grant asylum to persons in need of protection;

19.   Calls on the Commission and the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to convene an international conference on the refugee crisis, with the participation of the EU, its Member States, UN-related agencies, the United States, relevant international NGOs and Arab states, among others, with the aim of establishing a common global humanitarian aid strategy;

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

(1) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0414 .
(2) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0448 .
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2014)0105 .
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0176 .


The EU's role in the Middle East peace process
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European Parliament resolution of 10 September 2015 on the EU’s role in the Middle East peace process (2015/2685(RSP) )
P8_TA(2015)0318 B8-0836 , 0839 , 0840 , 0841 , 0843 and 0844/2015

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on the Middle East peace process,

–   having regard to the Council conclusions of 20 July 2015 on the Middle East peace process,

–   having regard to recent statements by the Vice-President/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and her spokesperson on Israel, the occupied Palestinian Territory, the Middle East peace process and the EU’s support for the UN Relief and Works Agency,

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

–   having regard to the Euro-Mediterranean Interim Association Agreement on trade and cooperation between the European Community, of the one part, and the Palestine Liberation Organisation for the benefit of the Palestinian Authority of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, of the other part,

–   having regard to relevant UN General Assembly and UN Security Council resolutions,

–   having regard to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949,

–   having regard to the EU Guidelines on Promoting Compliance with International Humanitarian Law,

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

A.   whereas achieving peace in the Middle East remains a key priority for the international community and an indispensable element for regional stability and security; whereas efforts are being made in the UN Security Council to resume the peace process;

B.   whereas the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to be viewed in the larger context of the Arab‑Israeli conflict; whereas the EU considers that peace in the Middle East requires a comprehensive regional solution; whereas the violent crisis in Syria, the rise of Da’esh, increasing radicalism and the spread of terrorism in the Middle East are creating significant security threats for Israel and the entire region and further aggravating the suffering of Palestinians, but are also creating shared interests between the Arab states and Israel, while the nuclear deal with Iran, in which the EU played a significant role, offers a unique momentum for the peace process, which should not be missed;

C.   whereas the EU has repeatedly confirmed its support for the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states and with the secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security, and called for the resumption of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority;

D.   whereas the EU is Israel’s largest trading partner and the biggest aid provider to the Palestinians; whereas the Vice-President/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR), Federica Mogherini, has on several occasions expressed her commitment to renewing and intensifying the EU’s role in the Middle East peace process; whereas in April 2015 Fernando Gentilini was appointed the new EU Special Representative for the Middle East peace process; whereas the EU, despite its ambition and commitment to play an effective role in this field, has yet to develop a comprehensive and coherent vision of its engagement in the Middle East peace process, which should reflect the rapidly changing regional context;

1.   Is deeply concerned at the persisting stalemate in the Middle East peace process, and calls for the resumption of credible peace efforts without delay; calls on both Israelis and Palestinians to avoid steps which could spark further escalation, including hate speech and incitement in the public arena as well as unilateral measures which could prejudge the outcome of negotiations and threaten the viability of the two-state solution; underlines the fact that any lasting solution to the conflict can only be achieved in a regional context with the involvement of all relevant regional stakeholders and the support of the international community;

2.   Reiterates its strong support for the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land swaps and Jerusalem as the capital of both states, with the secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security and mutual recognition, on the basis of the right of self‑determination and full respect of international law; stresses that non-violent means and respect for human rights and humanitarian law are the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians;

3.   Stresses that preserving the viability of the two-state solution through concrete action and ensuring full respect for the rights of civilians on both sides must be an immediate priority for the EU and the international community; looks forward to the launching of the EU’s structured dialogue with Israel on the situation in the West Bank and the preservation of the two-state solution, which should also cover the issue of settlements;

4.   Welcomes the positive role and necessary support that the EU wishes to provide in facilitating the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the larger Arab-Israeli conflict through peaceful and constructive means, which serve the EU’s interests of security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East; calls, however, for a fresh EU approach that genuinely serves the interests of peace and security of both Israelis and Palestinians; welcomes the personal commitment of the VP/HR and the appointment of the new EU Special Representative for the Middle East peace process, and supports their efforts in this regard;

5.   Welcomes the EU’s commitment to work actively on a renewed multilateral approach to the peace process in consultation with all relevant stakeholders, and to actively support the parties to restore confidence and create an environment of trust necessary to engage in meaningful negotiations as soon as possible; notes that the EU considers that the establishment of an international support group is a possible way to contribute to this end; stresses that the EU is ready to engage in joint work with regional partners on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative;

6.   Urges the VP/HR and the EU Special Representative to make better use of the political relations and institutional expertise of the EU and its Member States, based as they are on Europe’s geographical proximity, historical ties and intensive economic exchanges with the Middle East region, in order to play a genuine political role in the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, and between Arab states and Israel in a broader context; reminds the Member States of their duty to actively contribute to the shaping of a united EU position in addressing the Middle East peace process, and to refrain from any unilateral initiative weakening EU action;

7.   Supports the efforts in the UN Security Council to resume peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians; urges the EU, however, to fulfil its responsibilities as an influential player and to take a bold and comprehensive peace initiative for the region; considers that the EU should play a key role in redefining the Quartet’s objectives – which should be refocused on finding a political solution to the conflict – and format;

8.   Condemns the continued expansion of Israeli settlements, which violates international humanitarian law, fuels Palestinian resentment and undermines the viability and prospects of the two-state solution, and calls on the Israeli authorities to immediately halt and reverse their settlement policy;

9.   Welcomes the EU’s commitment – in the spirit of differentiation between Israel and its activities in the occupied Palestinian Territory – to ensuring that all agreements between the EU and Israel must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, as reiterated in the Foreign Affairs Council conclusions of 20 July 2015; takes note of the Commission Guidelines of 19 July 2013 on the eligibility of Israeli entities and their activities in the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967 for grants, prizes and financial instruments funded by the EU from 2014 onwards, and of the letter sent to the VP/HR by 16 EU Foreign Ministers on 13 April 2015, encouraging her to take the lead within the Commission with a view to completing the work on EU-wide guidelines on the labelling of Israeli settlement produce;

10.   Stresses the responsibility of the relevant EU authorities in continuing to ensure that no EU funding can be directly or indirectly diverted to terrorist organisations or activities;

11.   Stresses that rocket fire by militant groups into Israeli territory is unacceptable, and underlines the danger of escalation; stresses the imperative need for the EU to work in partnership with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan towards preventing the re-arming of terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and their smuggling of weapons, manufacturing of rockets and building of tunnels; stresses once more the overwhelming need for all terrorist groups in Gaza to disarm, in line with the Foreign Affairs Council conclusions of July 2014;

12.   Is deeply concerned at increasing settler violence in the West Bank; welcomes the widespread condemnation by the Israeli leadership of the recent arson attack against the Dawabshah family in the village of Duma, but reminds Israel of its full responsibility to protect the Palestinian population and to bring all perpetrators of settler violence to justice;

13.   Welcomes the work done by the common security and defence policy (CSDP) police and rule of law mission (EUPOL COPPS) in the occupied Palestinian Territory in assisting the Palestinian Authority in building the institutions of a future State of Palestine in the areas of policing and criminal justice; calls for the reactivation of the CSDP border assistance mission (EUBAM Rafah), with a more ambitious mandate and adequate means and personnel, in order to play a concrete role in the control of the Gaza Strip’s borders with Egypt and Israel;

14.   Calls on the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Commission to report back to Parliament on the destruction of, and damage caused to, EU-funded structures and projects in the occupied Palestinian Territory;

15.   Calls on the Commission and the EEAS to provide funding and protection to NGOs in the region whose political goals are in line with the overall goals of the Middle East peace process, and urges EU authorities to engage with their relevant counterparts on this matter;

16.   Reiterates its call for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip and for the urgent reconstruction and rehabilitation of the area after the summer 2014 war, which must be a humanitarian aid priority for the EU and the international community; commends the heroic work of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in this regard; urges donors to disburse as soon as possible their financial commitments made at the Cairo International Conference on Palestine (‘Reconstructing Gaza’) of 12 October 2014;

17.   Welcomes the recent steps taken by Israel to ease restrictions on Gaza, but deplores the continued restrictions on the entry of building materials; underlines the importance of taking further positive measures – while addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns – to enable the full delivery of humanitarian aid, reconstruction and economic recovery; urges the Member States to fulfil their pledges to support the trilateral mechanism for the monitoring and checking of the reconstruction materials concerned;

18.   Urges the VP/HR to work for the full implementation of the recommendations made in the report of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict, including the recommendation to support actively the work of the International Criminal Court; welcomes the unanimous vote by those EU Member States which are part of the UN Human Rights Council in favour of the latter’s resolution of 3 July 2015 on ‘Ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem’;

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

20.   Calls on all parties involved in the conflict to respect fully the rights of detainees and prisoners, including of those on hunger strike;

21.   Expresses its deep concern at UNRWA’s serious funding crisis; calls for increased EU financial support for UNRWA and urges all other donors to live up to their promises to the agency, and UNRWA to continue to improve its management, but calls also for the underlying core issue of Palestine refugees to be addressed; commends and congratulates UNRWA for its extraordinary efforts which made it possible to declare the 2015/2016 school year open for Palestine refugee pupils;

22.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice‑President of the Commission/High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU Special Representative for the Middle East peace process, the parliaments and governments of the Member States, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Knesset, the President and Government of Israel, the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Palestinian Authority, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, the respective parliaments and governments of Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, and the Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency.


Situation in Belarus
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European Parliament resolution of 10 September 2015 on the situation in Belarus (2015/2834(RSP) )
P8_TA(2015)0319 B8-0866 , 0872 , 0874 , 0878 , 0879 and 0880/2015

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions and recommendations on Belarus,

–   having regard to the Eastern Partnership summit held in Riga in May 2015 and to its declaration,

–   having regard to the dialogue on human rights between the European Union and the Republic of Belarus of 28 July 2015,

–   having regard to the release of six political prisoners by the Belarusian authorities on 22 August 2015 and to the following statement by Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and the Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, on the release of political prisoners in Belarus of 22 August 2015,

–   having regard to the forthcoming presidential elections scheduled for 11 October 2015,

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

A.   whereas, despite a noticeable intensification of contacts between Belarus and the EU and the United States, violations of human rights persist in Belarus, including intimidation of human rights defenders, police raids on human rights organisations and seizure of their equipment, and forceful removals from Belarus, as confirmed in the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus;

B.   whereas the first official visit of Parliament’s Delegation for relations with Belarus since 2002 took place in Minsk on 18 and 19 June 2015; whereas the European Parliament currently has no official relations with the Belarusian Parliament;

C.   whereas a significant improvement in the freedom of speech and freedom of the media, respect for the political rights of ordinary citizens and opposition activists alike and respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights are all prerequisites for better relations between the EU and Belarus; whereas the European Union remains strongly committed to further defending human rights in Belarus, including freedom of speech and media;

D.   whereas progress has been made in cooperation on some sectoral policies such as higher education, vocational training, the digital market, the energy sector, food safety and culture, having a positive impact on starting a constructive debate in Belarusian society on necessary reforms in the country and on awareness about the EU; whereas the EU must make sure, however, that its resources are not used to suppress civil society organisations, human rights defenders, freelance journalists and opposition leaders;

E.   whereas since 1994 no free and fair elections in Belarus have been conducted under electoral legislation in line with internationally recognised standards, and whereas the current law gives an enormous advantage to the incumbent president; whereas the OSCE/ODIHR has deployed its long-term election observation mission throughout Belarus and will coordinate the work of short‑term observers;

F.   whereas on 2 April 2015 President Lukashenko signed Decree No. 3 ‘On the prevention of social dependency’, which provides for compulsory labour for unemployed persons under the threat of payment of a special fee to the state budget or administrative liability in the form of a fine or administrative arrest;

G.   whereas on 1 January 2015 a new law regulating all forms of media was introduced; whereas this law enables the government to shut down any mass media outlets, including online media, if they publish content it deems ‘unsuitable’;

H.   whereas the Belarusian authorities have finally released all six political prisoners, including former presidential candidates, after years of denying their existence;

I.   whereas on 13 July and 31 July 2015 the Council revised the restrictive measures towards Belarus and amended the visa-ban and asset-freeze list, removing some officials and companies therefrom; whereas175 individuals, including Alexander Lukashenko, are currently subject to entry bans and all of them plus 18 economic entities are subject to asset freezes within the EU; whereas an assessment of the EU’s restrictive measures is due to take place in the coming months, taking into account the latest developments and all other factors on the basis of which the restrictive measures were taken;

J.   whereas on 28 July 2015 the EU and the Republic of Belarus held a dialogue on human rights in Brussels focused on a range of issues, which included the establishment of a National Human Rights Institution, freedom of expression, assembly and association, the death penalty, the fight against torture and ill-treatment, and children’s rights;

K.   whereas Belarus played a constructive role in facilitating agreement on the ceasefire in Ukraine;

L.   whereas the conflict in Ukraine has deepened fears in Belarusian society of a destabilisation of the internal situation as a result of a power change;

M.   whereas Belarus remains the only country in Europe to carry out capital punishment;

1.   Remains deeply concerned by the human rights and fundamental freedoms situation in Belarus, as well as by the shortcomings observed during previous elections by independent international observers and the active persecution of the opposition leaders after the elections;

2.   Welcomes the recent release of the remaining political prisoners; calls on the Belarusian Government to rehabilitate the released political prisoners and to fully restore their civil and political rights; stresses that this could be a potential first step towards improving relations between the European Union and Belarus; points out, however, that similar steps in the past were rather token gestures and neither contributed to improving the situation of Belarusian society nor improved relations with the EU;

3.   Calls on Belarus to conduct the upcoming presidential elections in accordance with internationally recognised standards, to give the opposition unfettered access to all government-controlled means of communication and to allow it to participate in the elections on an equal footing, in particular by creating independent election commissions and allowing an adequate representation therein on all levels and a transparent vote count;

4.   Expects the authorities to stop the harassment of independent media for political reasons; urges a stop to the practice of administrative prosecution and the arbitrary use of Article 22.9, Part 2, of the Administrative Code against freelance journalists for working with foreign media without accreditation, which restrict the right to freedom of expression and the dissemination of information;

5.   Expresses its concern about the recent detention and ongoing criminal prosecution of youth activists Maksim Piakarski, Vadzim Zharomski and Viachaslau Kasinerau on suspicion of ‘malicious hooliganism’ as disproportionate, and strongly condemns the violence they have suffered;

6.   Recalls that ten people have been executed in Belarus since 2010, with three executions in 2014 alone and a new death sentence handed down on 18 March 2015; in this context urges Belarus, the only country in Europe still applying capital punishment, to join a global moratorium on the execution of the death penalty as a first step towards its permanent abolition;

7.   Calls on the Government of Belarus to respect the recommendations of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the abolition of elements of forced labour in the country;

8.   Draws attention to the situation of national minorities in the country and their cultural organisations, whose leaders have at times been replaced by those preferred by the state authorities, thus violating one of the basic human freedoms: freedom of association;

9.   Reiterates its call on the Belarusian authorities to ensure, in all circumstances, respect for democratic principles, human rights and fundamental freedoms, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Belarus;

10.   Notes the holding of the sixth round of consultations between the EU and Belarus on modernisation issues in Brussels on 3 September 2015, when the delegations discussed the prospects for cooperation in key areas, on the basis of agreements reached in 2014 and 2015; urges the EEAS and the Council to ensure that any participation by the authorities in the Dialogue on Modernisation, alongside and on an equal basis with the democratic opposition and civil society, takes place with full respect for democratic principles, with a view to developing a sustainable competitive economy and fostering democratic reforms, as well as a pluralistic society and the rule of law;

11.   Supports the Commission in its policy of ‘critical engagement’ with the Belarusian authorities and expresses its readiness to contribute to it also via Parliament’s Delegation for relations with Belarus; recalls, however, that the EU must remain vigilant with regard to where its resources are allocated and make sure that they do not contribute to worsening the situation of the opposition and civil society;

12.   Reiterates its call on the Commission to support, with financial and political means, the efforts of Belarusian civil society, independent media and non-governmental organisations in Belarus to support the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people;

13.   Welcomes the progress observed in sectoral cooperation with Belarus in the areas of higher education, vocational training, the digital market, the energy sector, food safety and culture, among others;

14.   Notes the launch in January 2014 of the negotiations on visa facilitation aimed at improving people-to-people contact and encouraging civil society; stresses the need to speed up progress in this regard;

15.   Recognises the increase in the use of the Belarusian language in public life; notes the Ministry of Education’s plans to foster the use of the Belarusian language in education, as well as the publication of legislative acts by the Constitutional Court in both Russian and Belarusian;

16.   Calls on the European External Action Service and on the Commission to find new ways to support civil society organisations in Belarus; stresses, in this regard, the need to support all independent sources of information for Belarusian society, including media broadcasting in the Belarusian language from abroad;

17.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR), the European External Action Service, the Council, the Commission and the Member States.


Social entrepreneurship and social innovation in combating unemployment
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European Parliament resolution of 10 September 2015 on Social Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation in combating unemployment (2014/2236(INI) )
P8_TA(2015)0320 A8-0247/2015

The European Parliament,

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

–   having regard to its resolution of 6 February 2013 entitled ‘Corporate social responsibility: accountable, transparent and responsible business behaviour and sustainable growth’(1) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 19 February 2009 on Social Economy(2) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 2 July 2013 on the contribution of cooperatives to overcoming the crisis(3) ,

–   having regard to Article 184 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–   having regard to Regulation (EU) No 346/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2013 on European social entrepreneurship funds,

–   having regard to its resolution of 20 November 2012 on the Social Business Initiative – creating a favourable climate for social enterprises, key stakeholders in the social economy and innovation(4) ,

–   having regard to its declaration of 10 March 2011(5) ,

–   having regard to the Council conclusions of 20 May 2014 on promoting youth entrepreneurship to foster social inclusion of young people(6) ,

–   having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1296/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on a European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (‘EaSI’), which introduced the microfinance and social entrepreneurship axis,

–   having regard to the communication from the Commission of 25 October 2011 to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, entitled ‘Social Business Initiative’ (COM(2011)0682 ),

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 6 May 2015 entitled 'A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe' (COM(2015)0192 ),

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 20 February 2013 entitled 'Towards Social Investment for Growth and Cohesion – including implementing the European Social Fund 2014-2020' (COM(2013)0083 ),

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

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (A8-0247/2015 ),

A.   whereas the social and solidarity-based economy provides employment for more than 14 million people, representing around 6,5 % of workers in the EU; whereas there are 2 million social and solidarity-based economy enterprises in the EU, representing 10 % of undertakings in the Union;

B.   whereas, as a consequence of the economic and financial crisis, levels of poverty and social exclusion have increased, as have long-term unemployment, youth unemployment and social inequalities;

C.   whereas those most affected by the economic and financial crisis have been the most excluded and disadvantaged groups on the labour market, such as people with disabilities, young people, older people, women, the long-term unemployed and disadvantaged workers;

D.   whereas the economic and financial crisis should be seen as an opportunity to work towards a more sustainable EU economic model paying greater regard to social and territorial cohesion and environmental sustainability; whereas any improvement in the economic and financial situation should be complemented by strong support for inclusive, sustainable, quality employment; whereas the social and solidarity-based economy can contribute to achieving this goal and should also be regarded as a driver in this transition, able to help balance social, environmental and economic issues;

E.   whereas social support and health service providers, many of which are social enterprises, represent one of the key job growth areas in the EU, having created 1,3 million jobs between 2009 and 2013; whereas this demonstrates the sector's dual ability both to create new jobs, even in times of crisis, and to strengthen social and territorial cohesion in Europe, in particular by helping bring service users into employment;

F.   whereas the conference ‘Unlocking the potential of the social economy for EU growth’, held in Rome on 17 and 18 November 2014, recognised that the social and solidarity-based economy plays a key role in European countries and contributes to achieving a number of key EU goals, such as job creation and preservation, social cohesion, social innovation, rural and regional development and environmental protection;

G.   whereas increasing the employment rate in the 20-64 age range from 69 % to at least 75 % and reducing by 25 % the number of people in Europe living below national poverty thresholds by taking more than 20 million people out of poverty, are targets of the Europe 2020 strategy which have not so far been attained;

H.   whereas the Strasbourg Declaration of January 2014 states that social enterprises must play a greater role in the future of Europe;

I.   whereas the EU is the region with the largest elderly population and the lowest population growth in the world; whereas, according to forecasts, by 2050 the average age of EU citizens will be over 50; whereas the ageing population and demographic change pose a challenge to social welfare systems;

J.   whereas social and solidarity-based economy enterprises not only aim to improve economic and social conditions, but can also offer flexible and innovative working conditions and may be more capable of adapting to economic and social circumstances;

K.   whereas social and solidarity-based economy enterprises are characterised by their democratic governance arrangements, the strong involvement of their members or partners in the management of the enterprise, and a high level of transparency in their operations, and respond to the growing public demand for ethical, social and environment-friendly business behaviour;

L.   whereas social and solidarity-based economy enterprises comprise a wide range of companies, and most of these enterprises are not recognised by a European-level legal framework, but only at national level in some Member States, with different legal forms;

M.   whereas cooperatives are providing high-quality jobs that are not vulnerable to relocation, are open to everyone and are surviving the crisis; whereas thanks to their cooperative business model they increased turnover and growth during the crisis, with fewer bankruptcies and redundancies;

N.   whereas Regulation (EU) No 1296/2013 on a European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) defines ‘social enterprises’ and ‘social innovations’ in its Article 2(1) and 2(5);

O.   whereas social innovation refers to the development and implementation of new ideas, whether they be products, services or social organisation models, that are designed to meet new social, territorial and environmental demands and challenges, such as the ageing population, depopulation, balancing work and family life, managing diversity, tackling youth unemployment, the integration of those most excluded from the labour market, and combating climate change;

P.   whereas social investments are investments in people designed to strengthen their skills and capacities and support them in fully participating in employment and social life; whereas social investments generally refer to policies in the areas of education, childcare, healthcare, training, job-search assistance and rehabilitation;

Q.   whereas the lack of recognition faced by social and solidarity-based economy enterprises, which are sometimes not even recognised as economic stakeholders, makes it more difficult for them to access both public and private financing; whereas the Structural Funds and European programmes should contribute to modernising economic structures, including the social and solidarity-based economy, which is represented by different types and sizes of undertakings (cooperatives, mutual societies, foundations, associations and new forms of social and solidarity-based economy enterprises), most of them SMEs and micro-enterprises;

R.   whereas education and training must be priority areas in terms of fostering the entrepreneurial culture among young people;

S.   whereas the gender gap in social entrepreneurship is smaller than in traditional forms of entrepreneurship; whereas women social entrepreneurs contribute significantly to the reduction of social exclusion and the creation of new development opportunities;

T.   having regard to the need to provide training and retraining in the social sector for the long-term unemployed in order to afford them new opportunities in an innovative environment such as that of the social and solidarity-based economy;

U.   whereas social and solidarity-based economy enterprises, and in particular training and placement enterprises, offer job opportunities especially for those most excluded from the labour market, for whom unemployment often turns into long-term unemployment; whereas Member States could consider ways of supporting social and solidarity-based economy enterprises that recruit unemployed people or benefit claimants, including by, where applicable, reductions in taxes and social premiums;

V.   whereas the complementary and supplementary effect of the social and solidarity-based economy is also important alongside other measures promoting employment; whereas greater attention must be focused on solutions promoting the reintegration into the job market of people lacking the most basic capabilities and competitive wherewithal, so that they can later benefit from the advantages offered by the more innovative solutions of the social and solidarity-based economy;

W.   whereas social dialogue is essential for the functioning of the EU's social market economy, and is crucial for promoting both competitiveness and fairness; whereas social dialogue and the consultation of social partners within the EU's policy-making represent a major social innovation;

X.   whereas procurement often takes the form of large one-off tenders for services or supplies which may exclude smaller actors;

Introduction

1.  Notes that social and solidarity-based economy enterprises, which do not necessarily have to be non-profit organisations, are enterprises whose purpose is to achieve their social goal, which may be to create jobs for vulnerable groups, provide services for their members, or more generally create a positive social and environmental impact, and which reinvest their profits primarily in order to achieve those objectives; points out that social and solidarity-based economy enterprises are characterised by their commitment to upholding the following values:

   the primacy of individual and social goals over the interests of capital;
   democratic governance by members;
   the conjunction of the interests of members and users with the general interest;
   the safeguarding and application of the principles of solidarity and responsibility;
   the reinvestment of surplus funds in long-term development objectives, or in the provision of services of interest to members or of services of general interest;
   voluntary and open membership;
   autonomous management independent of the public authorities;

2.   Believes that the Commission should recognise the diversity of social enterprises and ensure that actions are taken at EU level to support social and solidarity-based enterprises of all types;

3.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to consistently implement all the measures set out in the 2012 Social Business Initiative without delay; calls on the Commission to put forward a second stage of the initiative as soon as possible, in partnership with Member States and local and regional authorities, civil society organisations and key players in the social and solidarity-based economy, which would broaden and deepen its scope;

4.   Notes that the social and solidarity-based economy cannot replace the welfare state and public services;

5.   Notes that the social entrepreneurship model often appeals to young people and gives them an opportunity to provide innovative responses to the current economic, social and environmental challenges;

6.   Points out that social and solidarity-based economy enterprises have a strong local and regional basis, which gives them the advantage of being more aware of specific needs and able to offer products and services, most of them community-based, which match those needs, thus improving social and territorial cohesion; considers that the cooperation of social and solidarity-based economy enterprises across national and sectoral boundaries must be promoted so as to enable the exchange of knowledge and practices in such a way that the growth of such enterprises in particular can be supported;

7.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to propose plans and measures to improve territorial organisation, especially in areas with permanent natural or demographic handicaps, which will not only help establish and develop social and solidarity-based economy enterprises and the promotion of social innovation and entrepreneurship, but will also help strengthen social and territorial cohesion in the EU and make it easier to meet the demographic challenges facing the Union;

8.   Warmly welcomes the increase in the number of conventional enterprises which apply corporate social responsibility strategies as part of their business plans; stresses, however, that applying such strategies is not in itself a sufficient condition for being considered a social and solidarity-based economy enterprise;

9.   Believes it is important to determine the origins of the smaller gender gap in social entrepreneurship so that these factors can be taken into account by policy-makers whilst promoting social and traditional entrepreneurship;

10.   Believes that social innovation makes a significant contribution towards laying the foundations for a type of growth which serves a more sustainable, inclusive society generating economic, social and territorial cohesion; notes that social innovation must have the aim of improving the quality of services in an efficient manner rather than simply lowering costs;

11.   Welcomes the fact that four EU Member States (Spain, France, Portugal and Belgium) have national legislation concerning the social and solidarity-based economy, while Poland has launched a strategy to develop the social and solidarity-based economy and Romania is discussing the adoption of legislation to regulate the social and solidarity-based economy;

12.   Believes that the Commission should recognise and support the role of not-for-profit social service providers, both politically and financially;

13.   Highlights the need to promote an exchange of practices among innovative social and solidarity-based economy enterprises, schools, the academic world, and social investment stakeholders, also taking into account societal needs, in order to boost entrepreneurial skills and strengthen the conditions that will enable social and solidarity-based economy enterprises to develop and grow, as well as creating social innovation poles; considers it important to take into consideration the views of stakeholders, including the social partners and consumer organisations; calls on the Member States to promote the cooperative enterprise model;

14.   Stresses the need for cooperation between all Member States in order to create the necessary framework conditions for a system of social innovation in all Member States, as the social and solidarity-based economy alone cannot combat the symptoms and causes of the most pressing social problems;

The Europe 2020 strategy

15.   Recognises that the EU remains far from achieving the targets set in the Europe 2020 strategy, particularly those relating to employment, innovation and the reduction of poverty and social exclusion; notes that the social and solidarity-based economy contributes not only to a more sustainable, smart and inclusive economic model, but also to the European social model, and is part of the single market, deserving to be strongly recognised and supported by the EU and the Member States, as provided for in the constitutions of some Member States and various key EU documents; asks, therefore, that consideration be given to taking the social and solidarity-based economy into account when revising the Europe 2020 strategy, given the significant contribution it can make to meeting the strategy’s goals;

16.   Points out that demographic trends are bound up with new models of consumption, and that the ageing of the population in developed countries is making growing demands on social services, but will also provide opportunities to create socially responsible businesses;

17.   Emphasises that, given its social and inclusive nature, the social and solidarity-based economy offers jobs to the groups most often excluded from the open labour market, thereby contributing to solidarity and social cohesion as well as to economic growth;

18.   Believes that social and solidarity-based economy enterprises can develop processes that allow more efficient, responsible and transparent management of shrinking resources, and can further the implementation of socially responsible measures;

19.   Calls on the Member States to better integrate social and solidarity-based economy enterprises into action plans for employment and social integration, as well as into the National Reform Programmes, with a view to unlocking and exploiting their job creation potential and the contribution they can make to meeting the Europe 2020 headline targets;

20.   Welcomes the fact that the pre-financing budget for the Youth Employment Initiative has been increased to 30 %; calls on the Member States to coordinate measures to promote social entrepreneurship with their national Youth Guarantee Implementation Plans; calls on the Commission and the Member States to encourage social entrepreneurship and innovation in the ESF's national Operational Programmes; urges that the Youth Guarantee schemes be implemented effectively and efficiently;

Public procurement

21.   Points out that social and solidarity-based economy enterprises face difficulties in accessing public procurement, such as barriers related to size and financial capability; calls for the swift and effective implementation of the new public procurement and concession directives (Directives 2014/24/EU, 2014/25/EU and 2014/23/EU) in order to achieve greater participation by social and solidarity-based economy enterprises in tendering procedures for public contracts, improve the earmarking of contracts for such enterprises, foster their role, and promote social inclusion and social innovation; calls for action to facilitate the participation of such enterprises in public procurement by providing appropriate advice, simplifying procedures and drawing up tenders in a way that makes them accessible to smaller operators; calls for bids to be rewarded that offer the most economic and social value rather than the lowest price in public procurement, with social or environmental criteria being included in public procurement contracts;

22.   Welcomes the reform of the public procurement and concession directives, which includes social clauses and criteria in order to promote social inclusion and social innovation and contracts earmarked to foster the employment of the most disadvantaged people on the labour market; calls on the Member States to implement these procurement principles properly in all tendering and selection procedures, with wide use of the MEAT (Most Economically Advantageous Tender), in compliance with environmental, social and labour law obligations; urges the Member States to include social clauses and criteria in public procurement procedures in order to strengthen the position of disadvantaged people on the labour market, reduce administrative burdens, simplify procedures and take more effective measures against corruption;

23.   Regrets that the Commission Digital Single Market strategy for Europe fails to mention social and solidarity-based economy enterprises and their potential contribution to the achievement of the Union's goals; deplores the failure of that strategy to take account of the need to ensure full, equal and unrestricted access for all to new digital technologies, markets and telecommunications, in particular with regard to people with disabilities; highlights that technology-based social and solidarity-based economy enterprises can play a crucial role in tackling societal challenges in a straightforward and cost-effective way;

Financing

24.   Regrets the fact that social and solidarity-based economy enterprises encounter even more difficulties than traditional enterprises in securing financing, whether through public or private channels, and therefore calls for public authorities and financial service providers to develop a wide range of appropriate financial instruments which will effectively support social enterprises at all stages of their business development, particularly during their foundation, and to create a framework to bring together potential investors and specialised funds;

25.   Points out that access to financing is hindered by the fact that financial intermediary managers have little knowledge of the actual situation of social and solidarity-based economy enterprises; stresses the need to improve training for these managers with regard to such enterprises, so as to facilitate their access to financing; calls, therefore, for the introduction of a European trustmark for 'social entrepreneurship’ enabling investors to identify funds with a portfolio comprising social enterprises, with particular reference to the European Fund for Social Entrepreneurship;

26.   Stresses the need to provide greater stimulus for the creation of, and support for, social enterprise networks in order to promote synergies in the organisation, exchange and dissemination of technologies and the development of services among producers in different regions;

27.   Stresses the need to promote a more structured dialogue between SMEs, social and solidarity-based enterprises and financial institutions, by means of dedicated on-line platforms;

28.   Welcomes the adoption of the regulation on European social entrepreneurship funds;

29.   Welcomes the fact that part of the funding for the EaSI programme is earmarked to help provide access to finance for social and solidarity-based economy enterprises; highlights the role to be played by the social entrepreneurship axis of EaSI, the ESF and all other relevant EU programmes in improving the functioning of such enterprises; highlights the need for greater awareness-raising with regard to funding opportunities; calls on the Member States to establish national contact points or one-stop shops to help social and solidarity-based economy actors access the EU´s funding schemes;

30.   Calls on the Commission to review the ceiling for loans to social enterprises laid down under EaSI, and to determine whether this reflects market conditions;

31.   Highlights the need to support social and solidarity-based economy enterprises with sufficient financial resources at local, regional, national and EU level, creating synergies among the various types of enterprises; calls on the Member States and the Commission to acknowledge the fact that the requisite funding must be made available; considers it necessary, therefore, to improve access to financing for the social and solidarity-based economy by various means, such as European funds, risk capital funds, microcredit and crowdfunding;

32.   Calls on Member States to reinforce public services (for example health and education) through local authorities, using them as a driving force to improve the quality of services so as to provide job opportunities and raise the level of the services provided with the aim of reducing poverty and social exclusion;

33.   Points out that the state aid rules should not constitute an impediment for public funding to social and solidarity-based economy enterprises and social services; in this sense, calls on the Commission to be flexible in the application of state aid rules for such enterprises and services, and to help ensure that local and regional authorities understand and apply correctly state aid targeted thereon;

34.   Regrets that the regulation establishing the European Fund for Strategic Investment only refers to the social and solidarity-based economy sector in its recitals; calls on the Commission to continue promoting the social investment approach as presented in the Social Investment Package, and for projects relating to the social and solidarity-based economy to be taken into account when assessing European Strategic Investment Fund projects;

35.   Criticises the fact that training and placement enterprises, set up on the basis of partnerships between social and solidarity-based economy enterprises, are generally prevented from accessing funds intended for SMEs; calls on the Commission to propose a new exception to the legal definition of ‘SME’, similar to those which already apply to public investment corporations, venture capital firms and non-profit-making universities and research centres, so that a training and placement enterprise can be classified as an autonomous enterprise even if another enterprise holds, alone or jointly with other enterprises, more than 25 % of its capital or of the voting rights on its administrative board;

Training

36.   Calls on the Member States to promote an entrepreneurial culture and the cooperative enterprise model and to include social entrepreneurship, as well as the principles of the social and solidarity-based economy, in education and training curricula; also invites them to encourage the establishment of business incubators within universities for social and solidarity-based economy enterprises;

37.   Points out that the social and solidarity-based economy could help considerably to reduce youth unemployment in the EU; calls on the Member States to promote greater participation of social and solidarity-based economy enterprises in education and training programmes in the Member States, in particular through dual training systems;

38.   Calls on the Member States to equip employment centres to provide effective information for people intending to work in the social and solidarity-based enterprise sector;

39.   Points out that some social and solidarity-based economy enterprises are competitive and are at the forefront of their sector, while others require specialised knowledge in order to launch, develop and manage their enterprises; calls on the Member States to develop training programmes targeted on and specifically tailored to entrepreneurs in the social sector, with particular reference to groups with lower employment rates such as women, young or disadvantaged workers, with a view to developing basic business management skills and knowledge;

40.   Calls on the Member States to promote lifelong learning and career guidance for older workers, the long-term unemployed and people with disabilities via social and solidarity-based economy enterprises, and thus to help them move into the labour market;

41.   Points out that a proper understanding of human rights is essential for achieving the social aims of social and solidarity-based enterprises; calls on the Member States, therefore, to draw up training programmes to acquaint specialists in the social sphere with the proper implementation of human rights principles in Europe;

42.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to fully exploit the potential of programmes such as Erasmus +, thereby encouraging exchanges of students and teachers as well as other innovative entrepreneurs;

43.   Points out that sectors with a wide margin for growth and job creation, such as the ‘white’ and ‘green’ sectors, are those in which the social and solidarity-based economy is very much present; urges the Member States, accordingly, to promote education and training in those sectors;

Support and promotion

44.   Deeply regrets the low level of recognition of the social and solidarity-based economy at European level; takes the view that improving the collection of gender-disaggregated data and the exchange of information and best practice at European level, together with greater media coverage of the social and solidarity-based economy and its achievements, would help to boost society's involvement in the social and solidarity-based economy, thus securing it more understanding and recognition and raising its profile;

45.   Is in favour of creating a multilingual digital platform for exchanging information aimed at social enterprises, business incubators, business clusters and investors in social enterprises, and of facilitating information-sharing and access to support from EU programmes; believes that the development of such a platform should be preceded by consultations with interested groups;

46.   Calls on the Commission to carry out a comparative analysis of national certification and labelling systems for the social and solidarity-based economy and to facilitate the exchange of best practice, in close cooperation with social and solidarity-based economy enterprises;

47.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to promote the creation of business incubators for social and solidarity-based economy enterprises, and to implement and effectively promote the internet platform for data exchange between social investors and social entrepreneurs (the Social Innovation Europe Platform), details of which have been agreed on;

48.   Calls on the Member States to enhance the exchange of best practice with regard to possible ways of supporting social and solidarity-based economy enterprises and to social investment including, where applicable, tax reliefs or incentives for such enterprises which deal with vulnerable groups, such as people with disabilities;

49.   Calls on the Commission to monitor closely the practical measures taken by the Member States to guarantee people who have opted for social and solidarity-based entrepreneurship the same rights as other workers in the areas of social and health protection and job security;

50.   Calls on the Commission to ensure that no measure taken by the Member States poses an obstacle to the free movement of workers, so that people who have opted for social and solidarity-based entrepreneurship can carry on their activities wherever they wish to in the territory of the Union;

51.   Supports the idea that social and solidarity-based economy enterprises could form a specific company category with its own legal status, defined as having other objectives than simply profit for shareholders; calls on the Commission, in line with the Rome Strategy adopted by European representatives of the social and solidarity-based Economy, to come forward with a legal framework for such enterprises, to be achieved by means of the European statute for cooperative societies, associations, foundations and mutual societies;

52.   Calls on the Commission to enhance social dialogue in the social and solidarity-based economy, in order to facilitate social innovation and the improvement of working conditions and to ensure full recognition of the job creation potential of the sector;

o
o   o

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

(1) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0049 .
(2) OJ C 76 E, 25.3.2010, p. 16.
(3) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0301 .
(4) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2012)0429 .
(5) OJ C 199 E, 7.7.2012, p. 187.
(6) OJ C 183, 14.6.2014, p. 18.


Creating a competitive EU labour market for the 21 st century
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European Parliament resolution of 10 September 2015 on creating a competitive EU labour market for the 21st century: matching skills and qualifications with demand and job opportunities, as a way to recover from the crisis (2014/2235(INI) )
P8_TA(2015)0321 A8-0222/2015

The European Parliament,

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

–   having regard to its resolution of 22 October 2014 on the European Semester for economic policy coordination: implementation of 2014 priorities(1) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 15 April 2014 on ‘How can the European Union contribute to creating a hospitable environment for enterprises, businesses and start-ups to create jobs?’(2) ,

–   having regard to its position of 29 April 2015 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) No 1304/2013 of the European Parliament and the Council on the European Social Fund, as regards an increase of the initial pre-financing amount paid to operational programmes supported by the Youth Employment Initiative(3) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 17 July 2014 on Youth Employment(4) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 16 January 2014 on respect for the fundamental right of freedom of movement in the EU(5) ,

–   having regard to one of the priorities of the European Council conclusions of 26-27 June 2014: to help develop skills, and unlock talent and life changes for all by promoting the right skills for the modern economy and lifelong learning,

–   having regard to the Commission proposal of 17 January 2014 for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on a European network of Employment Services, workers’ access to mobility services and the further integration of labour markets (COM(2014)0006 ),

–   having regard to the Council Recommendation of 20 December 2012 on the validation of learning outcomes of non-formal and informal learning(6) ,

–   having regard to Recommendation 2006/962/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning(7) ,

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

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education (A8-0222/2015 ),

A.   whereas the existence of occupations where job vacancies cannot be filled owing to a lack of qualified workers varies greatly from one Member State to another;

B.   whereas, according to the Commission(8) , up to 12,4 million people have been out of work for more than a year and, of those, 6 million for more than two years; whereas long-term unemployment has a negative impact on economic growth and the sustainability of social welfare systems and can become a structural problem;

C.   whereas labour market rigidities and the lack of internal demand and investment are having a negative impact on job creation, while a competitive EU labour market that takes into account these three factors can contribute to achieving the Europe 2020 employment and anti-poverty and social exclusion targets;

D.   whereas the demand for lower-qualified workers is falling while the demand for highly qualified workers is increasing considerably; whereas this shift in the EU labour market requires action to be taken on workers’ skills and initial and vocational training;

E.   whereas, in 2012, one in three European employees were either over- or under-qualified for their jobs(9) ; and whereas young employees are typically more likely to be formally over-qualified, whilst also more likely than older workers to work in jobs less matched to their skills;

F.   whereas some studies suggest that a relevant part of the existing jobs will disappear or greatly diminish in quantity as a result of automatisation;

G.   whereas the drive towards a higher-skilled economy means that over the next five years many more businesses expect to increase the number of jobs requiring leadership, management and higher skills;

H.   whereas the mobility of European workers enhances their employability and improves competitiveness in the EU labour market;

The economic crisis and its aftermath

1.   Notes that in the wake of the European economic and financial crisis and the consequent economic slowdown, a number of Member States are struggling with high unemployment levels (EU 28: 9,8 %) as well as public debt, low growth and insufficient investment; notes the cuts in public expenditure; is further concerned that in many Member States youth unemployment rates (EU 28: 20,9 %) are much higher and cases of improvement and lower rates are rare;

2.   Considers that ambitious economic and social policies and labour market reforms are needed in order to boost smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and create more jobs leading towards quality and sustainable employment; further stresses the need for sustainable social welfare systems which include upgrading the skills of the unemployed, fostering the employability of people lacking or having really low qualifications, as well as for incentives and opportunities to work;

Situation on the EU labour market

3.   Notes that even if labour supply is sufficient to match labour demand, there might still be qualitative shortages, as those looking for work may not be suitable for any given vacant position as a result of a mismatch between sector, occupation or skills requirements;

4.   Is concerned that unemployment rates in the EU remain relatively high (March 2015, EU 28: 9,8 %), and have significantly decreased only in a few countries, and draws attention to the considerable differences between Member States, with the lowest unemployment rates being in Germany and Austria (around 5 %) and the highest in Greece and Spain (at 26 % and 23 % respectively(10) ); whereas these huge disparities increase the risk of labour market fragmentation both within and between the Member States, which might undermine the EU’s economic stability and social cohesion;

5.   Draws attention to the fact that the average employment rate for women in the EU is more than 10 percentage points lower than that of men, and stresses that the achievement of the 75 % employment rate target as outlined in the Europe 2020 strategy is conditional upon increasing the employment rate for women through policies aimed at reconciliation of work and home duties in particular;

6.   Notes that youth unemployment varies significantly across the EU, with unemployment rates among young people aged 16 to 25 being higher than 50 % in some Member States; stresses that high levels of youth unemployment, in addition to the fact that they affect an entire generation, jeopardise the balance between generations;

7.   Highlights that there is still a 26 % difference in the rate of employment for people with disabilities compared to the average EU employment rate, with the employment rate for people with disabilities standing lower than 50 %;

8.   Is deeply concerned about the levels of youth unemployment in Europe; underlines in this regard the importance of dual education such as vocational training and apprenticeships in matching the skills of young people with the demands of the labour market;

9.   Stresses that elements such as a skilled work force, the capacity to innovate, increasing purchasing power and a stable socio-economic and political environment are indispensable in order to harvest a good investment climate;

10.   Notes the high level of long-term unemployment, warning of the need to combat it immediately, in view of the resilience with which it is associated;

11.   Notes that several important challenges are affecting Europe’s labour market, including globalisation, ageing society, rapid technological changes such as digitisation and robotisation, mismatches between skills and jobs and increasing demand for highly skilled workers, with a surplus supply of low-skilled workers, causing wage polarisation;

12.   Notes, however, the risks highlighted by CEDEFOP regarding the perpetuation of skills mismatch and skills obsolescence due to low demand driving high unemployment;

13.   Highlights the considerable differences in job openings between Member States, underlines in this regard that job openings are a crucial element of a dynamic labour market which matches skills and jobs and which creates opportunities and possibilities for businesses and employees, and is deeply concerned about the static situation in the labour markets in some Member States; calls therefore for a European benchmark on job openings in the Member States; data for such a benchmark could be collected yearly through the Labour Force Survey and should, as a minimum, measure: the number of job openings in a Member State; the average duration of unemployment;

14.   Points out that Europe has 24 million unemployed people, including 7,5 million NEETs, on the one hand, and on the other two million vacancies, and that European companies are affected by a huge lack of skilled people and labour force with transferable skills;

15.   Points out that, despite high unemployment rates in some Member States and unfilled job vacancies in others, intra-EU labour mobility remains low (EU 27: 0,29 %), as a result inter alia of existing barriers, and by international comparison, being almost 10 times lower than that of the United States and 5 times lower than in Australia; draws attention to the seven million EU citizens living or working, as of 2013, in a Member State other than their country of citizenship; recalls also that there are currently two million unfilled vacancies in the EU; emphasises, therefore, the need for fair labour mobility in the Union in order to fill this gap;

16.   Notes that the EU labour market can assist in absorbing the large pockets of unemployment existing in various regions of Europe;

17.   Believes that the EU labour market shall adapt to the culture, production model and business structure of the various regions of Europe, and that the differences between them shall be taken into account when adopting measures to make the labour market more flexible;

18.   Recalls that in an economic downturn individuals face bigger challenges in finding jobs, and that at times they have to accept jobs with lower educational requirements than those which they hold; stresses that growth through the creation of high-skill jobs and efforts to stimulate job creation through the facilitation of investment in new sectors are therefore relevant means of mitigating the prevalence of over-qualification within EU economies;

Fostering a competitive EU labour market

19.   Believes that in order to achieve a competitive EU labour market, ambitious reforms are needed which increase inclusiveness, smart flexibility, innovation and mobility, strengthen the role of social dialogue, stimulate the creation of more jobs leading towards quality and sustainable employment, boost productivity and contribute to the development of human capital, in the light of constantly changing labour markets and production patterns;

20.   Stresses the need for continued efforts to bring education, training and labour markets together, and reiterates that generating smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, competitiveness and job creation in Europe should be achieved through a holistic approach that reflects labour market needs and supports vulnerable groups by improving working conditions and providing incentives;

21.   Stresses that public employment services have an important role in ensuring that the return to job growth does not come at the expense of lower-quality skills matches;

22.   Recalls the importance of making employment law more comprehensible for workers and employers, of eliminating barriers to employment and of promoting legal security for companies and employees;

23.   Stresses that young people often face increasing difficulties in their transition from education to work and, therefore, are usually more vulnerable to unemployment, and are more likely to be in low-quality and precarious jobs;

24.   Highlights the importance of the European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations (ESCO) initiative, which identifies and categorises skills, competences, qualifications and occupations relevant for the EU labour market and education and training, in 25 European languages;

25.   Stresses the importance of human development, career flexibility and personal engagement; recalls in this respect that professional mobility is an essential factor and that substantial investment is needed to actively support employability and adaptability and prevent skills depletion among the unemployed;

26.   Underlines the importance of social investments which aim is to create an activating state that provides workers with instruments enabling them to adapt easily to changing social and economic conditions and to the demands of the labour markets;

27.   Believes that an internationally competitive skills base will enable Member States to capture high-value segments of the global market;

28.   Stresses that the circular economy has the potential to create millions of jobs across the EU and to lead to sustainable and inclusive growth;

29.   Recalls the importance of the mobility of workers, geographically and across sectors, as a choice for a competitive labour market, and stresses the need to reduce the administrative and linguistic barriers that are liable to restrict it, and to further develop tools to facilitate mobility such as swift recognition of formal, non-formal or informal qualifications between Member States, the European Qualifications Framework, the European CV and the European Skills Passport, as well as providing sector-specific language courses and training on intercultural communication; encourages the raising of awareness of, and further improvement of, the EU-wide EURES job portal by ensuring, in particular, that a sufficient number of EURES advisors are trained and distributed equally throughout EU territory in order to make EURES an essential tool in the EU job market; stresses the importance of enhanced cooperation among national public employment services and the future inclusion of private employment services and other stakeholders in the EURES network; stresses the importance of EU initiatives aimed at stimulating mobility and creating opportunities, such as ERASMUS+, the European Qualifications Framework, the Europass CV, the European Skills Passport, the European Job Mobility Portal (EURES), the Knowledge Alliances and the European Alliance for Apprenticeships; calls for better promotion of these initiatives with a view to improving the labour market in Europe;

30.   Reiterates that the great economic potential of women needs to be unlocked in Europe, and that it is necessary to create the appropriate conditions for women to progress in their career and pursue higher positions in companies or start their own businesses; stresses that there is a need to close the gap between women’s educational attainment and their participation and position in the labour market; recalls the importance of gender equality, including eradicating the gender pay gap and raising the employment rate for women, as well as reinforcing work-life balance policies, as a part of achieving the Europe 2020 employment targets;

31.   Welcomes the positive results achieved by the Your First Eures Job (YfEj) pilot job mobility scheme, which can effectively reach young people and develop tailored services for both jobseekers and employers; highlights the positive spillovers between the YfEj scheme and EURES;

32.   Against this background, stresses the importance of active labour policies, lifelong learning and improving people’s ability to adapt to technological change; calls on the Member States to increase the scope and efficiency of active labour market policies;

33.   Considers that a coherent and comprehensive strategy towards more effective and mutually beneficial forms of work organisation, by making full use of workers’ knowledge potential and increasing the quality of their jobs, will help labour market resilience; more participative and empowering forms of work organisation could be developed to strengthen employees’ involvement in innovation and support workers’ involvement and skills use development and, as a consequence, companies’ performance;

34.   Stresses, that given the predicted rapid labour market changes, it is in the youth of today that education and training investment is necessary; stresses that skills policies should not be aimed at fulfilling labour market needs only, but at equipping the individual with the necessary transversal competences to develop as active and responsible citizens; calls on the Commission and the Member States to respect the fact that education and training are neither merely a labour market instrument nor meant to educate future workers, but constitute first and foremost a fundamental right and have a value in themselves;

Anticipation of future skills needs

35.   Believes that, in order to anticipate future skills needs, labour market stakeholders, including employers’ and employees’ organisations, and education and training providers must be strongly involved at all levels, in particular in designing, implementing and evaluating vocational qualification programmes, which provide an effective transition from formal education to work-based learning;

36.   Calls for a better understanding of present and future skills needs, and for the enhancement of the existing EU Skills Panorama, in order to better identify skills gaps and deficits in specific sectors, occupations and regions, and to ensure that the information about evolving skills needs is gathered, processed and disseminated among decision-makers and public authorities, education and training providers, and employers, so that future trends can be more effectively anticipated;

37.   Believes that education is crucial for driving research and innovation output, thus furthering the possibilities for job creation in highly skilled sectors and in turn boosting the competitiveness of the European economy;

38.   Stresses the importance of more integrated partnerships and trust between schools, higher education establishments, businesses and other relevant authorities with a view to estimating labour needs for the future, reviewing and implementing new vocational training programmes and fostering cooperation and exchange of good practices between Member States and regional and local authorities, including by monitoring the imbalances on the labour market at regional and local level; recalls that at the same time social responsibility on the part of all stakeholders is needed, as well as their involvement in further developing monitoring and forecasting tools;

39.   Believes that Member States have an important role to play in ensuring there is an adequate supply of science and maths teachers in order to equip young people with knowledge and enthusiasm for STEM subjects;

40.   Stresses the importance of addressing the needs of children at school from a very young age; recommends that the Member States adopt innovative measures and incorporate them into learning processes in- and outside of school, and reform or update school environments, teaching methods and teacher competences; suggests that school curricula in Member States be adapted to include class visits to other countries during the school year, taking education beyond the classroom at a very early stage;

The importance of continuous education and training for all labour market actors

41.   Recalls that the right to education is a fundamental right and stresses the need to strive for a more flexible and individual approach to career development and lifelong education and training across one’s personal career path, and recognises the role that both public and private parties can play in providing this, while recognising that guidance and counselling which address individual needs and focus on the evaluation and expansion of individual skills must be a core element of education and skills policies from an early stage;

42.   Recognises the importance of fostering work-based learning apprenticeships as an alternative route to employment;

43.   Notes that the European policies for Lifelong Guidance have had a considerable impact on national guidance policies and that effective lifelong guidance requires programmes in a cross-cutting perspective at all levels;

44.   Notes that a variety of pathways must be available to young people, and that the definitions of such pathways (internships, traineeships) vary across Europe;

45.   Believes that training and requalification programmes for the unemployed, especially for the long-term unemployed, as well as skills assessment programmes, should be offered to people to enhance their chances on the labour market and should be designed and implemented in close cooperation with employers’ associations and trade unions, organisations representing the unemployed, and private and public employment services, with a view to better aligning workers’ new skills with the future needs of the labour market; stresses that special programmes need to be developed and implemented to help the reintegration of the long-term unemployed into the labour market;

46.   Highlights the need for the Commission to strengthen the monitoring of the Youth Guarantee National Implementation Plans and their effective deployment on the ground; with a view to this, calls on the Commission to elaborate clear and unambiguous Country-Specific Recommendations (CSRs) to Member States with regard to the implementation of the Youth Guarantee and the quality of employment;

47.   Highlights the European Court of Auditors’ concerns as expressed in its report “Young and unemployed in Europe: obstacles ahead for the EU’s Youth Guarantee”, regarding in particular the adequacy of total funding for the scheme, the definition of a “good‑quality offer”, and the way the Commission monitors and reports on the results;

48.   Recalls that it is of utmost importance to give tailor-made guidance and counselling to jobseekers on how to look for a job or on which further education and training to undertake in order to ensure that their skills and competences are transferable, recognised and validated through ‘competences passports’ such as the Europass, reflecting the skills and competences acquired through formal, non-formal and informal learning, and that the guidance given to jobseekers should have the particular aim of optimising their employment opportunities;

49.   Underlines the need to increase the adaptability of the workforce as a way to counter future shortages; calls on the Member States to use the structural funds, especially the European Social Fund, for this purpose;

50.   Stresses that the right to education and training is of special importance to the long-term unemployed; recalls that the long-term unemployed benefit most from approach targeting their specific needs and not from standard measures; stresses that the long-term unemployed need to know about their right to training, that measures targeting them need to respect take-up options and that training needs to be affordable and decent and to address their actual needs; recalls that if these conditions are met, the long-term unemployed will be able to use upskilling as an opportunity to improve their working and living conditions;

51.   Stresses the importance of the Youth Guarantee as a tool to assist young people in the school-to-work transition and to acquire the education, skills and experience required to find a good-quality job through an apprenticeship, traineeship or continued education;

52.   Emphasises the importance of ensuring equal opportunities, and access to education and training, particularly for disadvantaged groups, and of providing effective support in the fight against social exclusion and in facilitating access to work;

Strengthening connections between education and employment

53.   Stresses the need to strengthen, and better target, measures aimed at reducing the rate of early school leaving (ESL) to below 10 % by 2020, as agreed in the Europe 2020 strategy, taking into account that ESL is a persistent problem in the EU that has a detrimental impact on the employability and social integration of the young people concerned;

54.   Believes that dual vocational training through apprenticeships and similar work-based learning systems should be given more consideration and should prioritise quality, without academic bias, as it tends to favour integration into the labour market and a smoother transition from education to work and has proved to be effective in fostering youth employment;

55.   Believes that the vocational training systems that exist today are the result of certain historical and cultural forces and have been shaped by prevailing legal norms, traditions, pedagogical principles and institutional structures;

56.   Highlights the highly concerning data on the rate of young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs), which in the majority of Member States exceeds 10 %; stresses the direct link between high levels of youth unemployment and early school leaving; stresses that without urgent and decisive action at both European and national level a whole generation of young Europeans risks being deprived of sufficient levels of education and training and therefore being excluded from the labour market, with dramatic repercussions for the social fabric, social and territorial cohesion, and the sustainability of the European economic model as a whole;

57.   Underlines that each national vocational training system is a tool for achieving certain objectives which can differ from one country to another, and that each one can therefore be judged only by its success in achieving those objectives; stresses that exporting a vocational training system from one country to another is possible only if conditions in the respective countries are comparable or can be adapted;

58.   Reiterates the importance of vocational education and training (VET) for enhancing employability and clearing the pathway to professional qualifications for young people; calls on the Commission and the Member States to reinforce the relevance of VET to labour market needs by making them an integral part of the education system, and to guarantee high qualification standards and quality assurance in this regard;

59.   Points out that alongside two million unfilled job vacancies in the EU, there are many over-qualified unemployed young people whose skills do not match the demands of the labour market; underlines, therefore, the importance of better synergies between education systems and the labour market, including exposure to the workplace, internships and cooperation with businesses, in order to promote and significantly increase the employment level and to create innovative clusters; stresses the important role businesses can play by engaging with the educational systems in their Member States; emphasises that a comprehensive long-term strategy, paired with immediate measures, is needed to adapt education systems at all levels, including vocational training, to the current and future needs of the labour market;

60.   Welcomes the Commission’s initiative of the European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA), which aims to bring together public authorities, businesses, social partners, VET providers, youth representatives and other key actors in order to promote apprenticeship schemes and initiatives across Europe;

61.   Highlights the importance of dual education and training programmes, combining theory with practical training, as a key element in developing skills and competencies that respond to labour market needs, and encourages the Member States to integrate such programmes into their curricula in order to provide the practical experience needed to facilitate a smooth transition from education and training to the labour market;

62.   Stresses the importance of career orientation and work experience through assessment and career advice that focuses on individual skills and needs and is provided by highly qualified employment counsellors and peer counsellors, in order to ensure that young people are equipped with the right information, advice and guidance to make sound career choices;

63.   Highlights the important role that education and training institutions play in developing students’ skills and competences; calls on the Commission and the Member States to develop high-quality and targeted career guidance throughout the education cycle to help young people take the right decisions with regard to their education and career choices;

64.   Notes that for a successful transition to employment, it is of great importance to take informed decisions, develop a sense of initiative and increase motivation and self-awareness, whilst appropriate support in this regard should also be made available; stresses the importance of quality transitions, including the transitions from education to work, between jobs, and between employment and career breaks;

65.   Recalls that investing in education and in developing skills that respond to the demands of the labour market and society is essential for growth and competitiveness, as well as for European awareness, personal development and self-confidence; points out that entrepreneurship requires the development of transversal skills such as creativity, critical thinking, teamwork and a sense of initiative which contribute to young people’s personal and professional development and facilitate their earlier entry into the job market; stresses that such investment should be supported by stronger synergies between European and national initiatives, involving the various education and training sectors, as well as other relevant sectors, such as employment, social policy, youth policy and culture, along with closer collaboration with all the stakeholders concerned, such as the social partners and businesses, with a view to keeping curricula in tune with labour market needs;

66.   Reiterates the Member States’ commitment to investing in higher education, and calls in the light of this for a gradual improvement in education and training standards across the European education systems; calls on the Member States to recognise education as an essential investment, to commit to investing at least 2 % of their GDP in the sector, and to safeguard it from spending cuts; calls on the Commission to strengthen further the role of education in the Europa 2020 strategy by associating the overall objectives of the Education and Training 2020 (ET 2020) strategic framework with the review of Europe 2020;

67.   Stresses that lifelong investment in human capital and skills, and – in particular – in upskilling the existing workforce and unskilled workers, is essential in order to combat long-term unemployment and provide wider access to quality jobs; calls on the EU to set clear goals on lifelong learning methods for missing skills, and to expand training and education in communication, languages and digital skills for older workers and, in particular, for low-skilled workers over the age of 30 and early school leavers

68.   Stresses the need for adequate financing and take-up, by the Member States, regional and local authorities and individual employers, of quality traineeship and apprenticeship schemes, as well as of school-based learning; recalls that these programmes should comply with minimum standards of social protection;

69.   Believes that close and systematic partnerships at local, regional and national level between public authorities, and employers’ and employees’ representatives, including public and private employment services, and educational and training institutions, are needed in order to develop long term-strategies for the national labour markets concerned and to find the best ways of tackling the problem of skills mismatches in all its dimensions, and calls on the Member States to promote such cooperation;

70.   Believes that the Youth Guarantee is a first step towards a rights-based approach to young people’s needs with regard to employment; recalls the obligation of employers to participate in the process of providing young people with accessible vocational training programmes and quality internships; stresses that the qualitative aspect of decent work for young people must not be compromised, and that the core labour and other standards related to the quality of work, such as working time, the minimum wage, social security, and occupational health and safety, must be central considerations in the efforts that are made;

Fostering labour mobility

71.   Recalls that there are currently two million unfilled vacancies in the EU; emphasises the need for labour mobility in the Union in order to fill this gap, and reiterates the importance of ERASMUS+ and EURES in this respect;

72.   Recalls the importance of facilitating the mobility of border workers by providing more information on the existence of EURES cross-border partnerships, which are designed to encourage and remove obstacles to mobility for cross-border workers by supplying them with information and advice on job opportunities and living and working conditions on either side of the border; in that respect, EURES-T is an important tool for better controlling potential sources of new jobs and moving towards a more integrated EU labour market;

73.   Recalls the mobility of skilled workers from third countries as one of the responses to demographic challenges, labour market shortages and mismatches, as well as to the need to minimise the effects of brain-drain;

74.   Notes that the EU is built on the principle of free movement of workers; calls for the study and use of foreign languages to be encouraged with a view to increasing mobility; points to the importance of making language learning, especially where European languages are concerned, an element of lifelong learning to be encouraged as a means of facilitating worker mobility and widening the range of job prospects;

Exchange and validation of best practices in the EU

75.   Stresses the need to exchange and validate best practices between Member States, and regional and local authorities, as well as to compare and measure their effectiveness, in particular in relation to dual and vocational education and apprenticeship and traineeship systems and curricula, learning outcomes of non-formal and informal learning, and lifelong learning strategies, while acknowledging the specificities of each labour market and education system; points to the Euro Apprenticeship platform as one of the key tools for developing European partnerships and exchanging best practices regarding apprenticeships;

76.   Highlights the important role of non-formal and informal learning, volunteering and lifelong learning in developing skills and qualifications, particularly transversal skills such as entrepreneurial skills, ICT, and personal and language competences that are widely applicable; calls on the EU to improve access to adult learning and second-chance education; calls for the validation and recognition of non-formal and informal learning by employers and education providers;

77.   Points to the importance of revitalising the Bologna Process by taking the opportunity offered by the May 2015 Yerevan Ministerial Conference to embark on new and more advanced forms of cooperation, to be implemented without delay;

78.   Believes that the Commission should ensure that the Erasmus+ programme – with all its different actions, including the sport component of the programme – is properly implemented; considers it important to simplify the access arrangements so that the programme can reach as many individuals and organisations as possible;

Nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit among citizens: SMEs and micro-enterprises

79.   Believes there is a need to improve leadership, financial management and fostering of entrepreneurial education from an early age, and for supportive, extensive and quality preschool systems for disadvantaged families, with a view to realising young people’s potential so that they are equipped to become not only employees, but employers, and enabled to start new businesses and take advantage of new markets;

80.   Welcomes schemes such as Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs aimed at helping new entrepreneurs to acquire the relevant skills for managing a business, and believes that such programmes should be further promoted in order to help more young entrepreneurs become established and succeed; believes that special support measures should be introduced for young entrepreneurs to facilitate their access to information, as well as finance and funding, including one-stop-shop services offering information and support and targeting young people in existing entrepreneurial support bodies;

81.   Believes that non-formal education, particularly as developed in youth organisations, fosters creativity, a sense of initiative and self-responsibility, and can increase young people’s chances on the labour market;

82.   Stresses the need to include elements of entrepreneurial training at all levels of education and training, since instilling the entrepreneurial spirit among the young at an early stage is an effective way of combating unemployment, especially youth unemployment; urges, in this regard, active dialogue and cooperation between the academic and business communities aimed at developing educational programmes that equip young people with the requisite skills and competences;

83.   Calls for a forward-looking and output-oriented European Skills Strategy to guide national skills strategies, and to integrate them in the National Jobs Plans while providing a comprehensive framework for the sectorial action plans proposed in the Employment Package;

84.   Underlines the need for support and incentive measures for start-ups, SMEs, micro-enterprises and social economy actors in order to facilitate their establishment and operation, as well as the necessity to embed and act upon the principle of better regulation and to facilitate the hiring of a qualified labour force and training of employees; to this end, stresses that the tax burden should be shifted away from labour to other sources of taxation that are less detrimental to employment and growth, while protecting adequate social protection;

85.   Calls on Member States to reduce the tax burden on labour;

86.   Recalls that almost 99 % of European companies are SMEs, which are an essential driving force behind the creation of a competitive labour market in the EU; this being the case, stresses the importance of basing EU legislation on the ‘Think Small First’ principle in order to remove the bureaucratic obstacles with which SMEs are confronted and to enable them to achieve their full job-creation potential;

87.   Believes that entrepreneurs should invest in training and apprenticeships for employees and that incentives should be introduced and further developed where appropriate for this purpose, as this will enable them to expand and create new job places; believes that the development of employer networks can help SMEs and micro-enterprises to access the training provision and support they need;

Innovation and digitalisation: new skills and jobs

88.   Stresses the importance of innovation and digitisation for growth, productivity and a fairer, more sustainable and inclusive society, and, in this connection, the need to provide knowledge, creativity and skills, as well as motivation and determination on the part of employees and prospective employees and employers, with a view to creating innovative, creative and digital products and services; stresses the need to close the “digital divide” and digital skills as part of lifelong learning and to integrate new media and new technologies into curricula; stresses, further, the need to develop innovative ways of learning and to extend the availability of online and distance learning through open educational resources (OER) that facilitate equal access to education and training for everyone;

89.   Stresses the need to identify a broad range of emerging industries and key growth sectors in which Member States should focus on developing their skills base;

90.   Highlights the job creation potential offered by completing the digital single market, building the energy union, creating jobs through investing in research and development and innovation, promoting social entrepreneurship and the social economy, upskilling workers in the health and social care sector, and fostering improved transport networks;

91.   Highlights the recent trend of companies returning production and services to the EU and the opportunities this brings for job creation, particularly for young people; believes that the economies of the EU have a unique opportunity to accelerate this trend of reshoring jobs by ensuring that the skills of our workforce match the needs of businesses;

92.   Underlines the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) studies and highlights the role they have in enabling Europe to play an important part on the global stage with regard to advancing technology developments;

93.   Supports the Commission´s initiative in cooperation with the Trio Presidency to promote an entrepreneurial mindset in Europe and develop transferable skills for life;

94.   Highlights the fact that the EU faces a shortage of skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), while it has an over-supply of social science graduates; is of the opinion that supplementary initiatives at European and national level are necessary to respond to the bottlenecks in STEM-related jobs and studies; recommends that the Commission and the Member States take measures to enhance the attractiveness and value of STEM subjects and to encourage young people, including women, to take up STEM studies;

95.   Points out that even in the 21st century there is still a place for traditional know-how that creates stable jobs that cannot be outsourced and underpins a number of fields in which Europe excels; calls for support that allows these traditional skills to be preserved and passed on to future generations through training, combining them, whenever possible, with new kinds of know-how, including digital skills, in order to maximise their potential;

Measures regarding younger and older workers and workers with disabilities

96.   Stresses the need for, and importance of, special measures and support for employers, in particular SMEs, to help them enhance quality and sustainable employment, ensure work-based training and offer career-development opportunities for groups that are disadvantaged on the labour market, such as young people, elderly workers, women, migrants, disabled people and the long-term unemployed; recognises and supports the role of both public and private employment services in promoting competitive labour markets; recalls the importance of social and economic responsibility on the part of employers and educational institutions vis-à-vis all employees and society; believes that such social responsibility should also be required of institutions responsible for education and training;

97.   Recognises the challenges young people face when entering the labour market, recalls the importance of their obtaining their first work experience during their studies so as to gain employability skills and make the transition from school to work more efficiently and effectively; points to the potential underlying youth entrepreneurship, and therefore appeals to the responsibility of employers and Member States to provide young people with the chance to gain such experience and to support young people in getting the right skills; emphasises, further, the importance of cooperation between schools and employers in this respect, and calls on the EU institutions and Member States to become more business-friendly and to support young people in transforming their ideas into successful business plans;

Policy proposals and Recommendations

98.   Calls on the Commission, the Member States, and regional and local authorities to invest in innovative and promising new economic sectors in order to encourage investment in the EU with a view to boosting growth and new, quality, sustainable employment, leading towards a fairer, sustainable and inclusive society; further emphasises the importance of the Member States’ implementing economic and financial measures and carrying out labour market reforms that are based on clear, data-based and measurable indicators whose effectiveness can be proved;

99.   Calls on the Member States to ensure that, in addition to promoting the creation of quality jobs, the labour market reforms are designed to reduce segmentation, bring vulnerable groups into the labour market, promote gender equality, reduce in-work poverty and provide adequate social protection for all workers, including the self-employed;

100.   Calls on the Member States to invest in early childhood education, and in early teaching of foreign languages and of information and communication technologies in primary schools;

101.   Calls on the Member States to take full account of the importance of automatisation as a trend that may erode the quantitative importance of many jobs, and to direct their training programmes for the unemployed into learning skills that are useful in non-routine jobs;

102.   Calls on the Member States and regional and local authorities to learn about best practices and to take the step from these to policy actions that increase employment rates and reduce poverty and inequality, and undertake more ambitious reforms which draw on those practices; calls further on the Member States to compare and measure the effectiveness of such practices, to ensure the right balance between adaptability and security for workers and businesses, and to take into consideration the specificities of labour markets and education systems in the Member States;

103.   Calls on cities and regions to focus on quality education and training, fighting early school leaving and combating youth unemployment, because young people urgently need new prospects and the utmost should be done to support them;

104.   Calls on Member States to develop collective approaches such as employers networks in order to help break through the barriers that prevent employers from pursuing more ambitious plans for workforce development;

105.   Calls on the Commission and Member States to foster and support social enterprises that take into account their responsibility towards the environment, consumers and employees;

106.   Calls on the Member States to introduce a minimum wage with a view to addressing pay inequalities using a base level for each Member State to ensure a decent income via legal means or by way of an agreement, in line with national practice;

107.   Calls on the Member States to include leadership, management, entrepreneurial and financial education, business start-up advice and communication technologies in their education programmes, including lifelong learning strategies, and to prioritise the further development of vocational training and education (VET) programmes, including enhancing European craftsmanship, while taking into consideration the differences between Member States as regards labour market and education systems, avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach;

108.   Petitions the Commission to develop a European platform for recognition and validation of skills common to specific activities and professions, which incorporates the recognition of skills acquired through volunteer work;

109.   Calls on the Member States to implement the 2012 Council Recommendation on the validation of non-formal and informal learning as a way to recognise competences acquired through non-formal education, particularly in the volunteer and youth sector, and to support the implementation of lifelong learning policies;

110.   Calls on the Member States to support the close and systematic involvement of labour market stakeholders, including employers’ and employees’ organisations, training institutions, and public and private employment services at local, regional and national level, including by facilitating communication and information sharing between them, in order to foster closer links between education and training and the workplace, to better match supply and demand and to anticipate and plan for future skills needs and qualifications in the labour market;

111.   Calls on the Commission, the Member States and regional and local authorities to provide financial and economic incentives that support participation in continuous education and training in order to guarantee a skilled future workforce; recommends that such incentives be based on measurable and data-based indicators whose effectiveness can be proved;

112.   Calls on the Member States to provide appropriate training and ensure the ongoing professional development of teachers and education leaders in order to help them use the most appropriate teaching methods and enable the development of 21st ‑century skills and competencies among Europe’s young people; stresses, further, the importance of providing teachers with experience-based know-how that combines practice with theory, especially with regard to new technologies and digitisation, so that they can convey this knowledge to students;

113.   Calls on the Member States and the EU to take swift concrete steps to implement policies and current legislation on mutual recognition of qualifications and academic titles across the EU, as a means of fostering fair intra-EU labour mobility and addressing the problem of unfilled vacancies;

114.   Calls on the Commission and Member States to provide forecasts regarding changing labour markets, particularly in relation to challenges arising from globalisation, as well as forecasts on jobs and skills per Member State and broadly across the sectors;

o
o   o

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

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2014)0038 .
(2) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0394 .
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0110 .
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2014)0010 .
(5) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0037 .
(6) OJ C 398, 22.12.2012, p. 1.
(7) OJ L 394, 30.12.2006, p. 10.
(8) According to the Commission’s Employment and Social Situation: Quarterly Review of March 2015.
(9) European Commission (2013), Employment and Social Developments in Europe.
(10) According to the Commission’s Employment and Social Situation: Quarterly Review of 13 April 2015.


30th and 31st annual reports on monitoring the application of EU law (2012-2013)
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European Parliament resolution of 10 September 2015 on the 30th and 31st annual reports on monitoring the application of EU Law (2012-2013) (2014/2253(INI) )
P8_TA(2015)0322 A8-0242/2015

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the 30th annual report on monitoring the application of EU law (2012) (COM(2013)0726 ),

–   having regard to the 31st annual report on monitoring the application of EU law (2013) (COM(2014)0612 ),

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

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

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

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

–   having regard to the Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission(1) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 4 February 2014 on the 29th annual report on monitoring the application of European Union law (2011)(2) ,

–   having regard to the study: ‘The impact of the crisis on fundamental rights across Member States of the EU – Comparative analysis’(3) ,

–   having regard to the Better Regulation package adopted by the Commission on 19 May 2015,

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

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, the Committee on Constitutional Affairs and the Committee on Petitions (A8-0242/2015 ),

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

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

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

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

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

F.   whereas Article 51 CFREU limits Member States’ obligation of compliance with the Charter to situations where they are implementing EU law, but does not provide for such a limitation of the obligations stemming from the Charter for EU institutions, bodies, offices or agencies;

G.   whereas, in the context of the recent financial crisis, Member States have had to take measures jeopardising primary EU law, most notably provisions on protection of social and economic rights;

1.   Notes that, in line with the Joint Political Declaration of 27 October 2011 of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on explanatory documents, the Commission has reported to the two co-legislators on the implementation of the declaration;

2.   Welcomes the Commission’s 30th and 31st annual reports on the application of EU law, and notes that according to these reports the four fields in which Member States were mostly subject to transposition infringement proceedings in 2012 were transport, protection of health and consumers, protection of the environment, and issues related to the internal market and services, whereas in 2013 the most problematic areas were the environment, protection of health and consumers, the internal market and services, and transport; recalls, however, that this ex post evaluation does not replace the Commission's duty to monitor in an effective and timely fashion the application and implementation of EU law, and notes that Parliament could assist in reviewing the implementation of legislation through its scrutiny of the Commission;

3.   Points out that in a European Union founded on the rule of law and on the certainty and predictability of laws, EU citizens must, as of right, be the first to be made aware, in a clear, accessible, transparent and timely manner (via the internet and by other means), whether and which national laws have been adopted in transposition of EU laws, and which national authorities are responsible for ensuring they are correctly implemented;

4.   Notes that citizens and businesses expect a simple, predictable and reliable regulatory framework;

5.   Urges the Commission, when drafting and assessing legislation, to take greater account of the burden it may impose on SMEs;

6.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to coordinate their efforts at an earlier stage of the legislative process with a view to ensuring that the end result can be implemented more effectively;

7.   Notes that late transposition, incorrect transposition and bad application of EU law can result in differentiation between Member States and distort the level playing field across the EU;

8.   Calls on the Commission to treat all Member States equally, regardless of their size or when they joined the EU;

9.   Notes that the implementation and transposition of EU law remain uneven across Member States; notes that citizens who wish to live, work or do business in another Member State face the daily reality of ongoing difficulties arising from the uneven implementation of EU law in the legal systems of the Member States;

10.   Recalls that the Commission is, according to Article 17 TEU, responsible for ensuring the application of Union law, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (Article 6(1) TEU), whose provisions are addressed to the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union and to the Member States when they are implementing Union law (Article 51(1) CFREU); recalls that the Commission has the power to bring infringement proceedings under Articles 258 to 260 TFEU in order to ensure respect for EU law; calls on the Commission, however, to facilitate Parliament’s exercise of its role as co-legislator by providing it with adequate information and remaining accountable to it;

11.   Notes that a total of 731 infringement cases were closed because the Member State in question had demonstrated its compliance with EU law; points out that the Court of Justice delivered 52 judgments under Article 258 TFEU in 2013, of which 31 (59,6 %) were handed down against Member States; recalls, to put these statistics into perspective, that to date 3 274 (87,3 %) infringement judgments delivered by the Court have been in the Commission’s favour; asks the Commission to pay special attention to the actual enforcement of all these judgments;

12.   Welcomes the Commission’s increasing use of implementation plans for new pieces of EU legislation addressed to the Member States, since this increases the probability of timely and correct implementation, pre-empts transposition and application problems, and, in turn, has an impact on the number of relevant petitions submitted;

13.   Reiterates the need for the Commission to focus on effective problem-solving, effective management and preventive measures, but suggests that it should also think of new ways, other than formal infringement procedures, of improving the transposition and enforcement of EU law;

14.   Maintains that EU legislation must be transposed properly and promptly into the legal order of each Member State; urges Member State authorities to avoid the practice of ‘gold-plating’, as this often gives rise to marked divergences in the implementation process at Member State level, which, in turn, weakens respect for Union law as citizens become aware of significant variations across the EU; points to the need further to intensify cooperation between Members of the European Parliament and the European affairs committees of national and regional parliaments; warmly welcomes the innovation in the Lisbon Treaty under which the Court of Justice, on a request from the Commission, may impose penalties on Member States for late transposition without needing to wait for a second ruling; urges the EU institutions (Council, Commission, ECB) to respect primary EU law (the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights) when establishing rules of secondary law or adopting policies on economic and social matters which affect human rights and the common good;

15.   Notes the Commission’s use of the term ‘gold-plating’, which refers to obligations that go beyond EU requirements, that is, an excess of norms, guidelines and procedures accumulated at national, regional and local levels interfering with the expected policy goals; calls on the Commission to clearly define the term; stresses that such a definition must make it clear that Member States have the right to set stricter standards where necessary, while taking into account the fact that better harmonisation in the implementation of EU environmental law is important for the functioning of the internal market;

16.   Notes that the decrease in late transposition infringements in 2012 compared to the previous year was mainly due to the fact that there were fewer directives to transpose in 2012 compared with previous years; recognises, however, that the statistics for 2013 show a real decrease in late transposition infringements, with the number of such infringements reaching a 5-year low at the end of that year, which could be seen as a positive outcome of the introduction in Article 260(3) TFEU of the ‘fast-track’ procedure for penalties in cases of non-transposition;

17.   Notes that the decrease in late transposition infringements in 2013, 2012 and over the last five years can be explained by the use of EU Pilot and other mechanisms (including SOLVIT 2), and by the introduction in Article 260(3) TFEU of the ‘fast-track’ procedure for penalties in cases of non-transposition; stresses that the timely transposition of directives should remain a top priority within the Commission and that transposition deadlines have to be enforced;

18.   Points out that the increase in the number of new EU Pilot files, in particular relating to the environment, taxation, justice and customs, during the period under examination, as well as the decrease in the number of open infringement cases, point to a positive tendency in Member States as regards the implementation of EU law, demonstrating that EU Pilot has proved to be effective in achieving early resolution of potential infringements; considers, nevertheless, that more efforts should be made in the field of enforcement of EU law in order to strengthen its transparency and its oversight by complainants and interested parties, and regrets that, despite its repeated requests, Parliament still has inadequate access to information about the EU Pilot procedure and pending cases; notes the need to reinforce the legal status and strengthen the legitimacy of EU Pilot, and considers that this can be achieved through more transparency and greater participation by complainants and by the European Parliament;

19.   Calls, therefore, once again on the Commission to propose binding rules in the form of a regulation under the new legal basis of Article 298 TFEU, so as to ensure full respect for the citizens' right to good administration as set out in Article 41 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights;

20.   Recognises that the primary responsibility for the correct implementation and application of EU law lies with the Member States, and stresses the European institutions' duty to respect primary EU law when they produce secondary EU law or decide, implement and impose on Member States social, economic or other policies, and also emphasises their duty to assist Member States by all means available in their efforts to respect democratic and social values and to transpose EU legislation in times of austerity and economic constraints recalls that the EU institutions are bound by the principle of subsidiarity and the prerogatives of the Member States;

21.   Expresses its concern that the austerity measures imposed on over-indebted EU Member States, and which were subsequently incorporated in acts of secondary EU law before being transposed into domestic legislation, during the period covered by the two annual reports under examination, and in particular the drastic cuts in public spending, have had the effect of significantly reducing the capacity of Member States’ administration and judiciary to assume their responsibility to correctly implement EU law;

22.   Considers that Member States under economic adjustment programmes should still be able to fulfil their obligation to respect social and economic rights;

23.   Recalls that the EU institutions, even when they act as members of groups of international lenders (‘troikas’), are bound by the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union;

24.   Stresses that it is of the utmost importance that the EU institutions respect the Treaties; notes that the Commission must help Member States to correctly implement EU law, in order to reinforce support for the EU and confidence in its legitimacy; encourages the Commission to publish concerns raised by Member States during the implementation process; stresses that the support of national parliaments in transposing legislation is essential in improving the application of EU law, and therefore calls for dialogue with national parliaments to be stepped up, including when subsidiarity concerns have been expressed; notes the crucial role of regular ex post assessments and the importance of seeking the views of national parliaments to address concerns or complexities of legislation that may not have previously been apparent;

25.   Notes that the right to petition Parliament is one of the pillars of European citizenship, as laid down in Article 44 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and Article 227 TFEU; points out that this right provides tools that are necessary, but not sufficient, for increasing public participation in the EU’s decision-making process, and plays an important role in identifying and assessing potential loopholes and violations in the implementation of EU legislation by Member States and informing the EU institutions thereof; underlines, in the light of the above, the crucial role of the Committee on Petitions as the effective juncture between EU citizens, Parliament, the Commission and national parliaments;

26.   Welcomes the Commission’s acknowledgment of the vital role played by the complainant in helping it detect infringements of EU law;

27.   Recalls that the European institutions, and in particular the Commission and the Council, must fully apply and comply with EU law and case-law in the field of transparency and access to documents; calls in this regard for the effective application of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents(4) and of the related judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union;

28.   Emphasises that the EU has been set up as a Union based on the rule of law and respect for human rights (Article 2 TEU); reiterates that careful monitoring of Member States’ and EU institutions’ acts and omissions is of utmost importance, and underlines that the number of petitions to Parliament and of complaints to the Commission concerning problems supposedly resolved by the Commission shows that citizens are paying increasing attention to the need for better application of EU law; calls on the Commission to respond more rapidly and clearly to notifications from citizens related to infringements of Union law;

29.   Notes the large number of infringement cases that were closed in 2013 before reaching the Court of Justice, with only approximately 6,6 % of all cases being concluded by court ruling; considers it essential, therefore, to continue to carefully monitor Member States’ actions, taking into consideration the fact that some of the petitions still refer to problems that persist even after the matter has been closed;

30.   Welcomes the fact that the Commission is attaching ever greater importance to petitions as a source of information regarding both citizens’ complaints against public authorities, including the EU itself, and potential infringements of EU law in its actual implementation, as evidenced by the fact that the two annual reports paid particular attention to petitions; notes that this has been accompanied by a corresponding increase in the number of petitions forwarded by the Committee on Petitions to the Commission with requests for information; regrets, however, the Commission’s delay in responding when asked to give an opinion in the case of numerous petitions;

31.   Notes also the need for a constructive dialogue with the Member States in the framework of the Committee on Petitions, and asks the Member States concerned by the relevant petitions to send representatives to address the Committee during its meetings;

32.   Points out that petitions submitted by EU citizens or residents of a Member State refer to violations of EU law, particularly in the fields of fundamental rights, home affairs, justice, the internal market, health, consumers, transport, taxation, agriculture and rural development and the environment; considers that petitions give evidence of the fact that there are still frequent and widespread instances of incomplete transposition and lack of adequate enforcement, effectively leading to a misapplication of EU law; stresses that such a situation calls for increased efforts from Member States and for ongoing monitoring by the Commission; highlights in particular the large number of petitions submitted which report the existence of discrimination and barriers against people with disabilities;

33.   Points out that there continue to be difficulties in dialogue with some Member States and regions, which are reluctant to provide the documents or explanations requested;

34.  Welcomes the Commission services’ commitment to strengthen the exchange of information with the Committee on Petitions, and wishes to reiterate its requests for:

   (a) improved communication between the two parties, in particular with regard to the initiation and progress of infringement procedures brought by the Commission, including the EU Pilot procedure, so as to make sure that Parliament is fully informed with a view to constantly improving its legislative work;
   (b) efforts to be made to give all possible relevant information on petitions relating to investigation and infringement procedures to the Committee on Petitions within a reasonable time-frame, thus allowing the committee to respond to citizens’ requests more effectively;
   (c) agreement by the Commission to take into account the reports of the Committee on Petitions, and particularly the findings and recommendations contained therein, when drawing up its communications and when preparing amendments to legislation;

35.   Deplores the fact that Parliament, which directly represents European citizens and is now a fully-fledged co-legislator that is more and more closely involved in complaints procedures, in particular via parliamentary questions and through the activities of the Committee on Petitions, does not yet automatically receive transparent and timely information on the implementation of EU laws, despite the fact that such information is essential, not only as a means of enhancing accessibility and legal certainty for European citizens, but also for the purposes of adopting amendments aimed at improving those laws; considers that improved communication between the European Parliament and national parliaments could be a helpful step in this regard; urges more effective and efficient cooperation between the EU institutions, and expects the Commission to apply in good faith the clause of the revised Framework Agreement on relations with Parliament in which it undertakes to ‘make available to Parliament summary information concerning all infringement procedures from the letter of formal notice, included, if so requested, on the issues to which the infringement procedure relates’;

36.   Calls for the creation within the relevant Directorates-General of Parliament (DG IPOL, DG EXPO and DG Research) of an autonomous system for ex post assessment of the impact of the main EU laws adopted by Parliament under codecision and in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, including via cooperation with the national parliaments;

37.   Notes that the Court of Justice has pointed out that ‘damage caused by national institutions can only give rise to liability on the part of those institutions, and the national courts retain sole jurisdiction to order compensation for such damage’(5) ; underlines, therefore, the importance of strengthening the means of redress available at national level, which would enable complainants to assert their rights more directly and more personally;

38.   Notes that most of the complaints from citizens in the justice area are concerned with freedom of movement and the protection of personal data; reiterates that the right of free movement is one of the four fundamental freedoms of the EU enshrined in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and is guaranteed to all European citizens; recalls that as one of the fundamental freedoms of the European Union, the right of EU citizens to move freely and reside and work in other Member States needs to be guaranteed and protected;

39.   Underlines that the full transposition and effective implementation of the Common European Asylum System is an absolute priority; calls on the Member States to make every effort to transpose the new Asylum Package in a correct and timely manner and in full;

40.   Notes that in the area of home affairs there were 22 infringement cases open in 2012 and 44 in 2013; deplores the fact that in 2013 most of the late infringement cases were launched due to the late transposition of Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings; notes that asylum remains an area where a large number of complaints have been lodged;

41.   Notes that in the area of justice there were 61 infringement cases open in 2012 and 67 in 2013; points out that most of these cases concerned citizenship and free movement of persons; deplores the fact that most of the late infringement cases were launched due to the late transposition of Directive 2010/64/EU on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings; expresses concern over the significant increase in the number of complaints in the justice area in 2013;

42.   Welcomes the significant progress that has been made over the past years in strengthening the rights of defence of suspected or accused persons in the EU; underlines the crucial importance of the timely, complete and correct transposition of all measures stipulated in the Council’s Roadmap for strengthening procedural rights of suspected or accused persons in criminal proceedings; points out that these measures are crucial to the proper functioning of EU judicial cooperation in criminal matters;

43.   Stresses that trafficking in human beings is a serious crime and represents a violation of human rights and human dignity that the Union cannot tolerate; deplores the fact that the number of people being trafficked to and from the EU is rising; points out that, although the legal framework is adequate, its concrete implementation by the Member States is still deficient; stresses that the current situation in the Mediterranean has increased the likelihood of trafficking, and calls on the Member States to take an extremely firm line with perpetrators of such crimes and to protect the victims as effectively as possible;

44.   Recalls that the transitional period foreseen by Protocol 36 to the Lisbon Treaty came to an end on 1 December 2014; underlines that the end of this transitional period must be followed by a rigorous process of evaluation of the former third pillar measures and their implementation in Member States’ national legislation; points out that as of April 2015 Parliament has not been informed of the current situation of each pre-Lisbon legal instrument in the fields of judicial and police cooperation in each Member State; calls on the Commission to comply with the principle of loyal cooperation and to make this information available to Parliament as soon as possible;

45.   Recalls that the European Council conclusions of June 2014 identified the consistent transposition, effective implementation and consolidation of the legal instruments and policy measures in place as the overall priority in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (AFSJ) for the next five years; asks the Commission to put more emphasis on overseeing and ensuring the concrete implementation of EU law by the Member States; considers that this must be a political priority in view of the wide gap which is often observed between policies adopted at Union level and their implementation at national level; encourages national parliaments to become more involved in the European debate and the monitoring of the application of EU law, in particular in the field of home affairs;

46.   Stresses that in its resolution of 11 September 2013 on endangered European languages and linguistic diversity in the European Union(6) , Parliament recalled that the Commission should pay attention to the fact that, with their policies, some Member States and regions are endangering the survival of languages inside their borders, even if those languages are not in danger in the European context, and also called on the Commission to consider the administrative and legislative obstacles posed to projects relating to endangered languages on account of the small size of the language communities concerned; calls on the Commission, in this regard, to take into thorough consideration the rights of persons belonging to minorities when evaluating the application of EU law;

47.   Stresses that not only in the AFSJ but also in the other policy areas there is a need to enhance the access of citizens to information and documents with regard to the application of EU law; calls on the Commission to identify the best possible ways to achieve this, to make use of the existing communication tools in order to enhance transparency, and to ensure proper access to information and documents on the application of EU law; calls on the Commission to propose a legally binding instrument on the administrative procedure concerning the handling of citizens’ complaints;

48.   Recalls that the smooth functioning of a true European area of justice based on respect for the different legal systems and traditions of the Member States is vital for the EU, and that the complete, correct and timely implementation of EU legislation is a prerequisite for achieving this objective;

49.   Underlines that the improvement of implementation is one of the Seventh Environmental Action Programme’s priorities;

50.   Deplores the fact that EU environmental and health legislation continues to be affected by large numbers of cases of late transposition, incorrect transposition and bad application by the Member States; notes that the Commission’s 31st annual report on the application of EU law shows that in 2013 the biggest category of infringement proceedings was environment-related; recalls that the costs of failing to implement environmental policy – including the costs of infringement proceedings – are high, being estimated at around EUR 50 billion per annum (COWI et al., 2011); stresses, moreover, that the implementation of environmental policy would yield many socio-economic benefits which are not always registered by cost-benefit analyses;

51.   Calls on the Commission to be more rigorous in relation to the application of EU environmental legislation and to conduct faster and effective investigations into infringements relating to environmental pollution;

52.   Calls on the Commission to take stronger action against the late transposition of environmental directives and to make greater use of penalty payments;

53.   Calls on the Commission to submit a new proposal on access to justice in environmental matters and a proposal on environmental inspections, if possible without increasing red tape and administrative costs;

54.   Underlines the need to maintain a high level of environmental protection and warns against associating high levels of infringements with the need to reduce the level of ambition of environmental legislation;

55.   Expresses its concern that the Commission’s communication policy regarding the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT) overstates the difficulty of implementing environmental and health legislation; stresses that environmental, food safety and health standards should not be undermined in the context of the REFIT programme; acknowledges the need for better regulation and takes the view that regulatory simplification should, inter alia, tackle problems encountered during implementation; takes the view that REFIT should deliver results for citizens and businesses in the least burdensome way;

56.   Welcomes the new practice whereby the Commission can ask the Member States, in justified cases, to include explanatory documents when they notify the Commission of their transposition measures; reiterates, however, its call for mandatory correlation tables on the transposition of directives, which should be publicly available in all EU languages, and regrets the fact that REFIT was the result of a unilateral decision by the Commission, with no real social and parliamentary dialogue;

57.   Points out that in relation to REFIT the Commission needs to facilitate dialogue on regulatory fitness with citizens, Member States, business and civil society at large, so as to ensure that the quality and social aspects of EU legislation are preserved and that one ideal does not progress at the expense of the other;

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

(1) OJ L 304, 20.11.2010, p. 47.
(2) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0051 .
(3) Policy Department C: Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs for the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (2015).
(4) Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents (OJ L 145, 31.5.2001, p. 43).
(5) See judgment in Case 175/84.
(6) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0350 .

Last updated: 2 May 2017Legal notice