Index 
Texts adopted
Thursday, 14 April 2016 - StrasbourgFinal edition
Non-objection to a delegated act: detailed rules concerning certain provisions of the Union Customs Code
 Protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data ***II
 Processing of personal data for the purposes of crime prevention ***II
 Use of Passenger Name Record data (EU PNR) ***I
  Resolution
  Consolidated text
 Pakistan, in particular the attack in Lahore
 Honduras: situation of human rights defenders
 Nigeria
 Protection of trade secrets against their unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure ***I
  Resolution
  Consolidated text
 Parliament's estimates of revenue and expenditure for the financial year 2017
 2015 Report on Turkey
 2015 Report on Albania
 2015 Report on Bosnia and Herzegovina
 Meeting the antipoverty target in the light of increasing household costs
 Private sector and development

Non-objection to a delegated act: detailed rules concerning certain provisions of the Union Customs Code
PDF 247k   DOC 66k
European Parliament decision to raise no objections to the Commission delegated regulation of 5 April 2016 correcting Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2446 supplementing Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards detailed rules concerning certain provisions of the Union Customs Code (C(2016)01934 – 2016/2639(DEA))
P8_TA(2016)0124 B8-0452/2016

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Commission delegated regulation (C(2016)01934),

–   having regard to the Commission’s letter of 11 March 2016 asking Parliament to declare that it will raise no objections to the delegated regulation,

–   having regard to the letter from the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection to the Chair of the Conference of Committee Chairs of 7 April 2016,

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

–   having regard to Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 October 2013 laying down the Union Customs Code(1) , and in particular Article 160 and Article 284(5) thereof,

–   having regard to the recommendation for a decision of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection,

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

–   having regard to the fact that no objections have been raised within the period laid down in the third and fourth indents of Rule 105(6) of its Rules of Procedure, which expired on 13 April 2016,

A.   whereas, following the publication of Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2446(2) , two errors were detected;

B.   whereas the first error concerns the presumption of a customs declaration laid down in Article 139 of Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2446 for some of the types of goods referred to in Article 136(1) of that delegated regulation; whereas the order of the goods listed in Article 136 of Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2446 was changed during the final review of that delegated regulation before its adoption, but, by mistake, the references to those goods in Article 139 of that delegated regulation were not updated; whereas the references in question should therefore be corrected;

C.   whereas the second error concerns Article 141(1) of Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2446; whereas the currently applicable point (b) of Article 233(1) of Commission Regulation (EEC) No 2454/93(3) , which provides for the possibility, in a number of limited and very specific cases, to deem the crossing of the border to be a declaration for temporary importation, export or re-export, was by mistake not included in Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2446, and whereas, as a result, there is no possibility of declaring certain goods by the sole act of crossing the frontier of the Union customs territory; whereas Article 141(1) of Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2446 should therefore be corrected;

D.   whereas these two mistakes will affect trade flows and have a very negative impact on customs authorities and traders if they are not corrected before 1 May 2016, when the relevant provisions of Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 will become applicable;

E.   whereas the delegated regulation may only enter into force at the end of the period set for scrutiny by Parliament and the Council if no objection has been raised either by Parliament or by the Council or if, before the expiry of that period, both Parliament and the Council have informed the Commission that they will not object; whereas the scrutiny period is set under Article 284(5) of Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 as two months from the date of notification, that is to say, it runs until 5 June 2016, and may be extended by a further period of two months;

F.   whereas, however, on grounds of urgency, the Commission asked on 11 March 2016 for an early confirmation of the delegated regulation before 1 May 2016 by Parliament;

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

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

(1) OJ L 269, 10.10.2013, p. 1.
(2) Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2446 of 28 July 2015 supplementing Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards detailed rules concerning certain provisions of the Union Customs Code (OJ L 343, 29.12.2015, p. 1).
(3) Commission Regulation (EEC) No 2454/93 of 2 July 1993 laying down provisions for the implementation of Council Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92 establishing the Community Customs Code (OJ L253, 11.10.1993, p. 1).


Protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data ***II
PDF 245k   DOC 62k
European Parliament legislative resolution of 14 April 2016 on the Council position at first reading with a view to the adoption of a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and onthe free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation) (05419/1/2016 – C8-0140/2016 – 2012/0011(COD) ) (Ordinary legislative procedure: second reading)
P8_TA(2016)0125 A8-0139/2016

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Council position at first reading (05419/1/2016 – C8‑0140/2016 ),

–   having regard to the reasoned opinions submitted, within the framework of Protocol No 2 on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, by the Belgian Chamber of Representatives, the German Bundesrat, the French Senate, the Italian Chamber of Deputies and the Swedish Parliament, asserting that the draft legislative act does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity,

–   having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 23 May 2012(1) ,

–   having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 10 October 2012(2) ,

–   having regard to the opinions of the European Data Protection Supervisor of 7 March 2012(3) and 19 November 2015(4) ,

–   having regard to the opinion of the Commission (COM(2016)0214 ),

–   having regard to its position at first reading(5) on the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2012)0011 ),

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

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

–   having regard to the recommendation for second reading of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0139/2016 ),

1.   Approves the Council position at first reading;

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

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

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

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

(1) OJ C 229, 31.7.2012, p. 90.
(2) OJ C 391, 18.12.2012, p. 127.
(3) OJ C 192, 30.6.2012, p. 7.
(4) OJ C 67, 20.2.2016, p. 13.
(5) Texts adopted of 12.3.2014, P8_TA(2014)0212 .


Processing of personal data for the purposes of crime prevention ***II
PDF 247k   DOC 62k
European Parliament legislative resolution of 14 April 2016 on the Council position at first reading with a view to the adoption of a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data by competent authorities for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the execution of criminal penalties, and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Council Framework Decision 2008/977/JHA (05418/1/2016 – C8-0139/2016 – 2012/0010(COD) ) (Ordinary legislative procedure: second reading)
P8_TA(2016)0126 A8-0138/2016

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Council position at first reading (05418/1/2016 – C8‑0139/2016 ),

–   having regard to the reasoned opinions submitted, within the framework of Protocol No 2 on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, by the German Bundesrat and the Swedish Parliament, asserting that the draft legislative act does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity,

–   having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 10 October 2012(1) ,

–   having regard to the opinions of the European Data Protection Supervisor of 7 March 2012(2) and 19 November 2015(3) ,

–   having regard to the opinion of the Commission (COM(2016)0213 ),

–   having regard to its position at first reading(4) on the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2012)0010 ),

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

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

–   having regard to the recommendation for second reading of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0138/2016 ),

1.   Approves the Council position at first reading;

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

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

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

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

(1) OJ C 391, 18.12.2012, p. 127.
(2) OJ C 192, 30.6.2012, p. 7.
(3) OJ C 67, 20.2.2016, p. 13.
(4) Texts adopted of 12.3.2014, P8_TA(2014)0219 .


Use of Passenger Name Record data (EU PNR) ***I
PDF 252k   DOC 64k
Resolution
Consolidated text
European Parliament legislative resolution of 14 April 2016 on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the use of Passenger Name Record data for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime (COM(2011)0032 – C7-0039/2011 – 2011/0023(COD) ) (Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)
P8_TA(2016)0127 A8-0248/2015

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2011)0032 ),

–   having regard to Article 294(2), point (d) of the second subparagraph of Article 82(1), and point (a) of Article 87(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C7‑0039/2011 ),

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

–   having regard to the contributions submitted by the Bulgarian Parliament, the Czech Senate, the German Bundesrat, the Italian Senate, the Netherlands Senate, the Austrian National Council, the Portuguese Parliament and the Romanian Senate on the draft legislative act,

–   having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 5 May 2011(1) ,

–   having regard to the opinion of the European Data Protection Supervisor of 25 March 2011(2) ,

–   having regard to the judgment of the Court of Justice of 8 April 2014 in Joined Cases C-293/12 and C-594/12, Digital Rights Ireland and Seitlinger and others (3) ,

–   having regard to Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data(4) ,

–   having regard to the undertaking given by the Council representative by letter of 7 December 2015 to approve Parliament's position, in accordance with Article 294(4) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–   having regard to Rules 59 and 188 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Transport and Tourism (A7-0150/2013 ),

–   having regard to the Decision of the Conference of Presidents of 18 September 2014 on unfinished business from the seventh parliamentary term,

–   having regard to the second report of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Transport and Tourism (A8-0248/2015 ),

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

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

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

Position of the European Parliament adopted at first reading on 14 April 2016 with a view to the adoption of Directive (EU) 2016/... of the European Parliament and of the Council on the use of passenger name record (PNR) data for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime

P8_TC1-COD(2011)0023


(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Directive (EU) 2016/681.)

(1) OJ C 218, 23.7.2011, p. 107.
(2) OJ C 181, 22.6.2011, p. 24.
(3) Judgment of the Court of Justice of 8 April 2014, Digital Rights Ireland and Seitlinger and others , Joined Cases C-293/12 and C-594/12, ECLI:EU:C:2014:238.
(4) OJ L 281, 23.11.1995, p. 31.


Pakistan, in particular the attack in Lahore
PDF 176k   DOC 74k
European Parliament resolution of 14 April 2016 on Pakistan, in particular the attack in Lahore (2016/2644(RSP) )
P8_TA(2016)0128 B8-0466 , 0467 , 0468 , 0471 , 0474 and 0476/2016

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on Pakistan,

–   having regard to the statement by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, of 27 March 2016 on the attack in Lahore, Pakistan,

–   having regard to the statement by the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, of 29 October 2014,

–   having regard to the statements by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, of 27 March 2016 on the bombing in Pakistan and of 21 January 2016 on the Bacha Khan University attack,

–   having regard to the UN Security Council statement of 28 March 2016 on terrorist attacks in Lahore, Pakistan,

–   having regard to the reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief,

–   having regard to the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsák-Ndiaye, on ‘Hate speech and incitement to hatred against minorities in the media’, of 5 January 2015,

–   having regard to the statement by Nobel Peace Prize winner and Sakharov Prize winner Malala Yousafzai of 27 March 2016,

–   having regard to the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, of 4 April 2013, and the report of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances of 26 February 2013 on its mission to Pakistan,

–   having regard to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,

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

–   having regard to the EU Guidelines on the death penalty, as revised on 12 April 2013,

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

–   having regard to the EU-Pakistan five-year Engagement Plan of March 2012, which contains priorities such as good governance and dialogue on human rights, as well as the closely related second EU-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue of 25 March 2014,

–   having regard to the EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief,

–   having regard to its resolution of 17 December 2015 on the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2014 and the European Union’s policy on the matter(1) ,

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

A.   whereas on 27 March 2016, at a playground in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore, a suicide bomb attack caused the deaths of more than 73 people and injured more than 300, including many women and children; whereas the terrorist Islamist group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that they intentionally targeted Christians; whereas, however, most of those wounded and killed were Muslims and all of them were Pakistanis;

B.   whereas, at the time of the terrorist attack, violent demonstrations were taking place in Islamabad, where supporters of Mumtaz Qadri, the convicted murderer of Governor Salman Taseer, were demanding the execution of Asia Bibi, a woman accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death, whose case Governor Taseer had defended; whereas tens of thousands of people attended Qadri’s funeral after he was hanged, celebrating him as a hero, and pictures were circulated on social media; whereas the judge who first convicted Qadri had to flee the country after receiving death threats;

C.   whereas some extremist groups are allowed to develop their ideology and activities unhampered, such as certain student unions at the universities and the Khatm-e-Nubuwwat Lawyers’ Forum, which is reportedly the driving force behind the rise in prosecutions for blasphemy charges in the Pakistani courts and is against any attempts by legislators to reform the relevant law;

D.   whereas Christians and other minorities face not only persecution by extremists, but also legal discrimination, in particular through Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which are discriminatory and are widely misused by those with personal and political motives; whereas Muslims themselves continue to be charged under these laws;

E.   whereas for years terrorism and Islamist extremism have taken their toll of the Pakistani people, in particular of religious minorities, women and children; whereas, since the adoption of Parliament’s latest resolution on Pakistan of 15 January 2015(2) , some dozens of other terrorist and violent attacks against religious minorities have taken place in a context of discriminatory laws and insufficient enforcement;

F.   whereas several terrorist groups in Pakistan target religious minorities such as Ahmadis, Christians, Shia and Hindus, as well as Sunni with diverging opinions; whereas, in its Annual Report 2015, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan observed that in most cases the perpetrators enjoyed impunity;

G.   whereas child suicide bombers are reportedly still being used by extremist groups; whereas the government has failed to pass legislation establishing the National Commission on the Rights of the Child, an independent body to protect and enforce children’s rights;

H.   whereas, after the school massacre by Taliban insurgents in December 2014, the Government of Pakistan reintroduced the death penalty after a six-year moratorium, first only for terrorist activities but later for all capital crimes; whereas by the end of 2015 Pakistan had executed 326 people – the highest number ever recorded and the third highest in the world;

I.   whereas the fighting between the Pakistani military and non-state armed groups has resulted in over a million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs);

J.   whereas women from Pakistan’s religious minorities are abducted, forcibly married, and forcibly converted to Islam, a phenomenon largely ignored by the police and civil authorities;

K.   whereas Pakistan plays an important role in fostering stability in South Asia and should therefore lead by example in strengthening the rule of law and protecting human rights;

L.   whereas the EU remains fully committed to continuing its dialogue and engagement with Pakistan under the five-year Engagement Plan;

1.   Is deeply shocked by the attack which took place on 27 March 2016 in Lahore and strongly condemns these senseless acts of violence against so many innocent people;

2.   Expresses its deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims, and voices its solidarity with the people and Government of Pakistan;

3.   Underlines the absolute need to bring the perpetrators of the Lahore attack to justice; calls on the Pakistani authorities, in particular the local and provincial authorities, to ensure that these acts are effectively investigated and prosecuted;

4.   Expresses deep concern at the systemic and grave violations of freedom of religion and belief in Pakistan; stresses the importance of respect for the fundamental rights of all religious and ethnic minorities living in Pakistan so that they can continue to live in dignity, equality and safety, and practise their religion in complete freedom without any kind of coercion, discrimination, intimidation or harassment, in accordance with the founding principles of Pakistan;

5.   Welcomes the government’s reform initiatives such as the bill to criminalise child marriage, and the act to protect women from violence and harassment, the unblocking of YouTube, the decision declaring Holi, Diwali and Easter as holidays for religious minorities, and the personal efforts of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to visit a Hindi religious event; urges the government to further increase its efforts to create a social climate which welcomes minorities and diversity of thought; recalls in this context the National Action Plan, the promised and urgently needed reforms of the madrassas, notably government action against hate speech, and the still outstanding police and judicial reform; notes that more ambitious measures should be taken in the future, in particular in the field of education (excluding negative biases and prejudices from curricula and textbooks) and in the prosecution of those inciting violence;

6.   Welcomes the Government of Pakistan’s commitment to tackling the threat posed by religious extremism; encourages continuous dialogue, between the EU and Member States on the one hand and Pakistan on the other, on ensuring the protection and promotion of human rights, particularly in relation to their counter-terrorism efforts and through the implementation of security laws;

7.   Believes that, while the military operation announced in the Punjab is vital in the battle against terrorism, victory in the ideological war against extremism that will ensure a tolerant and progressive future for Pakistan is equally important;

8.   Calls on the Pakistani authorities to tackle social and economic exclusion, including that of a large majority of Christians and other religious minorities, who lead a precarious existence;

9.   Is concerned at the continued use of blasphemy laws in Pakistan and believes that this is heightening the climate of religious intolerance; calls, therefore, on the Government of Pakistan to review these laws and their application; calls on the authorities to ensure the proper and swift delivery of justice in all blasphemy cases; notes, in particular, the case of Asia Bibi and strongly encourages the Supreme Court to reach a decision on the matter;

10.   Calls on the Pakistani authorities to guarantee the independence of the courts, the rule of law and due process in line with international standards on judicial proceedings; calls, furthermore, on the Pakistani authorities to provide sufficient protection to all those involved in blasphemy cases, particularly the country’s legal profession, and to protect the accused, the witnesses, their families and their communities from mob violence, including those who are acquitted but cannot return home; calls on the Government of Pakistan to ensure that appropriate legal and other remedies applicable under international human rights law are made available to the victims of targeted violence and persecution;

11.   Recalls its consistent opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances; notes with grave concern the dramatic increase in the use of the death penalty in Pakistan, including, highly regrettably, against child offenders, and calls for a moratorium on capital punishment to be reinstated with a view to abolishing the death penalty in Pakistan;

12.   Emphasises that, when combating terrorism and religious extremism, it is crucial to tackle its root causes by addressing poverty, ensuring religious tolerance and freedom of belief and guaranteeing the right and safe access to education for children, especially girls;

13.   Calls on the Government of Pakistan to extend an open invitation to the UN special rapporteurs, notably the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, and to support the work of the National Human Rights Commission in every way;

14.   Calls upon the Government of Pakistan to take the necessary measures to ensure that educational establishments, places of recreation and gathering points of minority communities in areas marked by insecurity and conflict are adequately protected, and to minimise the risk of recurrence of similar human rights violations and abuses;

15.   Encourages all regional actors to significantly improve counter-terrorism cooperation; reaffirms the importance of an unconditional international commitment to fighting terrorism, including disrupting all forms of financial support for terrorist networks, and ideological indoctrination fuelling extremism and terrorism;

16.   Welcomes Pakistan’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and commends the measures taken by the Pakistani authorities to address children’s rights; calls on Pakistan to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and to set up the National Commission on the Rights of the Child;

17.   Calls on the Commission, Vice-President/High Representative Federica Mogherini, the European External Action Service and the Council to fully engage with the Government of Pakistan in tackling the threat posed by terrorism and to further assist the Government and people of Pakistan in continuing their efforts to eradicate terrorism; calls on Vice-President/High Representative Federica Mogherini to keep Parliament regularly informed of the progress made in these bilateral efforts;

18.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the European Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Secretary-General of the UN, the UN Human Rights Council, the Presidency of the UN Security Council, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Government and Parliament of Pakistan.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0470 .
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0007 .


Honduras: situation of human rights defenders
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European Parliament resolution of 14 April 2016 on Honduras: situation of human rights defenders (2016/2648(RSP) )
P8_TA(2016)0129 B8-0469 , 0470 , 0472 , 0473 , 0477 , 0480 and 0482/2016

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders and the EU Guidelines to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons,

–   having regard to its resolution of 11 December 2012 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of the Agreement establishing an Association between the European Union and its Member States, on the one hand, and Central America, on the other(1) ,

–   having regard to the final report of the EU Election Observation Mission (EOM) on the 2013 general elections in Honduras, and to its follow-up mission in 2015 with regard to impunity,

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

–   having regard to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations to Honduras of 8 May 2015,

–   having regard to the UN Special Rapporteur’s report on the global threats facing human rights defenders, and on the situation of women human rights defenders,

–   having regard to the UN Special Rapporteur’s statement on the situation of human rights defenders in Honduras, issued in Geneva on 18 March 2016,

–   having regard to Article 25 of the Rules of Procedure of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, concerning the mechanism for precautionary measures,

–   having regard to the 1989 International Labour Organisation Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (ILO Convention 169),

–   having regard to the statement of 17 February 2016 by the EU Heads of Mission on the difficult situation the LGBTI community faces in Honduras,

–   having regard to statements by EU authorities, including the statement of the EU Delegation in Honduras of 3 March 2016 and the statement of the spokesperson for the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, of 16 March 2016,

–   having regard to the human rights clauses of the EU-Central America Association Agreement and the EU-Central America Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), in force since 2013,

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

A.   whereas, according to several UN reports on human rights defenders, environmental activists, indigenous rights defenders, journalists, legal practitioners, trade unionists, peasants, women’s rights activists and LGBTI people, among other activists, continue to be subject to abuses, violence, arbitrary detention, threats and killings in Honduras;

B.   whereas the Honduran Government has made positive commitments and initiated legislation to protect human rights defenders, journalists and legal practitioners, which includes the opening of an office of the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, openness on the part of national authorities to allowing international human rights monitoring missions, and the adoption of the 2015 Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders;

C.   whereas, in spite of the above, Honduras has now become one of the most dangerous countries in the region for human rights defenders; whereas Honduras is one of the world’s most violent countries for environmental activists, at least 109 of whom were murdered between 2010 and 2015;

D.   whereas, according to the information available, on 3 March 2016 Berta Cáceres, a prominent environmentalist and indigenous rights leader and the founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH), was assassinated in her home by unidentified men; whereas her death sparked international outrage and public concern about indigenous, environmental and land rights defenders in Honduras;

E.   whereas only two weeks later, on 16 March 2016, Nelson García, also a member of COPINH, was murdered; whereas the rapid intervention of the Honduran authorities led to the detention of his alleged murderer;

F.   whereas Mexican national Gustavo Castro Soto, who was the only eyewitness to the murder of Ms Cáceres and who suffered gunshot wounds himself, was prevented from leaving the country for nearly a month owing to the needs of the investigation; whereas on 6 April 2016 he was authorised to leave the country;

G.   whereas the Honduran Government promptly condemned the abominable crime, declared the investigation into the murder of Ms Cáceres a national priority, and informed the public of the progress made; whereas the government has officially requested the cooperation of the Organisation of American States (OAS) in the investigation of this murder;

H.   whereas Ms Cáceres, who was under continuous threat, was benefiting from precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which were reportedly not implemented effectively by the Honduran state; whereas Ms Cáceres is one of 15 human rights defenders who have been killed between 2010 and 2016 in Honduras despite being beneficiaries of these precautionary measures;

I.   whereas these recent murders should be seen in the context of the peaceful, decade-long resistance led by COPINH and other activists against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River, a mega-project highly dependent on European investors and technology which is reportedly being constructed without prior free and informed consultation aimed at obtaining the consent of affected indigenous communities, as required by ILO Convention 169; whereas Dutch development bank FMO and Finnfund have suspended disbursements to the Agua Zarca dam project, of which Ms Cáceres was a leading opponent;

J.   whereas the murder on 24 January 2016 of Paola Barraza, a defender of LGBTI rights, a trans woman and a member of the Arcoíris association, brings into focus the increasing danger faced by the LGBTI community in Honduras; whereas her assassination is the latest in a string of violent deaths of active members of LGBTI human rights organisations in the last 11 months, including the killings of Angy Ferreira, Violeta Rivas, Gloria Carolina Hernández Vásquez (also known as Génesis Hernández), Jorge Alberto Castillo, Estefanía Zúñiga, Henry Matamoros and Josselin Janet Aceituno Suazo; whereas 235 LGBTI people have reportedly been killed in Honduras since 1994, with only 48 cases going to court; whereas the national human rights commissioner has alleged that 92 % of crimes have not been properly investigated and so remain unresolved;

K.   whereas the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, stated on 18 March 2016 that ‘this cycle of violence will only stop when impunity is addressed and perpetrators of such attacks are put to justice’, and has stressed the need for the Honduran authorities to take immediate concrete steps to ensure safety for all human rights defenders in the country and their families;

L.   whereas Honduras is currently in the process of reforming its penal code, which should be based on international conventions and be an important tool for securing the rights of vulnerable groups;

M.   whereas the EU and its Member States support the strengthening of the judicial sector and of human rights through various programmes and cooperation projects, in particular the Programme to Support Human Rights (PADH) and Eurojusticia;

N.   whereas several Member States have not yet ratified the EU-Central America Association Agreement, meaning that the ‘political dialogue’ pillar has not entered into force; whereas respect for democracy, the rule of law and the human, civil and political rights of the people of both regions are fundamental elements of the EU-Central America Association Agreement;

1.   Condemns in the strongest terms the recent assassination of Berta Cáceres, Nelson García and Paola Barraza, as well as each of the earlier assassinations of other human rights defenders in Honduras; extends its sincere condolences to the families and friends of all of those human rights defenders;

2.   Pays tribute to Ms Cáceres, a Honduran environmental activist and indigenous leader of the Lenca people, and the co-founder and coordinator of COPINH, who dedicated her life to the pursuit of a more democratic society in her country; stresses that her assassination serves as an emblematic case in a country with an extremely high number of homicides and generalised impunity;

3.   Expresses grave concern that, despite precautionary measures issued by the IACHR, the Honduran authorities failed to provide Ms Cáceres with adequate protection; calls on the Honduran Government to mobilise all the means at its disposal in order to implement effectively the 92 IACHR precautionary measures currently active in the country and to prevent the perpetration of similar acts against other environmental and indigenous activists under threat;

4.   Calls, as a matter of urgency, for immediate, independent, objective and thorough investigations into these and previous murders in order to bring their intellectual and material authors to justice and to put an end to impunity; welcomes the fact that, at the request of the Honduran Government, the investigation into the murder of Ms Cáceres includes representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and of the OAS; takes the view that instruments available within the framework of the UN and the IACHR, such as an independent international investigation, as requested by the victims, could help to ensure impartial and fair investigation of these murders;

5.   Expresses its deep concern at the climate of extreme violence, particularly against LGBTI people and those who defend their rights; stresses the need to carry out immediate, thorough and impartial investigations into the killings of active members of various LGBTI human rights organisations;

6.   Emphasises the need to strengthen protection against discrimination and hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and to develop good practice guidelines in close cooperation with civil society; calls for the inclusion of appropriate new measures to prevent acts of discrimination and hate crimes, and for the protection of the LGBTI community as part of any revision of the penal code;

7.   Welcomes, while being deeply concerned by the overall human rights situation in Honduras, the latest legal reforms and the Honduran Government’s efforts to alleviate the current situation of human rights defenders in the country; calls on the Honduran authorities to bring into force and fully develop the existing 2015 law for the protection of human rights defenders, and to ensure that, in appropriate cooperation with civil society, the national protection system for human rights defenders, journalists and legal practitioners is fully operational and adequately funded; calls on the Government of Honduras to implement fully the recommendations received as part of the latest UPR;

8.   Appreciates the work done by the Head of the EU Delegation in Honduras, Ketil Karlsen, and his team in support of Honduran human rights defenders; calls on the EU Delegation, and on the Member States’ embassies and consulates in the country, to actively accompany and monitor the processes associated with the investigation of murders of human rights defenders, and to further step up efforts to engage with human rights defenders currently in danger;

9.   Considers that European investors’ activities must be embedded in a strong set of environmental and social safeguard policies; strongly supports the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, with clear due diligence requirements, risk management safeguards and the provision of effective remedies when needed; welcomes the fact that both FMO and Finnfund have publicly condemned the killing of Berta Cáceres and have called for a thorough investigation, and the fact that on 16 March 2016, following reports of the murder of Nelson García, both suspended all of their activities;

10.   Calls on the Commission and the European External Action Service to ensure that European assistance does not promote or permit development projects unless they meet the requirement for prior, free and informed consultation with indigenous communities, ensure meaningful consultation of all affected communities and have strong human rights, labour rights and environmental safeguards in place;

11.   Calls on those Member States that have not done so to ratify the EU-Central America Association Agreement; urges the Council to develop a unified policy towards Honduras that commits the 28 Member States and the EU institutions to a strong common message concerning the role of human rights in the EU-Honduras relationship and in the region as a whole;

12.   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 national parliaments of the 28 Member States, the President, Government and Parliament of Honduras, the Secretariat for Central American Economic Integration, Parlacen, the EuroLat Parliamentary Assembly and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.

(1) OJ C 434, 23.12.2015, p. 181.


Nigeria
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European Parliament resolution of 14 April 2016 on Nigeria (2016/2649(RSP) )
P8_TA(2016)0130 B8-0478 , 0479 , 0481 , 0483 , 0484 , 0485 and 0486/2016

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on Nigeria,

–   having regard to President Muhammadu Buhari’s address to the European Parliament of 3 February 2016,

–   having regard to the previous statements of the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) on the situation in Nigeria,

–   having regard to the Council conclusions on the situation in Nigeria, including those of 9 February 2015,

–   having regard to the previous statements of the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the situation in Nigeria,

–   having regard to the previous statements of the United Nations Security Council on the situation in Nigeria,

–   having regard to the statements of the VP/HR and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at the sixth Nigeria-EU ministerial dialogue, held in Brussels on 15 March 2016,

–   having regard to the Council decision to add Boko Haram to the EU list of designated terrorist organisations, which entered into force on 29 May 2014,

–   having regard to the second revision of the Cotonou Agreement 2007-2013, ratified by Nigeria on 27 September 2010,

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

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

–   having regard to the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion and Belief of 1981,

–   having regard to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights of 1981, ratified by Nigeria on 22 June 1983,

–   having regard to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in particular its provisions on the protection of freedom of religion in Chapter IV – Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,

–   having regard to the outcome of the Nigerian presidential elections of March 2015,

–   having regard to the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on violations and abuses committed by Boko Haram and the impact on human rights in the affected countries, of 29 September 2015,

–   having regard to the UN Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September 2015,

–   having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Nigeria on 16 April 1991,

–   having regard to the Amnesty International report ‘Nigeria: Still waiting for justice, still waiting for change. Government must prioritise accountability in the north-east’,

–   having regard to the Human Rights Watch report of January 2016 on Nigeria,

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

A.   whereas, with its vast resources, Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa and its most populous and culturally diverse nation; whereas it plays a key role in regional and African politics and is a driving force of regional integration through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); whereas, however, it ranks among the most unequal countries in the world, with widespread corruption contributing significantly to economic and social disparity, and with its security threatened by the violent extremist group Boko Haram;

B.   whereas years of military dictatorship, corruption, political instability and poor governance have led to insufficient investment in the country’s infrastructure, education and social services, and whereas this continues to undermine social and economic rights in Nigeria;

C.   whereas more than six out of 10 Nigerians live on less than USD 2 a day; whereas this extreme poverty is even more acute in the northern states, which are the least developed in the country; whereas this poverty contributes directly to a social divide, religious hostility and regional division; whereas Nigeria’s Gini index has dramatically increased and reached 48.8 in 2010;

D.   whereas the organisation Transparency International ranked Nigeria 136th out of 175 countries in its 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index; whereas, by some estimates, between USD 3 billion and 8 billion of Nigerian oil is stolen annually;

E.   whereas, despite the peaceful transition to power of President Buhari in March 2015, peace and stability in Nigeria have been threatened by a wave of attacks, killings and kidnappings by the violent extremist group Boko Haram, a flagging economy caused by low global oil prices, weak political institutions, a failure to tackle corruption and unresolved conflicts in the Niger Delta and in the Middle Belt;

F.   whereas Boko Haram killed at least 8 200 civilians in 2014 and 2015; whereas it is estimated that more than 2,6 million people have been displaced and more than 14,8 million affected by the Boko Haram insurgency;

G.   whereas terrorism is a global threat, but the global community’s ability to cooperate with the Nigerian authorities in fighting Boko Haram depends on the full measure of credibility, accountability and transparency of the new administration; whereas the government’s failure to stamp out impunity for war crimes at the highest level remains one of the major issues in this country; whereas President Buhari has promised to initiate investigations into these matters;

H.   whereas Boko Haram aims to establish a fully Islamic state in Nigeria, including the implementation of Sharia criminal courts across the country, and to forbid Western education; whereas Boko Haram has abducted women and girls to engage in suicide attacks; whereas recent suicide bomb attacks, including those on 16 March, 11 February and 31 January 2016 in north-east Nigeria, have resulted in scores of deaths;

I.   whereas sexual and gender violence, and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, is still rife in the troubled regions of north-eastern Nigeria, and whereas fundamental rights such as education for young girls and women, social justice and fair distribution of state revenues in society are dramatically worsening, as is the fight against corruption;

J.   whereas around 270 schoolgirls were abducted by Boko Haram on 14-15 April 2014 from a school in Chibok, north-east Nigeria, and whereas the majority are still missing; whereas their exact fate remains a mystery, though it is feared that most were forced to either marry insurgents or to become insurgents themselves, subjected to sexual violence or sold into slavery, and non-Muslim girls were forced to convert to Islam; whereas Boko Haram has abducted more than 2 000 women and girls since 2009, including around 400 from Damasak in Borno state on 24 November 2014;

K.   whereas the Nigerian military announced on 6 April 2016 that at least 800 fighters had surrendered in the three weeks before; whereas Nigerian troops have rescued 11 595 hostages during raids on Boko Haram territory in the mountainous region between Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon since 26 February 2016;

L.   whereas the plight of the abducted schoolgirls has exposed wider problems, including regular attacks on schools, a lack of teachers and the urgent need for international funding to repair and rebuild shattered buildings; whereas the lack of educational opportunities means that some children have not been schooled for many years;

M.   whereas Boko Haram’s violent extremism is indiscriminate and has caused immense suffering to people of all faiths and ethnicities in its wave of violence; whereas in the last year there has reportedly been an increase in the number of Christians killed in northern Nigeria;

N.   whereas the Middle Belt region has suffered from years of economic and political tension between ethnic and religious communities, with the recent violence fuelled by competition for power and access to land between nomadic and farming communities;

O.   whereas the oil and gas sectors remain the main sources of revenue in Nigeria, though the division of the benefits of the country’s economic wealth is highly unequal; whereas levels of poverty and unemployment in northern Nigeria are considerably higher than in the oil-rich south; whereas, according to the World Bank, Nigeria has lost an estimated USD 400 billion in oil revenue as a result of corruption since 1960, and whereas a further USD 20 billion in oil money has disappeared from Nigeria’s Treasury in the past two years;

P.   whereas a special investigation panel was created by the President’s office to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by security forces, including killings, torture and enforced disappearances;

Q.   whereas proposed legislation is currently before the Nigerian Senate aimed at punishing the dissemination of ‘abusive statements’ via social media or criticism of the government or others via print and electronic media;

1.   Welcomes the peaceful transition of power in Nigeria following the presidential elections, and is encouraged by the high expectations surrounding the ambitious reform programme of President Buhari and his government;

2.   Is deeply concerned by the significant social, economic, political and security challenges facing Nigeria, and regrets the lack of real progress in addressing the corruption which has blighted Nigerian society for decades;

3.   Recognises that Nigeria has the potential to be an economic and political powerhouse in Africa, but that its development has been held back by poor economic governance, weak democratic institutions and massive inequality; further calls for the European Union and its Member States to fulfil their commitment to providing a comprehensive range of political, development and humanitarian assistance to support programmes at all levels of government that address poverty, youth unemployment and women’s lack of empowerment;

4.   Believes that the fight against corruption must be led by the Nigerian authorities, and believes that a failure to do so would mean more years of poverty, inequality, reputational damage, reduced external investment and an undermining of young people’s life opportunities; further offers its support in achieving this objective and in seeking to break the link between corrupt practices and terrorism;

5.   Commends the efforts made by the Buhari government to reinforce its anti-corruption credentials and in mandating that all government financial transactions pass through a single bank account in order to monitor spending; calls for the EU and its Member States to take concrete measures to effectively curb illicit financial flows and tax evasion and avoidance, and to boost democratic international cooperation in tax matters;

6.   Expresses solidarity with the people of Nigeria who are suffering from the acts of terrorism perpetrated by Boko Haram, which have led to thousands of deaths and displaced more than two million people; urges the Nigerian Government to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of its civilians in accordance with its regional and international human rights obligations, including by launching comprehensive, independent and effective investigations into such crimes;

7.   Strongly condemns the recent violence and attacks by Boko Haram, and calls on the Federal Government to protect its population and address the root causes of the violence by ensuring equal rights for all citizens, including by addressing the issues of inequality, control of fertile farmlands, unemployment and poverty; rejects any violent retaliation in breach of humanitarian law perpetrated by the Nigerian military; welcomes, however, the Nigerian Army’s ‘Safe Corridor’ programme designed to rehabilitate Boko Haram fighters;

8.   Deplores the massacre of innocent women, men and children, the acts of rape and torture, and the recruitment of child soldiers, and stands with the people of Nigeria in their determination to fight all forms of violence in their country;

9.   Calls on the Nigerian Government to develop a comprehensive strategy that addresses the root causes of terrorism, and to investigate, as promised, evidence that the Nigerian military might have committed human rights violations; welcomes the Abuja Security Summit, to take place in May 2016, and calls on all stakeholders to identify concrete, viable solutions to fight terrorism without sacrificing respect for human rights and democracy; further underlines the importance of regional cooperation in addressing the threat posed by Boko Haram;

10.   Calls for an international investigation, under the auspices of the UN, to determine the responsibility of third countries in the organisation and financing of terrorist groups in the region, such as Boko Haram;

11.   Believes that the second anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls on 14 April should provide fresh impetus for the Nigerian Government and international community to secure their immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of the 400 women and children abducted from the town of Damasak in November 2014, and all other abducted women and children;

12.   Appeals to the authorities to ensure ease of access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services for women and girls;

13.   Notes with concern the attacks on schools in northern Nigeria, which are denying children educational opportunities and risk fuelling the radicalisation on which violent extremist groups such as Boko Haram depend;

14.   Notes that Boko Haram has attacked Muslims, Christians, followers of other religions and people of no faith without distinction, and condemns the surge in violence, including the targeting of religious institutions and worshippers;

15.   Further condemns the attacks on farmers and the inter-ethnic conflicts between cattle herders and farmers in the Middle Belt area, in particular in the states of Plateau and Taraba, which have been marked by serious human rights violations and have killed thousands since 2014;

16.   Calls on the Nigerian Government and international partners to increase investment in preventing and resolving intercommunal conflicts between cattle herders and farmers by supporting cooperation through shared economic and natural resource management initiatives;

17.   Calls on President Buhari to ensure that his government defends Nigerians’ right to worship freely, and the rights of all its citizens more widely, in line with the country’s laws and Constitution, and asks Nigeria’s religious leaders to help combat extremism and radicalisation;

18.   Urges the VP/HR and the Member States to remain committed to their diplomatic efforts in Nigeria, in order to achieve peace, security, good governance and respect for human rights; urges them, in particular, to continue political dialogue with Nigeria under Article 8 of the revised Cotonou Agreement and, in that context, to address issues relating to universal human rights, including freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, and non-discrimination on any grounds, as enshrined in universal, regional and national human rights instruments;

19.   Requests that the Nigerian authorities reject the bill to prohibit frivolous petitions and other matters connected therewith, which is currently before the Nigerian Senate, as it undermines press freedom and freedom of expression in Nigeria;

20.   Calls on the Nigerian Government and regional authorities to stop criminalising the Nigerian LGBTI community and to guarantee their right to freedom of expression;

21.   Calls on the Nigerian Government to take emergency measures in the Niger Delta, including actions to end illegal oil-related activities;

22.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the European External Action Service, the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the parliaments and governments of the Member States, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Chairman of the African Union, the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, the Pan-African Parliament and representatives of ECOWAS.


Protection of trade secrets against their unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure ***I
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Resolution
Consolidated text
European Parliament legislative resolution of 14 April 2016 on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets) against their unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure (COM(2013)0813 – C7-0431/2013 – 2013/0402(COD) ) (Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)
P8_TA(2016)0131 A8-0199/2015

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2013)0813 ),

–   having regard to Article 294(2) and Article 114 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C7-0431/2013 ),

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

–   having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 25 March 2014(1) ,

–   having regard to the undertaking given by the Council representative by letter of 18 December 2015 to approve Parliament’s position, in accordance with Article 294(4) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

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

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (A8-0199/2015 ),

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

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

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

Position of the European Parliament adopted at first reading on 14 April 2016 with a view to the adoption of Directive (EU) 2016/... of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets) against their unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure

P8_TC1-COD(2013)0402


(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Directive (EU) 2016/943.)

(1) OJ C 226, 16.7.2014, p. 48.


Parliament's estimates of revenue and expenditure for the financial year 2017
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European Parliament resolution of 14 April 2016 on Parliament’s estimates of revenue and expenditure for the financial year 2017 (2016/2019(BUD) )
P8_TA(2016)0132 A8-0131/2016

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to Article 314 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–   having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(1) , and in particular Article 36 thereof,

–   having regard to Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1311/2013 of 2 December 2013 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020(2) ,

–   having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement of 2 December 2013 between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline, on cooperation in budgetary matters and on sound financial management(3) ,

–   having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1023/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2013 amending the Staff Regulations of Officials of the European Union and the Conditions of Employment of Other Servants of the European Union(4) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 28 October 2015 on the Council position on the draft general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016(5) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 25 November 2015 on the joint text on the draft general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016 approved by the Conciliation Committee under the budgetary procedure(6) ,

–   having regard to the Secretary-General's report to the Bureau on drawing up Parliament's preliminary draft estimates for the financial year 2017,

–   having regard to the preliminary draft estimates drawn up by the Bureau on 11 April 2016 pursuant to Rules 25(7) and 96(1) of Parliament's Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the draft estimates drawn up by the Committee on Budgets pursuant to Rule 96(2) of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to Rules 96 and 97 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgets (A8-0131/2016 ),

A.   whereas this procedure is the second full budgetary procedure conducted in the new legislature and the fourth year of the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework;

B.   whereas the 2017 budget, as proposed in the Secretary General's report, would be marked by a continuation and intensification of the institution's policy of carrying out the efficiency gains in all areas where these are possible without compromising the quality of the work environment of the Members and staff;

C.   whereas four priority objectives have been proposed by the Secretary-General for the 2017 budget, namely: security and cyber-security, phasing out of the derogation for the Irish language, ongoing measures to empower Members in their mandate and making Parliament attractive to the public and visitors;

D.   whereas, in the current political and security context arising from the terrorist attacks in Europe, the 2017 budgetary procedure should result in the increase of Parliament's security and cyber-security;

E.   whereas a budget of EUR 1 910 073 000 has been proposed by the Secretary-General for Parliament's preliminary draft estimates for 2017, representing an overall increase of 3,9 % on the 2016 budget, from which 1,7 % is considered to be ordinary expenditure, and would constitute 19,26 % of heading V of the 2014-2020 MFF;

F.   whereas between 2017 and 2022 the derogation for the non-translation of all official documents into Irish will be gradually phased out, entailing the translation of all official documents also into Irish and an additional extraordinary expenditure of EUR 3,7 million is proposed to comply with this new linguistic requirement, corresponding to 0,2 % of the overall increase;

G.   whereas additional extraordinary investments of EUR 47,6 million are required to reinforce security and cybersecurity, corresponding to 2,6 % of the overall increase;

H.   whereas, the inflation rates have constantly decreased since 2011; whereas the real inflation rate in the Parliament`s working places in 2015 and in 2016 was lower than the actual rate of increase of its budget;

I.   whereas almost 60 % of the budget is index bound expenditure which relates, for the major part, to remunerations for Members and staff, adjusted according to the Staff Regulations, and contractual obligations, corresponding to sector specific indexation that is usually higher that standard inflation rate;

J.   whereas the Parliament stressed in its resolution of 29 April 2015 on Parliament's estimates of revenue and expenditure for the financial year 2016(7) that the 2016 budget should be set on a realistic basis and should be in line with the principles of budgetary discipline and sound financial management;

K.   whereas the credibility of Parliament as one arm of the budgetary authority depends to a large extent on its ability to bring its own spending under control;

L.   whereas the Bureau adopted on 26 October 2015 a new set of rules for the management of the parliamentary assistance allowances, reinforcing the requirements for the reimbursement of local assistant contracts, namely by earmarking at least 25 % of the parliamentary assistance allowance to cover expenditure on accredited assistants;

General framework

1.   Stresses that the share of Parliament’s budget in 2017 should be maintained under 20 % of heading V; notes that the level of preliminary draft estimates for 2017, as set out in the position of the Bureau of 9 March 2016, corresponded to 19,26 %, which is lower than that achieved in 2016 (19,39 %) and the second lowest part of heading V in the past eight years; further reduces its share of heading V to 19,17 % for 2017;

2.   Considers, however, that, taking into account the economic slowdown experienced by Member States, the forecast level of inflation for 2017 should not be considered as the main benchmark for the increases in ordinary expenditure;

3.   Confirms that extraordinary expenditure representing a 0,2 % increase compared to the 2016 budget for the phasing out of the temporary derogation measures for the use of the Irish language that were established by Council Regulation (EC) No 920/2005 of 13 June 2005(8) has been requested;

4.   Notes the request for a 2,6 % increase for security and cybersecurity, which would more than double the resources allocated in 2016; urges the Secretary-General to provide the Committee on Budgets detailed information in a transparent manner on current and upcoming security and cybersecurity measures and the breakdown of their costs;

5.   Approves the envelope of extraordinary expenditure for security investments in 2017 following the analysis presented in February 2016 to the Bureau and supplemented by the screening made following the events of 22 March 2016 (EUR 47,6 million) and the envelope of extraordinary expenditure linked to the phasing out of the temporary derogation for the use of the Irish language (EUR 3,7 million);

6.   Limits the increase of its ordinary expenditure for 2017, without the two extraordinary envelopes, to 1,4 % compared to the ordinary expenditure of the 2016 budget and 0,6% compared to the 2016 budget;

7.   Sets the overall level of its estimates for 2017 to EUR 1 900 873 000, corresponding to a total increase of 3,4 % compared to the 2016 budget;

8.   Underlines that Parliament should be provided with the sufficient resources required to comply with its core function as a legislative body and budgetary authority; stresses that, in the current economic context, those resources should be managed with rigour, pragmatism and efficiency; points out that while ensuring a proper level of financing for the Parliament is appropriate for the exercise of European democracy, efforts to look for savings and to strive for further enhancing the efficiency of the use of public money should be strongly encouraged;

9.   Emphasises that the largest part of Parliament's budget and its annual indexation is fixed by statutory or contractual obligations, which cannot be influenced by Parliament in the budgetary procedure;

Transparency, accessibility and readability

10.   Calls on the Secretary-General to make a proposal for presenting the budget to the general public in appropriate detail and in an intelligible and user-friendly manner on the website of the Parliament in order to enable all citizens to develop a better understanding of Parliament's activities, priorities and corresponding spending patterns; considers that a first step could consist of making the information graphics currently available in the intranet appear on the website of the Parliament;

11.   Considers that, as for the budgetary process, any relevant information should be presented to Members of the Bureau and the Committee on Budgets at every stage of the procedure in a timely and intelligible manner and with the necessary level of detail and breakdowns in order to enable the Bureau, the Committee on Budgets and the political groups to conduct proper deliberations and base decisions on a comprehensive picture of the state and needs of Parliament's budget;

12.   Underlines the need for precision and transparency in the evolution of the budget from one year to the other; considers that while certain extraordinary expenditure such as security is justifiable for the 2017 budget, the growing use of extraordinary expenditure annually is problematic in terms of budgetary scrutiny and stability; asks for a more precise definition of extraordinary expenditure; believes that, for the sake of accountability and comparability of data in the general budget, an assessment should be conducted about whether the extraordinary expenditure should be included in the basis for the calculation of the percentage difference between budgets year on year;

13.   Reiterates its call for medium and long term budgetary planning, including a clear distinction between investments and operational expenditure relating to the functioning of Parliament as well as its statutory obligations (including on rents and acquisitions), in line with its resolution of 29 April 2015 on Parliament's estimates of revenue and expenditure for the financial year 2016(9) , calls accordingly for a change to the presentation that makes a clear distinction between investment expenditure and operating expenditure;

14.   Commends the Bureau and DG ITEC on the new layout of Members' personal pages on the official website of the Parliament providing more transparency on the composition and the status of their working team (creation of a new "assistant" tab with sub headings : assistants, accredited assistants, accredited assistants (grouping), local assistants, services providers, paying agents, trainees); asks the Secretary-General to ensure the necessary controls for the implementation of the new set of rules for the parliamentary assistance allowances adopted by the Bureau on 26 October 2015;

15.   Calls for a budget to be drawn up, at least once every five years, on the basis of the real needs of individual items and not on the basis of a system of coefficients;

Security and cybersecurity

16.   Calls for medium and long term budgetary planning, including clear information with regard to expenditure relating to security and cybersecurity; moreover, in light of recent events, invites the Bureau to update the Global Security Concept and communicate it, as fast as possible and at the latest by June 2016;

17.   Considers that any measure in this field should be based on a clear evaluation of Parliament's needs and proportionality with the incurred risks; requests the Secretary-General and the Bureau to present on time before the Parliament's reading on the 2017 budget to the Committee on Budgets a Global Security Concept including a global evaluation on risks perceived and security measures envisaged as well as alternative options, accompanied by detailed evaluation of their budgetary impact on 2017 budget and the following budgets, with a clear distinction between investments and recurrent expenditure and to outline the measures envisaged to reinforce Parliament's security inside and outside of its premises, as well as the impact of such measures on the 2017 budget; calls for information on the financial consequences of the interinstitutional administrative cooperation arrangements in the field of security;

18.   Asks the Secretary-General to assess whether there is a need to review existing insurance contracts (for Members and staff) in the light of terrorist threats and make, if appropriate, proposals to address possible shortcomings;

19.   Considers that the security system outside Parliament's premises should continue to be guaranteed by the Belgian authorities;

Empowering Members mandate

20.   Takes notes of the ongoing measures to empower Members in their mandate;

21.   Welcomes the extension of the Members' Digital Portal (e-Portal), however, invites the Secretary-General to improve upon this in the light of the 'paperless initiative', the current system of sending paper copy payment slips to the Members, with the aim of eventually abolishing it by the end of year 2017; considers that the e-Portal should provide this feature to all Members electronically by default, which would result in considerable savings in both time and economic terms;

22.   Welcomes the increasing quality of advice and research provided to Members and committees; recalls that a mid-term evaluation of the efficacy of the cooperation between the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) and the policy departments was foreseen when the EPRS was created in 2013; requests therefore the Secretary-General to proceed to undertake such an evaluation and present the results to the Committee on Budgets by the end of 2016; considers that this evaluation should contain proposals as to how to ensure that the support provided by EPRS is best articulated with developments in the respective thematic committees while meeting the needs of individual Members, and does not overlap with activities of policy departments nor encourage competition between services;

23.   Is of the opinion that the need of Members in their constituencies should be evaluated, also taking into account differences between constituencies, in order to better empower the Members in their constituency work; believes that mobile workspaces for Members and support in constituencies should be based on real needs and use assessment, and should not generate any significant or recurring additional costs to the Parliament; insists that no hardware should be provided as the GEA provides sufficient resources for the purchase of state-of-the-art devices; questions the need for developing a private mobile work space for Members as this does not seem to correspond to the way Members and their offices organise themselves;

24.   Agrees that IT tools are an important instrument for Members to deliver on their function; reiterates, however, the necessity to allow the installation of free-source software which would allow considerable cost savings in/from communication fees, and would improve the work-flow of Members' offices, while taking cybersecurity into account and ensuring data protection;

25.   Requests that the possibility of signing internal documents digitally should be made commonplace, across all instances, such as signing forms, written declarations etc., while ensuring reliability and security; asks to assess the possibility to introduce a TAN verification system on the MEP's mobile; believes, moreover, that the use of fax machines should be discouraged and gradually phased out on the decision of the individual MEP;

26.   Welcomes the new reform on additional written questions adopted on 3 September 2015 by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs on a request of the Committee on Budgets upon the adoption of Parliament's budget for the year 2016; asks the Secretary-General to set up the necessary controls for the implementation of the new interpretation; invites the Conference of Presidents to carry out an assessment of this new regime of written questions in respect of additional questions to analyse the savings generated and to inform the Committee on Budgets of the results of this assessment by August 2016, before the Parliament's reading of the budget in autumn 2016;

27.   Considers it appropriate to maintain the appropriations for the envelope of the expenditure regarding parliamentary assistance for 2017 at same level as for 2016 subject to legally binding indexation applicable under the Staff Regulations;

28.   Believes that the current depiction of Members' parliamentary activities on Parliament's website is not accurate and does not reflect the real activities and involvement of Members; suggests that the current use of ranking websites is scrapped while improving the information regarding the activities of individual Members on the official Parliament website; calls for an evaluation of the presentation of explanations of vote and one-minute speeches, in particular, including the option for them to be shown separately from plenary speeches, and for an assessment of the added value of explanations of vote and possible alternatives; expects the relevant Bureau working group dealing with this issue to present its agenda and findings to the Committee on Budgets as soon as it is available;

Members' expenses

29.   Reiterates its call on the Bureau to define more precise rules regarding the accountability of the expenditure authorised under the general expenditure allowance, which could include cost effective measures such as Members publishing their spending records, as already done by a growing number of Members, and could be accompanied by a simplified system for repaying unused funds; reiterates that such measures should not require additional staff for Parliament's administration;

Building policy

30.   Recalls that the mid-term building strategy, which was adopted by the Bureau in 2010, is currently under revision; regrets that the Bureau has not concluded yet its deliberations on Parliament's mid-term strategy for buildings; invites the Secretary-General to present to the Committee on Budgets the new mid-term strategy on buildings as soon as possible and at the latest by August 2016, before the Parliament's reading of the budget in autumn 2016;

31.   Calls on the Bureau to present a long term strategy for Parliament buildings; reiterates that long-term investments, such as Parliament's building projects, need to be handled prudently and transparently; insists on strict cost management, project planning and supervision; reiterates its call for a transparent decision-making process in the field of buildings policy, based on early information, having due regard to Article 203 of the Financial Regulation; believes that a report on the reasons for the delay and the higher costs of the House of European History should feed into the long term building strategy;

32.   Calls for the position with regard to Parliament's buildings stock to be faithfully reflected in the budget; calls accordingly for the cost of the KAD building to be clearly set out in Parliament's definitive budget, and for property-related investment to be incorporated into the budget, in future, so as to obviate the need for mopping-up transfers;

33.   Is of the opinion that, in the current economic context, no further Parliamentarium projects should be launched without prior consultation with and approval of the Committee on budgets;

34.   Proposes therefore to introduce, as of 2018, a specific line for investments in building constructions which would use as a basis for funding in 2018 the funds which are proposed in 2017 for extraordinary expenditure;

35.   Considering the extraordinary circumstances in 2017 which require high investment in the security infrastructure, proposes to use any funds not used by the end of 2017 to pay for the construction expenses for the KAD building in order to avoid a maximum of interest rate payments to banks for loans which have to be contracted in order to finance the construction;

36.   Calls for more information on the status quo of the project to renovate the PHS building; requests that the a study on the renovation is launched and examined by the Bureau; expects the Bureau to take into consideration the need for healthy and safe working conditions when setting up the renovation timeframe; asks that the Bureau informs the Committee on Budgets on all steps as soon as available; invites, in this context, the Bureau to lay the groundwork for transforming the PHS building into an exemplary state-of-the-art building in terms of energy efficiency and to promptly proceed with the modernization of the building;

37.   Invites the Vice Presidents responsible to present to the Committee on Budgets a progress report on the KAD building;

38.   Considers that the structural and organisational reforms aimed at achieving greater efficiency, environmental sustainability, and effectiveness should continue through the thorough examination of possible synergies and savings; recalls the substantial savings that could be made by having only one place of work instead of three (Brussels, Strasbourg, Luxembourg); underlines that this process should be lead without endangering Parliament's legislative excellence, its budgetary powers and powers of scrutiny, or the quality of working conditions for Members, assistants, and staff;

Staff-related issues

39.   Welcomes the proposal to reduce its establishment plan in 2017 by 60 posts in line with the agreement reached with the Council on the draft general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016, approved by the Conciliation Committee under the budgetary procedure on 14 November 2015;

40.   Recalls that the total level of staff in political groups shall be exempted from the 5 % staff reduction target in line with the decisions taken in respect of the financial years 2014, 2015 and 2016;

41.   Supports the additional posts required for Irish language translation and interpretation; exempts these additional posts from the reduction target of 5 % in line with the recommendation of the Commission; asks the Secretary-General to consult Irish Members with a view to a possible rationalisation of the use of the Irish language without compromising the guaranteed rights of Members;

42.   Backs the introduction of international sign language interpretation for all plenary debates so that they at least are genuinely accessible to all European citizens;

43.   Welcomes the progress that has been made regarding translation and interpretation efficiencies; acknowledges the quality and added value of services provided by the interpreters; calls for an early, sustainable agreement between the Secretary-General and the representatives of interpreters combining high quality working conditions and efficient management in order to avoid situations of imbalances in terms of working hours and overall insecurity among interpreters, taking into account social rights; asks the Secretary-General to make further rationalisation proposals such as increased translation and interpretation on demand, particularly concerning the activities of the Intergroups of the European Parliament; considers that the linguistic profiling system in place since October 2014 for committee-stage amendments is an example of efficiencies that can be made and that can be further developed; takes the view that interpretation and translation are core components of a European democracy that is open to all, and accordingly calls for no reform to be allowed that detracts from maximum accessibility to Parliament's activities and documents on as inclusive a basis as possible;

44.   Calls on the Bureau to evaluate and, where necessary, to revise rules governing the statute of trainees, including introducing minimum remuneration and harmonising catering-related price offers for all trainees both in the Parliament's administration and in the Members' offices in order to ensure equal treatment and to protect social rights of trainees;

45.   Calls on the Bureau to revise the rules governing the reimbursement of the missions' expenses related to travels between the Parliament's working places and incurred by accredited parliamentary assistants in order to align them with the rules applicable to the rest of the staff;

46.   Takes the view that a third procedure should be introduced so that a contract between a Member and an assistant can be terminated by mutual consent;

Chauffeur services/mobility

47.   Has reservations about the proposal to internalise the chauffeur service, replacing the external service provider with Parliament's contractual agents, which will correspond to approximately EUR 3,7 million of immediate additional expense; considers that a well organised external contract concluded pursuant to applicable public procurement rules, where the external service provider is clearly obliged to take responsibility for security and background checks as well as for decent working conditions and pay, should be considered as an alternative option; would consider the internalisation only if its costs do not exceed the costs related to the current system, and if it allows decent working conditions and pay for drivers, improved gender balance, and the use of greener cars; asks for detailed information to be provided to the Committee on Budgets before any decision is taken;

48.   Asks the Secretary-General to consult with the Belgian authorities with a view to ensuring easy access and overall best use of the new direct train connection between Brussels-Luxembourg train station and Zaventem airport, which could include the acceptance of Members' badges instead of the current laissez passer system;

49.   Believes that the car fleet should consist of more cost- and fuel-efficient and secure cars; stresses the fact that preference should be given to the use of minivans and buses, to and from the airport, at scheduled times; calls on the Secretary-General to submit a report on a complete shift to electric locomotion at the end of the decade;

50.   Asks the Secretary-General to hold discussions with Parliament's travel agency; encourages the travel agency to intensify comparison of prices; calls on the travel agency to actively seek less expensive tickets when booking and, in general, to offer more competitive prices for Members and all categories of staff while ensuring suitable conditions for ticket exchanges;

Communication

51.   Requests the results of the ex-post evaluation of the overall strategy and methodology of the 2014 information and communication campaign (evaluation report was expected by the 2nd semester 2015);

52.   reiterates its call on the Secretary-General to report to the Committee on Budgets on the evaluation of the 2014 parliamentary election campaign as well as the effectiveness of the Parliament's communication measures dedicated to the general public;

53.   Acknowledges the role of Parliament's information offices (EPIOs) in terms of raising awareness on the activities of the Parliament and the Union in general; believes that efficiency measures should be envisaged with regard to Parliament's information offices; considers that, EPIOs should, to the maximum extent possible, be housed in the same building as and share back office services with Commission representations; requests the evaluation of objectives, tasks and performances of the EPIOs, in light of which priorities should be defined;

54.   Requests an evaluation of the possibility of closer cooperation with ARTE in Strasbourg in order to establish a European media-hub for training purposes for young journalists;

55.   Calls on the Secretary-General to submit a report on the firms and organisations which have been given access to Parliament so that they can hold forums on their activities; calls on the Secretary-General to maintain a balance between the different sectors and different types of organisation given access to Parliament;

Other issues

56.   Urges the Secretary-General to present a detailed report on the implementation of the administrative parts of the cooperation agreements between the Parliament, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee and on this basis to devise possible arrangements for further administrative cooperation in areas such as logistics, infrastructure or security;

57.   Urges the Secretary-General to provide clarification on the current management of the Parliament's gym and on the current use of Parliament's staff in this context; requests, furthermore, clarification on the pending litigation and on the options that are on the table to ensure the efficient and cost-effective management of the gym in the future;

58.   Considers that further savings can be made on expenditure on furniture as it considers that an increase of EUR 3 589 832 for 2016 and a similar increase for 2017 vis à vis the EUR 2 415 168 in 2015, is far from reasonable;

59.   Welcomes the more limited and efficient use of trunks (cantines); encourages sharing of the trunks for travelling to Strasbourg;

60.   Ask the Secretary-General to fully implement the spirit and the letter of the Financial Regulation with regard to green and economically efficient public procurement by reinforcing Parliament's procurement strategy in this respect;

61.   Encourages the further pursual of the path of energy savings, in particular concerning lightning and heating systems of buildings, as the discussions on the 2016 budget have shown that there is space for improvement;

62.   Encourages a greater promotion of healthy and organic food; furthermore, calls therefore on the Bureau to evaluate the possibility of providing healthy food not only in terms of diversification of services but also, above all, in terms of providing fresh fruit and vegetables at more affordable prices;

o
o   o

63.   Adopts the estimates for the financial year 2017;

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

(1) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(2) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 884.
(3) OJ C 373, 20.12.2013, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 287, 29.10.2013, p. 15.
(5) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0376 .
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0407 .
(7) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0172 .
(8) OJ L 156, 18.6.2005, p. 3.
(9) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0172 .


2015 Report on Turkey
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European Parliament resolution of 14 April 2016 on the 2015 report on Turkey (2015/2898(RSP) )
P8_TA(2016)0133 B8-0442/2016

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the 2015 Commission report on Turkey (SWD(2015)0216 ),

–   having regard to the Council conclusions of 15 December 2015 on the enlargement and stabilisation and association process and to previous relevant Council and European Council conclusions,

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 10 November 2015 to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the EU Enlargement Strategy (COM(2015)0611 ),

–   having regard to Council Decision 2008/157/EC of 18 February 2008 on the principles, priorities and conditions contained in the Accession Partnership with the Republic of Turkey (‘the Accession Partnership’), and to the previous Council Decisions of 2001, 2003 and 2006 on the Accession Partnership,

–   having regard to the joint statement following the EU-Turkey Summit of 29 November 2015 and the EU-Turkey Action Plan,

–   having regard to its resolution of 15 April 2015 on the centenary of the Armenian Genocide(1) ,

–   having regard to the intergovernmental conference of 14 December 2015 during which chapter 17 on economic and monetary policy was officially opened,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on Turkey, in particular those of 10 February 2010 on Turkey’s progress report 2009(2) , of 9 March 2011 on Turkey’s 2010 progress report(3) , of 29 March 2012 on the 2011 progress report on Turkey(4) , of 18 April 2013 on the 2012 progress report on Turkey(5) , of 13 June 2013 on the situation in Turkey(6) , of 12 March 2014 on the 2013 progress report on Turkey(7) , of 13 November 2014 on Turkish actions creating tensions in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus(8) , of 15 January 2015 on freedom of expression in Turkey(9) and of 10 June 2015 on the 2014 Commission progress report on Turkey(10) ,

–   having regard to its call on the Commission, in its resolution on the 2014 Commission progress report on Turkey, to re-assess the way in which negotiations have been conducted so far and how EU-Turkey relations and cooperation could be improved and intensified,

–   having regard to the Negotiating Framework for Turkey of 3 October 2005,

–   having regard to the declaration issued by the European Community and its Member States on 21 September 2005, including the provision that the recognition of all Member States is a necessary component of the negotiations, and the need for Turkey to fully implement the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement by removing all obstacles to the free movement of goods without prejudice and discrimination,

–   having regard to the fact that Turkey’s accession to the EU depends on full compliance with the Copenhagen criteria and the EU’s integration capacity, in accordance with the conclusions of the European Council meeting of December 2006,

–   having regard to Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which states that the contracting parties undertake to abide by the final judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in any case to which they are parties,

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

–   having regard to the crisis in Syria, the efforts towards a ceasefire and a peaceful settlement, and Turkey’s obligations to enhance stability and promote good neighbourly relations through intensive efforts in order to resolve outstanding bilateral issues, disputes and conflicts with its neighbouring countries over land and maritime borders and airspace, in accordance with the UN Charter and the values and principles upon which the EU is founded,

–   having regard to the fact that respect for the rule of law, including in particular the separation of powers, democracy, freedom of expression, human rights, the rights of minorities and religious freedom, are at the core of the negotiation process,

–   having regard to the approval of EUR 3 billion for the management of the refugee crisis in Turkey, with EUR 1 billion coming from the EU budget and the rest from the Member States,

–   having regard to the work of Kati Piri as the standing rapporteur on Turkey of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs,

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

A.   whereas the accession negotiations with Turkey were opened on 3 October 2005, and whereas the opening of such negotiations is the starting point for a long-lasting and open-ended process based on fair and rigorous conditionality and a commitment to reform;

B.   whereas the EU should remain the anchor for reforms in Turkey, given the transformative power of accession negotiations and the enlargement process;

C.   whereas, in accordance with the conclusions of the European Council meeting of December 2006, there should be full compliance with the Copenhagen criteria and the EU’s integration capacity; whereas Turkey has committed itself to the fulfilment of the Copenhagen criteria, adequate and effective reforms and progressive alignment with the EU acquis; whereas these efforts should be viewed as an opportunity for Turkey to strengthen its institutions and continue its process of democratisation and modernisation;

D.   whereas respect for the rule of law is at the core of the negotiation process, including in particular the separation of powers, freedom of expression and of the media, human rights and democracy, the fight against corruption and organised crime, good neighbourly relations, freedom of religion, freedom of association and peaceful protest, the rights of minorities, the rights of women, and tackling discrimination against vulnerable groups such as Roma, people with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people;

E.   whereas, regarding the political criteria, the pace of reforms has slowed down and there has been significant backsliding in the areas of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly;

F.   whereas Turkey still has one of the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world;

G.   whereas, according to the ranking made by Freedom House for freedom of the press and media, Turkey is still ranked as not having a free press and its internet freedom as being only partly free;

H.   whereas the security situation in Turkey is rapidly deteriorating, both internally and externally;

I.   whereas Turkey has faced multiple terrorist attacks, attributed to the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)/Daesh, in Diyarbakir, Suruc, Ankara and Istanbul, in which a total of 150 innocent people lost their lives;

J.   whereas the Russian bombing of Aleppo and other parts of Syria is resulting in large numbers of additional refugees seeking protection in Turkey;

K.   whereas the EU and Turkey have agreed to reinvigorate the negotiation process and to cooperate intensively on migration;

L.   whereas the Turkish population has been admirably hospitable to the large number of refugees living among them; whereas Turkey hosts the largest refugee population in the world, with approximately 2,7 million registered refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the UNHCR;

M.   whereas the Turkish authorities did not agree to the reopening of the Orthodox Seminary on the island of Heybeliada;

I.State of play in EU-Turkey relations

1.   Is deeply concerned, in the light of the backsliding on respect for democracy and rule of law inside Turkey, that the overall pace of reforms in Turkey has slowed down considerably in recent years, and that in certain key areas, such as the independence of the judiciary, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, and respect for human rights and the rule of law, there has been a regression moving increasingly away from meeting the Copenhagen criteria to which candidate countries must adhere;

2.   Underlines that Turkey is a key strategic partner for the EU and that active and credible negotiations would provide a suitable framework for exploiting the full potential of EU-Turkey relations; takes note of the reinvigoration of the negotiation process by the EU and hopes that the opening of chapters will lead to concrete progress; calls, in this connection, for concrete progress and a genuine commitment on Turkey’s part; reiterates its call on the Commission to reassess the way in which negotiations have been conducted so far and how EU-Turkey relations and cooperation could be improved and intensified; strongly supports a structured, more frequent and open high-level political dialogue on key thematic issues of joint interest such as migration, counter-terrorism, energy, economy and trade;

3.   Believes that the postponement of the Commission’s 2015 progress report until after the November 2015 Turkish elections was a wrong decision, as it gave the impression that the EU is willing to go silent on violations of fundamental rights in return for the Turkish Government’s cooperation on refugees; asks the Commission to commit itself to publishing the annual progress reports in accordance with a specific and fixed timetable; calls on both the Commission and the Council not to ignore internal developments in Turkey and to clearly stand up for respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights in Turkey, as stipulated in the Copenhagen criteria, and irrespective of other interests;

4.   Takes note of the results of the parliamentary elections held on 1 November 2015 and the formation of a new government; reiterates its call for the 10 % electoral threshold to be lowered, and calls for transparency in the financing of political parties and electoral campaigns; commends the active participation of civil society volunteers during elections and the high voter turnout; condemns, however, the intimidation and harassment of the media and discrimination of opposition parties in terms of pre-election coverage, the atmosphere of violence and intimidation, marked in particular by attacks on individual candidates and opposition party offices, particularly that of the People’s Democracy Party (HDP), and the intense political polarisation; welcomes the fact that the Turkish Grand National Assembly has become more inclusive for minority groups in Turkey as a result of the last two elections and despite the 10 % threshold;

5.   Calls for the customs union to be upgraded and for its scope to be expanded to cover new sectors, including agricultural products, services and public procurement; takes note that the negotiations on this are set to start in the second half of 2016; recalls that the customs union can only reach its full potential when Turkey fully implements the Additional Protocol vis-à-vis all Member States; is of the view that Turkey’s interests should be considered in future free trade agreements signed by the EU with third parties, in particular in the case of the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations; calls for the free movement of people to be improved and for increased intercultural exchanges;

6.   Takes positive note of the intensified political dialogue between the EU and Turkey in the area of foreign and security policy and of Turkey’s increased alignment with EU declarations and Council decisions in 2015; regrets that Turkey did not align with the Council’s decision following the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and the events in Eastern Ukraine, including the restrictive measures;

7.   Reiterates that Turkey should further align its foreign policy with that of the EU in accordance with the provisions of the Negotiating Framework; considers it essential to increase exchanges of information on foreign-policy issues and invite the Turkish Foreign Minister to attend meetings of the Foreign Affairs Council whenever relevant; recalls Turkey’s strategic importance for the EU’s energy security as a key transit country; considers the rapid development of energy cooperation and the broadening of the energy transit corridor through Turkey to the European Union to be essential;

8.   Reiterates the need to strengthen good neighbourly relations, which constitute a fundamental part of the Negotiating Framework and an essential element of the enlargement process; calls on Turkey, in this connection, to step up efforts to resolve outstanding bilateral issues, including unsettled legal obligations and disputes with its immediate neighbours over land and maritime borders and airspace, in accordance with the provisions of the UN Charter and with international law; calls on the Turkish Government to sign and ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); urges the Turkish Government to end the repeated violations of Greek airspace and territorial waters, as well as the practice of Turkish military aircraft flying over Greek islands; expresses its regret that the casus belli threat declared by the Turkish Grand National Assembly against Greece has not yet been withdrawn; urges Turkey and Armenia to proceed to normalise their relations by establishing diplomatic relations without preconditions, and calls for opening the Turkish-Armenia border, which could lead to improved relations, with particular reference to cross-border cooperation and economic integration;

II.Respect for the rule of law, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms

9.   Takes the view that, in keeping with the EU’s commitment to the rule of law and fundamental values, reforms in the areas of the judiciary and fundamental rights and of justice, freedom and security are urgently needed in Turkey; calls, without prejudice to Member States’ positions, on the Council of the EU to propose, once the official opening benchmarks are met, the opening of chapters 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights) and 24 (justice, freedom and security) and to ensure that the reform process in Turkey is shaped on the basis of EU values and standards; calls on Turkey to engage fully with the Council of Europe and with the Venice Commission in the areas of judicial reform;

10.   Deplores the serious backsliding, over the past two years, on freedom of speech, expression and opinion both online and offline in Turkey, which is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index; recalls that, according to the Turkish authorities’ own figures, Turkey is the country which holds the record for the highest number of journalists behind bars; reiterates that freedom of opinion, expression and speech, including independent media, are core European values; welcomes the ruling of the Constitutional Court that the rights of Can Dündar and Erdem Gül had been violated; recalls that they still face trial, with prosecutors demanding multiple life sentences, expresses concern about the decision to exclude the public for the whole duration of the trial, and calls for a thorough and objective investigation into the journalist’s allegations regarding the transport of weapons to Syria; condemns recent statements by the President of Turkey against the Constitutional Court; calls for the immediate release of all jailed journalists and encourages European diplomats to continue to monitor closely all criminal cases against journalists; deplores the personal attacks by leading government officials against journalists and opponents, and the increasingly authoritarian tendencies of the Turkish leadership; urges Turkey to act against intimidation of journalists in all its forms, in particular by investigating all physical attacks and threats against journalists and actively preventing attacks against media outlets, but also by defusing the tense political climate which creates an environment curtailing freedom of speech in the media and on the internet;

11.   Notes the Corruption Perceptions Index 2015 released by Transparency International on 27 January 2016, which shows an increase in corruption in Turkey during the past year and which now ranks Turkey 66th ; underlines the need for the Turkish Government to send out clear and consistent signals that it is truly intent on combating corruption at all levels of power;

12.   Recalls that the fight against corruption should be one of Turkey’s priorities; calls on Turkey therefore to update the anti-corruption strategy and action plan, to establish an independent anti-corruption body and to build a credible track record of investigations, prosecutions and convictions, including high-level cases;

13.   Calls for the independence of the media of Koza İpek Holding and the Feza media group to be restored and for all government representatives to be removed from the boards of directors, for the dozens of sacked employees who expressed their dissatisfaction at the government takeover to be reappointed, and for the charges of terrorism to be withdrawn;

14.   Condemns the violent and illegal takeover of several Turkish newspapers, including Zaman most recently, and expresses its concern about the decision of Digiturk, allegedly based, inter alia, on political grounds, to stop transmitting television channels; calls on the Turkish Government to end the political and economic pressure on independent media; strongly condemns verbal and physical attacks and the increasing use of defamation and anti-terror legislation against journalists; notes the content bans for online and offline reporting, as well as the practice of website blocking, particularly of social networks, which have led to self-censorship among journalists fearing that criticising the authorities would further increase reprisals; is very concerned about the blocking of tens of thousands of websites, the amendments adopted in March 2015 to the ‘Internet Media Regulation Law’, and the authority of the Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) that allows the blocking of websites within four hours for a variety of vague reasons; is concerned at the fact that the Turkish satellite provider Turksat halted broadcasts by IMC TV on Friday, 26 February 2016 at the request of an Ankara prosecutor investigating whether the channel supported a ‘terrorist’ group; expresses its concern about exceptionally high tax fines imposed on media organisations; calls for a revision of the law on the internet to support an environment conducive to freedom of speech on the internet and protection of privacy and personal rights; condemns attempts by Turkish government officials to intimidate and, in some cases, deport several international journalists; calls for an independent investigation into the murders on Turkish soil of journalists Naji Jerf and Ibrahim Abdel Qader and Fares Hammadi from the blog about Syria ‘Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently’; deplores, furthermore, the investigations, arrests, prison sentences and punitive fines for allegedly insulting the head of state, based on Article 299 of the Penal Code; calls on the Turkish Government to address these issues as a matter of urgency and priority with a view to safeguarding pluralism in line with international standards; considers an open public debate to be a key element of any healthy democracy;

15.   Calls on the Turkish Government to adopt a sound data protection law and establish an independent data protection authority, in line with European standards, creating the necessary conditions for efficient and effective international police and judicial cooperation and sharing of information, and contributing, at the same time, to meeting the criteria for visa liberalisation; calls on the Turkish authorities to clearly define exceptions to the scope of the law, in particular on the processing of health-related data, and to put in place a selection procedure that guarantees the independence of the members of the data protection authority;

16.   Reiterates its concern about the anti-terrorism law, in particular its broad and excessively vague definition of terrorism, organised crime and propaganda, making it manifestly impossible to determine the precise nature of such offences; insists that criminal and anti-terror legislation needs to be in line with ECtHR case law, which should be fully respected and implemented by Turkey; calls on Turkey to create a political and legal environment that allows the judiciary to perform its duties in an independent and impartial manner, also in practice, so that it does not become an instrument for the repression of internal dissent; calls on Turkey to implement all judgments of the European Courts; expresses concern about the numerous reassignments, unwilling transfers and dismissals of judges and prosecutors, which undermines the independence, impartiality and efficiency of the judiciary, as well as respect for the principles of due process and separation of powers; calls for the urgent restoration of the separation of powers and meaningful steps to ensure full independence of the judiciary; deplores the perversions of the course of justice to the benefit of certain politicians which became commonplace in Turkey in the aftermath of the 2013 corruption scandal; underlines that the role and influence of executive power within the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors must be limited and that sufficient guarantees against transfers of judges against their will are needed;

17.   Recalls that Turkey’s extraordinary economic growth over the past decade has led to an unprecedented boom in housing and infrastructure, often at the expense of environmental and conservation concerns; expresses its particular concern about the various megaprojects in the country, and urgently appeals to the government to operate with environmental and social impact assessments and to duly involve the local population in the project design so that long-term negative effects of urbanisation, consumption of space and environmental degradation can be avoided to the extent possible;

18.   Takes the view that the constitutional reform process should develop into a secular, pluralistic, inclusive and tolerant society; underlines that a new Constitution should be based on widespread consensus across the political spectrum and in society as a whole, with full respect for the rights of minorities, irrespective of their cultural or religious background, thereby providing a solid base for fundamental freedoms and the rule of law; urges Turkey to fully respect the rule of law and fundamental rights and freedoms, in particular freedom of religious and ethnic minorities; emphasises the need to enact comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, including the prohibition of discrimination and hate speech on the grounds of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity, and to include the prohibition of such discrimination in a new Constitution; underlines that this should not prevent Turkey from granting specific rights to citizens on the basis of ethnic origin, religion or language, so that they can preserve their identity; notes, in this connection, that further action is needed to address the problems faced by members of the Greek minority, in particular with regard to education and property rights; urges the Turkish authorities to take judicial measures against the people and bodies responsible for committing any sort of hate crime, including anti-Semitism, as was declared in the government’s ‘Democratisation Package’ in 2013; condemns the passive attitude of the Turkish Government towards the serious threats against Christians and their pastors in social media; expects the Turkish Government to treat every Turkish citizen without any prejudice towards his or her religious belief; calls on the Turkish authorities, given that Turkey has the world’s largest population of the Roma minority, to implement concrete and effective measures to achieve de facto equal rights for Roma in Turkish society and to improve the situation of Roma, with special attention to the situation of Roma children and the inclusion of Roma women;

19.   Calls on Turkey to continue working closely with the Commission on new legislation under preparation and on the implementation of existing laws, in order to ensure compatibility with the EU acquis;

20.   Underlines the need to fully respect, in line with European values, the right to different lifestyles, secular as well as faith-based ones, and to maintain the separation of state and religion;

21.   Stresses the importance of continuing the reform process in the area of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, by enabling religious communities to obtain legal personality, by eliminating all restrictions on the training, appointment and succession of clergy, by complying with the relevant judgments of the ECtHR and the recommendations of the Venice Commission and by eliminating all forms of discrimination or barriers based on religion; calls on Turkey to respect the distinct character and importance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and to recognise its legal personality; reiterates the need to allow the reopening of the Halki Seminary and lift all obstacles for its proper functioning and to also allow the public use of the ecclesiastical title of the Ecumenical Patriarch;

22.   Calls on the Turkish Government to halt its plans for the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant; points out that the envisaged site is located in a region prone to severe earthquakes, hence posing a major threat not only to Turkey but to the Mediterranean region as a whole; requests accordingly that the Turkish Government join the Espoo Convention, which commits its parties to notifying and consulting each other on major projects under consideration that are likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact across boundaries; asks the Turkish Government to involve, or at least consult, the governments of its neighbouring countries, such as Greece and Cyprus, during any further developments in the Akkuyu venture;

23.   Expresses concern at the high levels of violence against women and the lack of implementation of domestic law in order to prevent and protect women from violence; further insists that the authorities effectively enforce existing laws concerning violence against women and domestic abuse, a widespread problem both in rural and urban areas, address the underreporting of gender-based violence, provide support services and shelter to victims of such violence and impose sanctions on perpetrators, and increase social awareness and tackle societal acceptance of gender-based violence; strongly recommends that the government promote gender equality in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field;

24.   Calls on Turkey to undertake serious efforts to protect the rights of the LGBTI community; expresses strong concern at the lack of protection provided to LGBTI people against acts of violence; stresses, in this connection, its disappointment at the failure to include protection against hate crimes on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in the Hate Crimes Bill; regrets that hate crime against LGBTI people often remains unpunished, or that offenders’ sentences are reduced on account of the victim’s alleged ‘unjust provocation’;

III.Kurdish peace process and the situation in the southeast of Turkey

25.   Expresses deep concern about the deteriorating situation in the southeast of Turkey; recalls that the Turkish Government has a responsibility to protect all people living on its territory, irrespective of their cultural or religious origins; acknowledges Turkey’s legitimate right to fight against terrorism, subject to international law; stresses, however, that security measures must be conducted with respect for the rule of law and human rights; underlines that all operations by security forces must be proportional and not take the form of collective punishment; condemns the misconduct of special security forces and calls for the perpetrators to be brought to justice; calls for humanitarian law to be enforced so that all the injured may receive the care to which they are entitled;

26.   Condemns and does not find justified the return to violence by the PKK, which is on the EU’s list of terrorist organisations; stresses that there is no violent solution to the Kurdish question and urges the Turkish Government to take its responsibility to resume negotiations with a view to achieving a comprehensive and sustainable solution to the Kurdish issue; calls on the PKK to lay down its arms, abandon terrorist tactics and use peaceful and legal means to voice its expectations; strongly condemns attacks against security forces and civilians; expresses serious concern, in this connection, at the building of barricades and the digging of trenches by YDG-H militants; insists, however, that peaceful protests must be allowed;

27.   Calls on the Turkish authorities to immediately lift the curfews that have been implemented in breach of the Turkish Constitution; expresses particularly grave alarm at the situation in Cizre and Sur/Diyarbakır, and condemns the fact that civilians are being killed, wounded and left without water, food and medical attention; calls on Turkey to allow the International Red Crescent to alleviate the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Cizre and Diyarbakır; urges the government to allow the wounded to be taken to hospital, by complying with the interim measures of the ECHR, and to secure a safe way out to civilians in cities under curfew; is deeply concerned about the rising number of civilian deaths and injured, which need to be thoroughly investigated, and the fact that around 400 000 people have become internally displaced; underlines that, as an act of human dignity, families must be allowed to retrieve the bodies on the streets and bury them; underlines the Turkish Government’s responsibility to ensure human rights and provide security and access to goods and services to the entire civilian population in the predominantly Kurdish parts of Turkey afflicted by fighting; asks the Turkish Government to put in place a formal mechanism for urgent aid and compensation for those who have had to flee their homes, become unemployed and lost their livelihoods; regrets the destruction of historical heritage;

28.   Notes with concern the urban transformation and relocation projects in conflict-hit areas recently unveiled by the Turkish Government and regrets the decision on widespread expropriation in the Sur district of Diyarbakir, including properties belonging to the municipality and also church properties, which would be a violation of the rights of religious minorities; calls on the Turkish Government to respect the cultural distinctiveness of the region and to refrain from further empowering the centralised local government structure in the region; calls for a revision of the expropriation decision and reconstruction plans by entering into a dialogue and cooperation with the district and metropolitan municipalities and respecting the rights of the residents and property owners;

29.   Is dismayed by the actions of special operations police forces known as ‘Esedullah teams’, which appear to be responsible for grave human rights violations, including the deliberate killing of civilians in the southeast of Turkey; demands a thorough investigation by the Turkish authorities into the actions of the ‘Esedullah teams’, and full accountability and punishment of those guilty of human rights violations;

30.   Calls for an immediate ceasefire and the resumption of the peace process in order to achieve a negotiated solution to the Kurdish issue; underlines the priority of making progress towards democratisation and reconciliation; calls, in this connection, for the establishment of a special committee in the Turkish Grand National Assembly for the resolution of the Kurdish question, in order to contribute to a lasting peace by reinstating a feeling of justice and healing the traumas which are vulnerable to political abuse; urges the EU to take an active role in the peace process without delay; underlines the importance of giving priority to enhancing the social, cultural and political rights and equal treatment of people of Kurdish origin; reiterates its call for Turkey, as a member of the Council of Europe, to lift its reservations to the European Charter of Local Autonomy with a view to ensuring its full implementation in all its aspects;

31.   Strongly deplores the intimidation and prosecution of more than 1 000 academics who signed a petition calling for peace; condemns the dismissal or suspension of almost 50 of them, as well as the imprisonment of another four of the signatories; underlines that the individuals responsible for the killing of lawyer Tahir Elçi – who dedicated his life to peace and human rights – must be brought to justice; expresses serious concern about the judicial investigations targeting mainly HDP members, as well as the ongoing imprisonment and dismissal of local mayors, including 25 co-mayors, and the threats hanging over many Kurdish politicians;

32.   Strongly condemns the terrorist attacks attributed to ISIL/Daesh in Diyarbakir, Suruc, Ankara and Istanbul; expresses its solidarity with the victims and their families and with the citizens of Turkey on the frontline of the fight against extremism; equally strongly condemns the bomb blasts in Ankara on 17 February 2016, for which the militant group TAK (Kurdistan Freedom Hawks) claimed responsibility, as well as the attack in Ankara on 13 March 2016, and expresses its condolences to the victims’ families and the bereaved; stresses the importance of conducting thorough investigations into these attacks with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice; believes that stronger cooperation between Europol and Turkish law enforcement agencies is key to effectively combating terrorism;

33.   Welcomes Turkey’s participation in the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL and the opening of its bases to the United States and coalition forces; urges Turkey to act with the necessary restraint and in full cooperation with its Western allies;

34.   Urges Turkey to continue to increase its efforts to prevent foreign fighters, money and equipment from reaching ISIL/Daesh and other extremist groups via its territory; is concerned that the Turkish authorities might not have taken all possible measures to stop and prevent ISIL/Daesh activities, in particular to combat illegal oil trafficking across its borders; asks the EU to enhance its capacity to exchange information and to cooperate closely with the Turkish authorities in this matter in order to give further support to combating smuggling networks; notes shortcomings in the arrest of foreign fighters and in controlling borders with Iraq and Syria;

35.   Welcomes Turkey’s support and contribution to the agreement reached between major powers to cease hostilities in Syria and provide humanitarian aid to people in need; commends it as an important step toward resolving the Syrian crisis; notes that the cessation of hostilities should apply to all parties in conflict other than groups designated as terrorist organisations by the UNSC; calls on all parties to swiftly implement these commitments in full; recalls its belief that there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict and insists on the need to reach a political solution; condemns Turkey’s military intervention against Kurdish forces in northern Syria, which undermines the fight against ISIL/Daesh and jeopardises peace and security efforts;

IV.EU-Turkey cooperation on the refugee / migration crisis

36.   Supports a renewed political engagement between the EU and Turkey on geopolitical challenges, in particular the refugee and migration crisis; acknowledges Turkey’s great humanitarian contribution in hosting the largest refugee population in the world; urges the EU and Turkey to join forces in improving and ensuring decent living conditions and basic capacities of refugee camps and to facilitate the work of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), in order to avoid the massive exodus of migrants; urges the EU to continue to work with Turkish government officials to ensure correct documentation of migrants; recalls that Turkey is one of the key transit countries for migrants and refugees travelling to the EU, not just from Syria but from many other countries; stresses the importance of cooperating with Turkey in managing the refugee crisis and preventing losses of life at sea; welcomes the NATO monitoring mission in the Aegean Sea;

37.   Welcomes the activation, on 29 November 2015, of the EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan on refugees and migration management, as part of a comprehensive cooperation agenda based on shared responsibility, mutual commitments and delivery, and insists on the need to implement it immediately; emphasises that EU-Turkey cooperation on migration should not be linked to the calendar, content and conditionality of the negotiation process; believes that outsourcing the refugee crisis to Turkey is not a credible long-term solution to the problem; calls on EU Member States’ solidarity to increase the number of countries that will accept refugees for resettlement in a spirit of burden and responsibility sharing;

38.   Stresses that the EUR 3 billion, and additional funding, of the Refugee Facility for Refugees in Turkey will have to be properly utilised in order to swiftly and directly benefit refugees and their host communities through the implementation of projects meeting immediate food, healthcare, sanitation and education needs; calls for the full involvement of Parliament in the decision-making process as a co-legislator and budgetary authority; urges swifter disbursement of the pledged funds; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure, in cooperation with Turkey, that a mechanism is put in place to check that funds are used properly to this end, that this mechanism will be closely monitored and that the European Parliament will be regularly informed by the Commission on the use of the funds; underlines the need to pay special attention to vulnerable groups such as women and children, particularly orphans, and religious minorities such as Christians and Yazidis; emphasises the urgent need to address gender-related violence and abuse against women and girls on the migrant routes crossing Turkey;

39.   Commends the recent decision of the Turkish Government to open its labour market to Syrian refugees; encourages more urgent action to ensure that all 700 000 Syrian children receive education; praises the Turkish Government for providing Syrian refugees with free health services and education; deplores the fact that the UNHCR’s appeal to increase funding has not been met and that the World Food Programme had to reduce its nutrition ratio to 80 % because of reduced funds; praises Turkey for unilaterally filling this financial gap and calls on the Member States and the EU to increase funds to the UN agencies and their partner NGOs in Turkey;

40.   Appreciates that Turkey has, until recently, maintained an open­border policy for Syrian refugees; commends the entry into force of new rules in the Turkish visa regime, which already paved the way for a sharp decrease in irregular crossings; stresses, however, that a much stricter visa policy, in line with EU visa policy, must be applied vis-à-vis countries representing a major source of illegal migration, in order to curb the influx of migrants who are in no need of international protection via Turkey into Europe; underlines that Turkey needs every assistance in tightening its border security and to step up its fight against human smugglers; calls on Turkey to show zero tolerance and take effective measures to stop traffickers of human beings and the flow of refugees towards the Greek islands resulting in severe humanitarian, political, social and security issues within the EU; encourages more cooperation between Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece in the area of search and rescue operations in the Aegean Sea, and calls on Frontex to offer its support to the Turkish coast guard and enhance the bilateral exchange of information; acknowledges that measures against criminal smuggling can only be effective in conjunction with the introduction of safe and legal routes for refugees and asylum seekers to enter the European Union;

41.   Underlines that stemming migration to the EU should not lead to pushbacks of refugees or illegal detention; calls on the Commission, as regards the EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan, to investigate the allegations made by Amnesty International in their report dated 1 April 2016 that Turkey is conducting forced returns of Syrian refugees; insists that all forced return procedures from Greece to Turkey must be fully in line with international and EU law relating to access to asylum and international protection and the implementation of fundamental rights and procedural guarantees; calls, in this regard, on the Commission to closely follow the way in which the Turkish authorities implement the agreement and whether the principle of non-refoulement is respected in the case of persons returned to Turkey; reiterates its call on the Turkish Government to lift the geographic reservation to the 1951 Geneva Convention; insists that it is crucial to put in place safe and legal routes for refugees, and urges the Member States to increase their resettlement efforts substantially; is of the opinion that it is imperative to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis; urges Turkey to increase substantially its efforts to find a political solution, namely to overcome its reservations against the participation of the Kurds in the peace talks in Geneva;

42.   Welcomes the fact that the Turkish authorities and the UNHCR in Turkey are harmonising their databases for the registration of refugees into one registration system; considers it urgent to look at technical ways to make that database interoperable and compatible with the European database for the registration of asylum seekers, Eurodac; stresses that it is also important that, once refugees leave Turkey to go to Europe, they should be removed from the Turkish database;

43.   Stresses that implementation of the readmission agreement vis-à-vis all Member States is crucial for the EU, as it provides an opportunity for a more effective return policy of migrants who are in no need of international protection; welcomes the political agreement reached by the two parties at the EU-Turkey Summit of 29 November 2015 for the EU-Turkey readmission agreement to become fully applicable from June 2016; calls on all parties to implement the existing bilateral readmission agreements fully and effectively and to ensure that the fundamental rights of returned migrants are respected in full;

44.   Encourages the government to fully and in a non-discriminatory manner meet the criteria identified in the visa liberalisation roadmap vis-à-vis all Member States; recalls that visa liberalisation is a merit-based process and that only when the standards have been met, will visa-free travel be possible for Turkish citizens; asks the Commission to provide more technical assistance for the fulfilment of the conditions of the visa liberalisation roadmap;

V.Progress of the Cyprus reunification talks

45.   Praises the considerable progress achieved in the Cyprus reunification talks, under the auspices of the UN; welcomes the joint declaration of 11 February 2014 by the two leaders as a basis for a settlement; supports the evolvement of the Republic of Cyprus into a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with single sovereignty, a single international personality and single citizenship with political equality between the two communities and equal opportunities for all its citizens, without prejudging the final agreement, and in line with relevant UN Security Council resolutions and international law; commends the constructive approach of the leaders of both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on the island, and their determination and tireless efforts to reach a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement as soon as possible; underlines the importance of the solution of the decades-long Cyprus problem for the whole region, and for Europe/the European Union; welcomes therefore the possibility of a new referendum on reunification and calls on all parties to contribute to a positive outcome;

46.   Emphasises that non-settlement of the Cyprus issue affects the development of EU-Turkey relations, and therefore calls on all sides concerned to make an effort towards its resolution;

47.   Calls on Turkey to fulfil its obligation of full, non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the EC-Turkey Association Agreement vis-à-vis all Member States, including the Republic of Cyprus, the fulfilment of which could provide a significant boost to the negotiation process;

48.   Deplores Turkey’s policy of illegal settlement, and calls on it to refrain from further settlement of Turkish citizens in the occupied areas of Cyprus, which is contrary to the Geneva Convention and the principles of international law; urges Turkey to terminate all actions that alter the demographic balance on the island, thus impeding a future solution;

49.   Calls on Turkey to refrain from any actions in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Cyprus which might lead to friction and crisis in a very sensitive region and might have negative effects on the negotiations for a democratic solution which would end the unacceptable existing dichotomous status quo; recognises the right of its Member States to sign bilateral and other agreements in the context of their sovereign rights in order to exploit their national resources within their EEZ;

50.   Welcomes the agreement by the two leaders on a series of confidence-building measures, including on the opening of two new crossings points and on the interconnection of the electricity grids; notes, however, that there has been little to no progress on mobile phone interoperability; urges both sides therefore to implement all agreed measures without further delay; calls on the EU to fully support the settlement, both politically and financially; calls on Turkey to actively support the negotiation process and a positive outcome; calls on Turkey to begin to withdraw its troops from Cyprus and to transfer the sealed-off area of Famagusta to the UN in accordance with UNSC resolution 550 (1984); commends the fact that access is granted to the Committee on Missing Persons (which deals with both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot missing persons) to all relevant sites, including military areas; urges Turkey, however, to grant access to relevant archives which would maximise the effectiveness of the committee;

51.   Welcomes the initiative of the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Nicos Anastasiades, to make Turkish an official language of the EU, and urges the parties to accelerate this process; notes that the implementation of the EU acquis in the future Turkish Cypriot constituent state upon entry into force of the settlement agreement must already be well prepared; welcomes, in this connection, the establishment of the bi-communal ad hoc committee on EU preparation; encourages both the European Parliament and the Commission to intensify their efforts to engage with Turkish Cypriots in preparation to fully integrate into the EU; encourages the President of the European Parliament to take the necessary steps in the event of a settlement;

o
o   o

52.   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 Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, the President of the European Court of Human Rights, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the Government and Parliament of the Republic of Turkey.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0094 .
(2) OJ C 341 E, 16.12.2010, p. 59.
(3) OJ C 199 E, 7.7.2012, p. 98.
(4) OJ C 257 E, 6.9.2013, p. 38.
(5) OJ C 45, 5.2.2016, p. 48.
(6) OJ C 65, 19.2.2016, p. 117.
(7) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0235 .
(8) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2014)0052 .
(9) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0014 .
(10) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0228 .


2015 Report on Albania
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European Parliament resolution of 14 April 2016 on the 2015 Report on Albania (2015/2896(RSP) )
P8_TA(2016)0134 B8-0440/2016

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Albania, of the other part,

–   having regard to the Presidency conclusions of the Thessaloniki European Council of 19-20 June 2003 concerning the prospect of the Western Balkan countries joining the EU,

–   having regard to the European Council decision of 26-27 June 2014 to grant the status of candidate country for EU membership to Albania and to the Council conclusions of 15 December 2015,

–   having regard to the seventh meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Council between Albania and the EU, held in Brussels on 18 May 2015,

–   having regard to Albania’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) on 1 April 2009,

–   having regard to the Final Declaration by the Chair of the Vienna Western Balkans Summit of 27 August 2015 as well as the Recommendations of the Civil Society Organisations for the Vienna Summit 2015,

–   having regard to the Commission Communication of 10 November 2015 entitled ‘EU Enlargement Strategy’ (COM(2015)0611 ), accompanied by Commission Staff Working Document entitled ‘Albania 2015 Report’ (SWD(2015)0213 ),

–   having regard to the Joint Conclusions of the fifth High Level Dialogue on the Key Priorities adopted in Tirana on 24 March 2015,

–   having regard to the Final Report of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission concerning the 21 June 2015 local elections, dated 8 September 2015,

–   having regard to the ninth meeting of the EU-Albania Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee (SAPC) held in Brussels on 9-10 November 2015,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions concerning Albania,

–   having regard to the work of Knut Fleckenstein as the standing rapporteur on Albania of its Committee on Foreign Affairs,

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

A.   whereas Albania has made steady progress on its path to EU accession;

B.   whereas (potential) candidate countries are judged on their own merits and the quality of the necessary reforms determines the timetable for accession;

C.   whereas challenges still persist and need to be addressed swiftly and efficiently in order to make further progress on its path to EU accession;

D.   whereas consistent adoption and full implementation of reforms on the five key priorities as well as sustained political commitment are essential to further advance in the EU accession process;

E.   whereas the protection of religious freedom, cultural heritage and the administration of property in accordance with the rule of law are fundamental values of the European Union;

F.   whereas constructive and sustainable political dialogue between political forces on EU-related reforms is essential to making further progress in the EU accession process; whereas fair play, constructive dialogue, cooperation and willingness to compromise between government and opposition is vital for a successful and sustainable reform process;

G.   whereas there exists political consensus and wide public support for the EU accession process in Albania; whereas the success of the reform agenda strongly depends on the existence of a democratic political environment in the country;

H.   whereas sustained progress, especially in the areas of the rule of law, judicial reform, the fight against corruption and organised crime, public administration reform and fundamental rights, is of crucial importance in the reform process; whereas Albania needs to intensify reform efforts in these areas and in other key priorities in order to open accession negotiations and consolidate its democratic transition; whereas the EU has placed the rule of law at the core of its enlargement process and, furthermore, has stressed the need to strengthen economic governance and public administration in all the Western Balkan countries;

1.   Welcomes the steady progress made by Albania with respect to the reforms on the key priorities required for opening accession negotiations; encourages the government, the parliament and political parties to maintain the reform momentum and to accelerate the implementation of reforms; calls on them to swiftly proceed with a substantial reform of the judiciary; insists on the importance of proper and timely implementation of these reforms;

2.   Calls on all political parties to make further efforts to engage in a more constructive and genuine political dialogue that will allow the adoption and implementation of the key reforms; strongly believes that sustainable cooperation between government and opposition in the parliament is essential for Albania’s EU accession process and for meeting the accession criteria; strongly underlines the importance of maintaining their commitment to building a democratic political culture which includes openness to dialogue, negotiation and compromise and the complete exclusion of boycotts and radicalism; welcomes the establishment and work of the National Council for European Integration (NCEI), which is expected to make the EU-related reform process more inclusive; urges the further enhancement of the parliament’s capacity to monitor implementation and compliance with the acquis;

3.   Commends the government and opposition parties alike for their constructive cooperation on, and unanimous adoption in the parliament of, the legislation on the exclusion of criminal offenders from appointment and election to public office (‘decriminalisation law’); welcomes the adoption of by-laws in the parliament and calls for swift and thorough implementation of this legislation in spirit and in letter; strongly encourages the parliament to lead by example in implementing the laws in order to enhance citizens’ and the business community’s trust in their political representatives and in public institutions;

4.   Welcomes Albania’s commitment to a comprehensive and thorough reform of the justice system and strongly encourages the Albanian authorities to swiftly continue the preparations for this crucial reform in order to foster the trust of citizens in the justice system; commends the work of the Ad Hoc Parliamentary Committee on Judicial Reform in the preparation of the reform; appreciates the close cooperation with the Venice Commission; encourages further a cooperative attitude on the way to adoption of this reform; calls on all parties, by taking into account the recommendations of the Venice Commission, to work towards a compromise on essential changes to the judiciary, which relate inter alia to the full independence and accountability of judges and prosecutors and the impartiality of the courts, especially the High Court and the Constitutional Court, and the High Council of Justice;

5.   Underlines the need to address the current shortcomings in the functioning of the judicial system, including its independence from other branches of power, political interference, selective justice and limited accountability, a high level of corruption, inefficient mechanisms of control, insufficient resources, the overall length of judicial proceedings and the lack of clear professional criteria for appointment and promotion of judges; stresses the need to increase transparency and to implement the relevant recommendations made by the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) in its fourth-round evaluation report on corruption prevention in respect of judges and prosecutors;

6.   Recommends that the Commission closely monitor the progress made in the reform of the judiciary and encourages it to report to Parliament and Council as soon as Albania has sufficiently advanced in this reform and to take into account these conclusions and Albania’s progress in the implementation of the five key priorities when considering recommending the opening of accession negotiations;

7.   Welcomes the adoption of the 2015-2020 public administration reform strategy and its action plan for 2015-2017, as well as the 2014-2020 public financial management reform strategy; stresses the need for a professional and transparent civil service in order to serve the interests of citizens, to provide better services to citizens and to prepare for efficient conduct of future accession negotiations; notes the efforts towards more citizen-friendly public administration; urges the government to pursue its efforts to enhance administrative capacities, depoliticise public administration, fight corruption in the civil service and improve recruitment procedures based on merit and performance; calls for full and effective implementation of the Civil Service Law and the new Law on Administrative Procedures; calls for the authority, autonomy, efficiency and resources of human rights structures, such as the Ombudsman’s Office, to be enhanced; calls for appropriate budget allocations to be made available to the two new Commissioners on Children and the Prevention of Torture; welcomes the adoption of the 2015-2020 decentralisation strategy and of the law on local self-government, which increases the administrative and financial capacities of local government units and provides for consultation between central and local government; notes the need to further clarify the functions and responsibilities of local government and to continue close dialogue with the relevant stakeholders, including representatives of civil society;

8.   Continues to be concerned about widespread corruption, particularly in education, healthcare, the judiciary, public procurement, public private partnership concessions, construction and spatial planning, local government and the public service; calls for local government to be strengthened; welcomes the adoption of the 2015-2020 national anti-corruption strategy and the 2015-2017 action plan; calls on the competent authorities to monitor and review the action plan thoroughly, to improve the track record as regards investigation, prosecution and conviction in corruption cases at all levels, to enforce anti-corruption legislation strictly and to enhance the independence of and cooperation between anti-corruption institutions; welcomes the proposal for a law on the protection of whistle-blowers and for improving transparency and control of political party finances; stresses the need to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies to conduct proactive and effective investigations; strongly believes that progress in judicial reform will also substantially enhance the fight against corruption and organised crime;

9.   Notes the government’s commitment to fighting organised crime, which has led to a number of successful large-scale law enforcement operations, including in cooperation with the authorities of neighbouring countries and EU Member States; remains concerned, nevertheless, about the low number of final convictions; stresses the need to further develop cooperation between prosecution services and the police and to ensure effective judicial follow-up; calls for adequate resources to be allocated to the police and prosecution services in order to fight organised crime; welcomes recent operations against drug traffickers, but notes that trafficking remains a significant problem for Albania; calls on the competent authorities to strengthen their efforts in the fight against the production and trafficking of drugs and narcotics, including by stepping up international and regional cooperation; calls for stronger cooperation between law enforcement institutions on human trafficking, better protection of and redress for victims, and an improved track record as regards investigation, prosecution and conviction; calls on the competent authorities to intensify their efforts against the trafficking in arms;

10.   Notes the assessment and recommendations of the OSCE/ODIHR concerning the electoral process following the June 2015 local elections, when a number of irregularities were identified by international observers; stresses that the 2017 parliamentary elections will be an important test for Albania’s EU integration process; calls on the competent authorities to make every effort to prepare for free and fair elections; welcomes the establishment of an ad hoc parliamentary committee on electoral reform in January 2016 and encourages the effective implementation of its recommendations, notably with a view to preparing and conducting the upcoming elections; is concerned about the overall politicisation of the electoral process, and calls on the competent authorities to address, inter alia, procedural shortcomings, including electoral disputes, the independence of electoral commissions, transparency and effectiveness in political party financing, alleged cases of vote-buying and voter intimidation and abuse of state resources, in order to enhance public confidence in the electoral process; notes that the Central Election Commission (CEC) needs to establish clear internal responsibilities for overseeing party finances and go beyond purely formal checks on the statements made by political parties;

11.   Welcomes the adoption of a parliamentary resolution on the role of civil society in the country’s democratic development and notes the improving cooperation between state institutions and civil society organisations (CSOs), including their participation in meetings of the NCEI; commends the adoption of the roadmap on civil society and encourages its smooth implementation; recommends that steps be taken to institutionalise cooperation with CSOs in order to strengthen democracy and the protection of human rights and civil liberties through public participation and to raise transparency in decision-making; calls on the competent authorities to reduce the administrative burden on CSOs and review tax rules and other relevant regulations with a view to facilitating private donations; calls on the competent authorities to encourage CSOs to actively participate in the supervision of the electoral process and to be involved in the provision of comprehensive and timely information to the public about the EU accession process;

12.   Urges the Albanian Government to dedicate particular attention to improving prospects for young people and to invest in modernising and reforming the education system in order to increase employability and professional prospects, particularly for young people; emphasises the need to transform the current brain drain into a brain circulation which supports mobility while at the same time creating a high potential for proper career prospects in Albania; welcomes the IPA support dedicated to education, employment and social policies;

13.   Reiterates its call on the competent authorities to proceed with delivering justice for the victims of the events of 21 January 2011;

14.   Condemns the mistreatment of suspects in police stations, prison overcrowding and the inadequate medical care and poor conditions in detention facilities;

15.   Recalls that institutional mechanisms to protect children’s rights remain poor; urges the authorities to reform the juvenile justice system in a way that it complies with international standards; calls for a significant increase in financial allocations for the child protection system, in particular child protection units (CPU) at local and regional level; deplores that some CPUs have had to stop operating owing to a lack of financial resources; urges the authorities to ensure children’s access to CPUs also in rural areas;

16.   Commends the climate of religious tolerance in the country, the good cooperation between religious communities and their positive relations with the State; calls on all competent authorities and religious communities to jointly work towards preserving and fostering religious harmony;

17.   Recalls, among the key priorities, the need for effective legislative and policy measures to reinforce the protection of human rights, minority rights and anti-discrimination policies; notes that Roma and Egyptians live in difficult conditions and often face social exclusion and discrimination; commends the adoption of the 2015-2020 national action plan for the integration of Roma and Egyptians and more effective implementation of Roma inclusion policies; notes that enrolment and drop-out rates among Roma children and the situation of Roma and Egyptian street children, including cases of forcible eviction of such children without due process or provision of adequate alternative housing, remain a concern; calls for improvements to be made to the protection of children’s rights and the juvenile justice system; welcomes the parliamentary resolution on the protection of rights and freedoms of persons belonging to the LGBTI community; notes that the second Tirana Pride event was held without major incidents in June 2015; recommends that provisions discriminating against transgender and intersex persons be removed from existing legislation; calls on the competent authorities to continue improving the climate as regards the inclusion of and tolerance for all minorities in the country, including by enhancing the role of the State Committee on Minorities;

18.   Recommends addressing gender inequality, gender discrimination and domestic violence through appropriate mechanisms; welcomes amendments to the Electoral Code adopted in April 2015 which provide for a 50 % gender quota in candidate lists for municipal councils;

19.   Notes that the enforcement of property rights remains to be ensured; urges the completion of the process of property registering, restitution and compensation and the effective implementation of the 2012-2020 strategy on property rights; points out that better enforcement of property rights will positively influence local and foreign investment;

20.   Re-emphasises the critical importance of a professional, independent and pluralist public service broadcaster and private media; is concerned about widespread self-censorship among journalists, who are sometimes physically obstructed from covering specific events, assaulted, or threatened because of their work, and about cases of direct interference in editorial autonomy; deplores, in this context, that the Balkan Investigative Regional Network has been threatened with a defamation case following its investigations into the criminal past of a mayoral candidate during the local elections in 2015; calls for measures to be taken to strengthen the professional and ethical standards of journalists; calls for enhanced implementation of the Law on Audiovisual Media; stresses the need to enhance the transparency of government advertising in the media and to pursue additional efforts to guarantee the independence of the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) and of the public broadcaster; is concerned about changing procedures for the election of the General Director of the Albanian public radio and television broadcaster (RTSh); calls on both government and opposition to ensure the proper functioning of the national broadcaster by identifying a consensual candidate for the position of director; stresses the need to finalise the delayed digitalisation process;

21.   Notes that Albania is moderately prepared in developing a functioning market economy; welcomes better tax collection and the government’s campaign against informality; is concerned, while noting an increase in employment, about the high level of unemployment, especially youth and long-term unemployment, which is more than 50 % of total unemployment; urges more attention to be given to equal opportunities and further measures to be taken to increase women’s employment in the labour market; remains concerned about persistent and significant shortcomings in respect for the rule of law, the regulatory environment, property rights enforcement and the fight against corruption which are hampering efforts to improve the business environment; urges Albania to comprehensively tackle the still acute problem of its large shadow economy, linked to widespread corruption, by pursuing effective economic reforms; urges that steps be taken to address weaknesses in contract enforcement and the rule of law, to tackle the still large informal economy and to prioritise its programme of fiscal consolidation and public debt reduction; urges for more support on consumer protection mechanisms;

22.   Calls on Albania to make further efforts to align with EU environmental legislation and the requirements of chapter 27; welcomes in this respect the establishment of a National Agency for Protected Areas and an Agency for the Albanian Coast;

23.   Calls on the Albanian Government to control the development of hydropower plants in environmentally sensitive areas such as around the Vjosa River and in protected areas and to maintain the integrity of existing national parks; recommends improving the quality of environmental impact assessments, which would allow account to be taken of EU standards as established by the Birds and Habitats Directives and the Water Framework Directive; encourages the Albanian Government to increase transparency through public participation and consultation on planned projects;

24.   Calls on Albania to carry out the relevant measurements relating to environmental protection and waste management and to take additional measures against the improper disposal and removal of waste, particularly marine waste;

25.   Calls on the government to adopt and implement a national energy strategy; is concerned at Albania’s failure to submit a renewable energy action plan to the Energy Community, which triggered an infringement procedure; is equally concerned at the fact that Albania missed its Energy Community deadline to align its law with the 2006 Directive on Energy End-Use Efficiency Services; urges the government to do more on energy efficiency by adopting a new law on energy efficiency in buildings;

26.   Commends Albania for remaining a constructive partner in the region and for being proactive in regional cooperation; underlines the importance of ensuring good neighbourly relations, which remain essential; notes positively Albania’s commitment to the regional cooperation initiatives taken at the Western Balkans Summits in Berlin in 2014 and Vienna in 2015; welcomes Albania’s constructive role in the connectivity agenda; calls on the competent authorities to ensure full and swift implementation of the technical standards and soft measures in the transport sector that were agreed during the 2015 Western Balkans Summit in Vienna, before the next summit, due to take place in Paris in 2016;

27.   Welcomes the continued political will to improve relations with Serbia and encourages Albania and Serbia to take further measures to promote regional stability and cooperation and good neighbourly relations; encourages Albania, in light of these efforts, to continue with the development of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office, headquartered in Tirana, which is of paramount importance for further reconciliation in the region, particularly among young people; recommends the speeding-up of the construction of major infrastructure projects such as the rail link and modern highway between Tirana and Skopje as part of Corridor VIII; commends Albania for full alignment with all the relevant CFSP declarations and European Council conclusions and for its readiness to contribute to the European assistance and resettlement schemes for Syrian refugees; urges the government to pursue further efforts to deal with the large number of manifestly unfounded asylum applications lodged with Member States and to take determined action via the post-visa liberalisation monitoring mechanism to engage in closer operational cooperation and information exchange with Member States and neighbouring countries; calls on the government also to consider taking further measures to improve socio-economic living conditions; welcomes the Commission proposal to establish a common EU list of safe countries of origin and supports Albania’s inclusion on that list;

28.   Supports, in the context of the Berlin Process, the creation of the Western Balkans Civil Society Forum, which provides an opportunity for civil society representatives from the regions to exchange ideas, voice their concerns and formulate concrete recommendations to decision-makers, and calls for the continuation of this process during the next summit, to be held in Paris in 2016, as well as for the organisation of preparatory workshops involving civil society organisations in the region;

29.   Welcomes Albania’s commitment to the fight against radicalisation and terrorism and adoption of relevant security strategies and an action plan; welcomes the fact that the updated strategic framework includes a strategy on countering violent extremism; is concerned that Albania, as well as other countries, is affected by the phenomenon of returning foreign fighters, Islamic radicalisation and violent extremism; welcomes, in this connection, measures taken by the Albanian Government to prevent the outflow of foreign fighters to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria; considers it essential to continue to implement an effective policy to prevent Islamic radicalisation, to counter violent extremism also with the inclusion of CSOs and religious communities, to prevent and disrupt the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, to counter the financing of terrorism, and to develop a specific rule of law-based approach for intelligence and law enforcement agencies and a coherent judicial policy on offenders; recommends, furthermore, intensifying effective regional cooperation and cooperation with the relevant services of the Member States on this issue, including on the exchange of information; takes the view that all measures taken in this direction should ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international standards and instruments;

30.   Regrets that, due to a lack of spirit of cooperation and compromise within the Albanian delegation, no meaningful debate can be held currently in the SAPC and that no recommendation could be adopted at its ninth meeting; appeals for steps to be taken to strengthen the SAPC in order for it to make a positive contribution to Albania’s EU accession process;

31.   Requests that the Commission include detailed information about IPA support for Albania and the implementation of measures in its future reports, in particular the IPA support allocated to the implementation of the key priorities and relevant projects, bearing in mind the Commission’s declaration on the Strategic Dialogue with the European Parliament;

32.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the Government and Parliament of Albania.


2015 Report on Bosnia and Herzegovina
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European Parliament resolution of 14 April 2016 on the 2015 Report on Bosnia and Herzegovina (2015/2897(RSP) )
P8_TA(2016)0135 B8-0441/2016

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), of the other part(1) ,

–   having regard to BiH’s application for membership of the European Union on 15 February 2016,

–   having regard to the Council decision of 21 April 2015 concluding the SAA with BiH,

–   having regard to the European Council conclusions of 19-20 June 2003 on the Western Balkans and to the annex thereto entitled ‘The Thessaloniki Agenda for the Western Balkans: moving towards European integration’,

–   having regard to the Council conclusions of 16 March, 12 October and 15 December 2015 concerning BiH,

–   having regard to the first meeting of the EU-BiH Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee (SAPC) held in Sarajevo on 5-6 November 2015 and the first meetings of the Stabilisation and Association Council (SAC) and the Stabilisation and Association Committee between BiH and the EU held on 11 and 17 December 2015 respectively,

–   having regard to the Final Declaration by the Chair of the Vienna Western Balkans Summit of 27 August 2015 and to the Recommendations of the Civil Society Organisations for the Vienna Summit 2015,

–   having regard to the Commission Communication of 10 November 2015 entitled ‘EU Enlargement Strategy’ (COM(2015)0611 ), accompanied by the Commission Staff Working Document entitled ‘Bosnia and Herzegovina 2015 Report’ (SWD(2015)0214 ),

–   having regard to the Written Commitment to EU Integration adopted by the BiH Presidency on 29 January 2015 and endorsed by the BiH Parliamentary Assembly on 23 February 2015, as well as to the Reform Agenda for BiH 2015-2018 adopted by all three levels of government in July 2015,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on the country, including its resolutions of 9 July 2015 on the Srebrenica Commemoration(2) and of 17 December 2015 on the 20th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement(3) ,

–   having regard to the conference on the ‘European Future of Bosnia and Herzegovina – 20 years after Dayton-Paris Peace Agreement’ held in the European Parliament on 9 December 2015,

–   having regard to the work of Cristian Dan Preda as the standing rapporteur on Bosnia and Herzegovina for the Committee on Foreign Affairs,

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

A.   whereas the EU remains committed to BiH’s European perspective, and to its territorial integrity, sovereignty and unity;

B.   whereas EU accession is an inclusive process which requires consensus on the Reform Agenda; whereas BiH citizens must be placed at the centre of institutional, economic and social reforms;

C.   whereas the EU initiated a renewed approach to BiH in order for the country to progress towards the EU and address the outstanding socio-economic and rule-of-law challenges, thereby allowing the country to prepare for future membership; whereas, following this approach, the SAA entered into force on 1 June 2015;

D.   whereas an effective coordination mechanism on EU matters between the various levels of government is indispensable in order to ensure better interaction with the EU, to facilitate the alignment, implementation and enforcement of EU laws, and to make BiH’s EU membership application a success; whereas the BiH Council of Ministers (CoM) adopted the ‘Decision on a Coordination System in the Process of European Integration in Bosnia and Herzegovina’ on 26 January 2016; whereas progress in its coordination on EU matters will open the way for BiH to benefit fully from EU funding;

E.   whereas there are still 84 500 internally displaced persons as well as a huge number of refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina in neighbouring countries, all around Europe and world-wide;

F.   whereas strong political support is a key factor in making the country’s institutional set‑up more effective;

1.   Welcomes the first more positive Commission Report on BiH and reiterates its unequivocal commitment to BiH’s European perspective; calls on the authorities to show determination in pursuing institutional and socio-economic reforms, including their effective implementation, and making steady progress towards the EU; calls for transparency in the process of planning and implementing reforms; welcomes the Joint Action Plan by the State and Entities to implement the 2015-2018 Reform Agenda, and calls for harmonised implementation in order to achieve real, visible change across the country and to improve the lives of all BiH citizens;

2.   Welcomes the submission of the application for EU membership by BiH on 15 February 2016; calls on the Council to examine this application at the earliest opportunity and to forward it without delay to the Commission in order to start the preparation of the avis ;

3.   Welcomes the adoption by the BiH CoM, on 26 January 2016, of a decision establishing a coordination mechanism on EU matters and, on 9 February 2016, of the negotiation position on the adaptation of the SAA following the accession of Croatia to the EU; recalls that, alongside meaningful progress in the implementation of the Reform Agenda, these elements are necessary for the EU to consider the membership application as credible; calls for the entities’ position on the adopted coordination mechanism to be harmonised without delay and encourages cooperation between all stakeholders in further improving it; calls for its swift implementation and urges constructive cooperation on EU matters; stresses that this mechanism is indispensable for efficient decision-making in the EU accession process; welcomes the initial concrete consultations – on a parliamentary level – with a view to the full implementation of the coordination mechanism, and strongly encourages the further intensification of such meetings among institutional stakeholders; insists again on the adaptation of trade concessions granted under the SAA; considers the full implementation of the SAA, including its adaptation, an important element of BiH’s commitment to the EU and one of the preconditions for endorsement of its candidacy for membership; recommends that BiH also engage with the EU Member States on its progress towards the EU;

4.   Reiterates the need to continue also with constitutional, legal and political reforms that would transform BiH into a fully effective, inclusive and functional state, guaranteeing the equality and democratic representation of all its constituent peoples and all citizens, and guaranteeing that all citizens can stand as candidates and are eligible to be elected and to serve at all political levels, on equal grounds and regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds, in accordance with the principles expressed in its previous resolution, including the Copenhagen criteria, the EU acquis , recommendations made by the Venice Commission and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the relevant decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR); calls on the authorities to actively promote the principles of legitimate representation, federalism, decentralisation and subsidiarity, as well as European values and the importance of the European perspective; calls on the EU institutions to become actively involved in the efforts to find a sustainable solution to BiH’s constitutional arrangements;

5.   Urges political and religious leaders to refrain from divisive nationalistic and secessionist rhetoric that polarises society and to continue with political dialogue and activities aimed at mutual respect, consensus and cooperation between legitimate political representatives and at protecting the diversity of its society; calls on all citizens to embrace reconciliation and cooperation, which are key prerequisites for attaining the European perspective;

6.   Emphasises the important role of grassroots civil society in the process of peace-building and reconciliation, and particularly youth participation in intercultural dialogue and exchange, as well as in the political sphere; notes the significant role of cultural activists, artists, writers and academics in promoting dialogue and understanding between the different groups in society; urges the promotion of education for democracy, fundamental rights and citizenship in Bosnia and Herzegovina;

7.   Takes note of the announcement by the President of the Republika Srpska (RS) to postpone the planned referendum in the RS on the BiH State-level judiciary; regrets, however, that this decision has not been passed by the RS National Assembly; calls for this idea of a referendum to be dropped altogether, as it challenges the cohesion, sovereignty and integrity of the country and risks undermining the efforts being made to improve the socio-economic situation of all BiH citizens and to make further progress towards EU integration; stresses that any shortcomings in the BiH judiciary should be addressed in a spirit of cooperation rather than through unilateral initiatives, within the broadened Structured Dialogue on Justice; recalls that under the Dayton Agreement the RS has no right to secession;

8.   Is deeply concerned about statements made by the Interior Minister of the Republika Srpska about the future training of RS special police units in the Russian Federation, the deepening of cooperation, particularly regarding the exchange of information, and the intention to buy Russian military equipment; calls on the authorities in the RS not to pursue an independent foreign and security policy which might undermine the State-level policy;

9.   Welcomes the entry into force of the SAA and the fact that the SAPC was the first common body constituted on its basis; deeply regrets, however, that it failed to adopt its Rules of Procedure (RoP) due to the attempts to introduce ethnic blocking into the SAPC’s voting rules; recalls that the SAA requires the adoption of the RoP and failure to do so is in direct breach of implementation of the SAA; urges the Bosnian delegation to work constructively in this respect towards the adoption of the RoP at the next meeting of the SAPC without delay; welcomes the first meetings of the SAC between BiH and the EU held on 11 December 2015;

10.   Deplores the fact that corruption, including corruption at the highest level, continues to be widespread and that political commitments have not translated into concrete results; remains concerned about the weak legal and institutional framework to combat corruption, which allows engagement in corrupt practices with impunity, and about the low number of final convictions in corruption cases; calls for improvements in the track record of effective investigation and prosecution in high-profile corruption cases involving politicians, high-level officials and regulatory institutions, and in the framework of public procurement and privatisation; commends the adoption of the 2015-2019 anti-corruption strategy and action plan and urges the allocation of a sufficient budget for its implementation; calls for the significant enhancement of country-wide inter-agency cooperation; urges the establishment of dedicated corruption prevention and monitoring structures and the adoption of corruption prevention policy documents at all levels of government; urges full implementation of the GRECO recommendations without delay;

11.   Emphasises that a functional and stable judiciary is of paramount importance for ensuring the rule of law in the country and for BiH’s further progress towards the EU; is concerned about increased pressure on the judiciary by political actors; states the urgent need to strengthen the independence of the judiciary in BiH; is concerned in particular about cases of political interference in court proceedings, the politicisation of appointment procedures in the judiciary, the continued fragmentation into four different legal systems and the lack of an effective and objective system for assessing the professional qualities of judges; welcomes the updated 2014-2018 Justice Sector Reform Strategy and calls for an action plan for its implementation with a strong focus on country-wide harmonisation efforts; deems it essential to guarantee a more professional, independent and accountable judicial system, including the systematic application of objective criteria for appointments; welcomes the protocol signed by Entity- and State-level justice ministers aiming at reforms of the State-level judiciary and the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council; welcomes the appointment of Ombudspersons, but is concerned about the ongoing financial and human resource difficulties faced by the Ombudsperson’s Office; calls for rapid adoption of the law on the reform of the Ombudsperson;

12.   Remains concerned that access to free legal aid is very limited; urges the competent authorities to adopt a law on free legal aid at State level as a prerequisite for guaranteeing equal, effective and non-discriminatory access to justice; believes that the implementation of such a law is crucial for strengthening the confidence of citizens in the rule of law;

13.   Strongly condemns the still effective law on public order in the RS, which undermines the fundamental democratic rights of the freedom of assembly, freedom of association and freedom of media; urges full implementation of the Freedom of Access of Information Act, as this is still uneven and frequently limited when the right to privacy and the protection of the commercial interests of companies dealing with governments is invoked, thus depriving citizens of an efficient means of appeal when information is denied; commends the adoption of amendments to the BiH Criminal Code that bring its provisions on torture, enforced disappearance and rape into line with international standards; urges the authorities to incorporate criminal offences listed in the Additional Protocol to the International Convention on Cybercrime into the criminal code;

14.   Considers it important to improve cooperation between the State-level, Entity-level and Brčko District parliaments and to hold joint meetings between them; takes note of the commitments made in the framework of the parliamentary twinning and calls for urgent implementation of the resulting recommendations, as well as the operationalisation of the agreed framework for cooperation; welcomes, in this context, the signing of the ‘Concept of mechanism of cooperation of parliaments in BiH in activities related to the EU integration process’; calls for improvements in the overall coordination with cantonal assemblies;

15.   Notes the role played by the Joint Parliamentary Committee for Security and Defence in ensuring democratic control over the armed forces of BiH; is concerned by the widespread presence of weapons held illegally by the population and the large stockpiles of ammunition and weapons still held under the responsibility of the armed forces; commends the progress made by the armed forces in disposing of the most unstable ammunition and in building sustainable capacity to manage the rest of the stockpiles; urges the adoption of a comprehensive approach to address the remaining challenges of clearing the country of mines by 2019; calls on the Commission and the VP/HR to enhance aid for these activities;

16.   Urges the members of the working group for the preparation of amendments to the election law of Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure that amendments to the law create the basis for genuine democratic elections as an expression of sovereignty; stresses that democratic elections cannot be achieved unless a wide range of other human rights and fundamental freedoms can be exercised on an ongoing basis without discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, gender, political and other opinion, property, birth or other status, and without arbitrary and unreasonable restrictions;

17.   Is of the view that the fragmentation of public administration, its politicisation and weak policy coordination hamper institutional and legislative reforms and have an impact on the provision of public services to citizens; calls on the competent authorities at all levels to enhance medium-term policy planning and to develop a comprehensive and country-wide strategic framework for public administration reform and a public financial management programme, in line with the European Principles for Public Administration that have been identified by OECD/SIGMA for candidates for EU membership;

18.   Recognises that agriculture is a key economic sector for Bosnia and Herzegovina, as around 20 % of BiH’s population is reliant directly or indirectly on the sector; welcomes, therefore, progress made in the field of food safety and veterinary policy and the Commission’s decision to approve the export of BiH milk and dairy products to the EU; encourages greater efforts to align the official veterinary and phytosanitary control system with European standards and to establish the necessary institutional structures that would allow the use of the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance for Rural Development; calls on the government to support the establishment of a State-level ministry of agriculture and an accompanying development strategy;

19.   Expresses its concern about insufficient mechanisms for cooperation between government and civil society organisations (CSOs), including their limited capacity to participate in policy dialogue on the Reform Agenda; considers it essential to enhance the role of civil society and to engage citizens in the EU accession process; reiterates its calls for the creation and implementation of transparent and inclusive public consultation mechanisms; calls on the competent authorities at all levels to improve the relevant legal and financial framework, to adopt a national strategy on CSOs and to ensure transparent public funding for CSOs in order to foster a more participatory and inclusive democracy across the country; calls on the CSOs and activists to significantly strengthen their capacities and structures and to engage with the authorities in BiH, the EU and the international community; calls on the latter bodies to assist them in these efforts;

20.   Notes the uncoordinated implementation of the 2014-2016 strategy on combating organised crime; urges the adoption and implementation of a new strategy and action plan on money laundering in line with the MONEYVAL recommendations; stresses the need for a victim-centred approach and a multidisciplinary and comprehensive strategy to combat trafficking in drugs and human beings; calls on the EU and BiH authorities to work together to effectively combat human trafficking and to provide protection for the victims; welcomes the adoption of the 2016-2019 Action Plan for Fighting Human Trafficking in BiH, including its emphasis on problems related to migrant workers and the forced begging of children, and calls for its effective implementation; remains concerned about the large volume of illegal arms in Bosnia which are easily transferred to the EU; calls on the competent authorities to enhance their efforts to prosecute arms brokers and smugglers and to do more to combat the uncontrolled proliferation and illicit trafficking of weapons, notably small and light weapons, also through closer regional cooperation and cooperation between BiH and the EU;

21.   Invites the authorities to develop an action plan for the implementation of the 2015-2020 strategy for the prevention and fight against terrorism; calls on the authorities to strengthen their efforts to ensure more effective country-wide cooperation between police, intelligence and security agencies in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism; calls for the strengthening of BiH’s counter-terrorism capacity; urges the competent authorities to undertake greater efforts in the fight against terrorist financing, including the creation of a legal framework to allow for the freezing of assets of terrorist groups; considers it essential that security operations in BiH are coordinated and that data are shared within the country; stresses that closer cooperation between regional security services is also paramount, and encourages further cooperation in that respect;

22.   Stresses that BiH has been seriously affected by the phenomenon of foreign fighters and radicalisation; is concerned about radicalisation among young people, a high number of whom – compared to other countries in the region – have joined Daesh; calls for the continuation and strengthening of measures against radicalisation and terrorism; welcomes efforts to strengthen inter-religious dialogue, including the joint statement by political and religious leaders condemning terrorism and violent extremism; welcomes the first judgments delivered on foreign fighters on the basis of the criminal offences of financing terrorist activities, public instigation of terrorist activities, and organising and joining Daesh; calls for the urgent development of effective de-radicalisation programmes and for urgent efforts to provide a better economic perspective for young people in BiH in line with the Positive Agenda for Youth in the Western Balkans, thus deterring them from associating themselves with radical and extreme ideologies; encourages efforts to engage the media, the academic community and civil society in helping to raise awareness of the risk factors that allow radicalisation to evolve into violent extremism; encourages the development of national and regional Radicalisation Awareness Networks based on best practices and tools available from the EU-wide Radicalisation Awareness Network; encourages closer cooperation with security services in the EU and neighbouring countries, including on the exchange of information; encourages police operations throughout BiH that result in the arrest of persons suspected of organising, supporting and financing terrorist activities;

23.   Notes that the legal and institutional framework for the observance of human rights requires substantial improvements; calls for the development of a country-wide anti-discrimination strategy in cooperation with CSOs; urges once again the inclusion of a clear definition of gender identity, sexual orientation, age and disability as grounds for discrimination in the anti-discrimination law; calls for its effective implementation and for the role of the Human Rights Ombudsman to be strengthened; is concerned about discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, access to health care and the provision of other services; is concerned about hate violence, hate speech and the reported increase in threats towards LGBTI persons; encourages the government to address this inter alia by implementing awareness-raising actions on the rights of LGBTI people among the judiciary, law enforcement agencies and the general public; notes significant progress in completion of the civil registration process for Roma, but remains concerned about limited action on improving their health, education and employment prospects; urges the authorities in particular to fight gender-based discrimination; urges the repeal of the provision on the death penalty in the RS entity Constitution;

24.   Regrets that no progress has been made with regard to the implementation of the Sejdić-Finci and Zornić cases, and recalls that BiH remains in breach of the ECtHR rulings on these; stresses once again that the failure to implement these continues to result in discrimination against BiH citizens and may therefore hinder BiH’s EU accession path;

25.   Urges the more forceful and proper investigation and prosecution of cases of hate crime and hate speech, including on ethnic grounds, and of dissemination of extremist ideologies through social media; regrets that the Federation remains the only territory in the Western Balkans where the sanctioning of hate crime is not regulated by criminal law and urges the inclusion of such a provision; calls, similarly, for the inclusion of a hate speech provision in the criminal laws of all the entities;

26.   Reiterates that electoral law and the electoral system must give all three constituent peoples and all other citizens the opportunity to freely and autonomously elect their own legitimate political representatives to the institutions and authorities;

27.   Stresses the important role of civil society in protecting and promoting minority rights in the country, as well as in fostering social harmony and tolerance and increasing people’s understanding of the benefits of diversity; calls for the further involvement of civil society in addressing challenges of ethnic division in order to help the country advance towards the EU; calls also for better coordination between the competent authorities and the CSOs in order to ensure better enforcement of the law on minorities;

28.   Welcomes the adoption of the 2015-2018 strategy for implementing the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence; calls for the urgent adoption and application of the Framework Strategy for the Implementation of the Istanbul Convention; is concerned about the lack of a comprehensive State-level legal framework on sexual assault and of an appropriate compensation mechanism for victims; calls on the competent authorities to ensure the proper financing of, and better legislation on, ‘safe houses’ and to establish a harmonised system for monitoring and collecting data on cases of violence against women; calls also for every effort to be made to increase the participation of women in politics and employment, to improve their social and economic situation – especially regarding access to the right to maternity leave and benefits – and to promote, protect and strengthen women’s rights; urges the governments at all levels to raise awareness of these issues, with the help of civil society, so that women make use of the protection available under the law;

29.   Stresses the essential role of education in creating and promoting a tolerant and inclusive society, as well as in fostering cooperation and cohesion across cultural, religious and ethnic lines; notes with regret the slow progress made in addressing the issue of ‘two schools under one roof’ and other forms of segregation and discrimination in schools, and deplores the fact that a common core curriculum is still not being developed; urges the adoption of concrete measures to start the desegregation of the educational system; stresses the need for significant efforts to improve the efficiency of the fragmented education system, while guaranteeing the right to equal education opportunities in all official languages of BiH and the right of every community to education in its language; urges the authorities to ensure the effective implementation of inclusive education principles with regard to children with disabilities;

30.   Welcomes BiH’s active participation in the Western Balkans Platform on Education and Training, as well as its continuing participation in Erasmus+ and the Western Balkans Youth Window, which play a very important role in the battle against very high youth unemployment rates; welcomes also the commitment of BiH to take part in the 2018 OECD PISA study; regards this study as a useful instrument for debating the quality of education and necessary reforms; commends the expressed will of all 13 ministries of education and all related agencies to take part in this joint effort; calls on the Commission to consider financing BiH’s participation in the study from pre-accession funds;

31.   Stresses that independent and professional media institutions are one of the key components of a thriving democratic society; expresses its concern therefore about backsliding in the area of freedom of expression, cases of political pressure on and intimidation of journalists, including the subjection of some media outlets to bogus financial and other inspections by local and national authorities, and the continued polarisation of the media along political and ethnic lines; calls on the competent authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into attacks on journalists and to create a legal framework for the protection of journalists; calls, moreover, for urgent action to secure the political, institutional and financial independence of the Communications Regulatory Authority and to ensure transparency in media ownership by closing all legislative loopholes which systematically hamper full transparency; notes that the implementation of these measures is crucial to ensuring the absence of all undue political influence; calls for action to ensure media pluralism and broadcasting in all official languages; calls also for the editorial independence and financial stability of the public service broadcasters to be enhanced in view of the significance of the existence of a public service broadcaster for the unity of BiH; is concerned that targeted cyber-attacks against information sites are not prosecuted;

32.   Welcomes the progress made in reducing the backlog of war crimes cases; notes the ICTY’s concerns regarding the insufficient follow-up by the State Prosecutor’s Office on repeated requests to complete war crimes cases; calls for a revision of the National War Crimes Strategy, for more effective and better prosecution of acts of wartime sexual violence and for improvements in the protection of victims; calls for action to ensure their right to effective compensation;

33.   Notes some action and calls for more progress on the sustainable return of internally displaced persons and refugees, including on employment, education, social protection, the return of property and healthcare at local level; reiterates the importance of encouraging their sustainable return to BiH, in particular to the RS; calls on all levels of government to protect them and to speed up the process of their return by introducing and implementing all necessary legislative and administrative measures; calls for the effective implementation of the revised strategy regarding Annex VII of the Dayton Peace Agreement; calls on the Commission to provide adequate financial and project assistance which would facilitate this process; notes the persistently high number of missing persons and calls on the competent authorities to embark on intensive cooperation and to strengthen their efforts to find the 7 019 persons still missing as a result of the war; stresses the need to further develop alternative approaches to justice, inter alia by building on the UNDP strategy on transitional justice; calls on the authorities in BiH to invest significant resources in relevant programmes;

34.   Notes that while post-war rehabilitation and reconstruction in BiH has been largely successful and has brought the country closer towards the EU, challenges still remain concerning the sustainability of the reconciliation process; stresses therefore the importance of education on reconciliation and mutual understanding in society;

35.   Welcomes the rise in registered employment, as well as the first steps taken to strengthen policy coordination and to improve the business climate; remains concerned about state influence on the economy, the quality of public finances, the high degree of dependence on funding from international loan investment, the unclear origin of international investment and the difficult labour market conditions; stresses the need to address the persistently high long-term unemployment rate (27,6 %), including very high youth unemployment (62,7 %), and the large informal economy and to improve the operation of the labour market;

36.   Welcomes the adoption of new labour legislation by both entities; regrets the lack of a unified single economic area, which hampers the business environment; urges further improvement of the business environment by strengthening the rule of law, simplifying contract enforcement and fighting corruption; regrets that BiH has not developed a State-level SME strategy;

37.   Stresses the need to reform and harmonise the fragmented social protection systems on the basis of citizens’ needs in order to provide equal treatment for all; notes that trade union and labour rights, including health and safety laws, are still limited, and stresses the importance of further enhancing and harmonising these laws across the country;

38.   Urges the adoption of country-wide sectoral strategies on transport, energy and the environment; stresses that these strategies are needed inter alia to benefit fully from EU pre-accession assistance;

39.   Welcomes the participation of BiH in the Western Balkan 6 initiative; highlights the importance of two major investment projects – ‘Stara Gradiška’ and ‘Svilaj’ – which will facilitate trade, regional integration and sustainable growth; urges the authorities to ensure the full and swift implementation of technical standards and soft measures in transport which were agreed during the 2015 WB Summit in Vienna (e.g. aligning/ simplifying border crossing procedures, information systems, maintenance schemes, unbundling and third-party access to networks) before the upcoming 2016 Summit in Paris;

40.   Calls for the results of the population and housing census to be published without further delay, because these are instrumental for economic and social planning; points out also that data from the 2013 census will be needed to fill in the questionnaire that BiH will receive from the Commission;

41.   Urges the BiH statistical agencies to align their statistics with Eurostat standards;

42.   Is concerned about backsliding in the field of the information society; calls for urgent implementation of the digital switchover; urges the establishment of the supervisory body for accreditation of the e-commerce and e-signature laws at State level, as the latter have yet to be implemented due to the absence of this body; calls on the authorities responsible to accelerate successful implementation of the European emergency number 112, which was established in 2009;

43.   Notes the limited measures and activities carried out on adaptation to climate change and the initial steps taken to develop the Natura 2000 network on nature protection; calls on the competent authorities to establish a harmonised legal framework for environmental protection and climate action and to strengthen strategic planning and alignment with the acquis in these fields; calls on the competent authorities to prevent excessive air pollution in line with EU environmental standards, including pollution caused by the oil refinery in Bosanski Brod; reiterates the need for BiH to fully implement its obligations regarding the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo, 1991) and the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (Kiev, 2003);

44.   Calls on the BiH Government to regulate and monitor the development of hydropower plants in environmentally sensitive areas, as well as in protected and potentially protected areas, and to maintain the integrity of existing national parks, such as Sutjeska National Park and Una National Park; recommends that the quality of environmental impact assessments be improved to take into account EU standards as established by the Birds and Habitats Directives and the Water Framework Directive; encourages the BiH Government to increase transparency through public participation and consultation on planned projects with local communities, scientific experts and the civil sector;

45.   Congratulates BiH on assuming the Presidency of the Energy Community in 2016; is, however, concerned about the imposition of Energy Community sanctions against BiH; reiterates its call on BiH to take measures to connect to the energy infrastructures of neighbouring countries and to honour all its contractual obligations under the Energy Community Treaty;

46.   Denounces the Law on Public Peace and Order adopted in the RS in February 2015 which criminalises social media postings that disturb the public order or contain indecent, offensive or insulting content, as this paves the way for legal restrictions on online free expression and free media and may create self-censorship among social media users;

47.   Commends BiH’s constructive and pro-active role in promoting regional cooperation; takes the view that concrete cooperation in areas of mutual interest can contribute to the stabilisation of the Western Balkans; welcomes the border agreement with Montenegro; calls for further efforts to resolve outstanding bilateral issues, including on border demarcation matters with Serbia and Croatia, and to address issues of transboundary environmental pollution; welcomes the first joint session of the BiH Council of Ministers with the Serbian Government that took place on 4 November 2015 in Sarajevo;

48.   Welcomes the increase in the rate of alignment with CFSP decisions from 52 % to 62 %; considers it necessary, in the light of BiH’s application to join the EU, to coordinate foreign policy to a great extent with the EU’s CFSP;

49.   Calls on the BiH authorities, in the context of the upcoming local elections, to implement the relevant recommendations made by international and local observers and OSCE/ODIHR in order to ensure the credibility and integrity of the electoral process; urges the authorities to regulate the local elections in Mostar as a matter of urgency;

50.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the VP/HR, the Council, the Commission, the Presidency of BiH, the Council of Ministers of BiH, the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH, the governments and parliaments of the Federation of BiH and the RS, and the governments of the 10 cantons.

(1) OJ L 164, 30.6.2015, p. 2.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0276 .
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0471 .


Meeting the antipoverty target in the light of increasing household costs
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European Parliament resolution of 14 April 2016 on meeting the antipoverty target in the light of increasing household costs (2015/2223(INI) )
P8_TA(2016)0136 A8-0040/2016

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Treaty on European Union (TEU), in particular Article 3 thereof, and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), in particular Article 9 thereof,

–   having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, in particular Articles 1 and 34(3) thereof,

–   having regard to Regulation (EU) 2015/1017 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 June 2015 on the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the European Investment Advisory Hub and the European Investment Project Portal and amending Regulations (EU) No 1291/2013 and (EU) No 1316/2013(1) ,

–   having regard to Regulation (EU) No 223/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2014 on the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived(2) ,

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

–   having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1301/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on the European Regional Development Fund and on specific provisions concerning the Investment for growth and jobs goal and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1080/2006(4) ,

–   having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund covered by the Common Strategic Framework and laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006(5) ,

–   having regard to Directive 2014/92/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 2014 on the comparability of fees related to payment accounts, payment account switching and access to payment accounts with basic features(6) ,

–   having regard to Directive 2012/27/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on energy efficiency, amending Directives 2009/125/EC and 2010/30/EU and repealing Directives 2004/8/EC and 2006/32/EC(7) , and to its resolution of 15 December 2010 on Revision of the Energy Efficiency Action Plan(8) ,

–   having regard to Directive 2010/31/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 May 2010 on the energy performance of buildings(9) ,

–   having regard to the Commission Communication of 27 October 2015 entitled ‘Commission Work Programme 2016 – No time for business as usual’ (COM(2015)0610 ),

–   having regard to the Commission Communication of 5 March 2014 entitled ‘Taking stock of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ (COM(2014)0130 ),

–   having regard to the Commission Communication entitled ‘The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion: A European framework for social and territorial cohesion’ (COM(2010)0758 ) and to the opinions of the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, as well as its resolution of 15 November 2011(10) on the same subject,

–   having regard to the Commission Communication of 3 March 2010 entitled ‘Europe 2020 – A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ (COM(2010)2020 ), as well as its resolution of 16 June 2010 on EU 2020(11) ,

–   having regard to the United Nations General Assembly resolution 64/292 of 28 July 2010 entitled ‘The human right to water and sanitation’(12) ,

–   having regard to the Commission pilot project for the development of a common methodology on reference budgets in Europe,

–   having regard to the report of the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (2012) ‘Measuring Child Poverty: New league tables of child poverty in the world’s rich countries’(13) ,

–   having regard to the report of the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (2014) ‘Children of the Recession: The impact of the economic crisis on child well-being in rich countries’(14) ,

–   having regard to the Commission’s EU Employment and Social Situation – Quarterly Review September 2015(15) ,

–   having regard to the Commission Social Investment Package of 20 February 2013,

–   having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 15 June 2011 on the ‘European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion: a European framework for Social and Territorial Cohesion’(16) ,

–   having regard to the OECD report ‘In It Together: Why Less Inequality Benefits All’ of 21 May 2015,

–   having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 18 September 2013 on ‘For coordinated European measures to prevent and combat energy poverty’(17) ,

–   having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 10 December 2013 on ‘European minimum income and poverty indicators’(18) ,

–   having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 31 March 2011 on the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion(19) ,

–   having regard to the Social Protection Committee (SPC) and Employment Committee (EMCO) joint opinion of 3 October 2014 entitled ‘Mid-term review of the Europe 2020 strategy’(20) ,

–   having regard to the SPC annual report of 10 March 2015 entitled ‘Social situation in the European Union (2014)’(21) ,

–   having regard to the studies entitled ‘The State of Lending: The Cumulative Costs of Predatory Practices’(22) , June 2015 and ‘Le panier de la ménagère pauvre’(23) , August 2008,

–   having regard to the opinion of the Social Protection Committee of 15 February 2011 entitled ‘The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion: Flagship Initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy’(24) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 8 September 2015 on the follow-up to the European Citizens’ Initiative Right2Water(25) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 8 July 2015 on the Green Employment Initiative: Tapping into the job creation potential of the green economy(26) ,

–   having regard to Council Decision (EU) 2015/1848 of 5 October 2015 on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States for 2015(27) , and to its position of 8 July 2015 on the proposal for a Council decision on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States(28) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 27 November 2014 on the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child(29) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 11 June 2013 on social housing in the European Union(30) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 4 July 2012 with recommendations to the Commission on Access to Basic Banking Services(31) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 20 October 2010 on the role of minimum income in combating poverty and promoting an inclusive society in Europe(32) ,

–   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 Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (A8-0040/2016 ),

A.   whereas between 2008 and 2013, the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU increased from 117 million to 122,6 million; whereas in 2013 16,7 % of the population of the EU was at risk of poverty after social transfers, 9,6 % were in a situation of serious material deprivation and 10,7 % of households were considered to have very low work intensity; whereas this development runs counter to the strategic objective of the EU that is defined in its Europe 2020 Strategy and which aims to reduce the number of people in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion by at least 20 million by 2020;

B.   whereas according to the Eurostat methodology the at-risk-of-poverty threshold is set at 60 % of national median equivalised disposable income;

C.   whereas energy savings and efficiency improvement, particularly with regard to the housing stock, would enable many households to escape energy poverty; whereas 10 % of EU citizens had arrears on utility bills in 2015 (37 % in the Member State most affected); 12 % of EU citizens were unable to keep their home adequately warm in 2014 (60 % in the Member State most affected); 16 % of the EU population was living in dwellings with leaking roofs and damp walls in 2014 (33 % in the Member State most affected) according to SILC statistics;

D.   whereas the number of long-term unemployed exceeds 12 million, of whom 62 % have been out of work for more than two consecutive years; whereas the long-term unemployed are more likely to be affected by poverty and social exclusion;

E.   having regard to the importance of the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) and of its continued existence at a time when the social crisis is affecting more and more Europeans;

F.   having regard to Article 34(3) of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which provides that in order to combat social exclusion and poverty, the Union recognises and respects the right to social and housing assistance so as to ensure a decent existence for all those who lack sufficient resources;

G.   whereas the prices of essential goods and services, at certain times and in certain countries, have increased relatively rapidly, and, as a result, so too has family expenditure;

H.   whereas the ‘chronic poor’ who are often long-term unemployed, but sometimes employed on low salaries and single people living alone with children who are not in employment or who are working less hours on average than the primary earner are consistently identified as among the most vulnerable groups;

I.   whereas there are as yet no established indicators of absolute poverty;

J.   whereas poor or inadequate housing greatly reduces the chance of leading a normal life; whereas the quality of housing (including appropriate insulation, etc.) provided for people in vulnerable situations has decreased during the crisis because of an inability to fund maintenance; whereas living for extended periods of time in low-quality housing can affect physical health;

K.   whereas the increase in family expenditure associated with the cost of accommodation, food, utilities (electricity, gas, water), transport, medical costs or costs associated with education, makes it difficult to achieve the objective of reducing poverty laid down in the Europe 2020 Strategy;

L.   whereas the cost of basic and essential goods and services in many EU countries has increased rapidly during the last years, leading to an increase in general household expenditures;

M.   whereas the combination of the financial and economic crisis and falling household revenues has increased unemployment and social exclusion within the EU, especially among the most vulnerable groups of people, thereby increasing the burden on welfare services;

N.   whereas unemployment among young people, which is already higher than for other age groups, has exploded in the European Union since the crisis and is now running at over 20 %, putting young people at risk of falling into poverty from a very early age; having regard to the Concluding Observations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child regarding the most recent periodic reports of certain European countries in relation to the increase in poverty and/or the level of risk of poverty for children as a consequence of the economic crisis; whereas this increase affects the rights to health, education and social protection;

O.   whereas poverty, which has been at a high level in the Member States over very many years, has an ever more significant effect on the economy, damages economic growth, increases public budget deficits and reduces European competitiveness;

P.   whereas not having adequate housing and heating have a negative impact on a person’s health, education and social and employment inclusion, in particular for the most vulnerable; whereas people are suffering from not being able to heat their houses both in the northern and southern Member States; whereas EU-SILC figures show that housing cost overburden (by tenure status) is higher for tenants housed in the private rented sector in some Member States, which may be explained by low housing quality and high prices; whereas many families have difficulty in meeting the cost of essential goods and services, also as a consequence of rising energy prices;

Q.   whereas energy poverty is linked to general poverty and is the result of a number of underlying conditions including issues concerning health and disability, a lack of access to tailored offers or online services, low incomes, the type of heating system in use in the household and the quality and energy performance of the housing stock;

R.   whereas the unemployed, one-parent families, low-income families, widows or widowers, the permanently ill, the elderly, young people, people with disabilities and minorities are often among the most vulnerable at risk of poverty and suffer particularly owing to the high cost of living;

S.   whereas the wide gap between Member States in the provision of welfare and a minimum income means that in some Member States welfare reduces the risk of poverty by 60 % and in others by only 15 %; whereas the average impact of the provision of welfare on reducing the risk of poverty in the EU is 35 %;

T.   whereas Eurofound’s forthcoming report entitled ‘Housing in Europe’ will include a model estimating that owing to existing levels of inadequate housing (dwellings) (as per 2011 data), the total cost of medical expenditure is over EUR 170 billion per annum to the economies of EU 28; whereas if all the repair work was undertaken, there would be medical cost savings of some EUR 8 billion in the first year, which would continue to accrue benefits in the future;

U.   whereas the UN has affirmed that the human right to water and sanitation entitles everyone to good quality, safe, physically accessible, affordable, sufficient and acceptable water for personal and domestic uses; whereas a further UN recommendation has stated that 3 % of household income should be seen as a maximum for water payments where payments apply; whereas the privatisation of water services has a negative impact on households living in, or at risk of, poverty;

V.   whereas energy poverty is becoming an increasingly widespread problem in Europe, and the situation is likely to get worse in the next few years owing to the forecast increases in energy prices, the corresponding increase in income inequality and in poverty in general, the lack of adequate heating systems and the general poor quality of housing insulation, in particular in Mediterranean countries;

W.   whereas there are 12 million more women than men living in poverty in the EU; whereas factors contributing to this inequality include the gender pay and pension gaps, the large proportion of women in precarious work, and the fact that women are often forced to be economically inactive due to the prohibitive cost of childcare;

X.   whereas the gender gaps in remuneration, working hours and duration of working lives that women faced during their working lives have a direct effect on their lives as pensioners; whereas, women above the age of 65, have a substantially higher risk of poverty or social exclusion than their male counterparts, as the average pension income of a woman is currently lower, and often substantially so, than that of a man;

Y.   whereas the Energy Union must provide an effective response to energy poverty, which affects more than 100 million Europeans, through strengthening the position of the most vulnerable consumers, improving energy efficiency for the most vulnerable and developing corrective measures to provide access to affordable energy for people in need;

Z.   whereas Directive 2012/27/EU calls on the Member States to develop programmes to raise awareness, and inform and advise individuals and households on energy efficiency;

AA.   whereas, given that the situation of poverty of a family as indivisible, the effect which the energy aspect has on poverty must be highlighted;

AB.   whereas the renewal of the national building stock with the aim of improved efficiency of energy use will have a direct impact on the cost of energy, particularly for less well-off families, and will encourage the creation of employment;

AC.   whereas 22 348 834 households (approximately 11 % of the EU population) spend more than 40 % of disposable income on housing; whereas the European Semester has identified housing cost overburden as a ‘social trend to watch’; whereas 21 942 491 households (approximately 10,8 % of the EU population) experience difficulty maintaining adequate household temperature; whereas the EU and the Member States should, as a matter of urgency, identify, implement and maintain policy measures that enable households to meet housing costs, including housing allowances;

AD.   whereas energy market prices are converging in Europe while purchasing power is not converging at the same rate;

AE.   whereas access to housing is a fundamental right that can be seen as a precondition for the exercise of, and access to, other fundamental rights and for access to a life in conditions of human dignity; whereas guaranteeing access to assistance for decent and adequate housing is an international obligation incumbent on the Member States, to which the Union must have regard, given that the right of access to housing and to housing assistance is recognised in Article 34 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Articles 30 and 31 of the revised European Social Charter adopted by the Council of Europe and Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, as well as in many Member States’ constitutions;

AF.   whereas housing represents the most significant expenditure item for European households; whereas the rise in prices associated with housing (land, property, rents, energy consumption) constitutes a source of instability and anxiety and must be regarded as an issue of major concern;

AG.   whereas housing deprivation and energy poverty are higher in countries with a lower share of social rental housing (i.e. Eastern and Mediterranean countries);

AH.   whereas the social rental stock as a percentage of total housing stock indicates that western and northern countries have a higher share of public social housing compared to the EU average, while Mediterranean and Eastern European countries maintain minimal (around 5 %) social housing stock or lacking social housing sector completely

AI.   whereas Eurofound research argues that for many people with low incomes, utility arrears are a principal type of debt, something which is sometimes overlooked;

AJ.   whereas social housing plays an essential role in achieving the Europe 2020 objective of reducing poverty, because it helps to ensure high levels of employment, social inclusion and cohesion, promotes occupational mobility and helps the fight against poverty;

AK.   whereas the Eurofound report entitled ‘Access to benefits: reducing non-take-up’ clearly highlights the problem that social benefits and minimum income schemes do not always reach those who are entitled to them; whereas it is not enough to establish such systems, and whereas take-up should be ensured for those who are entitled; whereas the savings realised in the longer term as a result of benefits reaching their target populations promptly, effectively and efficiently, must also be taken into account;

AL.   whereas the crisis has had consequences for the conditions of access to housing for households, and for investment in social housing within the Union, whereas the public expenditure dedicated to investments in social housing has been greatly affected by this, and whereas this places an obligation on the Member States and the Union to act as a matter of urgency so as to guarantee the right of access to decent and affordable housing;

AM.   whereas poverty and social exclusion remain a key social determinant of the state of health and living conditions, including life expectancy, in particular in view of the impact of child poverty on the health and well-being of children, and whereas the gap in terms of health between rich and poor remains significant in terms of affordable access to health services, and of income and wealth, and continues to widen in certain areas,

AN.   whereas the Social Protection Committee of the European Union, in its opinion of 20 May 2010, was concerned about the fact that the current economic and financial crisis could have negative effects on citizens’ access to healthcare and on the health budgets of the Member States;

AO.   whereas the current economic and financial crisis may have a severe impact on the healthcare sector in several Member States, on both the supply and the demand sides;

AP.   whereas the restrictions caused by the current economic and financial crisis could be seriously detrimental to the long-term financial and organisational viability of the healthcare systems of Member States and, therefore, impede equality of access to care on their territories;

AQ.   whereas the combination of poverty and other forms of vulnerability, such as childhood or old age, disability or minority background, further increases the risks of health inequalities, and whereas, conversely, ill health can lead to poverty and/or social exclusion;

AR.   whereas, according to the latest figures from Eurostat, 21 % of households in the EU-28 do not have internet access and whereas 20 % of 16-to 74 year-olds say that they have never used the internet; whereas the Netherlands has the highest proportion of households which have internet access (95 %), while Bulgaria is at the bottom of the list, with 54 % of households having internet access;

AS.   whereas the Digital Single Market is one of the 10 priorities of the new Commission and whereas, in future, 90 % of jobs will require some degree of IT skills; whereas, while 59 % of European citizens have access to the 4G network, in rural areas this percentage does not exceed the 15 % mark;

AT.   whereas a decent job remains the best way of staying clear of the risk of poverty and social exclusion, and whereas expertise in and access to information and communications technology are undeniable assets in the search for a job;

AU.   whereas the United Nations General Assembly resolution 64/292 of 28 July 2010 entitled ‘The human right to water and sanitation’ recognises the right to safe and clean drinking water as a fundamental right essential to the full exercise of the right to life and of all human rights;

AV.   whereas the intersectionality of the gender aspects of poverty requires a holistic approach to tackle multiple discrimination, and issues such as housing, energy costs, public services, job security, precarious employment, and taxation policies;

AW.   whereas the antipoverty targets cannot be met unless female poverty is tackled, as gender equality and the economic empowerment and the emancipation of women are necessary for upward convergence in poverty reduction;

AX.   whereas data collection and policymaking on poverty, living costs and income on the basis of households as constituent units assumes uniformity and equal distribution of resources between members of the household; whereas, in practice, households vary, and distribution can be unequal and gendered, requiring an approach to policymaking based on individual costs and income;

AY.   whereas 17 % of single-parent households, overwhelmingly headed by women, are unable to keep their houses warm, compared with only 10 % of the general population; whereas wholesale energy prices have decreased, while retail prices have increased, pushing costs upwards; whereas an EU-wide definition of energy poverty is regretfully lacking, while the phenomenon affects women disproportionately;

AZ.   whereas unemployment rates among young women are higher than other age groups, putting young women at risk of falling into poverty from an early age;

BA.   whereas while rising household costs and the overburden of housing costs are one of the drivers of women’s homelessness, more research is required on the rates and causes of women losing or leaving their homes; whereas household and individual indebtedness is directly related to household costs, and is a key driver of poverty and social exclusion;

Key Recommendations

Based on the recommendations developed in this resolution:

1.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to invest fully in the fight against poverty and social exclusion and to adopt an integrated strategy to combat its various forms by means of a holistic approach linking economic, education, employment, energy transport and social policies on the basis of best practices;

2.   Calls on the Member States to sign up to a winter heating disconnection moratorium so as to ensure that during a defined winter period no household can be cut off from energy or that those who are must be reconnected emphasising that related costs are public responsibility in nature, since social policies are primarily the responsibility of governments; calls on Member States to evaluate the measures needed to comply with the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards for adequate housing temperature;

3.   Invites the Commission to carry out an impact assessment of minimum income schemes in the EU and to consider further steps taking into account the economic and social circumstances of each Member State as well as assessing whether the schemes enable households to meet basic personal needs; invites the Commission to evaluate on this basis the manner and the means of providing at Member State level an adequate minimum income in line with national practices and traditions respecting the characteristics of each of them in order to support social convergence across the Union;

4.   Calls on the Member States to ensure a more efficient, targeted and more carefully monitored use of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds) by national, regional and local authorities in order to tackle energy poverty, increasing living costs, social exclusion, housing deprivation, and the insufficient quality of the housing stock; believes that the Commission should allow greater flexibility in this field;

5.   Invites the Commission and the Member States to dedicate a summit to the reduction of poverty, extreme poverty and social exclusion and access to decent living standards;

EU policies to meet the antipoverty target

6.   Finds regrettable that the number of people in or at risk of poverty or social exclusion increased even though the Europe 2020 Strategy aims to reduce the number of people in this category by at least 20 million; regrets also that the poverty index has shown improvement only in some Member States; calls on the Commission and the Member States to renew their commitment to the poverty reduction target that is getting further out of reach;

7.   Calls on the Member States to provide everyone with accessible adequate support, including minimum income as long as it is needed, and to provide different types of compensation essential for addressing a situation of poverty where costs cannot be lowered in the short term; highlights the importance of defining eligibility criteria in order to benefit from an adequate minimum income scheme;

8.   Calls on the Member States to reconsider and adapt any policies that may lead to increase of poverty;

9.   Calls on the Commission to study the possibility of extending the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived beyond the programming period 2014-2020, together with better co-ordination with other European funds, in particular the European Social Fund (ESF), and active employment policies, to facilitate the entry of the most deprived into the employment market and to evaluate the extent to which the most deprived and vulnerable groups, such as younger women, single-parent families, the disabled and elderly women have benefited from the programme;

10.   Calls on the Member States to facilitate the access of anti-poverty associations to European financing from the FEAD without adding administrative burdens for these associations, which are often understaffed;

11.   Calls on the Commission and on the Member States to introduce mechanisms for recognising skills acquired informally rather than formally;

12.   Stresses that initiatives such as the Youth Guarantee must be put into effect with a comprehensive understanding of the employment structure of the regions in which they are to be implemented; this means redefining the role of job centres, i.e. to assist users, to take account of all the specific circumstances of these users, to update skills and to focus attention on developing sectors through direct contact with businesses, in order to ascertain the competences that the latter require potential employees to possess;

13.   Welcomes the Commission’s intention to propose the creation of a European pillar of social rights; recalls that such a pillar should deliver on Article 9 TFEU;

14.   Supports the Commission’s intention to ensure a social triple A score for the Union by presenting new measures, in order to improve the effectiveness of social and employment policies, which includes a clear strategy for combating gendered aspects of social exclusion;

15.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to develop, adopt and implement an EU framework to reduce poverty and social exclusion in line with the Europe 2020 Strategy, consisting of concrete measures and actions, including energy poverty;

16.   Recalls the European Economic and Social Committee’s opinion entitled ‘For coordinated European measures to prevent and combat energy poverty’ and notes its recommendation ‘on setting up a European poverty observatory, whose main focus would be on energy poverty and which would bring together all the stakeholders to help define European energy poverty indicators (in conjunction with Eurostat), make an inventory of the situation, identify best practices and draw up recommendations for preventing and addressing the problem more effectively and establishing European solidarity in this sphere’; stresses the importance of developing indicators and collecting data on household consumption and costs in relation to energy poverty in order to provide reliable information and allow for evidence based policy making and effective monitoring;

17.   Considers that poverty and social exclusion have an intergenerational component and, accordingly, stresses the need to provide children from households below the poverty threshold with access to education and advocates policies aimed at preventing early school leaving;

18.   Calls on the Council and the Member States, in the context of increasing poverty, to intensify their efforts to come to the aid of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion, which includes a strong gender perspective, for example in the form of a Council Recommendation, in order to reach the poverty reduction target laid down in the Europe 2020 Strategy;

19.   Reiterates the importance of the empowerment of women and girls through education, including formal and non-formal education, and the role of education in combating gender stereotypes and in combating the stigmatisation of poverty and in increasing income through women’s inclusion in sectors where they have been under-represented such as science, technology, engineering, and entrepreneurship, and calls on the Commission to incorporate vocational training targets for women in the country-specific recommendations;

20.   Requests that each Member State provide a detailed trajectory of its poverty-reduction plan, and how its strategy addresses gender-specific aspects of poverty and social exclusion;

Resources and income of poor households

21.   Stresses that a decent income is a fundamental element for being able to live life in dignity; highlights that although employment can be crucial as a way out of poverty, it is important to have a minimum income sufficient to help people meet basic needs; recalls that 16,7 % of the population in the EU 28 in 2013 were at-risk-of-poverty after social transfers, meaning that their disposable income was below their national at-risk-of-poverty threshold, and that in-work poverty and absolute poverty remain unacceptably high;

22.   Invites the Commission, in the context of the European Semester, to make recommendations to the Member States regarding the policies to be put in place and the reforms to be made in order to combat poverty and social exclusion effectively in view of promoting social convergence, taking into account the specific features of each Member State;

23.   Recalls the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on ‘European minimum income and poverty indicators’; notes that the opinion supports a European framework on an adequate minimum income that should establish common standards and indicators, provide methods for the monitoring of its implementation and improve dialogue between stakeholders, Member States and EU institutions; considers that such a framework would need to be evidence and rights-based and should take into account the social and economic context of each Member State and has to respect the principle of subsidiarity;

24.   Stresses that minimum income schemes should prevent and lift households out of severe material deprivation and allow for an income above the poverty threshold; recalls that minimum income schemes at national level could be key instruments for delivering on Article 9 TFEU guaranteeing adequate social protection, the reduction of social exclusion, participating in society protection of human health and greater equality of opportunities; shares the opinion of the Economic and Social Committee that minimum income schemes should be accompanied by lifelong learning, stakeholder involvement and active labour market policies aimed at assisting unemployed people to return to the labour market and find decent jobs;

25.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to provide information, advise and support to people at risk of poverty and social exclusion in making educated choices regarding their energy consumption, and support non-governmental actors, local authorities providing targeted energy advice and training energy advisors, as well as to oblige energy providers to include information in their energy bills to households regarding measures to reduce energy consumption and to increase energy efficiency;

26.   Encourages the Member States and the Commission where appropriate for a proactive policy-making in relation to adequate housing so as to ensure access to quality housing; calls on the Member States to apply reasonable rent policy where urgent social measures are required and highlights that it should be accompanied by long-term housing and community programmes to increase the housing stock for different socially disadvantaged target groups; stresses that effective measures are still needed throughout the EU to prevent further creation of housing bubbles such as effective consumer protection regulation in the mortgage market; encourages policies in this respect aiming to help households with financial hardships to stay in their primary residence;

27.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure the European citizens’ fundamental right to housing assistance as a precondition of human dignity; calls for recognition of the importance of affordable rental accommodation as a means of facilitating access to housing for people on low income, and urges Member States to ensure a sufficient number of affordable homes;

28.   Underlines that poverty among older persons is a major problem in many Member States; calls therefore on the Member States to reform pension systems in order to guarantee an adequate level of pension incomes as well as sustainability and security of pension systems;

29.   Calls on the Commission to address the problem of homelessness as an extreme form of poverty, in particular winter deaths amongst homeless people and those living in cold homes; calls on Member States to reassess their progress towards ending such extreme forms of poverty;

30.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to urgently identify, implement and maintain policy measures that enable households to meet housing costs, including the provision of housing allowances, given that 22 348 834 households (approximately 11 % of the EU population) spend more than 40 % of their disposable income on housing and 21 942 491 households (approximately 10,8 % of the EU population) experience difficulty maintaining adequate household temperature;

31.   Recalls that low-income households and those in or at risk of poverty are more dependent on the provision of affordable, high-quality public services; calls on the Member States to meet the necessary public spending that provides high quality and affordable public services to low-income households;

Household expenditure of poor households

32.   Welcomes the Commission’s work on a reference budget, which is a step in the right direction given that addressing income and expenditure of poor households in a more balanced way with a data-based approach is still a challenge ahead; points out that reference budgets reflecting household cost could be used to design the support to be provided and to test its adequacy; considers such an instrument to be of crucial value to revive the Union’s social cohesion, reduce inequalities and achieve the Europe 2020 poverty and social exclusion target; stresses that lowering household expenditure for poor households will impact positively on the concerned households as well as on the economy, in particular the local economy, and on social cohesion;

33.   Recalls that poor households spend the largest share of their income on food, housing and utilities, calls therefore on the Commission to better link its policies in view of the fight against poverty, to improve the exchange of good practices and to facilitate a regular dialogue with those who are experiencing poverty, to ensure that they are able to contribute to the evaluation of policies which affect them;

34.   Stresses that there is so far no definition of energy poverty at Union level and therefore it is very difficult to properly assess the seriousness, the causes and the consequences of this aspect of poverty in the Union; calls on the Commission to develop with stakeholders a common definition of energy poverty and to define the factors contributing to the vulnerability of households;

35.   calls on the Commission to provide impact assessments and information on best practices to fight energy poverty in the Member States in this context; emphasises that energy must be affordable to all Union citizens;

36.   Stresses that it is extremely important to prevent even more young people from falling victim to energy poverty in the future;

37.   Notes that economic and financial education at a young age has been shown to improve economic decision-making later in life, including in managing costs and incomes; recommends the exchange of best practice and the promotion of educational programmes targeting women and girls in vulnerable groups and marginalised communities facing poverty and social exclusion;

38.   Stresses that a significant proportion of people affected by energy poverty are at risk of poverty and social exclusion, and as a consequence they cannot afford the needed initial upfront investment of energy efficiency appliances such as insulation or renewable energy resources; points out that this creates a vicious circle of continuously spending a larger share of household income than needed on utility bills, while efficiency or lack of energy are not tackled, among other issues;

39.   Calls on the Commission, the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), and the Member States to undertake research into female homelessness and its causes and drivers, as the phenomenon is captured inadequately in current data; notes that gender-specific elements that ought to be taken into account include gender-based economic dependency, temporary housing, or avoidance of social services;

40.   Supports the initiative to formulate a guideline reference budget, and calls on the Commission to include gender-specific considerations when designing it, including the gender inequalities faced within households;

41.   Considers that women’s longer life expectancy must also be taken into account as a potential factor in vulnerability and exclusion;

Targeting funding and policies towards tackling poverty and energy poverty

42.   Calls on the Member States and the EU to provide microcredits or loans free of interest or at low rates via (e.g. the EIB) to low-income households to support them in the upfront investment in renewables or energy efficiency, such as insulation, solar energy and energy efficient appliances;

43.   Urges the Member States to ensure that any investment made, either in new homes or in improving existing homes, is based on energy efficiency;

44.   Recalls that targeting certain policies and Union funding with a view to reducing energy costs of poor households by investing in renewables and energy efficiency may have multiple positive effects in the medium term: improvement of living conditions and the health of people concerned, reduction of household costs providing budgetary relief for poor families, an increase in local investments, local job creation and contribution to the EU 2020 Strategy objectives;

45.   Stresses also the need to monitor the use of funds and to simplify information and access to these resources;

46.   Insists on the importance of addressing poverty not just from a social or political point of view, but also from an economic one, with effects in the medium term; insists that the Commission must include in its priorities the need to tackle the inequality dynamic which currently exists and which seriously limits growth and has a very negative impact on cohesion and poverty;

47.   Highlights the role of the EU and the Member States in the energy cost reduction of households, the former by ensuring security of supply to prevent major price fluctuations and speculation in the energy market, creating stronger interconnections and higher market integration and sustainable energy investment, and by increasing investment in renewable energy research, and the latter by strengthening their policies in support of household energy efficiency with special attention to off-grid households in poverty and social exclusion; considers that consumer protection should be among the priorities of the Union;

48.   Considers deplorable financial speculation concerning natural resources and energy sources, particularly those that are non-relocatable, such as hydroelectric power, for example, and, consequently, calls on the Commission and the Member States to take the necessary steps to reduce the energy costs of poor families, for example by using revenue obtained from appropriate taxation;

49.   Welcomes the fact that investment in energy efficiency and renewables is eligible under the scope of the ESI Funds 2014-2020, given their importance in reducing households’ energy costs; encourages the Commission and the Member States to exploit the full potential of the European funds with regard to tackling energy poverty; stresses that obstacles to efficient take-up, such as the accessibility of Cohesion Funds for smaller organisations or a lack of information particularly on application requirements, should be tackled;

50.   Recalls that targeting beneficiaries who work with or who are part of poor households requires certain preconditions, which are better met in the ESI Funds but less so in larger funds like the ERDF;

51.   Calls on the Member States and the Commission to ease the use of cross-financing mechanisms especially between ESF and ERDF as regards renewable or energy efficiency projects targeting energy-poor households; stresses the multiple benefits of multi-fund programmes to tackle crosscutting issues such as those relating to energy poverty;

52.   Stresses that the housing quality of low-income households in rural regions tends to be very poor, be it for tenants or owners; recalls that this adds to the so-called lock-in effect of high utility costs with no room for investment in lowering energy costs; calls on the Commission and the Member States to improve how LEADER and EAFRD target the tackling of energy poverty in rural areas, by directing the operational programmes and the funding towards generating diversified renewable energy in particular within local networks that includes energy efficiency measures for buildings reserved for energy poor households;

53.   Recalls that tenants have limited access to energy efficiency funding as they are not the property owners; recalls that tenants may have a lower incentive to invest as they relocate more easily and frequently than homeowners; welcomes the Commission pilot project on ‘Fuel/Energy poverty – assessment of the impact of the crisis and review of existing and possible new measures in the Member States’ which is meant to tackle this issue; calls on the Commission, on the basis of the outcomes of this pilot project, to develop provisions for allowing EU funding for energy efficiency measures taken by tenants;

54.   Reminds the Member States that at least 20 % of the total ESF resources in each Member State should be allocated to the objective of ‘promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and any discrimination’ and that the European Fund for European Aid for the most deprived can also be used for social inclusion measures;

55.   Stresses the immediate relief and the improved living conditions for the most deprived households when those households are provided with small-scale low-cost renewable energy resources such as solar panels for houses not connected to the energy grid;

Linking social aims and energy policy

56.   Welcomes the fact that European energy policy legislation recognises social aims in energy efficiency policies, notably in Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency and Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings; finds regrettable that the relevant provisions of Directive 2012/27/EU to target households affected by energy poverty and social housing (Article 7(7)) are not used to their full potential by the Member States; calls on the Commission in its review and impact assessment of the energy efficiency package to evaluate the implementation and use of Articles 7(7) and 5(7); calls also on the Commission based on this evaluation to consider strengthening Article (7), in particular paragraph 7 thereof, so that Member States are encouraged to include social aims in their energy efficiency obligation schemes;

57.   Recalls that local authorities also have a role to play in promoting alternative financing instruments including co-operative models and in the promotion of collective buying agreements to enable consumers to combine their energy demands and therefore lead to cheaper energy prices; calls on the Commission and the Member States to promote the role of local authorities in alleviating energy poverty;

58.   Calls on the Member States to meet World Health Organisation (WHO) standards for adequate housing temperature; supporting the most vulnerable groups, especially young children, the elderly and permanently sick and disabled people so as to protect their health and well-being;

59.   Urges the Commission and the Member States to take immediate action to tackle precarious work which prevents individuals from having a regular and secure income, therefore creating a barrier to successful budgeting and paying household bills;

60.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to provide access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, in line with the UN sustainable development goals;

Housing and poverty

61.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to put forward decisive measures on social housing and enhance energy efficiency investment in social rental housing through European funds; recommends that the Member States expand the supply of quality social housing in order to guarantee access for all, and in particular for the most disadvantaged, to adequate housing; encourages the Member States to further use their opportunities to provide social housing with alternative legal constructions; recommends the Member States to support consumer alliances;

62.   Highlights the importance of quality and accessible childcare in allowing parents to return to work and increase their incomes; stresses the importance of this for single parents in particular and calls on the Commission and the Member States to put measures in place to improve childcare provisions immediately;

63.   Notes that increasing energy efficiency, renovation, and renewable energy is key to tackling energy poverty; expresses concern that housing renovation policies often fail to target those who are most vulnerable; insists that housing renovation policies must target poor, economically excluded and vulnerable households first and foremost, with an emphasis on those facing gender inequalities and multiple discrimination;

64.   Points out the important role of social enterprise and alternative business models such as cooperatives and mutuals in facilitating social inclusion and the economic empowerment of women, particularly in marginalised communities, and their increased economic independence;

65.   Invites the Commission and the Member States to create stakeholder engagement and deliberative processes that promote and facilitate the direct engagement of persons at risk of poverty and social inclusion, particularly women and girls, in policymaking on social inclusion at all levels;

66.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to put measures in place to end the outrageous gender pay gap in the EU which currently stands at 16 % and rises to 39 % for pensions, and highlights the key importance of this measure for single female parents whose households costs may prove to be truly burdensome;

67.   Notes that lone parents, the majority of whom are women, are at a higher than average risk of poverty (34 %); notes that a major contributing factor to this increased risk is the fact that due to childcare costs lone parents either face exclusion from employment or are in precarious, low-paid employment; urges the Member States to act to legislate for a living wage that guarantees that workers’ basic needs can be met;

68.   Notes that the gender pay and pension gap are key contributors to female poverty; notes the long-term impacts on female poverty of women’s exclusion from sectors of the economy traditionally dominated by men, such as technology, science, senior management and decision-making, and the over-representation of women in comparatively low-wage sectors such as care work, public services, part-time work, and low-paid precarious work; expresses concern that the feminisation of poverty is partially driven by long-standing gender-unequal norms, which lead to the prioritisation of male dominated sectors, such as the financial sector, in industrial policy and wage-setting agreements;

69.   Calls on the Member States and the Commission to address female poverty and social exclusion through initiatives to guarantee high-quality jobs with a living wage in female-dominated sectors; highlights the role that trade unions can play in the representation and empowerment of women in the work place and in combating exclusion; calls on the Member States to propose and conduct employer-specific and sector-specific salary surveys in order to demonstrate the unequal salary schemes that affect women and men at the same workplace as a means of accelerating the progress towards equal pay;

70.   Stresses that in the fight against poverty and social exclusion, targeted policies must be deployed to address the particular circumstances of vulnerable groups and marginalised communities facing specific forms of gender inequality and multiple discrimination; calls on the Commission and the Member States to continue to develop policies addressing the poverty and social exclusion faced by women with disabilities, elderly women, refugee and migrant women, Roma women, and women from ethnic minorities, women in rural areas and in deprived neighbourhoods, single mothers, as well as female college and university students;

Poverty and access to healthcare

71.   Recalls that equal access to high-quality universal healthcare is internationally recognised – especially within the EU – as a fundamental right;

72.   Recalls that access to healthcare is very often limited as a consequence of financial or regional constraints (for example in sparsely populated regions), especially in relation to routine care (such as dental or optical care) and preventative measures relating thereto;

73.   Stresses that the combination of poverty and other forms of vulnerability, such as childhood or old age, disability or minority background, further increases the risks of health inequalities, and that ill health can lead to poverty;

74.   Stresses the importance of health and care services for bridging gaps relating to capabilities, through promoting people’s social integration and combating poverty and social exclusion;

75.   Welcomes the Commission communication entitled ‘eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020: Innovative healthcare for the 21st century’, which puts in place additional initiatives, in particular with a view to improving access to health services, reducing health costs and ensuring greater equality between European citizens;

76.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to press ahead with their efforts to tackle socio-economic inequalities, which would ultimately make it possible to reduce some of the inequalities relating to healthcare; calls, in addition, on the Commission and the Member States, on the basis of the universal values of human dignity, liberty, equality and solidarity, to focus their attention on the needs of vulnerable groups such as people living in poverty;

77.   Calls on the Member States to solve problems of inequality in access to healthcare that affect people’s everyday lives, for example in the areas of dentistry and ophthalmology;

78.   Urges the Commission to do its utmost to encourage Member States to offer reimbursements to patients and to do everything necessary to reduce inequalities in access to medication for the treatment of those conditions or illnesses, such as post-menopausal osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s Disease, which are not reimbursable in certain Member States, and to do so as a matter of urgency;

Information and communications technology and poverty

79.   Deplores that the Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe published by the Commission does not take account of the need to ensure universal, equal and unrestricted access to new digital technologies, markets and telecommunications, in particular with regard to people at risk of poverty or social exclusion;

80.   Encourages the Member States and the Commission to put in place strategies aimed at reducing the digital divide and promoting equal access to new information and communications technologies, in particular for people at risk of poverty and social exclusion;

Water and poverty

81.   Recalls that the United Nations General Assembly recognises the right to clean and high-quality drinking water and to sanitation facilities as a human right; notes, however, that in certain regions, especially rural and remote regions, access to drinking water is not guaranteed and an increasing number of people face difficulties in paying their water bills; calls on the Commission and the Member States to do their utmost to ensure, without delay, that everyone has access to drinking water; encourages Member States to ensure a minimum water supply and to protect the human rights of vulnerable households;

82.   Encourages the Member States therefore to do everything possible to ensure that all people have access to drinking water as soon as possible;

o
o   o

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

(1) OJ L 169, 1.7.2015, p. 1.
(2) OJ L 72, 12.3.2014, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 470.
(4) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 289.
(5) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 320.
(6) OJ L 257, 28.8.2014, p. 214.
(7) OJ L 315, 14.11.2012, p. 1.
(8) OJ C 169 E, 15.6.2012, p. 66.
(9) OJ L 153, 18.6.2010, p. 13.
(10) OJ C 153 E, 31.5.2013, p. 57.
(11) OJ C 236 E, 12.8.2011, p. 57.
(12) http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/64/292&Lang=F
(13) http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/rc10_fre.pdf
(14) https://www.unicef.fr/sites/default/files/userfiles/2014_Bilan12_Innocenti.pdf
(15) http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=en&catId=89&newsId=2345&furtherNews=yes
(16) OJ C 248, 25.8.2011, p. 130.
(17) OJ C 341, 21.11.2013, p. 21.
(18) OJ C 170, 5.6.2014, p. 23.
(19) OJ C 166, 7.6.2011, p. 18.
(20) Joint opinion of the Employment and Social Protection Committees to the Council, Council of the EU, 13809/14 SOC 662 EMPL 120 EDUC 297 ECOFIN 876, 3 October 2014.
(21) http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=738&langId=en&pubId=7744&visible=0
(22) Center for responsible lending, Durham, http://www.responsiblelending.org/state-of-lending/cumulative/, http://www.uvcw.be/no_index/cpas/panier-etude-qualitative.pdf
(23) Ricardo Cherenti, Belgian Federation of public local social action center, http://www.uvcw.be/no_index/cpas/panier-etude-quantitative.pdf
(24) Opinion of the Social Protection Committee addressed to the Council, Council of the European Union, 649/11, SOC 124, 15 February 2011.
(25) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0294 .
(26) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0264 .
(27) OJ L 268, 15.10.2015, p. 28.
(28) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0261 .
(29) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2014)0070 .
(30) OJ C 65, 19.2.2016, p. 40.
(31) OJ C 349 E, 29.11.2013, p. 74.
(32) OJ C 70 E, 8.3.2012, p. 8.


Private sector and development
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European Parliament resolution of 14 April 2016 on the private sector and development (2014/2205(INI) )
P8_TA(2016)0137 A8-0043/2016

The European Parliament,

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

–   having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Stronger Role of the Private Sector in Achieving Inclusive and Sustainable Growth in Developing Countries’ (COM(2014)0263 ) and to the Council conclusions thereon of 23 June 2014 and 12 December 2014,

–   having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘A Global Partnership for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development after 2015’ (COM(2015)0044 ),

–   having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘A Decent Life for All’ (COM(2013)0092 ) and to the Council conclusions thereon of 25 June 2013,

–   having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Increasing the impact of EU Development Policy: an Agenda for Change’ (COM(2011)0637 ) and to the Council conclusions thereon of 14 May 2012,

–   having regard to the Action Plan for Private Investment in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), outlined in UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2014(1) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 26 February 2014 on promoting development through responsible business practices, including the role of extractive industries in developing countries(2) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 25 November 2014 on the EU and the global development framework after 2015(3) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 19 May 2015 on Financing for Development(4) and especially its call for the alignment of the private sector with the SDGs,

–   having regard to its resolution of 13 March 2014 on the role of property rights, property ownership and wealth creation in eradicating poverty and fostering sustainable development in developing countries(5) ,

–   having regard to the report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the activities of the EU Platform for Blending in External Cooperation since its establishment until end July 2014 (COM(2014)0733 ),

–   having regard to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness of 2 March 2005 and the Accra Agenda for Action of 4 September 2008,

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

–   having regard to the Busan partnership for Effective Development Cooperation of 1 December 2011(6) , especially paragraph 32 thereof, which refers to the need to ‘recognise the central role of the private sector in advancing innovation, creating wealth, income and jobs, mobilising domestic resources and in turn contributing to poverty reduction’,

–   having regard to the Joint Statement on public-private cooperation(7) and to the Partnership for Prosperity(8) , which emerged from the Busan Private Sector Building Block,

–   having regard to the Outcome Document ‘The future we want’ of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development of 20-22 June 2012(9) ,

–   having regard to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights(10) ,

–   having regard to the United Nations Global Compact and to the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises: Complementarities and Distinctive Contributions(11) ,

–   having regard to the Investment Policy Framework for Sustainable Development (IPFSD) of UNCTAD(12) ,

–   having regard to the African Development Bank Group’s Private Sector Development Strategy 2013-2017 entitled ‘Supporting the transformation of the private sector in Africa’(13) ,

–   having regard to ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy(14) ,

–   having regard to the UNIDO’s Lima Declaration: Towards Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development (ISID)(15) ,

–   having regard to the ILO Decent Work Agenda,

–   having regard to Article 9(2)(b) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which stipulates the obligation to ensure that private entities that offer facilities and services which are open or provided to the public take into account all aspects of accessibility for persons with disabilities(16) ,

–   having regard to the EU Strategy 2011-2014 for Corporate Social Responsibility (COM(2011)0681 ),

–   having regard to the post-2015 development framework, which sees the private sector as the main implementing partner and to its role in the transition to the green economy,

–   having regard to the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Land Tenure, of 2010(17) ,

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

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Development and the opinions of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on International Trade (A8-0043/2016 ),

A.   whereas the role of the public sector is fundamental to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); whereas the private sector is the engine of wealth creation and economic growth in all market economies, generating 90 % of jobs and income in developing countries; whereas the private sector accounts for 84 % of GDP in developing countries according to the United Nations (UN) and has the capacity to provide a sustainable base for domestic resource mobilisation, leading to less aid dependency, as long as it is properly regulated, conforms with human rights principles and environmental standards and is linked to concrete long-term improvements in the domestic economy, sustainable development and inequality reduction;

B.   whereas according to the Human Poverty Index of the United Nations Development Programme 1,2 billion people earn less than USD 1,25 per day; whereas inequality is rising and, together with poverty, represents one of the major threats to global stability;

C.   whereas there is a clear correlation between the development of a strong manufacturing sector and market poverty reduction: a 1 % increase in manufacturing value added (MVA) per capita decreases the poverty head count by almost 2 %(18) ;

D.   whereas substantial investments are required, with estimates of the funds needed in developing countries amounting to USD 2,4 trillion more per year than what is currently being spent; whereas private financing can complement but not substitute public funding;

E.   whereas 2012 was declared by the United Nations the International Year of Cooperatives, to highlight their role in securing development, empowering people, enhancing human dignity and helping achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); whereas the cooperative sector worldwide has about 800 million members in over 100 countries and is estimated to account for more than 100 million jobs around the world;

F.   whereas micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs), which form the backbone of all market economies, face much heavier regulatory burdens in developing countries than within the EU, and most of them operate in the informal economy, which is wracked with volatility and where they are denied legal protection, labour rights and access to finance; whereas, according to the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business 2014’ report, the poorest countries are in fact the ones that are subjected to the most regulatory burdens(19) ;

G.   whereas industrialisation (especially through the development of local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and small and medium-sized industries (SMIs)) is a driver for well-being and development;

H.   whereas the 1986 UN Declaration on the Right to Development affirms development as a fundamental human right; whereas the declaration commits to a human rights-based approach, characterised by the realisation of all human rights (economic, social, cultural, civil and political); and whereas the declaration commits also to strengthening international cooperation;

I.   whereas foreign direct investment (FDI) has the potential to contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), as reflected in UNCTAD’s proposal for investing in SDGs (an Action Plan for promoting private sector contributions(20) ), provided that FDI is properly regulated and linked to concrete improvements in the domestic economy, notably in terms of technology transfers and the creation of training opportunities for the local labour force, including women and young people;

J.   whereas import tariffs play a vital role in providing government revenues and enabling nascent industries to grow within developing countries’ own domestic market; whereas import tariffs on processed agricultural products can create space for value addition and job creation within rural economies, while also promoting food security;

K.   whereas 60 % of the developing world’s jobs are in the informal sector in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and whereas 70 % of MSMEs receive no financing from financial institutions, even though they need it to grow and create jobs;

L.   whereas 51 of the 100 largest economic entities in the world are corporations, and whereas the top 500 multinational corporations account for nearly 70 % of world trade;

M.   whereas the average per capita manufacturing valued added (MVA) of industrialised countries is 10 times higher than that of developing countries and 90 times higher than that of Least Developed Countries (LDCs)(21) ;

N.   whereas the fiscal space of developed and developing countries is de facto constrained by the requirements of global investors and financial markets; whereas, according to the IMF, developing countries are particularly affected by corporate tax avoidance, as they are more reliant on corporate income tax for raising revenues than OECD countries; whereas practices which facilitate tax dodging by transnational corporations and individuals are widely used by EU Member States;

O.   whereas the High-Level Panel advising UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the post-2015 development agenda, which consulted the chief executive officers of 250 companies (with annual revenues of USD 8 trillion) from 30 countries, concluded that sustainability needs to be built into corporate strategies if companies are to be able to take advantage of the commercial opportunities for sustainable growth; whereas the willingness of the private sector to contribute to sustainable development is often hindered by a lack of clear models for enterprises to engage in partnerships with the public sector; whereas the private sector is a potential provider of goods and services to poor communities and people, reducing costs, increasing choices and tailoring products and services to their specific needs, as well as contributing to the spreading of environmental and social safeguards and standards;

P.   whereas, in the absence of a widely accepted definition, public-private partnerships (PPPs) can be defined as multi-stakeholder arrangements between private actors, public bodies and civil society organisations (CSOs), which seek to achieve a mutually beneficial public objective by means of sharing resources and/or expertise;

Q.   whereas the European Development Finance Institutions (EDFI), a group of 15 bilateral institutions which play an important role in providing long-term finance for the private sector in developing and reforming economies, seek to invest in companies with a spectrum of different development effects ranging from reliable electricity and clean water to providing SME finance and access to markets for small farms;

R.   whereas PPPs have for decades been a common form of venture in developed countries, particularly European countries and the US, and are today widely used in developing countries by most donors, accounting for roughly 15-20 % of the total infrastructure investment;

S.   whereas 2,5 billion people, most of them in developing countries and a majority of them women and young people, remain excluded from business communities, the formal financial sector and property and land ownership opportunities; whereas there is a persistent gender gap of 6-9 percentage points across income groups within developing countries; whereas social dialogue is an important means of supporting gender equality in the workplace and reversing the pattern of under-representation of business communities in developing countries;

T.   whereas well-designed and efficiently implemented PPPs have the capacity to mobilise long-term private and public finance, generate innovation in technologies and business models, and incorporate built-in mechanisms to ensure that such partnerships are held accountable to development results;

U.   whereas PPPs in developing countries are to date mostly concentrated in the energy, infrastructure and telecommunications sectors, while their potential in sectors such as agriculture, education, green technologies, research and innovation, healthcare and property rights remains largely untapped;

V.   whereas nearly two thirds of European Investment Bank (EIB) lending to Asian, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries in the past ten years has been geared towards private sector operations; whereas the EIB Cotonou Investment Facility has been recognised as a unique, risk-bearing revolving fund for financing higher-risk investment in support of private sector development;

W.   whereas, although 45 million job seekers join the developing world’s labour force every year(22) , 34 % of firms in 41 countries admit to the fact that they cannot find the workers they need;

X.   whereas, in the context of the Agenda for Change, blending is recognised as an important instrument for leveraging additional resources by combining EU grants with loans or equity from public and private financiers; whereas, however, European Court of Auditors Special Report 16 (2014) on the use of blending concluded that, for nearly half of the projects examined, there was insufficient evidence to consider that the grants were justified while, for a number of these cases, there were indications that the investments would have been made without the EU contribution;

Y.   whereas manufacturing, with around 470 million jobs worldwide in 2009 and around half a billion jobs worldwide in 2013(23) , provides high potential for employment and wealth generation and for decent and highly qualified work;

Z.   whereas global wealth is increasingly being concentrated in the hands of a small wealthy elite and it is expected that the richest 1 % will own more than half of the global wealth by 2016;

AA.   whereas fair and progressive taxation with welfare and social justice criteria plays a key role in reducing inequalities by shaping the redistribution of wealth from higher income citizens to those most in need in a country;

Long-term strategy for working with the private sector

1.   Acknowledges that private sector investment in developing countries can contribute to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals if properly regulated; welcomes and concurs with the Council conclusions of 12 December 2014 on a stronger role of the private sector in development cooperation; welcomes the Commission’s initiative to endorse the private sector in becoming, alongside other governmental and non-governmental development organisations and inclusive business models such as cooperatives and social enterprises, an important partner in achieving inclusive and sustainable development in the framework of the UN SDGs, which implies a commitment from the private sector to good governance, poverty reduction and wealth creation through sustainable investment, as well as to reducing inequalities, promoting human rights and environmental standards and empowering local economies; stresses that the different roles of private sector and public sector actors need to be fully understood and recognised by all the parties involved;

2.   Calls on the Commission to continue to actively engage in the discussions on Agenda 2030, while recognising the diversity of the private sector and the challenges that are faced in alleviating the poverty of the most marginalised and hardest to reach; deems that any EU policy seeking to involve the private sector in development needs to specify which private sector is being targeted;

3.   Emphasises that future partnerships within the 2030 sustainable development agenda must focus more extensively on tackling poverty and inequality; recalls that official development aid (ODA) must remain a key means of eradicating all forms of poverty and of meeting basic social needs in developing countries, and cannot be replaced by private funding; acknowledges the possibilities for leveraging private finance with ODA under conditions of transparency, accountability, ownership and alignment with country priorities and debt sustainability risk;

4.   Calls for more public investment in public services accessible for all, especially in the transport sector, access to drinking water, health and education;

5.   Believes that the private and public sectors are most effective when they work together in order to create a healthy environment for investment, business activity and the foundations for economic growth; emphasises that all partnerships and alliances with the private sector must focus on shared value priorities that align business goals with the EU’s development objectives and observe international standards on development effectiveness; considers that they must be co-designed and co-managed with the partner countries in question to ensure that risks, responsibilities and profits are shared, be cost-effective and have precise development targets, regular milestones, clear accountability and transparency;

6.   Welcomes the role played by foreign private sector investment in developing countries in accelerating domestic development; further stresses the importance of encouraging responsible investment which supports local markets and helps alleviate poverty;

7.   Supports the work of the Association of European Development Finance Institutions (EDFI), as its members provide capital to enterprises in developing countries through direct investments in companies, as well as indirectly by committing capital to local commercial banks and emerging-market private equity, focusing on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs); urges the Commission to favour these kinds of programmes in its financing and cooperation, as the private sector in developing countries is of utmost importance;

8.   Calls for the development of more effective transparency and accountability standards for EU technology companies in connection with the export of technologies that can be used to violate human rights, to aid corruption or to act against the EU’s security interests;

9.   Stresses that EU trade, investment, security and development policies are interlinked and have a direct impact in the developing countries; reminds that Article 208 of the Lisbon Treaty establishes the principle of policy coherence for development, requiring that the objectives of development cooperation be taken into account in policies that are likely to affect developing countries; calls for all trade and investment policies to be evaluated in terms of development impact, especially with regard to universal access to goods and services of general interest; stresses the importance of improving sustainable development chapters in all future bilateral trade agreements, with a view to including effective reporting schemes for the private sector;

10.   Stresses the need to look at how the private sector can be further engaged in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy, to help create economic growth and jobs in Europe’s neighbourhood, for example through sharing expertise in providing access to capital;

11.   Calls on the Commission to promote, support and finance public-public-partnerships as the first option and to include mandatory and publicly available ex-ante poverty and social impact assessments when development programmes are implemented together with the private sector;

12.   Calls for the EU to include formal consultation with civil society organisations and with communities directly and indirectly impacted by development projects;

13.   Highlights the vast potential of the EU’s added value in partnering with the private sector, in close coordination with its Member State and relevant international organisations, many of which have a proven track record in working with the private sector; stresses that a fully functioning market economy, based on the rule of law, remains an important driver of economic and social development and that the EU’s development policy should reflect that fact;

14.   Welcomes the ‘Framework for Business Engagement with the United Nations’, which underlines the fact that a robust private sector delivering economic growth is essential for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and that the private sector ‘is making important contributions toward shared economic, social and environmental progress’;

15.   Welcomes the involvement of the private sector in the OECD High Level Forum on aid effectiveness; welcomes, in particular, initiatives in that context taken on innovative ways of leveraging private sector development funding and the Joint Statement made in Busan in 2011 on ‘Expanding and enhancing public and private cooperation for broad-based, inclusive and sustainable growth’;

16.   Welcomes the fact that the proportion of untied bilateral aid has continuously increased, but expresses concern over continued formal and informal forms of tied aid(24) ; calls for the EU and its Member States to implement the commitment they made in the European Consensus on Development to ‘promote further untying of aid going beyond existing OECD recommendations’; underlines the growth-creating potential of further untied aid, which would benefit local industries in developing countries; calls for an increase in real aid and for sustainable building of regional/local value chains; calls for further empowerment of local actors and an emphasis on building sustainable regional/local value chains; stresses the importance of local and regional ownership, partner countries’ own national strategies and reform agendas, the involvement of development projects and the added value provided by securing local supply chains; believes that development policy has an important role to play in addressing the root causes of the current migration flows towards the EU;

17.   Acknowledges also the right of all countries, particularly developing countries, to impose temporary capital restrictions in order to prevent financial crises from occurring as a result of short-term and volatile private financial flows; calls for the removal of constraints on this right from all trade and investment agreements, including at the WTO;

18.   Points out that the EU needs to take accessibility into account in its support for the private sector, as the exclusion of large sections of the population, such as persons with disabilities, deprives private enterprises of a market of non-negligible size;

Support for the local private sector in developing countries

19.   Points out that SMMEs in developing countries can face much heavier regulatory burdens than those within the EU, and that they lack legal protection and property rights and operate in the volatile informal economy; emphasises, in this regard the importance of land registration systems; stresses the need to promote the local private sector in developing countries, e.g. through access to finance and by promoting entrepreneurship; calls on the Commission, other donors and development agencies to increase their support to build the capacity of domestic SMEs;

20.   Calls for the EU to promote nationally-owned development strategies shaping private-sector contributions to development by engaging with the private sector in a development framework that focuses on domestic cooperatives and SMEs and micro enterprises, in particular smallholder farmers, as they offer the greatest potential to drive equitable development in countries;

21.   Underlines the need for increased support towards partnering with developing countries to modernise their regulatory frameworks by creating a friendly environment for private initiatives, providing support mechanisms for businesses, while at the same time finding the right balance between creating a climate conducive to investment and protecting public interests and the environment through regulation; notes the need to facilitate the establishment of reliable banking systems and tax administrations in developing countries, capable of providing efficient financial governance and management of public and private funds; calls on partner governments to introduce a sunset clause, whereby redundant measures can be annulled; notes that legislation should be subject to impact assessments aimed at gauging negative job creation and threats to environmental standards;

22.   Calls for the EU to strengthen the capacity of developing countries to mobilise domestic revenue in order to combat tax evasion, corruption and illicit financial flows, and in particular to help enable least developed countries and fragile states to build more effective and stable governance institutions, including through the development of fair and effective tax systems; calls, to this end, for the EU to upgrade its financial and technical assistance to developing countries in order to ensure a higher level of transparency and accountability; calls for the EU, its Member States, all the relevant organisations and the developed and developing signatory countries to the 2011 Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation to honour their commitment to intensify their efforts with a view to fighting corruption and illicit financial flows;

23.   Calls for the Commission’s DG DEVCO to work with DG Growth in replicating regional support structures for SMMEs in developing countries, on the model of the Enterprise Europe Network, aimed at helping them enter legality, gain access to finance and capital, obtain market access and overcome legal obstacles, and supporting in particular the strengthening of the intermediary organisations representing them; highlights the fact that such structures could also become in time launching avenues for local and regional public-private partnerships in areas ranging from agribusiness to vocational training and healthcare programmes, facilitating capacity building, knowledge transfer and experience and the pooling of local and international resources;

24.   Reiterates that it is the EU’s responsibility to support a fair global tax system, which implies establishing effectively mandatory requirements for public country-by-country reporting of transnational corporations, establishing public registers of the beneficial owners of companies, trusts and similar legal entities, ensuring the automatic exchange of tax information and a fair distribution of taxing rights while negotiating tax and investment treaties with developing countries; considers also that DFIs should only invest in companies and funds that are willing to publicly disclose beneficial ownerships and report back their financial accounts on a country-by-country basis;

25.   Recalls that tariff regimes are an essential component of a regulatory environment tailored to pro-poor private sector development and job creation; notes with concern, however, that Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) mandate import tariff reduction across a wide range of ACP countries’ economic sectors, while eliminating all tariffs on EU imports would considerably lower tariff revenues, in some cases by as much as 15-20 % of government revenues; urges the EU to frame its trade policy in line with the principle of Policy Coherence for Development;

26.   Welcomes the EUR 500 million EIB Impact Financing Envelope (IFE) under the Cotonou Investment Facility that allows the EIB to step up its engagement with the private sector in riskier areas and in more challenging environments; deplores the cut in the EIB’s lending envelope for Asia; stresses that all EIB investments under the Cotonou Investment Facility should be aligned with country-owned development strategies, in line with the principle of democratic ownership;

27.   Highlights the fact that, in fragile states and post-conflict nations, private sector obstacles to development are greater than elsewhere and require a more targeted approach in order to improve the investment climate and remove stifling, obsolete business regulations, predatory behaviours and the high level of corruption; recommends, in this connection, that the Commission engage with partner countries and the private sector in policy reform dialogue, in order to overcome the deep mistrust between governments and the private sector, enabled traditionally by rent-seeking behaviours, cronyism and lack of legitimacy;

28.   Calls on the Commission, the Member States and developing countries to step up their efforts to promote the economic empowerment of women and establish support mechanisms for female entrepreneurs; notes that a savings-led approach to the financial inclusion of women has a proven track record; recommends a gender mainstreaming approach in all partnership programmes, combined with entrepreneurship training for women, young people, individuals with disabilities and targeted female business angel networks; calls for increased support to be given to local female entrepreneurs, so as to enable them to gain from private sector-led growth; recommends that measures be adopted to monitor the process relating to the economic empowerment of women, and notes that, according to the IMF, income per capita would increase significantly if women contributed equally with men to the workforce;

Engaging the European and international enterprise sector for achieving sustainable development

29.   Highlights the fact that the potential of the private sector’s contribution to long-term sustainable development goes beyond its financial resources, experience and expertise, and includes the local establishment of value chains and distribution channels, resulting in job creation, a reduction in poverty and inequalities, the promotion of women’s rights and opportunities and environmental sustainability, increased reach and effectiveness, and further access to commercially available and affordable products, services and technology; calls for European development efforts to play a significant role in the implementation of agreed international standards, such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the International Labour Organisation standards, including working with enterprises and investors to ensure compliance with the Guiding Principles and the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprise in their business activities and in their supply chains in developing countries;

30.   Stresses that social dialogue is essential to ensure that the private sector engages effectively in development; stresses the responsibility of developing countries to support social dialogue between private sector employers, workers and national governments as a way to improve good governance and state stability; calls, in particular, on developing countries to ensure that social dialogue is extended to Export Processing Zones (EPZs) and to industrial clusters;

31.   Emphasises that the private sector, and especially local SMEs, must be part of the policy dialogue, alongside all other development partners, in order to facilitate mutual understanding and manage expectations, ensuring efficiency and transparency; underlines in this context the important role of EU delegations in developing countries as a platform for such dialogues; highlights the positive role of cooperatives as catalysts of socially-inclusive development and their capacity to empower communities through jobs and income generation; in particular, points out that workers have formed shared service cooperatives and associations to assist in their self-employment in the informal economy, while in rural areas, savings and credit cooperatives provide access to banking services that are lacking in many communities and finance the formation of small and micro businesses; recognises that the private sector includes actors such as social enterprises and fair-trade organisations, which have social and environmental principles built into their work; calls on the Commission to recognise these efforts in its work on the role of the private sector in development;

32.   Calls on the Commission to champion the proposal from investors and other stakeholders to support binding rules on social, environmental and human rights reporting by business, consistent with the EU Directive on Non-Financial Reporting, which are included as one of the new proposed UN Sustainable Development Goals;

33.   Calls for the EU to contribute to the reinforcement and building of structures, networks and institutions of domestic private sector actors, especially MSMEs, taking their role in national and regional policy making;

34.   Stresses that one of the key constraints in increasing private participation in developing countries stems from the lack of bankable projects owing to weak legal, institutional and fiscal frameworks and enforcement capacities, as well as of resources for investment planning and project preparation; calls for increased technical assistance to the partner countries’ public enterprise sector in order to raise their capacity to assume the responsibility for the management of PPPs and claim ownership at the end of the process; stresses the need for the private sector to foresee long-term investment for returns as, depending on their shareholders, they might otherwise lack the long-term vision needed for returns in social sectors that are key for human development;

35.   Notes that private participation in infrastructure in developing countries has increased considerably, from USD 18 billion in 1990 to USD 150 billion in 2013; calls for continued engagement in this respect, noting that the lack of access to infrastructure is a key constraint on private sector growth, undermining output and job creation;

36.   Highlights the vast potential for PPPs in agriculture, under a clearly defined and strong legislative framework for property rights and land tenure security, to prevent land grabbing and ensure increased and effective agricultural production; welcomes the launch in 2014 of an EU programme to strengthen land governance in African countries; recommends that the EU and its delegations play an increasing role in working with the partner governments, as well as the EIB, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and other similar bodies, in engaging the private sector to develop market-based solutions to agricultural challenges; stresses the need to establish financial incentives to avoid exclusion of poor remote populations and farmers who grow crops that are not of any major commercial interest or that are unlikely to be attractive to agribusiness partners; emphasises that safeguards should include social and environmental risk assessment, consultation with legitimate representatives of the affected communities, with their free, prior and informed consent on the respective project and legal support for these communities when they so need; asks the Commission to accompany projects with monitoring procedures and to negotiate a revision of contracts in cases that have turned out to be harmful to the local population;

37.   Highlights also the risks associated with PPPs in agriculture, including land grabbing, which must be prevented; stresses the importance of focusing assistance on small-scale farmers, in particular women; calls on the Commission to couple any PPPs in the agricultural sector involving EU money with comprehensive measures to protect small-holder farmers, pastoralists and other vulnerable land users against the potential loss of access to land or water; emphasises that safeguards should include social and environmental risk assessment as a condition for the launch of the respective project and legal support for these communities when they so need; recommends that G8 New Alliance projects be replaced with initiatives under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP); stresses that financial and social compensations must be binding commitments and that alternative development plans should always be taken into consideration;

38.   Recommends that the EU continue to support renewable and green energy projects in developing countries, in particular in remote rural areas, in a sustainable manner; welcomes the fact that one of the priorities of the EIB’s IFE is investment in energy, widely recognised as a key element in unlocking economic growth in Africa; expects innovative financing instruments to catalyse private sector investment into renewable energy, energy efficiency and access to energy; encourages also the EIB and the European Development Financial Institutions to further finance investment projects in support of climate change mitigation and adaptation in Africa, in line with the EU’s commitment and obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); recalls that priority should be given to small-scale, off-grid and decentralised renewable energy projects, to ensure energy access to rural areas, while avoiding the potential negative social and environmental impact of large-scale energy infrastructure;

39.   Urges the EU to develop a robust regulatory framework, based on development effectiveness criteria, within which the private sector must operate, including for the promotion of long-term contractual PPPs; urges the EU to only promote PPPs if other less expensive and risky financing options are not available, on the basis of a cost-effective analysis; calls on the EU to implement effective safeguard policies for PPP projects to ensure respect for human rights, including women’s rights;

40.   Welcomes the achievements made in pooling public-private resources for healthcare and improved access to medicines, and with a view to increasingly tapping the potential for technology transfer in developing countries; recommends that the EU become a facilitator in opening avenues for cooperation beyond access to medicines towards reforming dysfunctional healthcare systems in developing countries; stresses that support for local SMEs/SMIs can be enhanced not only through financing instruments, but also through technology transfers, capacity building, sustainable supplier development and business linkages;

41.   Highlights the importance of closing the gap between the education system and the existing job market in developing countries; calls for the Commission to facilitate programmes and support PPPs that involve all the stakeholders concerned, from schools, universities, training centres and private sector actors in order to offer opportunities for training and education that are relevant to the marketplace; encourages the establishment of vocational dual training institutions in which young people, while undergoing a professional apprenticeship programme with an emphasis on practical aspects of a profession, can also have theoretical lectures at specialised professional schools;

42.   Points out that developing governments’ capacities as regulators must be strengthened to successfully achieve sustainable development;

Principles of engagement with the private sector

43.   Highlights the fact that engagement with the enterprise sector requires a flexible approach, tailored not just on the basis of intended outcomes, but also keeping in mind the extent to which local conditions are favourable to private enterprise and investment; recommends a differentiated approach with regard to least developed countries and fragile states; notes that investment and private sector engagement across SDG sectors are highly variable across developing countries; calls on donors to give the majority of their aid to LDCs in the form of grants;

44.   Welcomes the criteria outlined in the Commission’s communication on the private sector and development for the provision of direct support to the private sector; calls for the setting-up of a clearly defined framework governing all partnerships with the private sector by implementing benchmarks such as actions targeting micro-enterprises, strategies for access to credit and job inclusion for disadvantaged groups, women and young people, which must ensure compliance with the policy coherence for development principle, development effectiveness principles and development policy objectives, specifically poverty and inequality reductions; takes the view that any decision to promote the use of PPPs through blending in developing countries should be based on a thorough assessment of these mechanisms in terms of development impacts, accountability and transparency and on the lessons learned from past experience;

45.   Is concerned that safeguards to guarantee the purposeful use of public finance are not always in place; stresses that measurable output indicators, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms must be agreed upon in the preparatory phase of the project while also ensuring that investments comply with international human rights, social and environmental standards and transparency, and that the private sector pays its fair share of taxes; stresses the importance of risk assessment, debt sustainability, transparency and investment protection; highlights the importance of the formal consultative and scrutiny role of national parliaments and of civil society in ensuring full accountability and transparency; recommends that effective access to justice and compensation for victims of corporate abuse should be provided in the developing country where a development project is taking place;

46.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that enterprises involved in development partnerships are aligned with the SDGs and abide by and respect the principles of corporate social responsibility (CSR); strongly supports the effective and comprehensive dissemination and implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) within and outside the EU and emphasises the need to take all the necessary policy and legislative measures to address gaps in the effective implementation of the UNGPs, including on access to justice; recommends that all enterprises which operate in developing countries provide a level of transparency in accordance with OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises in terms of respecting human rights, positively contributing to the social and environmental well-being of developing countries and cooperating in partnership with CSOs; highlights the need for Member States to draw up national plans to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and especially the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas;

47.   Stresses the need for EU trade and development policy to observe the political and economic policy space of developing countries, in particular in least developed countries, to maintain key import tariffs where needed, and to promote the creation of skilled and decent jobs within local manufacturing and agro-processing industries as possible enablers of higher domestic value-added, industrial growth, export growth and diversification, which are key components of inclusive economic and social upgrading; calls for the EU and its Member States to promote concrete measures to ensure that multinational corporations pay taxes in the countries in which their profits are generated and to promote effective country-by-country reporting by the private sector, thus enhancing domestic resource mobilisation capacities and fair competition;

48.   Encourages the EU to support the ongoing process of elaboration of a UN international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, as this will clarify the obligations of transnational corporations in the field of human rights, and of corporations in relation to states, and provide for the establishment of effective remedies for victims in cases where domestic jurisdiction is clearly unable to prosecute those companies effectively;

49.   Welcomes the Commission’s view that the strategic pillars of the ILO Decent Work Agenda need to be fostered, as a way to address inequality and social exclusion, in particular among the most marginalised, including women, children, the elderly and persons with disabilities; highlights the need for companies to support fair treatment of workers and secure safe and healthy working conditions, social protection and social dialogue, while enabling a constructive relationship between workers, management and contractors;

The Way Forward: steps to be taken to make the private sector a sustainable partner in development policy

50.   Calls on the European institutions and bodies to establish a clear, structured, transparent and accountable framework governing partnerships and alliances with the private sector in developing countries, and stresses that, in parallel with an increased role for the private sector, it is important to develop appropriate safeguards and institutional capacities;

51.   Calls for the EU and its Member States to develop a clear and concrete strategy to ensure private sector alignment with the development priorities of national governments and civil society in developing countries;

52.   Calls for the setting-up at EU level of sectoral, multi-stakeholder platforms, bringing together the private sector, CSOs, NGOs, think tanks, partner governments, donors, cooperative organisations, social enterprises and other stakeholders, in order to overcome the reservations and the lack of trust among partners and resolve the challenges that inadvertently arise from collaborative development interventions; underlines in this connection the important role of EU delegations in the respective countries as facilitators of such dialogues; notes that the Commission’s proposal to reinforce existing mechanisms, such as the Policy Forum for Development, is a step in the right direction;

53.   Recognises the Court of Auditors recommendation that the Commission clearly demonstrate the financial and development additionality of EU grants for blended projects; supports the Commission’s intention to expand the scope of blending to include areas beyond infrastructure, such as sustainable agriculture, social sectors and local private sector development if the Commission proves its case; insists, however, that all blending operations must be fully consistent with development effectiveness principles, such as ownership, accountability and transparency, making sure that they pursue the SDGs; calls on the Commission to evaluate the mechanism of blending loans and grants and to strengthen its management capacities with regard to blending projects, as recommended by the Court of Auditors; calls on the Commission to democratise the governance structure of the EU Blending Platform and the regional blending facilities, by properly engaging with all relevant stakeholders at local level, including partner governments, national parliaments, private sector actors, trade unions and local communities; urges the Commission to strengthen the criteria for setting up aid grants and establishing their amounts, and to specify in detail the added value of blending in each of its projects;

54.   Calls for an expansion of the current EIB external lending mandate, in order to increase its role in achieving sustainable development and, in particular, to take a more active part in the new private sector strategy, through blending, co-financing of projects and local private sector development; calls, furthermore, for greater transparency and accountability in partnerships and projects associated with the EIB; recalls that EIB financing operations implemented through the Union guarantee granted to the EIB in developing countries should have as their primary objective the reduction and, in the long term, the eradication of poverty; calls on the EIB and the other development financial institutions of Member States to ensure that companies which receive their support do not participate in tax evasion;

55.   Calls on the Commission to ensure that partnerships and loans to the private sector in low‑income countries and fragile states are associated with direct grants to CSOs and are aligned with the relevant countries’ development priorities, in order to ensure citizens’ engagement and involve multi-stakeholder processes among CSOs, local governments and trade unions;

56.   Calls on the Commission to ensure that all EU delegations have trained and qualified staff actively prepared to facilitate and implement partnerships with private sector actors; notes that the commitment to accelerate the co-location of EIB offices in EU delegations is a step in the right direction; calls on the Commission to apply, in the field, Member States’ best practices, whose embassies are commonly a ‘first point of contact’ for private sector actors;

57.   Calls for a stronger commitment on the part of the Commission, when it comes to leveraging its political weight and pursuing avenues of dialogue with partner governments and local authorities, to facilitate a greater and more positive interaction with the private sector; highlights the fact that Country Strategy Papers, National Indicative Programmes and budget support may be the most valuable instruments in spearheading business environment reforms in partner countries and promoting domestic industrialisation; recommends that the EU endorse UNCTAD’s Action Plan for Investing in the SDGs; draws attention to the fact that the designing, structuring and implementing of PPPs remains a challenging and complex endeavour and that their success is also dependent upon the enabling environment in which they operate;

58.   Emphasises that the responsibility for effective joint action lies not only with the donors and the enterprises involved, but also with the partner governments; calls on the EU to work on strengthening capacity building of partner countries in order to assess when to engage in PPP projects; stresses that good governance, the rule of law, a framework for business reform, anti-corruption measures, public financial management and effective public institutions are paramount to investment, innovation and private sector development;

59.   Calls for greater focus on improving donor coordination and joint programming, as well as a central focus on delivering measurable results and development outcomes, in order to maximise the impact of EU development policy and ensure full accountability for development spending;

o
o   o

60.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the Council, the Vice-President of the European Commission/High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, UNCTAD, UNIDO and the High-Level Panel on the post-2015 agenda.

(1) http://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/wir2014_en.pdf
(2) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0163 .
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2014)0059 .
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0196 .
(5) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0250 .
(6) http://www.oecd.org/development/effectiveness/49650173.pdf.
(7) http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/annai/honsho/seimu/nakano/pdfs/hlf4_5.pdf
(8) http://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/topics_ext_content/ifc_external_corporate_site/idg_home/p4p_home
(9) http://www.uncsd2012.org/content/documents/727The%20Future%20We%20Want%2019%20June%201230pm.pdf
(10) http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf
(11) http://www.oecd.org/corporate/mne/34873731.pdf
(12) http://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/diaepcb2012d5_en.pdf
(13) http://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Policy-Documents/2013-2017_-_Private_Sector_Development_Strategy.pdf
(14) http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_emp/---emp_ent/---multi/documents/publication/wcms_094386.pdf
(15) http://www.unido.org/fileadmin/Lima_Declaration.pdf
(16) http://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/convention/convention_accessible_pdf.pdf
(17) http://www.fao.org/nr/tenure/voluntary-guidelines/en/
(18) http://www.unido.org/fileadmin/user_media/Services/PSD/WP4_2014_Industrialisation_and_social_well-being.pdf
(19) World Bank Group, Doing Business 2014: Understanding Regulations for Small and Medium-Size Enterprises, 29 October 2013
(20) http://unctad.org/en/PublicationChapters/wir2014ch4_en.pdf
(21) http://www.unido.org/fileadmin/user_media/Services/PSD/WP4_2014_Industrialisation_and_social_well-being.pdf
(22) Building an Employment-Oriented Framework for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth - in ‘The Challenges of Growth, Employment and Social Cohesion’, Background Paper for High-Level ILO-IMF Conference, ILO, 2010
(23) https://www.unido.org/fileadmin/user_media/Research_and_Statistics/UNIDO_IDR_2013_main_report.pdf
(24) ActionAid (2005): Real Aid, An Agenda for Making Aid Work, p. 4.

Last updated: 5 December 2017Legal notice