Index 
Texts adopted
Thursday, 16 February 2017 - StrasbourgFinal edition
Situation of human rights and democracy in Nicaragua, the case of Francisca Ramirez
 Executions in Kuwait and Bahrain
 Guatemala, notably the situation of human rights defenders
 Combating terrorism ***I
  Resolution
  Consolidated text
  Annex
 Reinforcement of checks against relevant databases at external borders ***I
  Resolution
  Consolidated text
 Possible evolutions of and adjustments to the current institutional set-up of the European Union
 Improving the functioning of the European Union building on the potential of the Lisbon Treaty
 Budgetary capacity for the euro area
 Civil Law Rules on Robotics
  Resolution
  Annex
 European Cloud Initiative
 Investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds
 Aviation Strategy for Europe
 Delayed implementation of ESI Funds operational programmes – impact on cohesion policy and the way forward

Situation of human rights and democracy in Nicaragua, the case of Francisca Ramirez
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European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2017 on the situation of human rights and democracy in Nicaragua – the case of Francisca Ramirez (2017/2563(RSP) )
P8_TA(2017)0043 B8-0156 , 0160 , 0163 and 0168/2017

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on Nicaragua, in particular those of 18 December 2008 on the attacks on human rights defenders, civil liberties and democracy in Nicaragua(1) and of 26 November 2009(2) ,

–   having regard to the statement by the Spokesperson of the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR), Federica Mogherini, of 16 August 2016, on the recent judicial decision in Nicaragua to dismiss Members of Parliament, and the statement by the VP/HR of 19 November 2016 on the final results of the elections in Nicaragua,

–   having regard to the report of the EU election observation mission to Nicaragua on its observation of the legislative and presidential elections of 6 November 2011,

–   having regard to the statement of the General Secretariat of the Organisation of American States (OAS) of 16 October 2016 on the electoral process in Nicaragua,

–   having regard to the report of the General Secretariat of the Organisation of American States and Nicaragua of 20 January 2017,

–   having regard to the 2012 Association Agreement between the European Union and the countries of Central America, which entered into force in August 2013, including its human rights clauses,

–   having regard to the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders of June 2004,

–   having regard to the EU Land Policy Guidelines of 2004 providing guidance for land policy development and programming in developing countries,

–   having regard to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders of December 1998,

–   having regard to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP),

–   having regard to the 1989 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (No 169) of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), ratified by Nicaragua,

–   having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966,

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

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

A.   whereas the development and consolidation of democracy and the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms must be an integral part of the EU’s external policies, including the Association Agreement between the European Union and the countries of Central America of 2012;

B.   whereas democracy and the rule of law have deteriorated in Nicaragua in the past years;

C.   whereas in 2013 Nicaragua passed Law 840 which granted a 100-year concession for an inter-oceanic canal through Nicaragua to a private Chinese company, the HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company Ltd (HKND);

D.   whereas this law gave HKND powers to expropriate lands and exempted the company from local tax and commercial regulations; whereas it also guaranteed to HKND that there would be no criminal punishment for breach of contract;

E.   whereas between 27 November and 1 December 2016, demonstrators from all over Nicaragua gathered in the capital to reject the construction of the inter-oceanic canal, a megaproject which could displace thousands of small farmers and indigenous people in the areas surrounding the canal project, and also to denounce the lack of transparency in the presidential election of 6 November 2016; whereas human rights defenders reported the use of tear gas and rubber and lead bullets by police against protestors;

F.   whereas no environmental impact study was conducted and no prior consultation was launched with indigenous peoples, in breach of ILO Convention 169; whereas the canal’s proposed route will go through indigenous lands and would displace between 30 000 and 120 000 indigenous people;

G.   whereas scientific organisations have expressed alarm that the canal would cut across Lake Nicaragua, endangering Central America’s largest source of fresh water; whereas scientific organisations have asked the Nicaraguan Government to suspend the project until independent studies have been completed and publicly debated;

H.   whereas Francisca Ramirez, Coordinator of the National Council for the Defence of Land, Lake and Sovereignty, presented a formal complaint in December 2016 regarding acts of repression and aggressions experienced in Nueva Guinea; whereas Francisca Ramirez has been intimidated and arbitrarily detained and her family members have been violently attacked in retaliation to her activism;

I.   whereas journalists in Nicaragua face harassment, intimidation and detention, and have received death threats;

J.   whereas in August 2016 the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, to Nicaragua was cancelled, owing to obstacles imposed by the Nicaraguan Government;

K.   whereas the severe exclusion of opposition candidates demonstrates that conditions for free and fair elections were clearly lacking and that freedom of association, political competition and pluralism are being seriously undermined;

L.   whereas the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers drew attention, under a universal periodic review procedure in 2014, to the appointments of Supreme Court judges, which are heavily influenced by politics; whereas the constitutional changes made in 2013 for the re-election of the President were conducted by bypassing the law in a non-transparent manner; whereas Article 147 of the Nicaraguan Constitution prohibits those related to the President either by blood or affinity from being presidential or vice-presidential candidates;

M.   whereas public sector corruption, including by family members of the President, remains one of the biggest challenges; whereas bribery of public officials, unlawful seizures and arbitrary assessments by customs and tax authorities are very common;

1.   Expresses its concern at the steadily deteriorating human rights situation in Nicaragua and deplores the attacks and acts of harassment to which human rights organisations and their members and independent journalists have been subjected by individuals, political forces and bodies linked to the State;

2.   Urges the government to refrain from harassing and using acts of reprisal against Francisca Ramirez and other human rights defenders for carrying out their legitimate work; calls on the Nicaraguan authorities to end the impunity of perpetrators of crimes against human rights defenders; supports the right of environmental and human rights defenders to express their protest without retaliation; calls on Nicaragua to effectively launch an independent environmental impact assessment before engaging in further steps and to make the whole process public;

3.   Calls on the Nicaraguan Government to respect its international human rights obligations, in particular the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, signed in 2008, and ILO Convention 169;

4.   Calls on the Nicaraguan Government to protect indigenous peoples’ lands from the impact of development megaprojects that affect the life-supporting capacity of their territories, placing indigenous communities in conflict scenarios and exposing them to the practice of violence;

5.   Is extremely concerned about the dismissal of the opposition Members from the National Assembly of Nicaragua and the ruling which changed the leadership structure of the opposition party;

6.   Calls on Nicaragua to fully respect democratic values, including separation of powers, and to restore the position of all political opposition parties by allowing critical voices within the political system and society in general; recalls that the full participation of the opposition, the depolarisation of the judiciary, the end of impunity, and an independent civil society are essential factors for the success of any democracy;

7.   Recalls the illegal steps taken in violation of the judicial system that resulted in constitutional changes to remove presidential term limits, allowing Daniel Ortega to stay in power for years;

8.   Points out that the elections in 2011 and 2016 were highly criticised for their irregularities by the EU institutions and the OAS; notes that there is a dialogue process currently underway with the OAS and that the Memorandum of Understanding should be signed by 28 February 2017, which could improve the situation;

9.   Reaffirms that freedom of the press and media are vital elements for democracy and an open society; calls on the Nicaraguan authorities to restore the plurality of media;

10.   Points out that, in the light of the Association Agreement between the European Union and the countries of Central America, Nicaragua must be reminded of the need to respect the principles of the rule of law, democracy and human rights, as upheld and promoted by the EU; urges the EU to monitor the situation and, if necessary, to assess the potential measures to be taken;

11.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Secretary-General of the Organisation of American States, the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly, the Central American Parliament, and the Government and Parliament of the Republic of Nicaragua.

(1) OJ C 45 E, 23.2.2010, p. 89.
(2) OJ C 285 E, 21.10.2010, p. 74.


Executions in Kuwait and Bahrain
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European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2017 on executions in Kuwait and Bahrain (2017/2564(RSP) )
P8_TA(2017)0044 B8-0150 , 0154 , 0155 , 0161 , 0162 and 0165/2017

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on Bahrain, in particular those of 4 February 2016 on the case of Mohammed Ramadan(1) and of 7 July 2016 on Bahrain(2) , and that of 8 October 2015 on the death penalty(3) ,

–   having regard to the statement of 15 January 2017 by the spokesperson of Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) Federica Mogherini on the executions carried out in Bahrain, and that of 25 January 2017 on the recent executions in the State of Kuwait,

–   having regard to the joint statement of 10 October 2015 by VP/HR Federica Mogherini, on behalf of the EU, and the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, on the European and World Day against the Death Penalty,

–   having regard to the statement of 25 January 2017 by the UN Special Rapporteurs on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Agnes Callamard, and on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Nils Melzer, urgently calling for the Government of Bahrain to stop new executions, and the statement of 17 January 2017 by the spokesperson of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, on Bahrain,

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

–   having regard to the new EU Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights, which aims to place the protection and surveillance of human rights at the heart of all EU policies,

–   having regard to Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and to Protocols 6 and 13 thereto,

–   having regard to Articles 1 and 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–   having regard to the Cooperation Agreement between the European Union, its Member States and countries of the Cooperation Council for Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) of 1988,

–   having regard to the conclusions of the 25th EU-GCC Joint Council and Ministerial Meeting of 18 July 2016,

–   having regard to the UN General Assembly resolutions on the moratorium on the use of the death penalty, in particular that of 18 December 2014 and the most recent one, of 19 December 2016,

–   having regard to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Arab Charter on Human Rights, to all of which Kuwait and Bahrain are parties,

–   having regard to the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, approved by Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50 of 25 May 1984,

–   having regard to the concluding observations on the third periodic report of Kuwait of the UN Human Rights Committee of 11 August 2016,

–   having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, in particular Article 15 thereof,

–   having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), in particular Article 18 thereof and the second optional protocol thereto on the death penalty, and to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,

–   having regard to the UN Conventions of 1954 relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and of 1961 on the Reduction of Statelessness,

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

A.   whereas, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), more than 160 UN members states, with a variety of legal systems, traditions, cultures and religious backgrounds, have either abolished the death penalty or do not practise it;

B.   whereas on 25 January 2017 Kuwait’s authorities executed seven people, including a member of the royal family: Mohammad Shahed Mohammad Sanwar Hussain, Jakatia Midon Pawa, Amakeel Ooko Mikunin, Nasra Youseff Mohammad al-Anzi, Sayed Radhi Jumaa, Sameer Taha Abdulmajed Abduljaleel and Faisal Abdullah Jaber Al Sabah, most of whom were convicted of murder; whereas five of the prisoners were foreign nationals: two Egyptians, one Bangladeshi, one Filipino and one Ethiopian, and three of them women; whereas the executions were the first in the country since 2013, when Kuwaiti authorities executed five people after a six-year moratorium;

C.   whereas the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and other human rights organisations have documented violations of due process in Kuwait’s criminal justice system that made it difficult for defendants to receive a fair trial; whereas foreign domestic workers are particularly vulnerable since they lack social and legal protection;

D.   whereas on 15 January 2017 Bahrain executed Ali Al-Singace, Abbas Al-Samea and Sami Mushaima by firing squad, ending a six-year moratorium;

E.   whereas, according to the OHCHR, the executions took place in serious violation of fair trial standards; whereas the three men were accused of a bombing in Manama in 2014 which killed several people, including three police officers; whereas, however, all three were reportedly tortured into confessions which were then used as primary evidence for their convictions; whereas they were stripped of their nationality, refused access to a lawyer and executed less than a week after the verdict, with no prior information given to their families and no chance to apply for pardon;

F.   whereas the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions declared these executions to be ‘extrajudicial killings’ on the basis that all three men were not afforded the fair trial rights enshrined in Article 14 of the ICCPR;

G.   whereas the OHCHR said it was ‘appalled’ by the executions and that there were ‘serious doubts’ that the men received a fair trial;

H.   whereas two other men, Mohammad Ramadan and Hussein Moussa, also face the death penalty in Bahrain; whereas both men allege they were tortured into falsely confessing to capital crimes and may be executed at any moment;

I.   whereas Bahraini-Danish citizen Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a founding director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, as well as Khalil Al Halwachi, a mathematics teacher formerly living in Sweden, remain in prison for charges related to the peaceful expression of their opinion;

1.   Deeply deplores the decision of Kuwait and Bahrain to return to the practice of capital punishment; reiterates its condemnation of the use of the death penalty, and strongly supports the introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty as a step towards its abolition;

2.   Calls on His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain to halt the executions of Mohamed Ramadan and Hussein Moosa, and on the Bahraini authorities to ensure a re-trial in compliance with international standards; recalls that all allegations of human rights violations committed during the proceedings must be duly investigated;

3.   Stresses that the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights expressly prohibit the death penalty for offences committed by persons under 18 years of age;

4.   Calls on the Governments of Kuwait and Bahrain to issue an immediate and open invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to conduct a country visit, and to allow unfettered access to detainees and to all places of detention;

5.   Recalls that the EU opposes capital punishment and considers it to be a cruel and inhuman punishment which fails to act as a deterrent to criminal behaviour and is irreversible in the event of error;

6.   Calls on Kuwait and Bahrain to sign and ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aimed at the abolition of the death penalty;

7.   Urges the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Member States to continue to fight against the use of the death penalty; strongly urges Bahrain and Kuwait to comply with international minimum standards, and to reduce the scope and use of the death penalty; urges the EEAS to remain vigilant with regard to developments in these two countries and in the Gulf region in general, and to use all means of influence at its disposal;

8.   Reiterates that the activities of European companies present in third countries must be entirely consistent with international human rights standards; strongly condemns the agreements on trade in arms and in technologies used to violate human rights;

9.   Urges the EEAS and the Member States to intervene with the Bahraini Government in order to appeal for the release of Nabeel Rajab and of all those held solely on the basis of their peaceful exercise of freedom of expression and assembly, and to urge the Bahraini Government to stop the excessive use of force against demonstrators or the practice of arbitrary revocation of citizenship;

10.   Calls for the release of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and Khalil Al Halwachi;

11.   Calls on the Bahraini Government to fully implement the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report, the Universal Periodic Review and the National Institute for Human Rights; further encourages reform efforts in Kuwait;

12.   Calls on the Bahraini authorities to pursue the national consensus dialogue with a view to finding lasting and inclusive national reconciliation and sustainable political solutions to the crisis; notes that in a sustainable political process legitimate and peaceful criticisms should be able to be expressed freely;

13.   Takes note of the protests taking place in Bahrain marking the sixth anniversary of the 2011 uprising; calls on the Bahraini authorities to ensure that the security forces fully respect the rights of peaceful protesters and refrain from the excessive use of force, arbitrary detention, torture and other acts violating human rights;

14.   Encourages dialogue and bilateral and multilateral initiatives between the European Union, its Member States and Gulf countries including Kuwait and Bahrain on issues relating to human rights, as well as in other areas of mutual interest; calls on the EEAS and VP/HR Federica Mogherini to insist on the establishment of a formal human rights dialogue with the Kuwaiti and Bahraini authorities, in accordance with the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Dialogues;

15.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Government and Parliament of the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Government and Parliament of the State of Kuwait and the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0044 .
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0315 .
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0348 .


Guatemala, notably the situation of human rights defenders
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European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2017 on Guatemala, notably the situation of human rights defenders (2017/2565(RSP) )
P8_TA(2017)0045 B8-0152 , 0153 , 0157 , 0159 , 0164 and 0167/2017

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to the UN human rights conventions and the optional protocols thereto,

–   having regard to the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights,

–   having regard to the European Consensus on Development of December 2005,

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

–   having regard to its resolutions of 13 March 2007 on Guatemala(1) and of 11 December 2012(2) on the EU-Central America Association Agreement,

–   having regard to its Subcommittee on Human Rights visit to Mexico and Guatemala of February 2016 and its final report,

–   having regard to the Delegation for relations with the countries of Central America report on its visit to Guatemala and Honduras on 16-20 February 2015,

–   having regard to its resolution of 21 January 2016 on the EU’s priorities for the UNHRC sessions in 2016(3) ,

–   having regard to the United Nations 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 Annual Report 2016 of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the activities of his office in Guatemala,

–   having regard to the recent visit by the EU Special Representative on Human Rights to Guatemala,

–   having regard to the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966,

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

–   having regard to the 2014-2017 EU Roadmap for Engagement with Civil Society in Partner Countries,

–   having regard to the EU Guidelines for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and to the Strategic Framework on Human Rights, which commits to engage on human rights defenders,

–   having regard to UN Human Rights Council Resolution 26/9 of 26 June 2014, in which the UNHRC decided to establish an open-ended intergovernmental working group with the aim of drawing up an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights,

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

–   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 the Multiannual Indicative Programme for Guatemala 2014-2020, and its engagement to contribute to the resolution of conflicts, to peace and to security,

–   having regard to the European Union support programmes for the justice sector in Guatemala, particularly SEJUST,

–   having regard to the 2014 judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Human rights defenders et al. v. Guatemala , and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report on the situation of human rights in Guatemala (OEA/Ser.L/V/II. Doc. 43/15) of 31 December 2015,

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

–   having regard to the 2009 Council Conclusions on Democracy Support in the EU’s External Relations,

–   having regard to the 2009 Council Guidelines on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law,

–   having regard to the Declaration of 9 December 2016 by the High Representative Federica Mogherini on behalf of the European Union on Human Rights Day, 10 December 2016,

–   having regard to the statement of 17 August 2016 by the EEAS Spokesperson on Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala,

–   having regard to the Santo Domingo Declaration of the EU-CELAC Ministerial Meeting of 25-26 October 2016,

–   having regard to the Statement of 1 February 2017 of the Group of Thirteen on the strengthening of the rule of law and the fight against corruption and impunity,

–   having regard to Articles 2, 3(5), 18, 21, 27 and 47 of the Treaty on European Union, and to Article 208 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–   having regard to Rules 135 of its Rules of Procedure,

A.   whereas Guatemala is EU’s third-largest recipient of bilateral development assistance in Central America, with this assistance amounting to EUR 187 million for the 2014-2020 period and focusing on food security, conflict resolution, peace, security and competitiveness;

B.   whereas Guatemala is strategically located on the drug supply and illegal migration route between Central America and the United States; whereas Guatemalans remain the second largest group of deportees from the US; whereas decades of internal conflict, high poverty rates and a deep-rooted culture of impunity have led to sustained levels of violence and security threats in Guatemala; whereas the whole of society is affected by high criminality rates, but most specifically human rights defenders, NGOs and local authorities;

C.   whereas 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the Peace Agreements for Guatemala; whereas the fight against impunity, including the serious crimes committed under the former non-democratic regimes, is essential; whereas the Guatemalan authorities need to send a clear message to the physical and intellectual perpetrators of violence against human rights defenders that such actions will not go unpunished;

D.   whereas fourteen murders and seven attempted murders of human rights defenders in Guatemala were registered between January and November 2016 by the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders of Guatemala (UDEFEGUA); whereas, according to the same sources, in 2016 there were 223 aggressions overall against human rights defenders, including 68 new legal cases launched against human rights defenders; whereas environmental and land rights defenders and those working on justice and impunity were the most frequently targeted categories of human rights defenders;

E.   whereas 2017 has already seen the killing of human rights defenders Laura Leonor Vásquez Pineda and Sebastián Alonzo Juan, in addition to the journalists reported to have been killed in 2016 – Victor Valdés Cardona, Diego Esteban Gaspar, Roberto Salazar Barahona and Winston Leonardo Túnchez Cano;

F.   whereas the human rights situation remains very serious; whereas the situation of women and indigenous people, especially those defending human rights, and that of migrants, is a matter of serious concern, as are other issues such as access to justice, prison conditions, police conduct and allegations of torture, compounded by widespread corruption, collusion and impunity;

G.   whereas Guatemala has ratified ILO Conventions 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples and Convention 87 on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise; whereas there are some positives signs such as the creation of the Mesa Sindical del Ministerio Público; whereas Guatemalan legislation does not include an obligation to conduct prior, free and informed consultation with indigenous communities, as stated in ILO Convention 169;

H.   whereas the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a binding sentence in 2014 calling for a public policy for the protection of human rights defenders; whereas an EU-funded consultation process for the creation of the abovementioned policy is underway;

I.   whereas the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights apply to all states and to all business enterprises, whether transnational or other, regardless of their size, sector, location, ownership and structure, although effective control and sanction mechanisms remain a challenge in the worldwide implementation of the UNGPs; whereas the human rights situation in Guatemala will be reviewed in November 2017 under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Mechanism for the Human Rights Council (HRC);

J.   whereas the Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman, the Public Ministry and the judiciary have taken important steps against impunity and for the recognition of human rights;

K.   whereas Guatemala has taken some positive steps, such the extension of the CICIG (International Commission against impunity in Guatemala) mandate to 2019; whereas in October 2016, a proposal for constitutional reform of the justice sector based, inter alia , on round-table discussions with civil society was presented to Congress by the Presidents of the Executive, of the Congress and of the justice system of Guatemala, and seeks to strengthen the justice system based on principles such as judicial career, legal pluralism and judicial independence;

L.   whereas a targeted campaign of harassment has impeded a number of emblematic cases involving corruption and transitional justice, with human rights defenders working in this context, including judges and lawyers, facing intimidation and trumped-up legal complaints; whereas Iván Velasquez, Director of the internationally recognised International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), is also facing charges and is subject to an ongoing smear campaign; whereas emblematic cases in the field of transitional justice are moving forward, such as those involving Molina Theissen and CREOMPAZ, or those on corruption in the La Linea y Coparacha cases, among others;

M.   whereas some EU Member States have not yet ratified the EU-Central America Association Agreement and the ‘Political Dialogue’ pillar has therefore not yet entered into force; whereas human rights and the rule of law are at the heart of the EU’s external action policy, in addition to sustainable economic and social development;

1.   Condemns in the strongest terms the recent murders of Laura Leonor Vásquez Pineda, Sebastian Alonzo Juan and the journalists Victor Valdés Cardona, Diego Esteban Gaspar, Roberto Salazar Barahona and Winston Leonardo Túnchez Cano, as well as each of the 14 assassinations of other human rights defenders in Guatemala carried out in 2016; extends its sincere condolences to the families and friends of all of those human rights defenders;

2.   Stresses its concern that the continuous acts of violence and lack of security have a negative impact on human rights defenders being able to fully and freely carry out their activities; pays tribute to all human rights defenders in Guatemala and calls for an immediate, independent, objective and thorough investigation into the abovementioned and previous murders; emphasises that a vibrant civil society is essential in order to make the state at all levels more accountable, responsive, inclusive, effective and hence more legitimate;

3.   Welcomes Guatemala’s efforts in its fight against organised crime, asks that these be stepped up and recognises the enormous difficulty it faces in providing security and freedom to all its citizens in a structural violence situation such as that generated by narcotics; calls on the EU institutions and EU Member States to provide technical and budgetary means to Guatemala to assist its fight against corruption and organised crime, and to prioritise such efforts in bilateral cooperation programmes;

4.   Recalls the need to develop a public policy for the protection of human rights defenders, as stated by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) in 2014; takes note of the recently launched National Dialogue, calls on the Guatemalan authorities to ensure that the public policy is developed through a wide participative process and addresses the structural causes that increase the vulnerability of human rights defenders, and invites the business community to support these efforts;

5.   Welcomes the decision by the EU Delegation in Guatemala to contribute financially to the discussion and consultation process on such a programme and encourages the EU Delegation to continue its support for human rights defenders; calls on the competent authorities to draw up and implement a public policy to protect human rights defenders in close cooperation with a wide range of stakeholders, and to continue on the path of reforms towards an independent judiciary, the fight against impunity and the consolidation of the rule of law;

6.   Calls for the urgent and mandatory implementation of the precautionary measures recommended by the IACHR and calls on the authorities to reverse the decision that unilaterally removes national precautionary measures benefitting human rights defenders;

7.   Recalls the results of the 93 communitarian consultations undertaken in good faith in 2014 and 2015; recalls that a participatory process is currently ongoing and calls on the Guatemalan authorities to accelerate the procedures to ensure the establishment of a national mechanism for free and informed prior consultations, as foreseen under ILO 169; calls on the Guatemalan Government to launch wider social consultations concerning the hydroelectric plants, mining projects and oil companies, and calls on the EU institutions to ensure that no European assistance or support promotes or permits development projects without meeting the obligation for prior, free and informed consultation with indigenous communities;

8.   Welcomes the initiative on a reform of the justice system presented by the executive, judiciary and legislative powers to the Congress in order to further develop a professional democratic justice system based on effective judicial independence; calls for joint efforts by the Guatemalan Congress in order to conclude the judicial reform in its entirety and full integrity in 2017; to that end, calls on the Guatemalan authorities to allocate sufficient funding and human resources to the judiciary and in particular to the Attorney General’s office; supports the important work of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG);

9.   Welcomes the ruling of the First Chamber of the Court of Appeals whereby it reaffirmed the non-applicability of statutory limitations to the crime of genocide and crimes against humanity in the trial of former dictator Mr Rios Montt as a milestone in the fight against impunity;

10.   Calls on the Guatemalan state to cooperate with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and to take all appropriate steps to implements its recommendations;

11.   Asks the European Union to support the Attorney General’s Office; strongly rejects any kind of pressure, intimidation and influence that jeopardises independence, legal pluralism and objectivity; encourages the Guatemalan authorities to continue fostering cooperation between the Ministry of the Interior’s Unit for the Analysis of Attacks against human rights defenders and the Human Rights Section of the Attorney General’s Office;

12.   Calls on the EU institutions to work towards the conclusion of internationally binding agreements that will strengthen human rights compliance, specifically in the case of EU-based companies operating in third countries;

13.   Calls on those EU Member States that have not done so to swiftly ratify the EU-Central America Association Agreement; asks the European Union and its Member States to make use of the mechanisms laid down in the Association and Political Dialogue Agreement to strongly encourage Guatemala to pursue an ambitious human rights agenda and the fight against impunity; calls on the EU institutions and Member States to earmark sufficient funds and technical aid for this task;

14.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the European External Action Service, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the Organisation of American States, the Euro Latin Parliamentary Assembly, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the President, Government and Parliament of the Republic of Guatemala, SIECA and Parlacen.

(1) OJ C 301 E, 13.12.2007, p. 257.
(2) OJ C 434, 23.12.2015, p. 181.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0020 .


Combating terrorism ***I
PDF 253k   DOC 55k
Resolution
Consolidated text
Annex
European Parliament legislative resolution of 16 February 2017 on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on combating terrorism and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA on combating terrorism (COM(2015)0625 – C8-0386/2015 – 2015/0281(COD) ) (Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)
P8_TA(2017)0046 A8-0228/2016

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2015)0625 ),

–   having regard to Article 294(2) and Articles 83(1) and 82(2)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C8‑0386/2015 ),

–   having regard to the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs on the proposed legal basis,

–   having regard to Article 294(3) and Article 83(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–   having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 17 March 2016(1) ,

–   having regard to the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1373(2001) of 28 September 2001, 2178(2014) of 24 September 2014, 2195(2014) of 19 December 2014, 2199(2015) of 12 February 2015, 2249(2015) of 20 November 2015 and 2253(2015) of 17 December 2015,

–   having regard to the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism of 16 May 2005 and its Additional Protocol of 19 May 2015,

–   having regard to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Recommendations,

–   having regard to the Communiqué of the Nuclear Security Summit, Washington, of 1 April 2016,

–   having regard to the undertaking given by the Council representative by letter of 30 November 2016 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 39 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0228/2016 ),

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

2.   Approves the joint statement by Parliament, the Council and the Commission annexed to this resolution;

3.   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;

4.   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 16 February 2017 with a view to the adoption of Directive (EU) 2017/… of the European Parliament and of the Council on combating terrorism and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA and amending Council Decision 2005/671/JHA

P8_TC1-COD(2015)0281


(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Directive (EU) 2017/541.)

ANNEX TO THE LEGISLATIVE RESOLUTION

Joint statement by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission upon the adoption of the Directive on Combating Terrorism

Recent terrorist attacks in Europe have highlighted the need to reinforce efforts to safeguard

security while promoting the respect of our common values including the rule of law and respect for human rights. To provide a comprehensive response to the evolving terrorist threat, an enhanced criminalisation framework to combat terrorism need to be complemented by effective measures on prevention of radicalisation leading to terrorism and efficient exchange of information on terrorist offences.

It is in this spirit that the EU institutions and Member States collectively express their commitment - within their respective area of competence - to continue to develop and invest in effective preventive measures, as a part of a comprehensive cross-sectoral approach that involves all relevant policies, including in particular in the field of education, social inclusion and integration, and all stakeholders, including civil society organisations, local communities or industry partners.

The Commission will support Member States' efforts in particular by offering financial support to projects aimed at developing tools to tackle radicalisation and through EU wide initiatives and networks, such as the Radicalisation Awareness Network.

The European Parliament, the Council and the Commission underline the

necessity for an effective and timely exchange of all relevant information for the prevention,

detection, investigation or prosecution of terrorist offences between competent authorities in the Union. In this respect, making full use of all the existing Union instruments, channels and agencies to exchange information, as well as a swift implementation of all adopted Union legislation in this field is key.

The three institutions reaffirm the need to assess the functioning of the general EU information exchange framework and to address with tangible actions the possible shortcomings, including in light of the Roadmap to enhance information exchange and information management, including interoperability solutions in the JHA area.

(1) OJ C 177, 18.5.2016, p. 51.


Reinforcement of checks against relevant databases at external borders ***I
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Resolution
Consolidated text
European Parliament legislative resolution of 16 February 2017 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 562/2006 as regards the reinforcement of checks against relevant databases at external borders (COM(2015)0670 – C8-0407/2015 – 2015/0307(COD) ) (Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)
P8_TA(2017)0047 A8-0218/2016

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2015)0670 ),

–   having regard to Article 294(2) and Article 77(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C8‑0407/2015 ),

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

–   having regard to the undertaking given by the Council representative by letter of 7 December 2016 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 Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A8-0218/2016 ),

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

2.   Calls on the Commission to refer the matter to Parliament again if it 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 16 February 2017 with a view to the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2017/… of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) 2016/399 as regards the reinforcement of checks against relevant databases at external borders

P8_TC1-COD(2015)0307


(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Regulation (EU) 2017/458.)


Possible evolutions of and adjustments to the current institutional set-up of the European Union
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European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2017 on possible evolutions of and adjustments to the current institutional set-up of the European Union (2014/2248(INI) )
P8_TA(2017)0048 A8-0390/2016

The European Parliament,

–   having regard in particular to Articles 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 48 and 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), and to Articles 119, 120-126, 127-133, 136-138, 139-144, 194 and 352 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), and the Protocols thereto,

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

–   having regard to the report of 22 June 2015 of the President of the European Commission in close cooperation with the Presidents of the European Council, the European Parliament, the European Central Bank and the Eurogroup entitled ‘Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union’ (the ‘Five Presidents’ Report’),

–   having regard to its legislative resolution of 19 November 2013 on the draft Council regulation laying down the multiannual financial framework (MFF) for the years 2014-2020(1) , and to its decision of 19 November 2013 on conclusion of an interinstitutional agreement between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline, on cooperation in budgetary matters and on sound financial management(2) ,

–   having regard to the MFF(3) and the interinstitutional agreement(4) as adopted on 2 December 2013,

–   having regard to the final report and recommendations of the High Level Group on Own Resources of December 2016(5) ,

–   having regard to the European Council conclusions of 18-19 February 2016 concerning a new settlement for the United Kingdom within the European Union, which has been rendered void by the UK’s decision to leave the Union,

–   having regard to the vote in the UK referendum on EU membership to leave the EU,

–   having regard to Standard Eurobarometer 84 of Autumn 2015 entitled ‘Public opinion in the European Union’ and to the Special Barometer of the European Parliament of June 2016 entitled ‘Europeans in 2016: Perceptions and expectations, fight against terrorism and radicalisation’,

–   having regard to Opinion 2/13 of the Court of Justice of the European Union on the draft agreement providing for the accession of the EU to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (‘European Convention on Human Rights’ – ECHR)(6) ,

–   having regard to the European Council decision of 28 June 2013 establishing the composition of the European Parliament(7) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 12 December 2013 on constitutional problems of a multitier governance in the European Union(8) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 15 April 2014 on negotiations on the MFF 2014-2020: lessons to be learned and the way forward(9) ,

–   having regard to its resolutions of 22 November 2012 on elections to the European Parliament in 2014(10) , and of 4 July 2013 on improving the practical arrangements for the holding of the European elections in 2014(11) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 20 November 2013 on the location of the seats of the European Union’s institutions(12) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 28 October 2015 on the European Citizens’ Initiative(13) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 11 November 2015 on the reform of the electoral law of the European Union(14) , and to its proposal for amending the Act concerning the election of the members of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage,

–   having regard to its resolution of 28 June 2016 on the decision to leave the EU resulting from the UK referendum(15) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 16 February 2017 on improving the functioning of the European Union building on the potential of the Lisbon Treaty(16) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 16 February 2017 on budgetary capacity for the Eurozone(17) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2016 with recommendations to the Commission on the establishment of an EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights(18) ,

–   having regard to Regulation (EU) 2016/1624 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 September 2016 on the European Border and Coast Guard(19) ,

–   having regard to the opinions of the European Economic and Social Committee of 16 September 2015(20) and of the Committee of the Regions of 8 July 2015(21) ,

–   having regard to the Declaration ‘Greater European Integration: The Way Forward’ by the Presidents of the Camera dei Deputati of Italy, the Assemblée nationale of France, the Bundestag of Germany and the Chambre des Députés of Luxembourg, signed on 14 September 2015 and currently endorsed by several national parliamentary chambers in the EU,

–   having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 31 January 2013 on ‘Strengthening EU citizenship: promotion of EU citizens’ electoral rights’(22) ,

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

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Budgets and the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0390/2016 ),

A.   whereas this resolution is aimed at providing solutions which cannot be reached using the tools currently provided for in the Treaties and which are therefore only feasible through a future Treaty change when the preconditions are met;

B.   whereas the inability of the EU institutions to cope with the deep and multiple crises currently faced by the Union, the so-called ‘polycrisis’ including its financial, economic, social and migratory consequences and the rise of populist parties and nationalist movements have all led to increased dissatisfaction among a growing section of the population regarding the functioning of the current European Union;

C.   whereas these significant European challenges cannot be handled by single Member States, but only by a joint response from the European Union;

D.   whereas progress towards a Union that can really deliver on and achieve its goals are impaired by a failure of governance owing to a continuous and systematic search for unanimity in the Council (which is still based on the so-called Luxembourg Compromise) and the lack of a credible single executive authority enjoying full democratic legitimacy and competence to take effective action across a wide spectrum of policies; whereas recent examples such as the inadequate management of refugee flows, the slow clean-up of our banks after the outbreak of the financial crisis and the lack of an immediate common response to the internal and external threat of terrorism have aptly demonstrated the Union’s inability to respond effectively and quickly;

E.   whereas the EU cannot fulfil the expectations of European citizens, because the current Treaties are not being fully exploited and do not provide all the necessary instruments, competences and decision-making procedures to effectively tackle these common objectives;

F.   whereas this problem, coupled with a lack of a common vision on the part of the Member States as regards the future of our continent, has given rise to unprecedented levels of ‘euroscepticism’ which is leading to a return to nationalism and risks undermining the Union and possibly even its disintegration;

G.   whereas, instead of fostering the Union, the system whereby Member States resort to ‘à la carte’ solutions, further reinforced in the Lisbon Treaty, has increased the complexity of the Union and accentuated differentiation within it; whereas, despite the flexibility offered by the Treaties, numerous primary-law opt-outs have been granted to several Member States, and this has created an opaque system of intersecting circles of cooperation and impeded democratic control and accountability;

H.   whereas the Treaties offer forms of flexible and differentiated integration at secondary law level through the instruments of enhanced and structured cooperation which should only be applied to a limited number of policies while being inclusive in order to allow all Member States to participate; whereas, twenty years after its introduction, the impact of enhanced cooperation remains limited; whereas enhanced cooperation has been granted in three instances, namely with regard to common rules on the applicable law for divorces of international couples, the European patent with unitary effect and the introduction of a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT); whereas enhanced cooperation must be used as a first step towards further integration of policies such as the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and not as a way to facilitate ‘à la carte’ solutions;

I.   whereas the Community method must be preserved and not undermined by intergovernmental solutions, even in areas where not all Member States fulfil the conditions for participation;

J.   whereas, however, the euro is the currency of the Union (Article 3(4) of the TEU), the United Kingdom obtained a derogation from joining (Protocol No 15), Denmark has a constitutional exemption (Protocol No 16), Sweden has ceased to follow the euro convergence criteria and the possibility of Greece leaving the single currency has been openly discussed in the European Council; whereas, all Member States have the obligation to join the currency once they meet all the requisite criteria, while no timetable has been set for Member States joining the euro after its creation;

K.   whereas, as regards Schengen, the free movement of people and the resulting abolition of internal border controls, all formally integrated into the Treaties, ‘opt-outs’ were given to the UK and Ireland; whereas four other Member States are also not taking part, but have the obligation to do so, while ‘opt-ins’ were accorded to three countries outside the European Union; whereas this fragmentation not only prevents the total abolition of some remaining internal borders, but also poses difficulties for the establishment of a true internal market and of a fully integrated area of freedom, security and justice; recalls that integration into the Schengen zone must remain the objective for all EU Member States;

L.   whereas opt-outs for individual Member States endanger the uniform application of EU law, lead to excessive complexity in terms of governance, jeopardise the cohesion of the Union and undermine solidarity among its citizens;

M.   whereas, since the Treaty of Lisbon, further accelerated by the economic, financial, migration and security crises, the European Council has widened its role to include day-to-day management through the adoption of intergovernmental instruments outside the framework of the EU, despite the fact that its role is not to exercise legislative functions but to provide the Union with the necessary impetus for its development and to define general political direction and priorities (Article 15(1) of the TEU);

N.   whereas the reliance on unanimity in the European Council and its incapacity to achieve such unanimity has led to the adoption of intergovernmental instruments outside the EU legal framework such as the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union (TSCG or the ‘Fiscal Compact’); whereas the same applies to the deal with Turkey on the Syrian refugee crisis;

O.   whereas, while Article 16 of the TSCG provides that within five years of the date of entry into force (before 1 January 2018) the necessary steps must have been taken to incorporate the Fiscal Compact into the legal framework of the Union and while similar provisions are included in the Intergovernmental Agreement on the transfer and mutualisation of contributions to the Single Resolution Fund, it is clear that the resilience of the euro area, including the completion of the banking union, cannot be achieved without further fiscal deepening steps together with the establishment of a more reliable, effective and democratic form of governance;

P.   whereas this new system of governance implies that the Commission is to become a genuine government, accountable to Parliament and equipped to formulate and implement the common fiscal and macro-economic policies that the euro area needs, and must be endowed with a treasury and budget commensurate with the scale of the tasks at hand; whereas this requires, in addition to measures within the existing primary law, a reform of the Lisbon Treaty;

Q.   whereas this is also the case for the necessary reform and modernisation of the financial resources of the whole European Union; whereas the agreement on the current multiannual financial framework (MFF) was only reached after long and strenuous negotiations and was accompanied by the decision to establish a high-level group to review the Union’s revenue system of ‘own resources’, due to report in 2016; whereas the current MFF severely limits the financial and political autonomy of the Union, as most of the revenue consists of national contributions by the Member States and a large part of the expenditure is already preordained by means of returns to these same Member States; whereas GNP/GNI-based national contributions have become by far the largest source of revenue;

R.   whereas the current MFF is inferior in nominal terms compared to the previous one while the circumstances require major budgetary efforts to assist refugees and stimulate economic growth, social cohesion and financial stability;

S.   whereas the unanimity requirement for tax policy stands in the way of tackling the existence of tax havens within the European Union and harmful tax policies of Member States; whereas many of these practices distort the functioning of the internal market, endanger the Member States ‘revenue, and ultimately shift the burden towards citizens and SMEs;

T.   whereas the European Union is a constitutional system based on the rule of law; whereas the Treaties must be changed to give the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) jurisdiction over all aspects of EU law, in accordance with the principle of separation of powers;

U.   whereas the EU is also founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities; whereas the EU’s existing instruments for assessing and sanctioning breaches of these principles by Member States have proven insufficient; whereas infringement procedures launched against specific legal acts or actions by a Member State violating EU law are inadequate for addressing systemic breaches of the EU’s fundamental values; whereas under Article 7(1) of the TEU the Council is required to act by a majority of four fifths of its members when determining a clear risk of a serious breach of fundamental values, and under Article 7(2) of the TEU the European Council is required to act by unanimity when determining the existence of a serious and persistent breach; whereas as a consequence neither the preventive measure under Article 7(1) of the TEU nor the sanctioning mechanisms under Article 7(2) and (3) have been invoked;

V.   whereas the EU seems to be more able to influence policies on fundamental rights, the rule of law and corruption when countries are still candidates for membership of the Union; whereas the rule of law mechanism should be applied with equal strength to all Member States;

W.   whereas a review is also needed to rebalance and fundamentally renovate the functioning of the Union, with the aim of less bureaucratic regulation and more effective policymaking, closer to the needs of citizens; whereas the Union requires the necessary competences to make progress towards some of its stated objectives such as the completion of the single market including the energy union, social cohesion and aiming at full employment, fair and common migration and asylum management, as well as an internal and external security policy;

X.   whereas building systematic dialogue with civil society organisations and strengthening social dialogue, at all levels in accordance with the principle laid down in Article 11 of the TFEU, are key to overcoming Euro scepticism and to reasserting the importance of Europe’s solidarity based dimension, social cohesion and the construction of a participatory and inclusive democracy, as a supplement to representative democracy;

Y.   whereas over the past decade the security situation in Europe has deteriorated markedly, especially in our neighbourhood: no longer can a single Member State guarantee its internal and external security alone;

Z.   whereas the decline of Europe’s defence capabilities has limited its ability to project stability beyond our immediate borders; whereas this goes hand in hand with the reluctance of our US allies to intervene if Europe is not ready to take its fair share of responsibility; whereas EU defence policy should be strengthened and a comprehensive EU-NATO partnership should be established, while enabling the Union to act autonomously in operations abroad, mainly with a view to stabilising its neighbourhood; whereas this means that more intense cooperation is needed among the Member States as well as the integration of some of their defence capacities into a European defence community, both in line with a new European security strategy;

AA.   whereas none of the ‘passerelle clauses’ provided for in the Lisbon Treaty with a view to streamlining the Union’s governance have been deployed, and are unlikely to be so in the present circumstances; whereas, on the contrary, due to the European Council decision of 18-19 June 2009 concerning the reduction in the number of Commission members as envisaged in the Lisbon Treaty, the let-out clause was used instantly;

AB.   whereas, the 2014 European parliamentary elections led for the first time directly to the nomination of the candidate for President of the Commission; whereas, however, citizens were unfortunately not able to vote for the candidates directly; whereas the supranational character of the European elections should be further reinforced by introducing a clear legal basis to ensure that this new system is preserved and developed; whereas, moreover, citizens can barely comprehend the interrelationship of the Presidents of the Commission and the European Council;

AC.   whereas, the urgency for reform of the Union has been dramatically increased by the United Kingdom’s referendum vote to leave the European Union; whereas the negotiations to set out the arrangements for the UK’s withdrawal also need to take account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union; whereas this agreement must be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the TFEU and be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament; whereas Parliament should therefore be fully involved throughout the negotiation process;

AD.   whereas the UK’s departure would create an opportunity to reduce the complexity of the Union and to clarify what membership of the Union really means; whereas a clear framework is required in the future for the EU’s relationship with non-members in its neighbourhood (the United Kingdom, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, etc.); whereas the founding fathers of the Union had already envisaged a type of ‘associate status’;

AE.   whereas in this important exercise the Treaties confer on the European Parliament six specific prerogatives, namely: the right to propose amendments to the Treaties (Article 48(2) of the TEU), the right to be consulted by the European Council on amending the Treaties (first subparagraph of Article 48(3) of the TEU), the right to insist on calling a Convention against the wishes of the European Council (second subparagraph of Article 48(3) of the TEU), the right to be consulted on a decision by the European Council to amend all or part of the provisions of Part III of the TFEU (second subparagraph of Article 48(6) of the TEU), the right to initiate a reapportionment of seats in Parliament before the next election (Article 14(2) of the TEU) and the right to propose a uniform electoral procedure (Article 223(1) of the TFEU);

AF.   whereas the roles of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Committee of the Regions (CoR) must be safeguarded as institutional representatives of civil society organisations and regional and local actors, given that their opinions contribute to increasing the democratic legitimacy of policy-shaping and legislative processes;

AG.   whereas a clear majority of the Union’s regional and local governments have consistently expressed their view, through the Committee of the Regions, in favour of a more integrated EU with effective governance;

1.   Considers that the time of crisis management by means of ad hoc and incremental decisions has passed, as it only leads to measures that are often too little, too late; is convinced that it is now time for a profound reflection on how to address the shortcomings of the governance of the European Union by undertaking a comprehensive, in-depth review of the Lisbon Treaty; considers that short and medium term solutions can be realised by exploiting the existing Treaties to their full potential in the meantime;

2.   Notes that the direction of the Union’s reform should lead towards its modernisation by establishing new instruments, new effective European capacities, and by making decision-making processes more democratic, rather than its renationalisation by means of greater intergovernmentalism;

3.   Underlines that recent Eurobarometer polling demonstrates that, contrary to popular belief, EU citizens are still fully aware of the importance of, and in support of, genuine European solutions(23) , inter alia in the fields of security, defence and migration;

4.   Observes with great concern the proliferation of subsets of Member States undermining the unity of the Union by causing a lack of transparency, as well as diminishing the trust of the people; considers that the suitable format for conducting the discussion regarding the Union’s future is EU-27; emphasises that the fragmentation of the discussion into various formats or groups of Member States would be counterproductive;

5.   Stresses that a comprehensive democratic reform of the Treaties must be achieved through a reflection on the future of the EU and an agreement on a vision for present and future generations of European citizens, leading to a Convention that guarantees inclusiveness through its composition of representatives of national parliaments, governments of all the Member States, the Commission, the European Parliament and EU consultative bodies such as the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee, and also provides the proper platform for such reflection and engagement with European citizens and civil society;

Ending ‘Europe à la carte’

6.   Deplores the fact that every time the European Council decides to apply intergovernmental methods and to bypass the ‘Community or Union method’ as defined in the Treaties, this not only leads to less effective policy-making but also contributes to a growing lack of transparency, democratic accountability and control; considers that a differentiated path is conceivable only as a temporary step on the way towards more effective and integrated EU policy making;

7.   Considers that the ‘Union method’ is the only democratic method for legislating which ensures that all interests, especially the common European interest, are taken into account; understands by ‘Union method’ the legislative procedure in which the Commission, as part of its competence as the executive, initiates legislation, Parliament and the Council representing respectively citizens and the states decide in codecision by majority voting while unanimity obligations in the latter become the absolute exceptions, and the Court of Justice oversees and provides ultimate judicial control; insists that even in cases of urgency the ‘Union method’ should be respected;

8.   Considers it essential in these circumstances to reaffirm the mission of an ‘ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe’ (Article 1 of the TEU) in order to mitigate any tendency towards disintegration and to clarify once more the moral, political and historical purpose, as well as the constitutional nature, of the EU;

9.   Suggests that the requirements for establishing enhanced and structured cooperation should be made less restrictive, inter alia by lowering the minimum number of participating Member States;

10.   Proposes that the next revision of the Treaties should rationalise the current disorderly differentiation by ending, or at least drastically reducing, the practice of opt-outs, opt-ins and exceptions for individual Member States at EU primary-law level;

11.   Recommends that a partnership be defined and developed in order to set up a ring of partners around the EU for states which cannot or will not join the Union, but nevertheless want a close relationship with the EU; considers that this relationship should be accompanied by obligations corresponding to the respective rights, such as a financial contribution and more importantly respect for the Union’s fundamental values and the rule of law;

12.   Believes that the single institutional framework should be preserved in order to achieve the Union’s common objectives and to guarantee the principle of equality of all citizens and Member States;

The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union

13.   Notes that this new form of partnership could be one of the possible outcomes to respect the will of the majority of the citizens of the United Kingdom to leave the EU; stresses that the withdrawal of the UK, as one of the larger Member States, and as the largest non-euro-area member, affects the strength and the institutional balance of the Union;

14.   Reaffirms that constitutional elements of the Union, in particular the integrity of the single market and the fact that this cannot be separated from the four fundamental freedoms of the Union (free movement of capital, people, goods and services), are essential, indivisible pillars of the Union, as is the existence of a state of law, guaranteed by the European Court of Justice; reaffirms that this constitutional unity cannot be undone during the negotiations on the UK’s exit from the Union;

15.   Calls for the headquarters of the European Banking Authority and the European Medicines Agency, both currently in London, to be moved to another Member State, given the choice made by the citizens of the United Kingdom to leave the EU;

New economic governance for economic growth, social cohesion and financial stability

16.   Is greatly concerned by growing economic and social divergences and the lack of economic reform and financial stability in the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), as well as the loss of competitiveness of the economies of many of its Member States; which is due, in particular, to the absence of a common fiscal and economic policy; considers, therefore, that the common fiscal and economic policy should become a shared competence of the Union and the Member States;

17.   Considers that in their current form the Stability and Growth Pact and the ‘no bail-out’ clause (Article 125 of the TFEU) unfortunately do not achieve the intended objectives; believes that the EU must reject the attempts to return to protectionist national politics, and should continue to be an open economy in the future; warns that this cannot be achieved by dismantling the social model;

18.   Notes additionally that the current system does not sufficiently ensure national ownership of Country-Specific Recommendations; is interested in this regard in the potential offered by the Advisory European Fiscal Board and its future mission of advising the Commission on a fiscal stance that would be appropriate for the euro area as a whole;

19.   Is aware of the need to review the efficacy of the many recent crisis-management measures taken by the EU, and to codify in primary law certain decision-making procedures as well as the need to entrench the legal bases of the new regulatory framework for the financial sector; agrees with the Five Presidents’ Report that the ‘open method of coordination’ as the basis for Europe’s economic strategy has not functioned;

20.   Proposes therefore, in addition to the Stability and Growth Pact, the adoption of a ‘convergence code’ as a legal act under the ordinary legislative procedure, setting converging targets (taxation, the labour market, investment, productivity, social cohesion, public administrative and good governance capacities); insists that, within the economic governance framework, compliance with the convergence code should be the condition for full participation in the fiscal capacity of the euro area and requires each Member State to come forward with proposals on how to meet the criteria of the convergence code; stresses that the standards and the fiscal incentives are determined in its resolution on budgetary capacity for the Eurozone;

21.   Considers a strong social dimension indispensable for a comprehensive EMU and that Article 9 of the TFEU in its current form is not sufficient to guarantee a proper equilibrium between social rights and economic freedoms; calls therefore for these rights to be equally ranked and for dialogue between social partners to be safeguarded;

22.   Calls for the integration of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union (the “Fiscal Compact”) into the EU legal framework as well as the incorporation of the ESM and the Single Resolution Fund into EU law, on the basis of a comprehensive assessment of their implementation and with corresponding democratic oversight by Parliament to ensure that control and accountability are the responsibility of those contributing to them; also calls for the further development of the inter-parliamentary conference foreseen in Article 13 of the Fiscal Compact, to allow substantial and timely discussions between the EP and the national parliaments where needed;

23.   Is of the opinion that, in order to increase financial stability, mitigate cross-border asymmetric and symmetric shocks, reduce the effects of recession, and ensure a proper level of investment, the euro area needs a fiscal capacity based on genuine own resources and a European treasury equipped with the ability to borrow; notes that this treasury should be based in the Commission and be subject to democratic scrutiny and accountability through Parliament and the Council;

24.   Points out that, because compliance is crucial to the functioning of the Economic and Monetary Union, stronger governmental functions are required than those currently provided by the Commission and/or the Eurogroup, as well as full democratic checks and balances through the involvement of the European Parliament on all EMU aspects; believes that in parallel, to improve ownership, accountability must be ensured at the level where decisions are taken or implemented, with national parliaments scrutinising national governments and the European Parliament scrutinising the European executive;

25.   Calls, therefore, for the executive authority to be concentrated in the Commission in the role of an EU Finance Minister, by endowing the Commission with the capacity to formulate and give effect to a common EU economic policy combining macro-economic, fiscal and monetary instruments, backed up by a Eurozone budgetary capacity; the Finance Minister should be responsible for the operation of the ESM and other mutualised instruments, including the budgetary capacity, and be the single external representative of the euro area in international organisations, especially in the financial sector;

26.   Considers it necessary to endow the Finance Minister with proportionate powers to intervene in order to monitor the convergence code, and the power to use the fiscal incentives described above;

27.   Considers it necessary, without prejudice to the tasks of the European System of Central Banks, to enable the European Stability Mechanism to act as first lender of last resort for financial institutions directly under the European Central Bank’s supervision or oversight; considers it necessary, furthermore, for the European Central Bank to enjoy the full powers of a federal reserve, while maintaining its independence;

28.   Calls, finally, for the banking union and the capital markets union to be completed step by step, but as soon as possible on the basis of a fast-track timetable;

29.   Considers it necessary to lift the unanimity for certain tax practices to allow the EU to safeguard the fair and smooth functioning of the internal market and to avoid harmful tax policies on the part of Member States; calls for the fight against tax fraud, tax avoidance and tax havens to be made a fundamental objective of the European Union;

New challenges

30.   Recognises the geopolitical, economic and environmental need for the creation of a genuine European energy union; underlines that climate change is one of the key global challenges facing the EU; stresses, in addition to the need for the full ratification and implementation of the Paris Agreement and the adaptation of binding EU climate targets and actions, that the constraint that EU policy must not affect a state’s right to determine the conditions for exploiting its energy sources, its choice between different energy sources and the general structure of its energy supply (Article 194(2) TFEU) needs to be amended in order to ensure successful implementation of common clean and renewable energy policies;

31.   Stresses that the development of new and renewable energy resources should be incorporated into the Treaties as a prime objective for both the Union and the Member States;

32.   Notes that the Treaties provide ample means to set up a humane, well-functioning migration management and asylum system, including a European Border and Coast Guard, and welcomes the progress made in this regard; believes, however, that the Treaties, particularly Article 79(5) TFEU, are too restrictive regarding other aspects of migration, especially on the establishment of a genuine European legal migration system; underlines that the future EU migration system must synergise with its foreign aid and its foreign policy, and unify national criteria for granting asylum and access to the labour market; insists that democratic scrutiny by Parliament is needed on the implementation of border control, agreements with third countries, including cooperation on readmission and return, asylum and migration policies, and that the safeguarding of national security cannot be used as a pretext for circumventing European action;

33.   Considers it necessary, in view of the intensity of the terrorist threat, to upgrade the EU’s capacities in the fight against terrorism and international organised crime; stresses that, beyond strengthening coordination between the competent authorities and agencies in the Member States, Europol and Eurojust should receive genuine investigation and prosecution competences and capabilities, possibly by a transformation into a true European Bureau of Investigation and Counter-Terrorism, with due parliamentary scrutiny;

34.   Concludes that the various terrorist attacks perpetrated on European soil have demonstrated that security would be better ensured if it were not an exclusive competence of the Member States; proposes therefore that it be made a shared competence in order to facilitate the establishment of a European investigation and intelligence capacity within Europol under the control of the judiciary; stipulates that in the meantime, in accordance with Article 73 TFEU, there is nothing to prevent the Member States from creating this type of cooperation between their services;

Strengthening our foreign policy

35.   Regrets, as stated in its resolution of 16 February 2017 on improving the functioning of the European Union building on the potential of the Lisbon Treaty, that the EU has not made more progress in developing its capacity to agree and to implement a common foreign and security policy (CFSP); notes that its efforts in initiating a common security and defence policy have not been particularly successful, especially with regard to the sharing of costs and responsibilities;

36.   Notes that only by enhancing the Common Foreign and Security Policy can the EU provide credible answers to the new security threats and challenges, and thus fight terrorism and bring peace, stability and order to its neighbourhood;

37.   Is of the opinion, while reiterating that more progress could and should be made under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty, including use of the provisions to act by qualified majority voting, that the Vice-President / High Representative should be named EU Foreign Minister and be supported in her efforts to become the main external representative of the European Union in international fora, not least at the level of the UN; considers that the Foreign Minister should be able to appoint political deputies; proposes a review of the functionality of the current European External Action Service, including the need for appropriate budgetary resources;

38.   Stresses the need for the swift establishment of a European Defence Union to strengthen the defence of the EU’s territory, which, in strategic partnership with NATO, would enable the Union to act autonomously in operations abroad, mainly with a view to stabilising its neighbourhood and thus improve the EU’s role as guarantor of its own defence and security provider, in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations; draws attention to the Franco-German initiative of September 2016, as well as the Italian initiative of August 2016, which provide useful contributions to this issue; stresses that the European Parliament needs to be fully involved in all steps of the creation of the EDU and must have the right of consent in the event of operations abroad; in view of its relevance, the Treaties should provide specifically for the possibility of establishing a European Defence Union; furthermore, in addition to the European External Action Service, a Directorate-General for Defence (DG Defence) responsible for the internal aspects of the Common Security and Defence Policy should be established;

39.   Emphasises the need to increase the resources earmarked for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, in order to ensure that the cost of military operations carried out in the framework of the Common Security and Defence Policy or the European Defence Union is shared more fairly;

40.   Proposes that a European Intelligence Office be set up to support the CFSP;

Safeguarding Fundamental Rights

41.   Reiterates that the Commission is the guardian of the Treaties and of the Union’s values, as referred to in Article 2 TEU; concludes, in the light of various possible breaches of the values of the Union in a number of Member States, that the current procedure under Article 7 TEU is deficient and cumbersome;

42.   Underlines that respect for and the safeguarding of the EU’s fundamental values are the cornerstone of the European Union as a community based on values and that they bind the Member States together;

43.   Proposes amending Article 258 TFEU in order to explicitly allow the Commission to take ‘systemic infringement action’ against Member States that violate fundamental values; understands ‘systemic infringement action’ as the bundling of a group of related individual infringement actions suggesting a serious and persistent violation of Article 2 TEU by a Member State;

44.   Proposes extending the right of natural and legal persons who are directly and individually affected by an action to bring a case before the ECJ for alleged violations of the Charter of Fundamental Rights either by EU institutions or by a Member State, by amending Articles 258 and 259 TFEU;

45.   Recommends the abolition of Article 51 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the conversion of the Charter into a Bill of Rights of the Union;

46.   Believes, moreover, that citizens should be endowed with more instruments of participatory democracy at Union level; proposes, therefore, that the introduction, in the Treaties, of provision for a referendum at EU level on matters relevant to the Union’s actions and policies be evaluated;

More democracy, transparency and accountability

47.   Proposes transforming the Commission into the principle executive authority or government of the Union with the aim of strengthening the ‘Union method’, increasing transparency and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of action taken at the level of the European Union;

48.   Reiterates its call for the size of the renewed Commission to be reduced substantially and for its vice-presidents to be reduced to two: the Finance Minister and the Foreign Minister; suggests that the same reduction be applied to the Court of Auditors;

49.   Welcomes the successful new procedure whereby European political parties promote their lead candidates for the President of the European executive, elected by the European Parliament on a proposal by the European Council, but believes that they should be able to stand as official candidates at the next elections in all Member States;

50.   Emphasises that involving citizens in the political process of their country of residence helps to build European democracy, and calls for the electoral rights of citizens residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals, as set out in Article 22 TFEU, to be extended to include all remaining elections;

51.   Supports the European Council Decision of 28 June 2013 to establish a system which will make it possible, before each election to the European Parliament, to reallocate the seats among Member States in an objective, fair, durable and transparent way, respecting the principle of degressive proportionality, while taking account of any change in the number of Member States and demographic trends;

52.   Recalls the numerous pronouncements in favour of a single seat for the European Parliament, given the symbolic value of such a move and the actual savings it would achieve;

53.   Reiterates its call for a single seat for the European Parliament and its commitment to initiating an ordinary treaty revision procedure under Article 48 TEU with a view to proposing the changes to Article 341 TFEU and Protocol No 6 necessary to allow Parliament to decide on the location of its seat and its internal organisation;

54.   Proposes that all Council configurations and the European Council be transformed into a Council of States whereby the European Council’s principal responsibility would be to provide direction and coherence to the other configurations;

55.   Considers that the Council and its specialised configurations, as the second chamber of the EU legislature, should, in the interest of specialism, professionalism and continuity, replace the practice of the rotating six-month presidency with a system of permanent chairs chosen from their midst; suggests that Council decisions should be taken by one single legislative Council, while the existing specialised legislative Council configurations should be turned into preparatory bodies, similar to committees in the Parliament;

56.   Suggests that Member States should be able to determine the composition of their national representation in the specialised Council configurations, whether consisting of representatives of their respective national parliaments, governments or a combination of both;

57.   Stresses that, following the creation of the role of EU Finance Minister, the Eurogroup should be considered as a formal specialised configuration of the Council with legislative and control functions;

58.   Calls for a further reduction of the voting procedures in the Council from unanimity, wherever it is still applied, for example in foreign and defence matters, fiscal affairs and social policy, to qualified majority, for the existing special legislative procedures to be converted into ordinary legislative procedures, and for the full replacement of the consultation procedure by codecision between Parliament and Council;

59.   Believes that, in strengthening the governance of the euro area, due respect should be paid to the interests of Member States that are not yet part of the euro (the ‘pre-ins’);

60.   Recognises the significant role played by national parliaments in the current institutional order of the European Union, and in particular their role in transposing EU legislation into national law and the role they would play in both ex-ante and ex-post control of legislative decisions and policy choices made by their members of the Council, including its specialised configurations; suggests therefore complementing and enhancing the powers of national parliaments by introducing a ‘green card’ procedure whereby national parliaments could submit legislative proposals to the Council for its consideration;

61.   While respecting the role of national parliaments and the principle of subsidiarity, acknowledges the EU’s exclusive competences on the Common Commercial Policy; calls for a clear delimitation of competences between the Union and the Member States in this respect; notes that this delimitation would have positive effects on jobs and growth both in the EU and in its trading partners;

62.   Proposes, moreover, that in line with the common practice in a number of Member States, both chambers of the EU legislature, the Council and, in particular, the Parliament, as the only institution directly elected by citizens, should be given the right of legislative initiative, without prejudice to the basic legislative prerogative of the Commission;

63.   Is of the opinion that under Articles 245 and 247 TFEU, not only the Council and the Commission, but also the European Parliament should have the right to bring an action before the European Court of Justice if a member or former member of the European Commission breaches his obligations under the Treaties, is guilty of serious misconduct or no longer fulfils the conditions required for the performance of his duties;

64.   Insists that Parliament’s right of inquiry should be reinforced and that it should be granted specific, genuine and clearly delimited powers which are more in line with its political stature and competences, including the right to summon witnesses, to have full access to documents, to conduct on-the-spot investigations and to impose sanctions for non-compliance;

65.   Is convinced that the EU budget needs to be endowed with a system of genuine own resources, with simplicity, fairness and transparency as guiding principles; supports the recommendations of the High Level Group on Own Resources as regards diversifying the revenue of the EU budget, including new own resources, in order to reduce the share of GNI contributions to the EU budget with a view to abandoning the ‘juste retour’ approach of Member States; insists, in this context, on the phasing-out of all forms of rebates;

66.   Proposes in this regard that the decision-making procedures for both own resources and the MFF should be shifted from unanimity to qualified majority voting, thereby inducing real codecision between the Council and Parliament on all budgetary matters; repeats its call, furthermore, to make the MFF coterminous with the mandates of Parliament and the European executive, and insists that the finances of all Union agencies should become an integral part of the EU budget;

67.   Stresses the need to apply the ordinary legislative procedure for the adoption of the MFF Regulation, in order to align it with the decision-making procedure of virtually all EU multiannual programmes, including their respective financial allocations, as well as the EU budget; believes that the consent procedure deprives Parliament of the decision-making power that it exercises over the adoption of the annual budgets, while the unanimity rule in the Council means that the agreement represents the lowest common denominator, based on the need to avoid the veto of a single Member State;

68.   Notes the fact that the list of institutions defined in Article 13 of the TEU differs from that stated in Article 2 of the Financial Regulation; considers that the Financial Regulation already reflects current practice;

69.   Finds that there are a few instances where the letter of the TFEU diverges from the practice and the spirit of the Treaty; is of the opinion that these incoherencies need to be corrected in line with the principles of democracy and transparency;

70.   Recalls that each of the institutions, as defined in Article 2(b) of the Financial Regulation, has the autonomy to implement its own section of the budget pursuant to Article 55 of the Financial Regulation; points out that such autonomy also entails a substantial level of responsibility regarding use of the funding allocated;

71.   Points out that effective supervision of the institutions’ and bodies’ implementation of the EU budget requires bona fide and more effective cooperation with Parliament and full transparency regarding the use of funding, as well as an annual follow-up document from all the institutions on the discharge recommendations of Parliament; regrets that the Council is not adhering to this procedure and considers that this long-standing state of affairs is unjustifiable and undermines the reputation of the whole Union;

72.   Notes that the procedure of giving discharge separately to the individual EU institutions and bodies is a long-standing practice developed to guarantee transparency and democratic accountability towards EU taxpayers and is a means of verifying the relevance and transparency of the use of EU funding; underlines that this effectively guarantees Parliament’s right and duty to scrutinise the whole of the EU budget; recalls the Commission’s view, expressed in January 2014, that all institutions without exception are fully part of the follow-up process to the observations made by Parliament in the discharge exercise and should unfailingly cooperate to ensure the smooth functioning of the discharge procedure;

73.   In order to enable Parliament to take an informed decision on granting discharge, requires the institutions to provide Parliament directly with their annual activity reports and to give Parliament full information in answer to its questions during the discharge process;

74.   Is of the opinion that the TFEU needs to ensure Parliament’s right of scrutiny of the whole EU budget and not only the part managed by the Commission; urges, therefore, that Chapter 4 of Title II – Financial provisions – of the TFEU be updated accordingly in order to include all the institutions and bodies within the rights and obligations foreseen in that chapter and in coherence with the Financial Regulation;

75.   Stresses that all Member States should be obliged to provide an annual declaration to account for their use of EU funds;

76.   Acknowledges the crucial role of the Court of Auditors in ensuring better and smarter spending of the EU budget, in detecting cases of fraud, corruption and the unlawful use of EU funds, and in giving a professional opinion on how to better manage EU funding; recalls the importance of the Court’s role as a European public auditing authority;

77.   Considers that in view of the important role played by the European Court of Auditors in auditing the collection and utilisation of EU funds, it is absolutely essential that the institutions take full account of its recommendations;

78.   Notes that the Court’s composition and its appointment procedure are laid down in Articles 285 and 286 TFEU; considers that Parliament and the Council should be on an equal footing when appointing Members of the Court of Auditors, in order to ensure democratic legitimacy, transparency and the complete independence of those Members; calls for the Council to accept in full the decisions taken by Parliament subsequent to hearings of candidates nominated as Members of the Court of Auditors;

79.   Deplores the fact that certain appointment procedures have resulted in conflicts between Parliament and the Council on candidates; stresses that it is, as stipulated in the Treaty, Parliament’s duty to evaluate the nominees; emphasises that these conflicts might harm the good working relations of the Court with the aforementioned institutions and could possibly have serious negative consequences for the credibility, and hence the effectiveness, of the Court; is of the opinion that the Council should, in the spirit of good cooperation among the EU institutions, accept the decisions taken by Parliament subsequent to the hearings;

80.   Calls for the introduction of a legal basis with a view to establishing Union agencies that may carry out specific executive and implementing functions conferred upon them by the European Parliament and the Council in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure;

81.   Points out that, in accordance with the Treaties, Parliament gives discharge to the Commission in respect of implementation of the budget; takes the view that, as all the EU institutions and bodies manage their budgets independently, Parliament should be given the explicit competence to grant discharge to all EU institutions and bodies, and that the latter should be obliged to cooperate fully with Parliament;

82.   Believes, finally, that the current Treaty ratification procedure is too rigid to befit such a supranational polity as the European Union; proposes allowing amendments to the Treaties to come into force if not by an EU-wide referendum then after being ratified by a qualified majority of four-fifths of the Member States, having obtained the consent of Parliament;

83.   Calls for the ECJ to gain full jurisdiction over all EU policies regarding questions of a legal nature, as is appropriate in a democratic system based on the rule of law and the separation of powers;

Constituent process

84.   Commits itself to playing a leading part in these important constitutional developments, and is determined to make its own proposals for Treaty amendment in a timely fashion;

85.   Is of the opinion that the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome would be an appropriate moment to start a reflection on the future of the European Union and agree on a vision for the current and future generations of European citizens leading to a Convention with the purpose of making the European Union ready for the decades ahead;

o
o   o

86.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the European Council, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank, the Court of Auditors, the Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee and the parliaments and governments of the Member States.

(1) OJ C 436, 24.11.2016, p. 49.
(2) OJ C 436, 24.11.2016, p. 47.
(3) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 884.
(4) OJ C 373, 20.12.2013, p. 1.
(5) http://ec.europa.eu/budget/mff/hlgor/library/reports-communication/hlgor-report_20170104.pdf
(6) ECJ Opinion 2/13 of 18 December 2014 .
(7) OJ L 181, 29.6.2013, p. 57.
(8) OJ C 468, 15.12.2016, p. 176.
(9) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0378 .
(10) OJ C 419, 16.12.2015, p. 185.
(11) OJ C 75, 26.2.2016, p. 109.
(12) OJ C 436, 24.11.2016, p. 2.
(13) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0382 .
(14) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0395 .
(15) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0294 .
(16) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0049 .
(17) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0050 .
(18) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0409 .
(19) OJ L 251, 16.9.2016, p. 1.
(20) OJ C 13, 15.1.2016, p. 183.
(21) OJ C 313, 22.9.2015, p. 9.
(22) OJ C 62, 2.3.2013, p. 26.
(23) Standard Eurobarometer 84 – Autumn 2015, and Special Eurobarometer EP – June 2016.


Improving the functioning of the European Union building on the potential of the Lisbon Treaty
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European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2017 on improving the functioning of the European Union building on the potential of the Lisbon Treaty (2014/2249(INI) )
P8_TA(2017)0049 A8-0386/2016

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community, signed on 13 December 2007,

–   having regard to the Declaration of 9 May 1950, which stated that the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community represented the ‘first step in the federation of Europe’,

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

–   having regard to its resolution of 20 February 2008 on the Treaty of Lisbon(1) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 7 May 2009 on the impact of the Lisbon Treaty on the development of the institutional balance of the European Union(2) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 13 March 2014 on the implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon with respect to the European Parliament(3) ,

–   having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 16 September 2015(4) ,

–   having regard to the resolution of the Committee of the Regions of 8 July 2015(5) ,

–   having regard to the report to the European Council by the Reflection Group on the Future of the EU 2030,

–   having regard to the report of the five Presidents (Commission, Council, Eurogroup, Parliament and European Central Bank (ECB)) on completing the Economic and Monetary Union,

–   having regard to its resolution of 12 April 2016 on the annual reports 2012-2013 on subsidiarity and proportionality(6) , and to the opinion on that report of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs,

–   having regard to its resolution of 19 January 2017 on a European Pillar of Social Rights(7) ,

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

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Budgets and the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0386/2016 ),

A.   whereas the European Union and its Member States are facing major challenges, which no Member State can tackle on its own;

B.   whereas, owing inter alia to the economic, financial and social crisis, the EU is also facing disillusion of its citizens with the European project, as illustrated also by the continuing low turnout in European elections and the rise of Eurosceptic or openly anti-European political forces;

C.   whereas certain proposals seeking to address the challenges facing the Union and to strengthen its integration with a view to improving its functioning to the benefit of its citizens can only be fully realised by Treaty change; whereas provision should be made for a two-step approach to EU reform (within and beyond the Treaties); whereas the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty and its protocols have not yet been exploited to their full potential, and this resolution aims only to provide an assessment of the legal possibilities in the Treaties for improving the functioning of the EU;

D.   whereas the dominant role of the European Council amounts to a continuing rejection of the Community method with its dual legitimacy concept;

E.   whereas the Community method must be preserved and not weakened by recourse to intergovernmental decisions, including in areas where not all Member States fulfil the conditions for participation; whereas the Commission’s role should be strengthened so that it can play its part as the engine of the Community method fully and effectively;

F.   whereas the internal market, facilitating the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital, is a cornerstone of the EU;

G.   whereas the European Parliament, democratically elected by direct universal suffrage, and as such at the heart of democracy at the Union level is the parliament of the whole Union, and plays an essential role in ensuring the legitimacy and accountability of EU decisions, including the democratic accountability of eurozone-specific actions and decisions;

H.   whereas according to Article 10(2) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) the European Parliament represents the Union’s citizens, independently of their nationality, and the Council represents the nationals of the Member States via the national governments;

I.   whereas political dialogue between national parliaments and the European Parliament should be enhanced and practical possibilities for the use of the ‘yellow card’ and ‘orange card’ improved;

J.   whereas the European Council’s working methods should be rendered more transparent vis-à-vis Parliament and its tasks should be carried out within the limits of the Treaty provisions;

K.   whereas in order to create a genuine bicameral legislative system which is democratic and transparent in its decision-making Council decisions should be taken by one single legislative Council, while the existing specialised legislative Council configurations should be turned into preparatory bodies, similar to committees in the Parliament;

L.   whereas the unity of liability and control is a key prerequisite for the stability of any institutional set-up, and in particular with regard to economic, fiscal and monetary matters; whereas EU economic policy is built on strong national ownership by Member States, including the ‘no bailout’ principle of Article 125 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU); whereas the increase of powers conferred to the European level implies an agreement on the decrease of national sovereignty of Member States;

M.   whereas the EU should promote the highest level of protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and it must be guaranteed that the EU, its institutions and the Member States respect and foster those rights and freedoms;

N.   whereas the Commission’s role as the executive should be strengthened in the field of economic and fiscal policy;

O.   whereas Article 2 of Protocol No 14 on the Eurogroup does not specify that the President of the Eurogroup must be elected from amongst its members;

P.   whereas to enhance the political legitimacy of the Commission as regards implementing economic governance and fiscal rules, it is fundamental that the President of the Commission is chosen through a clear and well-understood procedure in the European elections;

Q.   whereas the Treaty of Lisbon reaffirmed the legal framework for the Court of Auditors to promote public accountability and assist Parliament and the Council in overseeing the implementation of the EU budget, thereby contributing to the protection of citizens’ financial interests; whereas Article 318 TFEU provides for additional dialogue between Parliament and the Commission and should stimulate a culture of performance in the execution of the EU budget;

R.   whereas the European institutions and bodies, notably the Committee of the Regions (CoR), the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), and, especially, the European Parliament, should, in their daily work, monitor respect for the principle of horizontal and vertical subsidiarity in the European Union; whereas the European institutions should take account of the role played by the CoR and EESC in the legislative framework and the importance of taking their opinions into consideration;

S.   whereas Article 137 TFEU and Protocol No 14 establish the Eurogroup as an informal body;

T.   whereas the new tasks conferred upon the Eurogroup by the ‘Six Pack’ and ‘Two Pack’ regulations, in conjunction with the identity of those forming the Eurogroup and the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Board of Governors and the identity of the President of the Eurogroup and the Chairperson of the ESM Board of Governors, grant the Eurogroup a de facto crucial role in the economic governance of the euro area;

U.   whereas the macroeconomic imbalances procedure is not currently sufficiently used; whereas if used to its full capacity it could help to correct economic imbalances at an early stage, provide an accurate overview of the situation in each Member State and the Union as a whole, prevent crises, and contribute to improving competitiveness; whereas there is a need for greater structural convergence among members, since this will help contribute to sustainable growth and social cohesion; whereas, therefore, the completion of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) is urgently needed, together with efforts to render its institutional structure more legitimate and democratically accountable;

V.   whereas the institutional structure of the EMU should be made more effective and democratic, with Parliament and Council acting as equal co-legislators, the Commission fulfilling the role of the executive, national parliaments better scrutinising national governments’ actions at European level, the European Parliament scrutinising the EU level of decision-making, and a stronger role for the Court of Justice;

W.   whereas the Union needs proper application and enforcement of the existing economic policy framework, as well as new legal provisions on economic policy and crucial structural reforms in the areas of competitiveness, growth and social cohesion;

X.   whereas the European Semester process should be simplified and rendered more focused and democratic, by enhancing Parliament’s scrutiny role over it and by investing it with a more substantial role in the various cycles of negotiations;

Y.   whereas the TFEU has put Parliament on an equal footing with the Council as regards the annual budget procedure; whereas the Lisbon Treaty has been only partially implemented in the budgetary field, mainly owing to the absence of genuine own resources;

Z.   whereas the use of the Union budget should be more streamlined, its revenue should originate from genuine own resources and not predominantly from Gross National Income (GNI) contributions, and the procedure for adoption of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) could under the Treaties be switched from unanimity to qualified majority voting;

AA.   whereas, according to Article 21 of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 (the ‘Financial Regulation’), the principle of the universality of the budget does not prevent a group of Member States from assigning a financial contribution to the EU budget or a specific revenue to a specific item of expenditure, as is already happening, for instance, in the case of the high flux reactor under Decision 2012/709/Euratom;

AB.   whereas assigned revenue in terms of Article 21 of the Financial Regulation is, according to recital 8 of the Multiannual Financial Framework Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1311/2013, not part of the MFF and thus not covered by the MFF ceilings;

AC.   whereas the system of own resources does not prohibit own resources financed only by a subset of Member States;

AD.   whereas the Union should be endowed with increased investment capacity by ensuring optimum use of the existing Structural Funds and by using the European Strategic Investment Fund, as well as by increasing the capacities of the European Investment Bank (EIB), European Investment Fund (EIF) and European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI);

AE.   whereas the establishment of a fiscal capacity within the euro area and its outline, funding, modes of intervention and conditions of integration in the Union budget are under consideration;

AF.   whereas the growth potential of the internal market should be further exploited in the areas of services, the Digital Single Market, the Energy Union, the Banking Union and the Capital Markets Union;

AG.   whereas, according to the Treaties, the Union shall combat social exclusion and discrimination, and shall promote social justice and protection, equality between women and men and solidarity between generations;

AH.   whereas strengthening the single market should be accompanied by improved taxation coordination;

AI.   whereas the right of free movement and the rights of workers should be guaranteed and sustained by fully exploiting the potential of the Lisbon Treaty;

AJ.   whereas the Union legislator may adopt measures in the field of social security that are necessary for workers who exercise their free movement rights under Article 48 TFEU; whereas it may adopt measures for the protection of social rights of workers independently of the use of free movement rights under Article 153 TFEU;

AK.   whereas on the basis of Article 153(1)(a) to (i) TFEU the Union legislator may adopt minimum harmonisation measures in the area of social policy; whereas such legislation may not affect the right of Member States to define the fundamental principles of their social security systems; whereas such legislation may not significantly affect the financial equilibrium of national social security systems; whereas these limits for social policy harmonisation still give some unused leeway to the Union legislator to adopt measures in the area of social policy;

AL.   whereas the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or work of equal value, as laid down in Article 157 TFEU, has still not been realised;

AM.   whereas there are deficiencies in relation to the functioning and implementation of the instrument of the European Citizens’ Initiative, and there is therefore a need for improvement in order for it to function effectively and be a true instrument for participative democracy and active citizenship;

AN.   whereas freedom of movement, in particular that of workers, is a right that is enshrined in the Treaties (Article 45 TFEU) and constitutes a fundamental driving force for the completion of the single market;

AO.   whereas the Union needs to increase the effectiveness, coherence and accountability of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), which can be done by using the existing Treaty provisions to switch from unanimity to qualified majority voting (QMV) for more and more areas of external policies, as well as by implementing the provisions for flexibility and enhanced cooperation when needed;

AP.   whereas recent security challenges, some in the immediate vicinity of the EU’s borders, have revealed the need to move progressively towards the establishment of a common defence policy, and eventually a common defence; whereas the Treaty already contains clear provisions as to how this could be done, notably in Articles 41, 42, 44 and 46 TEU;

AQ.   whereas external representation has to be ensured in the Union interest where exclusive Union competences and shared Union competences that were already exercised by the Union are concerned; whereas in areas where the Union has not yet used its shared competence, Member States are under the duty to sincerely cooperate with the Union and to abstain from any measures that could undermine the Union interest;

AR.   whereas there is a need for a coordinated and structured position of the Union and of the Member States in international organisations and international fora in order to enhance the influence of the Union and of its Member States in those organisations and fora;

AS.   whereas entering into international obligations by the Union or by the Member States cannot reduce the role of national parliaments and of the European Parliament to mere rubber-stamping;

AT.   whereas the refugee crisis has exposed the need for a common asylum and immigration policy, which should provide as well for a fair distribution of asylum seekers across the EU;

AU.   whereas discrimination based on any grounds, such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief (political or otherwise), membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age, gender identity or sexual orientation, still remains a problem in every Member State;

AV.   whereas the recent crises have revealed that the approximation of legal provision is not sufficient for ensuring the functioning of the internal market or the area of freedom, security and justice because of differences in implementation of harmonised legal provisions;

AW.   whereas the Union legislator may not confer discretionary powers upon Union agencies that require political choices;

AX.   whereas the Union legislator has to ensure sufficient political control over the decisions and activities of Union agencies;

AY.   whereas Member States’ failure to comply with agreements adopted at European summits and European Councils seriously undermines the credibility of the European institutions, and their implementation should therefore be more effectively guaranteed;

1.   Notes that the European Union and its Member States are facing unprecedented challenges, such as the refugee crisis, the foreign policy challenges in the immediate neighbourhood and the fight against terrorism, as well as globalisation, climate change, demographic developments, unemployment, the causes and consequences of the financial and debt crisis, the lack of competitiveness and the social consequences in several Member States, and the need to reinforce the EU internal market, all of which need to be more adequately addressed;

2.   Underlines that these challenges cannot be adequately tackled individually by the Member States but need a collective response from the Union, based on respect for the principle of multi-tier governance;

3.   Recalls that the internal market, facilitating the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is a cornerstone of the EU; also recalls that exceptions to the internal market create distortions of competition within the Union and destroy the level playing field;

4.   Stresses that the Union needs to restore the lost confidence and trust of its citizens by enhancing the transparency of its decision-making and the accountability of its institutions, agencies and informal bodies (such as the Eurogroup), by strengthening cooperation among institutions, and by improving its capacity to act;

5.   Points out that not all of the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty have yet been exploited to their full potential even though they contain some necessary tools that could have been applied to prevent some of the crises with which the Union is confronted, or could be used to cope with the current challenges without having to initiate a Treaty revision in the short term;

6.   Stresses that the Community method is best suited for the functioning of the Union and has a number of advantages over the intergovernmental method, as it is the only one that allows for greater transparency, efficiency, QMV in Council, and the equal right of co-legislation by the European Parliament and Council, as well as preventing a fragmentation of institutional responsibilities and the development of competing institutions;

7.   Is of the opinion that intergovernmental solutions should only be an instrument of ultima ratio , subject to strict conditions, notably respect for Union law, the objective of deepening European integration, and openness for accession by non-participating Member States, and believes that they should be replaced by Union procedures as soon as possible, even in areas where not all the Member States fulfil the conditions for participation, so as to enable the Union to carry out its tasks within a single institutional framework; opposes in this context the creation of new institutions outside the Union framework, and continues to strive for incorporation into Union law of the ESM provided that there is appropriate democratic accountability, as well as the relevant provisions of the Fiscal Compact, as intended in the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance (TSCG) itself, on the basis of an assessment of the experience with its implementation, insists that actual decision-making and fiscal liabilities must not be separated from each other;

8.   Underlines that the directly elected European Parliament plays an essential role in ensuring the legitimacy of the Union and makes the Union’s decision-making system accountable to citizens by ensuring proper parliamentary scrutiny over the executive at the Union level and by the legislative codecision procedure, whose scope should be extended;

9.   Recalls that the European Parliament is the parliament of the whole Union, and considers that proper democratic accountability must be ensured also in the areas in which not all Member States participate, including euro area-specific actions and decisions;

10.   Considers that political dialogue between national parliaments and the European Parliament should be intensified and made more meaningful and substantial, without overstepping the limits of their respective constitutional competences; points out, in this regard, that national parliaments are best placed to mandate and scrutinise at national level the action of their respective governments in European affairs, while the European Parliament should ensure the democratic accountability and legitimacy of the European executive;

11.   Considers it vital to strengthen institutional transparency and openness in the EU as well as the way in which political decision-making in the EU is communicated; urges that efforts be stepped up with a view to the revision of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents, and of Directive 93/109/EC, laying down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and stand as a candidate in elections to the European Parliament for citizens of the Union residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals;

12.   Recalls that it is possible to strengthen Parliament’s right of inquiry and the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) through Union secondary law, and repeats its call on the Commission to propose a revision of the ECI Regulation;

13.   Considers it necessary that the Commission reforms the ECI as a functioning tool for democratic engagement, taking into account its resolution of 28 October 2015(8) , and calls on the Commission, inter alia, to raise public awareness and give the ECI a high profile; make its software for the online collection of signatures more user-friendly, making it accessible to people with disabilities; provide appropriate and comprehensive legal and practical guidance; consider setting up a dedicated ECI office at its representations in each Member State; explain in detail the reasons for rejecting an ECI, and explore ways of referring proposals contained in initiatives that may fall outside the scope of the Commission’s competences to more appropriate authorities;

14.   Takes the view that European voluntary service plays an integral part in building a European citizenship, and consequently recommends that the Commission look into how it might be made easier for young people to take part;

Institutional set-up, democracy and accountability

Parliaments

15.   Insists that Parliament’s legislative powers and control rights must be guaranteed, consolidated and strengthened, including by interinstitutional agreements and through the use of the corresponding legal base by the Commission;

16.   Considers it necessary for the European Parliament to reform its working methods in order to cope with the challenges ahead, by strengthening the exercise of its functions of political control over the Commission, including in relation to the implementation and application of the acquis in the Member States, by limiting first-reading agreements to exceptional cases of urgency and where a considered and explicit decision has been taken, and, in these cases, to improve the transparency of the procedure leading to the adoption of such agreements; also recalls in this context Parliament’s proposals to further harmonise its own electoral procedure, contained in its resolution of 11 November 2015 on the reform of the electoral law of the European Union(9) ;

17.   Expresses its intention to make more use of legislative initiative reports under Article 225 TFEU;

18.   Takes the view that Parliament should set up an entry register at its headquarters and in all the delegations in the Member States allowing citizens to hand over documents in person, with certification of content;

19.   Takes the view that an electronic Official Journal of the European Parliament should be introduced to authenticate all resolutions and reports approved by it;

20.   Encourages political dialogue with national parliaments on the contents of legislative proposals, when relevant; emphasises, however, that decisions must be taken at the level of constitutional competences and that there is a clear delineation of the respective decision-making competences of the national parliaments and the European Parliament, where the former must exercise their European function on the basis of their national constitutions, in particular via the control of their national governments as members of the European Council and the Council, since this is the level where they are best placed to directly influence the content of and exercise scrutiny over the European legislative process; is therefore against the creation of new joint parliamentary bodies with decision-making powers;

21.   Stresses the importance of cooperation between the European Parliament and national parliaments in joint bodies such as the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union (COSAC) and the Interparliamentary Conference on Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP-IPC), and in the framework of Article 13 of the TSCG in the Economic and Monetary Union, on the basis of the principles of consensus, information-sharing and consultation, in order to exercise control over their respective administrations; calls on the Commission and the Council to participate at a high political level in the interparliamentary meetings; underlines the need for closer cooperation between the committees of the European Parliament and their national equivalents within these joint bodies, by strengthening coherence, transparency and the mutual exchange of information;

22.   Encourages the exchange of best practices in parliamentary scrutiny between national parliaments, such as the holding of regular debates between the respective ministers and the specialised committees in national parliaments before and after Council meetings, and with Commissioners in an appropriate timeframe, as well as meetings with national parliaments for exchanges with MEPs; encourages the establishment of exchanges of officials of institutions and political groups between the administrations of the European Parliament and national parliaments;

23.   Takes the view that care needs to be taken to prevent any ‘gold-plating’ of EU legislation by Member States and that national parliaments have a key role to play here;

European Council

24.   Regrets that the Council, by not using QMV, has too often referred legislative matters to the European Council; considers that the European Council’s practise of ‘tasking the Council’ goes beyond the strategic guidelines role attributed to it by the Treaties, and thus goes against the letter and the spirit of the Treaties, as described in Article 15(1) TEU, which stipulates that the European Council shall define the general political directions and priorities of the Union but shall not exercise legislative functions; considers it necessary to improve the working relations between the European Council and Parliament;

25.   Recalls that the Commission President will be elected by the European Parliament on a proposal by the European Council, taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after appropriate consultations have been held, and that therefore, as was the case in 2014, European political parties have to come up with lead candidates in order to give the people the choice whom to elect as Commission President; welcomes the proposal of the President of the Commission to amend the framework agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission regarding the participation of Commissioners as candidates for elections to the European Parliament;

26.   Recalls furthermore that, although not in the interest of the European Parliament, it is possible to merge the function of President of the European Council with that of President of the Commission;

27.   Calls on the European Council to make use of the ‘passerelle clause’ (Article 48(7) TEU) authorising the Council to switch from unanimity to QMV in applicable cases where the Treaties currently require unanimity;

28.   Calls on the President of the European Parliament to inform the Conference of Presidents in advance of the views he intends to uphold in his speech to the European Council;

Council

29.   Proposes that the Council be transformed into a true legislative chamber by reducing the number of Council configurations by means of a European Council decision, thus creating a genuinely bicameral legislative system involving the Council and Parliament, with the Commission acting as the executive; suggests involving the currently active specialised legislative Council configurations as preparatory bodies for a single legislative Council meeting in public, similarly to the functioning of the committees in the European Parliament;

30.   Insists on the importance of guaranteeing the transparency of Council legislative decision-making in general, whilst also improving the exchange of documents and information between Parliament and the Council and allowing access for representatives of Parliament as observers to meetings of the Council and its bodies, in particular in cases of legislation;

31.   Believes it is possible to merge the position of President of the Eurogroup and Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, and would in such case propose that the President of the Commission appoints this Commissioner as Vice-President of the Commission; considers that this Commissioner could, once a fiscal capacity and a European Monetary Fund are established, be granted all necessary means and capacities to apply and enforce the existing economic governance framework, and to optimise the development of the euro area in cooperation with the ministers of finance of the euro-area Member States, as detailed in its resolution of 16 February 2017 on a budgetary capacity for the Eurozone(10) ;

32.   Demands that, within the current Treaty framework, the President and the members of the Eurogroup be subject to appropriate mechanisms of democratic accountability towards the European Parliament, notably that its President reply to parliamentary questions; calls furthermore for the adoption of internal rules of procedure and the publication of results;

33.   Demands that the Council switch completely to QMV wherever this is possible under the Treaties, and that it abandon the practice of transferring contentious legislative fields to the European Council, as this goes against the letter and the spirit of the Treaty, which stipulates that the European Council can only decide unanimously, and should only do so on broad political goals, not on legislation;

34.   Is determined to implement fully the Treaty provisions on enhanced cooperation by committing not to give its consent to any new enhanced cooperation proposals unless the participating Member States commit to activate the special ‘passerelle clause’ enshrined in Article 333 TFEU to switch from unanimity to QMV, and from a special to the ordinary legislative procedure;

35.   Stresses the importance of taking full advantage of the enhanced cooperation procedure enshrined in Article 20 TEU, especially among euro area Member States, so that those Member States wishing to establish enhanced cooperation among themselves as part of the non-exclusive competences of the Union are able, through this mechanism, to promote the attainment of the objectives of the Union and strengthen their integration process subject to the limits of and in accordance with the arrangements laid down in Articles 326 to 334 TFEU;

Commission

36.   Is determined to strengthen the role of Parliament in the election of the Commission President by reinforcing the formal consultations of its political groups with the European Council President, as foreseen in Declaration 11 annexed to the Final Act of the Intergovernmental Conference which adopted the Treaty of Lisbon, in order to ensure that the European Council takes full account of the election results when presenting a candidate for Parliament to elect, as was the case in the 2014 European elections;

37.   Reiterates the need for all Commission proposals to be fully justified and accompanied by a detailed impact assessment, including a human rights assessment;

38.   Takes the view that the independence of the President of the Commission could be increased if every Member State were to designate at least three candidates of both genders who could be considered by the elected President of the Commission for the purpose of constituting his or her Commission;

39.   Insists on ensuring better coordination and, where possible, representation of the EU/euro area within international financial institutions, and points out that article 138(2) TFEU provides a legal basis for the adoption of measures to ensure unified representation of the EU/euro area within the international institutions and conferences;

40.   Calls for the establishment of a formalised and regular ‘dialogue’, to be organised in the European Parliament on matters concerning the external representation of the Union;

41.   Recalls that the Commission, the Member States and Parliament and Council must, each within the limits of their competences, help ensure a much better application and implementation of European Union law and of the Charter of Fundamental Rights;

Court of Auditors

42.   Acknowledges the crucial role of the European Court of Auditors in ensuring better and smarter spending of European funds; recalls that in addition to its important duty to provide information on the reliability of accounts and the legality and regularity of underlying transactions, the Court is in a pre-eminent position to provide Parliament with the information necessary for it to carry out its task and mandate of democratic scrutiny of the European budget and to offer information on the results and outcomes achieved by Union-financed activities and policies, with a view to improving the economy, efficiency and effectiveness thereof; recommends, therefore, that the Court of Auditors be strengthened; expects the Court to remain committed to independence, integrity, impartiality and professionalism, while building strong working relationships with its stakeholders;

43.   Considers that the sustained lack of cooperation by the Council makes it impossible for Parliament to take an informed decision on granting a discharge, which as a result, has a lasting negative effect on citizens’ perceptions of the credibility of the EU institutions and of transparency in the use of EU funds; believes this lack of cooperation also has an adverse impact on the functioning of the institutions and discredits the procedure for political scrutiny of budget management laid down in the Treaties;

44.   Stresses that the Court’s composition and its appointment procedure are laid down in Articles 285 and 286 TFEU; considers that Parliament and the Council should be on an equal footing when appointing Members of the Court of Auditors, in order to ensure democratic legitimacy, transparency and the complete independence of those Members; calls for the Council to respect decisions taken by Parliament subsequent to hearings of candidates nominated as Members of the Court of Auditors;

Committee of the Regions and European Economic and Social Committee

45.   Calls on the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission to improve cooperation modalities with the CoR and the EESC, including at the pre-legislative stage during the conduct of impact assessments, in order to ensure that their opinions and assessments can be taken into account throughout the legislative process;

Agencies

46.   Stresses that any conferral of implementing powers on Union agencies requires a sufficient degree of control over the decisions and actions of Union agencies by the Union legislator; recalls that effective supervision covers, inter alia, appointment and dismissal of the managing staff of the Union agency, participation in the supervisory board of the Union agency, veto rights in relation to certain Union agency decisions, information obligations and transparency rules, and budgetary rights in relation to the Union agency’s budget;

47.   Considers the adoption of a framework regulation for Union agencies that may exercise implementing powers covering the required political control mechanism by the Union legislator and including amongst others the right of the European Parliament to appoint and to dismiss the managing staff of the Union agency, to participate in the supervisory board of the Union agency, veto rights of the European Parliament in relation to certain Union agency decisions, information obligations and transparency rules and budgetary rights of the European Parliament in relation to the Union agency’s budget;

Respect for the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality

48.   Stresses the importance of the subsidiarity principle as laid down in Article 5 TEU, which is binding on all Union institutions and bodies, and of the instruments contained in Protocol No 2 on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality; recalls in this context the respective roles assigned to the national parliaments and the CoR; suggests flexibility regarding the date of transmission of draft legislative acts enshrined in the Protocol, and calls on the Commission to improve the quality of its responses to reasoned opinions;

49.   Reminds national parliaments of their key role in monitoring application of the subsidiarity principle; points out that the formal possibilities for national parliaments to ensure the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality offer ample opportunities in this respect, but that practical cooperation between national parliaments needs to be strengthened, inter alia to enable them, in close cooperation among themselves, to reach the necessary quorum under Article 7(3) of Protocol No 2 on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality in case of an alleged breach;

50.   Stresses the importance of Article 9 TFEU for ensuring that the social consequences of legal and policy measures of the EU are taken into account;

Extending and deepening the Economic and Monetary Union

51.   Recalls that the further development of the EMU must be based on, and build on, existing legislation and its implementation, and must also be linked to a deepening of the social dimension;

52.   Calls for further institutional reforms in order to make the EMU more effective and democratic with improved capacities to beintegrated within the institutional framework of the Union, whereby the Commission acts as the executive and Parliament and the Council as co-legislators;

New legal act on economic policy

53.   Recalls its resolution of 12 December 2013 on constitutional problems of a multitier governance in the European Union(11) , which vented the idea of a Convergence Code adopted under the ordinary legislative procedure with a view to creating a more effective framework for economic policy coordination (with a number of convergence criteria, which are to be determined), open to all Member States and supported by an incentive-based mechanism;

54.   Believes that a limited number of crucial areas for structural reforms that increase competitiveness, growth potential, real economic convergence and social cohesion over a five-year period to strengthen the European social market economy, as outlined in Article 3(3) TEU, should be laid down;

55.   Underlines the importance of a clear division of competences between the EU institutions and the Member States increasing the Member States’ ownership of, and the national parliaments’ role in, implementation programmes;

56.   Calls for better use of available instruments in conjunction with Article 136 TFEU to facilitate the adoption and implementation of new measures in the euro area;

A simplified, more focused and more democratic European Semester process

57.   Points out the need for fewer and more targeted Country Specific Recommendations (CSR), based on the policy framework set out in the Convergence Code and the Annual Growth Survey (AGS), and on the concrete proposals presented by each Member State, in line with their respective key reform objectives, from a broad range of structural reforms, fostering competitiveness, real economic convergence and social cohesion;

58.   Underlines the importance of demographic trends for the European semester, and calls for this indicator to be afforded greater significance;

59.   Recalls that economic dialogue mechanisms already exist, notably through the creation of the ‘economic dialogue’ within the framework of the ‘6-pack’ and ‘2-pack’ legislation; considers that this is an effective tool to enable Parliament to be vested with a more substantial role within the framework of the European Semester in order to enhance dialogue between Parliament, the Council, the Commission and the Eurogroup, and proposes formalising Parliament’s scrutiny role in the European Semester through an interinstitutional agreement (IIA), as Parliament has called for on several occasions; furthermore welcomes and encourages involvement of national parliaments at the national level and cooperation between national parliaments and the European Parliament in the framework of the European semester and economic governance more in general, e.g. through the ‘European Parliamentary Week’ and the ‘Article 13 Conference’; considers moreover that the involvement of social partners in the European Semester could be improved;

60.   Calls for the integration of the relevant provisions of the fiscal compact into the EU legal framework, on the basis of a comprehensive assessment of its implementation and to the extent that it is not yet covered by existing secondary legislation;

The role of the EU budget in the EMU

61.   Points to the possibility to switch from unanimity to QMV for the adoption of the MFF Regulation, by using the provisions of Article 312(2) TFEU when adopting the forthcoming MFF Regulation; highlights the importance of establishing a link between the duration of Parliament’s legislative term, the Commission’s mandate and the duration of the MFF, which can be reduced to five years under the provisions of Article 312(1) TFEU; calls for the alignment of future MFFs with the next parliamentary term; calls on the Council to subscribe to this democratic requirement;

62.   Welcomes the report of the High Level Group on Own Resources; wishes to return to the letter and spirit of the Treaties and to change the current system based on GNI contributions to one based on real own resources for the EU and, eventually, a euro area budget, for which a whole range of ideas exists;

63.   Points out that under Article 24 of Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1311/2013 of 2 December 2013 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020 all expenditure and revenue of the Union and Euratom must be included in the general budget of the Union in accordance with Article 7 of the Financial Regulation;

An increased EU investment capacity

64.   Calls for optimised use of the existing Structural Funds in the direction of fostering the EU’s competitiveness and cohesion, and for an increase in EU investment capacity through the exploitation of innovative approaches such as, e.g., EFSI, which includes specific facilities to finance and guarantee infrastructure projects in the interest of the Union;

65.   Insists on the full implementation of the ‘6-pack’ and ‘2-pack’ framework and the European Semester and on the need in particular to address macroeconomic imbalances and secure long-term control over the deficit and the still extremely high levels of debt by growth-friendly fiscal consolidation and by improving spending efficiency, prioritising productive investments, providing incentives for fair and sustainable structural reforms, and taking account of business cycle conditions;

Establish a fiscal capacity within the euro area through part of the EU budget

66.   Recalls that the euro is the currency of the Union and that the EU budget is intended to fulfil the objectives for the Union laid down in Article 3 TEU, and to fund common policies, assist weak regions by applying the principle of solidarity, complete the internal market, promote European synergies, respond to existing and emerging challenges that call for a pan-European approach, as such also contributing towards helping less developed Member States catch up and become able to join the euro area;

67.   Takes note of different proposals for the establishment of a budgetary capacity within the euro area; points out that these proposals assign different functions to such capacity and may have different designs; recalls that Parliament has insisted that such capacity should be developed within the EU framework;

68.   Points out that, whilst it will depend on the design, function and size of a new budgetary capacity whether such capacity can be established within the current Treaty framework, it is possible under the Treaties to raise the own resources ceilings, to establish new categories of own resources (even if such own resources would come only from a number of Member States), and to assign certain revenue to finance specific items of expenditure; points out furthermore that the EU budget already provides guarantees for specific lending operations and that several flexibility instruments exist for which funding can be mobilised over and above the MFF expenditure ceilings;

69.   Reiterates that it is in favour of integrating the European Stability Mechanism into the Union legal framework provided that there is appropriate democratic accountability;

70.   Believes that the establishment of a European fiscal capacity and the European Monetary Fund may be steps in the process of creating a European Treasury, which should be accountable to the European Parliament;

71.   Calls for due consideration to be given to the main findings of the Expert Group created by the Commission with a view to constituting a Redemption Fund;

Single market and financial integration

72.   Believes that the single market is one of the cornerstones of the EU and is fundamental for prosperity, growth and employment in the Union; points out that the single market, which offers tangible benefits to both companies and consumers, contains a growth potential that has not yet been fully exploited, particularly with reference to the Digital Single Market, financial services, energy, the banking union and the capital markets union; calls, therefore, for closer control of the correct application and better enforcement of the existing acquis in these domains;

73.   Calls for the rapid but step-by-step completion of a banking union, based on a single supervision mechanism (SSM), a single resolution mechanism (SRM) and a European deposit insurance scheme (EDIS), and sustained by an adequate and fiscally neutral backstop; appreciates the agreement on a bridge financing mechanism until the Single Resolution Fund becomes operational, and calls for a European Insolvency Scheme;

74.   Recalls that the European Supervisory Authorities should act with a view to improving the functioning of the internal market, in particular by ensuring a high quality, effective and consistent level of regulation and supervision taking account of the varying interests of all Member States and the differing nature of financial market participants; considers that issues that affect all Member States should be raised, discussed and decided by all Member States, and that to strengthen the level playing field inside the single market a single rulebook, applicable to all financial market participants in the EU, is essential in order to avoid fragmentation of the single market in financial services and unfair competition through lack of a level playing field;

75.   Calls for the establishment of a true capital markets union;

76.   Supports the creation of a system of competitiveness authorities tasked with bringing together the national bodies responsible for tracking progress in the area of competitiveness in each Member State, and proposes that tracking of progress of such a system should be under the supervision of the Commission;

77.   Considers it necessary to improve the automatic information exchange between national tax authorities in order to avoid tax fraud and tax evasion, tax planning, base erosion and profit shifting, as well as to promote coordinated actions to fight tax havens; calls for the adoption of a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base directive establishing a minimum rate and spelling out common objectives for progressive convergence; deems it necessary to embark on a comprehensive review of the existing VAT legislation, addressing inter alia the introduction of the country of origin principle;

A more democratic institutional set-up for the EMU

78.   Recalls the need for proper democratic legitimacy and accountability to be ensured at the level of decision-making, with national parliaments scrutinising national governments and with an enhanced scrutiny role for the European Parliament at EU level, including a central role, together with the Council, in the adoption of the Convergence Code following the ordinary legislative procedure;

79.   Advocates the general use of the ‘passerelle clause’ enshrined in Article 48(7) TEU; recalls that the Commission, in its blueprint for a deep and genuine EMU(12) , suggested the establishment of a Convergence and Competitiveness Instrument based on Article 136 TFEU or on Article 352 TFEU, if necessary by enhanced cooperation; points out that in case of enhanced cooperation the use of Article 333(2) TFEU, providing for the use of the ordinary legislative procedure, would strengthen the democratic legitimacy and effectiveness of EU governance and Parliament’s role therein;

80.   Reiterates that interparliamentary cooperation should not lead to the establishment of a new parliamentary body or a new institution, because the euro is the currency of the EU and the European Parliament is the parliament of the EU; recalls that the EMU is established by the Union, whose citizens are directly represented at Union level by Parliament, which has to find and be able to implement ways to guarantee the parliamentary democratic accountability of euro area-specific decisions;

81.   Insists that the Commission be endowed with powers to implement and enforce any future or existing instruments adopted in the area of EMU;

82.   Considers it necessary to address the weaknesses in the existing institutional structure of the EMU, particularly its democratic deficit, taking into account also that certain parts of the Treaty may be overseen by the Court of Justice while others are excluded from such scrutiny; considers that stronger parliamentary scrutiny is needed for the detailed implementation of Article 121(3) and (4) TFEU, concerning closer coordination of economic policies;

83.   Is of the opinion that differentiated integration should remain open to all Member States;

84.   Recalls that priority should be given to the ordinary legislative and budgetary procedures at EU level by making use when necessary of derogations and the establishment of dedicated budget lines; recalls that any other provisions, such as euro area or enhanced cooperation provisions, should only be used when the aforementioned procedures are not legally or politically possible;

Completion of the internal market as the first generator of growth

85.   Is convinced that the deepening of the EMU should go hand in hand with the completion of the internal market by removing all remaining internal barriers, especially as concerns the Energy Union, the common digital market and the market in services;

86.   Calls for full enforcement of existing internal energy market legislation according to Article 194 TFEU, in order to establish an Energy Union;

87.   Supports the strengthening in duties and competences of the European Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) towards, in the end, the creation of a European Energy Agency under Article 54 of the Euratom Treaty, as well as the integration of energy markets, the establishment of a European strategic reserve based on combining national reserves and of a joint negotiating centre with suppliers, with a view to completing the institutional structure of the Energy Union;

88.   Encourages the use of ‘project bonds’, in close cooperation with the EIB, for financing infrastructure and energy projects;

89.   Calls on the Commission to use Article 116 TFEU, which provides the necessary legal basis for Parliament and the Council to act according to the ordinary legislative procedure in order to eliminate practices that result in a distortion of competition in the internal market through harmful tax policies;

The social dimension

90.   Stresses that the workers’ rights, particularly when they exercise their right of mobility, should be guaranteed along with their social rights, making full use of the relevant legal instruments provided for in Titles IV, IX and X of Part Three of the TFEU and according to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, in order to ensure a stable social basis for the Union; points in this context in particular to the rights derived from Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States and Regulation (EU) No 492/2011 on freedom of movement for workers within the Union;

91.   Stresses the importance of establishing a social Europe, so that the European integration project continues to have the support of workers;

92.   Points out the importance of promoting the idea of a minimum wage determined by each Member State, observes that exploring options for a minimum unemployment benefit scheme would necessitate the existence of common rules and conditions for an EU labour market, and suggests that, under current Treaty provisions, a legislative proposal could be adopted to reduce still-existing barriers for employees;

93.   Points out the facilities provided by the Union and the need to actively include young workers in the labour market and further encourage the exchange of young workers, in accordance with Article 47 TFEU;

94.   Calls on the Commission to include employment criteria in the evaluation of Member States’ macro-economic performance, and for recommending and supporting structural reforms also with a view to ensure better use of regional and social funds;

95.   Calls on the Commission to properly assess the need for EU action and the potential economic, social and environmental impacts of alternative policy options before it proposes a new initiative (e.g. legislative proposals, non-legislative initiatives, implementing and delegated acts), in keeping with the Interinstitutional Agreement of 13 April 2016 on Better Law-Making;

96.   Calls for the establishment of a new social pact (which could take the form of a social protocol) aimed at fostering Europe’s social market economy and reducing inequalities, ensuring that all citizens’ fundamental rights are respected, including inter alia the right to collective bargaining and freedom of movement; points out that such a pact could enhance the coordination of the social policies of the Member States;

97.   Calls on the Commission to revitalise the EU social dialogue through binding agreements among the social partners in accordance with Articles 151 to 161 TFEU;

External action

Increasing the effectiveness, coherence and accountability of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)

98.   Takes the view that the European Union’s comprehensive approach to external conflicts and crises should be reinforced by bringing together more closely the different actors and instruments in all phases of the conflict cycle;

99.   Insists on using the provisions of Article 22 TEU to set up an overall strategic framework for, and take decisions on, strategic interests and objectives laid down in Article 21 TEU, that can extend beyond the CFSP to other areas of external action, and which requires consistency with other policies such as trade, agriculture and development assistance; recalls that decisions taken on the basis of such a strategy could be implemented by QMV; points out that the democratic legitimacy of such decisions could be enhanced if the Council and Parliament would adopt joint strategic documents on the basis of proposals by the Vice-President of the European Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR);

100.   Calls for parliamentary oversight of EU external action to be strengthened, including by continuing the regular consultations with the VP/HR, the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Commission, and for negotiations on replacing the 2002 Interinstitutional Agreement on access to sensitive information of the Council in the field of CFSP to be concluded;

101.   Considers it necessary that the EU Special Representatives be integrated into the EEAS, including by transferring their budget from the CFSP lines to the EEAS lines, as this would increase the coherence of EU efforts;

102.   Calls for the use of Article 31(2) TEU, which allows the Council to take certain decisions on CFSP matters by QMV, and the ‘passerelle clause’ contained in Article 31(3) TEU) to switch progressively to QMV for decisions in the area of the CFSP that do not have military or defence implications; recalls that Article 20(2) TEU, which lays down the provisions for enhanced cooperation, provides additional possibilities for Member States to move forward with the CFSP and should therefore be used;

103.   Believes that there is a need to increase the flexibility of the financial rules for external action in order to avoid delays in the operational disbursement of EU funds and thereby increase the EU’s ability to respond to crises in a speedy and effective way; considers it necessary, in this regard, to set up a fast-track procedure for humanitarian assistance to ensure that aid is disbursed in the most efficient and effective way possible;

104.   Urges the Council, the EEAS and the Commission to uphold their respective obligations to immediately and fully inform Parliament at all stages of the negotiating and concluding processes of international agreements, as stipulated in Article 218(10) TFEU and as detailed in interinstitutional agreements with the Commission and the Council;

105.   Points out that the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJUE) has confirmed that Parliament has the right under Article 218(10) TFEU to be fully and immediately informed at all stages of the procedure for negotiating and concluding international agreements – also where it concerns the CFSP – to enable it to exercise its powers with full knowledge of the European Union’s action as a whole; expects therefore that the interinstitutional negotiations that are to take place on improved practical arrangements for cooperation and information-sharing in the context of the negotiation and conclusion of international agreements will take proper account of the case law of the CJUE;

Towards a common defence policy

106.   Calls for progressive steps to be taken towards a common defence policy (Article 42(2) TEU) and, eventually, a common defence, which can be set up by unanimous decision of the European Council while also strengthening civilian and civil society on the basis of conflict prevention and resolution approaches based on non-violence, notably through an increase in financial, administrative and human resources aimed at dealing with mediation, dialogue, reconciliation and civil society organisation-based immediate crisis response;

107.   Suggests, as a first step in this direction, that the provisions of Article 46 TEU regarding the establishment of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) through a QMV vote in Council be implemented, as this instrument would allow more ambitious Member States to cooperate more closely in a coordinated way in the area of defence under the umbrella of the EU, and empower them to use the EU’s institutions, instruments and budget;

108.   Recommends setting up a permanent Council of Defence Ministers, to be chaired by the VP/HR with a view to coordinating the Member States’ defence policies, particularly with regard to cybersecurity and anti-terrorism, and jointly developing the EU’s defence strategy and priorities;

109.   Insists on the establishment of an EU white book on security and defence on the basis of the EU global strategy for foreign and security policy presented by the VP/HR as well as the Bratislava agenda, as such a document would further define how the EU’s strategic objectives in the field of security and defence, and identify the existing and required capabilities; calls on the Commission to base its ongoing preparatory work on a European defence action plan on the results of the future EU white book on security and defence, which should also address the question of how and under what circumstances the use of military force is appropriate and legitimate;

110.   Underlines the need to define common European capabilities and armaments policy (Article 42(3) TEU), which would encompass the joint planning, development and procurement of military capabilities and which should also include proposals to react to cyber, hybrid and asymmetrical threats; encourages the Commission to work on an ambitious European Defence Action Plan, as announced in the 2016 Work Programme;

111.   Stresses the great potential of the European Defence Agency (EDA) in helping develop a single defence market that is competitive, efficient, underpinned by intensive R&D&I and focused on creating specialised jobs, and advocates, to that end, looking into possible public-private partnerships; reiterates the urgent need to strengthen the EDA by providing it with needed resources and political backing, thereby allowing it to play a leading and coordinating role in capability development, research and procurement; repeats its view that this would be best done by financing the Agency’s staffing and running costs from the Union budget;

112.   Recalls the existence of Article 44 TEU, which provides additional flexibility provisions and introduces the possibility of entrusting the implementation of crisis management tasks to a group of Member States, which would carry out such tasks in the name of the EU and under the political control and strategic guidance of the Political and Security Committee (PSC) and the EEAS;

113.   Suggests that Article 41(3) TEU be used to establish a start-up fund consisting of Member States’ contributions to finance preparatory activities pertaining to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) activities not charged to the Union budget;

114.   Stresses the importance of extending common financing in the area of military CSDP, including through the Athena mechanism, as this would reduce financial disincentives on the part of Member States to contributing to military CSDP missions and operations and, thereby, improve the EU’s ability to react to crises;

115.   Calls for the creation of a permanent civilian and military headquarters, with Military Planning and conduct capability (MPCC) and Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability (CPCC); calls for the institutionalisation of the various European military structures (among others the different battlegroups, Euroforces, France-UK defence cooperation and Benelux air defence cooperation) into the EU framework, and for an increase in the usability of EU battlegroups, inter alia by extending common financing and by considering, by default, their deployment as an initial entry force in future crisis management scenarios;

116.   Notes that this permanent headquarters could engage in permanent contingency planning and play a major coordinating role in future applications of Article 42(7) TEU; is of the view that the ‘mutual defence clause’, as laid down in that article and invoked by France during the Foreign Affairs Council on 17 November 2015, can constitute a catalyst for further development of the EU’s security and defence policy, leading to stronger commitment by all Member States;

117.   Considers that there is a need to enhance EU-NATO cooperation at all levels in areas such as capability development and contingency planning for hybrid threats, and to intensify efforts to remove the remaining political obstacles; urges a comprehensive EU-NATO political and military partnership;

118.   Calls for decisive action to ensure policy coherence for development (PCD), under Article 208 TFEU, and demands the improvement of the PCD impact assessment system and the establishment of an arbitration mechanism to remedy any discrepancies in the EU’s various policies, giving the President of the Commission political responsibility for its broad guidelines and settling matters in accordance with the EU’s commitments on PCD;

Justice and home affairs (JHA)

119.   Underlines that, whilst upholding fundamental rights and freedoms and insisting on the need for democratic and judicial oversight over counterterrorism policies, in the light of the recent attacks and the increase of the terrorist threat, a systematic, mandatory and structured exchange of information and data between national law enforcement authorities and intelligence services, and with Europol, Frontex and Eurojust, is absolutely essential and must be put in place as soon as possible;

120.   Points out that, as with previous attacks, the perpetrators of the Paris attacks were already known to security authorities and had been the subject of investigations and supervision measures; expresses its concern that existing data on such individuals were not exchanged between Member States, despite the requirements of Article 88 TFEU; calls on the Council to adopt, on the basis of Article 352 TFEU, a mandatory exchange of data between Member States; takes the view that the potential of enhanced cooperation should be exploited if unanimity cannot be reached;

121.   Calls on the Commission and the Council to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the EU’s counterterrorism and related measures in particular as regards their implementation in law and in practice in the Member States, the degree to which there is cooperation with the EU’s agencies in the area, notably Europol and Eurojust, and a corresponding assessment of remaining gaps, as well as their compliance with the EU’s fundamental rights obligations, making use of the procedure provided for in Article 70 TFEU;

122.   Recalls, in this context, that Article 222 TFEU provides for a solidarity clause that can and should be activated when a Member State is the object of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster;

123.   Regrets that the Temporary Protection Directive has not been activated in light of the refugee crisis, despite having been established to deal with a mass influx of third-country nationals;

124.   Highlights the need to establish a fair and effective EU common asylum and immigration policy, based on the principles of solidarity, non-discrimination, non-refoulement and sincere cooperation among all Member States, which should provide as well for the fair redistribution of asylum seekers within the EU; takes the view that such a policy should involve all Member States; reminds Member States of their existing obligations in this regard, and stresses that a new asylum and migration framework should be based on the fundamental rights of the migrant;

125.   Points out that further steps are necessary to ensure that the Common European Asylum System becomes a truly uniform system; calls on Member States to harmonise their legislation and practices with regard to the criteria as to who qualifies as a beneficiary of international protection, and with regard to guarantees regarding international protection procedures and reception conditions, following the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and CJUE and established best practices in fellow Member States;

126.   Welcomes the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2016/1624 expanding the tasks and powers of Frontex and renaming it the European Border and Coast Guards Agency; considers that the agency could be supported, when necessary, by military instruments such as a European Maritime Force (Euromarfor) and an upgraded European Corps (Eurocorps), together with the resources pooled through Permanent Structured Cooperation; stresses that the regulation insists that Member States should, in their own interest and in the interest of other Member States, enter data into the European databases; suggests that interoperability of the databases of border agencies such as Eurodac and interoperability with the databases of Europol should also be envisaged;

127.   Calls for an urgent review of the Dublin Regulation by establishing a permanent EU‑wide and legally binding system of distribution of asylum seekers between the Member States, based on fair and compulsory allocation;

128.   Points out that, given the unprecedented flows of migrants that have reached and continue to reach the Union’s external borders, and the steady increase in the number of people asking for international protection, the Union needs a binding and mandatory legislative approach to resettlement, as set out in the Commission’s Agenda for Migration;

129.   Calls for the signature of agreements with safe third countries in order to control and reduce migration flows before migrants arrive at the EU border; insists, at the same time, on strict procedures for returning applicants with unfounded claims;

130.   Calls the Commission and Member States to increase spending on training asylum specialists and enhancing the efficiency of asylum-seeking procedures;

131.   Considers that the external dimension should focus on cooperation with third countries in tackling the root causes of, and addressing, flows of irregular migrants to Europe; takes the view that partnerships and cooperation with key countries of origin, transit and destination should continue to be a focus; recommends that cooperation with third countries should involve assessing those countries’ asylum systems, their support for refugees, and their ability and willingness to tackle the trafficking and smuggling of human beings into and through those countries; acknowledges that there is a need to improve the effectiveness of the Union’s return system, but believes that the return of migrants should only be carried out in conditions of safety, in full compliance with the fundamental and procedural rights of the migrants in question;

132.   Welcomes the fact that the new Regulation (EU) 2016/1624 on the European Border and Coast Guard Agency foresees that should control of the external border be rendered ineffective to such an extent that it risks jeopardising the functioning of the Schengen area, either because a Member State does not take the necessary measures or because it has not requested sufficient support from Frontex or is not implementing such support, the Commission can propose to the Council a decision identifying the measures to be implemented by the Agency and requiring the Member State concerned to cooperate with the Agency in the implementation of those measures; points out furthermore that the regulation also contains stipulations with regard to civil and criminal liability of team members and a complaints mechanism for monitoring and ensuring respect for fundamental rights in all the activities of the Agency;

133.   Believes that an upgrade of the human and financial capabilities of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) would be needed if it were called upon to coordinate all EU asylum applications as well as being deployed to support Member States under particular migratory pressure in the processing of asylum requests, including in its mandate for the deployment of joint operations, pilot projects and rapid interventions similar to those added by Regulation (EU) No 1168/2011 to the mandate of Frontex;

134.   Underscores the importance of improved coordination between EASO, Frontex and the office of the European Ombudsman in order to allow for smoother adoption of Early Alert Reports in the event of particular migratory pressure, which is likely to put at risk respect for the fundamental freedoms of asylum seekers; considers it possible for the Commission to use these Early Alert Reports as a basis to trigger the contingency measures provided for in Article 78(3) TFEU;

135.   Finds it imperative to strengthen the role of Parliament as co-legislator, on an equal footing with the Council, through the use of Article 81(3) TFEU, which makes it possible to switch decision-making in the field of family law with cross-border implications to the ordinary legislative procedure if the Council decides so unanimously, after having consulted Parliament; calls for a switch in decision-making on all other policies in the field of JHA to the ordinary legislative procedure, using the ‘passerelle clause’ in Article 48(7) TEU;

136.   Calls on the Commission, on the basis of Article 83 TFEU, to propose minimum rules concerning definitions and sanctions related to the fight against terrorism, trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation of women and children, illicit drug trafficking, illicit arms trafficking, money laundering, corruption, counterfeiting of means of payment, computer crime and organised crime;

137.   Insists on putting into practice the principles enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty, namely solidarity and the sharing of responsibility between Member States, the principle of mutual recognition in the implementation of JHA policies (Article 70 TFEU), and the provisions of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights;

138.   Considers that the EU must guarantee the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and continuing respect for the Copenhagen criteria, and ensure that all Member States respect the common values enshrined in Article 2 TEU;

139.   Stresses the importance of completing the ‘package of procedural guarantees’, particularly by drafting legislation on administrative detention and the detention of minors, areas in which the rules of many Member States are not fully compatible with human rights and other international standards;

140.   Stresses the importance of making further progress in developing European criminal law, particularly concerning the mutual recognition and enforcement of criminal law rulings;

141.   Stresses the importance of developing a European judicial culture, as a key prerequisite for making the area of freedom, security and justice a reality for citizens and ensuring better application of EU law;

142.   Takes the view that a European Public Prosecutor needs to be appointed in order to combat organised crime, fraud and corruption, protect the financial interests of the Union and remedy the fragmentation of the European law enforcement area;

143.   Stresses that, according to Article 86 TFEU, a European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) can be established to combat crimes affecting the financial interests of the EU (‘PIF crimes’) only with the consent of the European Parliament; therefore reiterates the recommendations made in its resolutions of 12 March 2014(13) and 29 April 2015(14) on the precise organisation of the EPPO, and underlines that the EPPO Regulation should be adopted without delay so that the EPPO may have the power to investigate all PIF crimes, including VAT fraud, and prosecute suspected offenders;

144.   Recalls the obligation for the accession of the Union to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, in line with Article 6(2) TEU, and urges the swift relaunch of negotiations with the Council of Europe to this effect, taking into account the opinion of the CJUE of 18 December 2014; reminds the Commission, in its role as chief negotiator, that such accession will improve the human rights protection of all European citizens;

145.   Reiterates that this resolution aims only to provide an assessment of the legal possibilities in the Treaties and should be the basis for improving the functioning of the European Union in the short term; recalls that further fundamental reform in the future would require a revision of the Treaties;

o
o   o

146.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the European Council, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Auditors, the ECB, the Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee, and the parliaments and governments of the Member States.

(1) OJ C 184 E, 6.8.2009, p. 25.
(2) OJ C 212 E, 5.8.2010, p. 82.
(3) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0249 .
(4) OJ C 13, 15.1.2016, p. 183.
(5) OJ C 313, 22.9.2015, p. 9.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0103 .
(7) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0010 .
(8) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0382 .
(9) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0395 .
(10) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0050 .
(11) OJ C 468, 15.12.2016, p. 176.
(12) COM(2012)0777 , 28 November 2012.
(13) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0234 .
(14) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0173 .


Budgetary capacity for the euro area
PDF 167k   DOC 47k
European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2017 on budgetary capacity for the euro area (2015/2344(INI) )
P8_TA(2017)0050 A8-0038/2017

The European Parliament,

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

–   having regard to the joint deliberations of the Committee on Budgets and the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs under Rule 55 of the Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgets and the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs and the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0038/2017 ),

A.   whereas the current political climate and the existing economic and political challenges in a globalised world require consequent and determined decisions and actions from the EU in certain areas such as internal and external security, border protection and migrant policy, stabilisation of our neighbourhood, growth and jobs, in particular combating youth unemployment, and implementation of the agreements of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference;

B.   whereas, after a successful start for the euro, the euro area has showed a lack of convergence, political cooperation and ownership;

C.   whereas the various crises and global challenges require the euro area to make, as soon as possible, a qualitative leap in integration;

D.   whereas membership in a common currency area requires common tools and solidarity at European level and obligations and responsibilities on the part of each participating Member State;

E.   whereas trust inside the euro area needs to be restored;

F.   whereas a well-defined roadmap reflecting a comprehensive approach is needed to realise the full benefits of the common currency while ensuring its sustainability and achieving the goals of stability and full employment;

G.   whereas this includes the agreed completion of the Banking Union, a strengthened fiscal framework with a capacity to absorb shocks and incentives for growth-friendly structural reforms to complement current monetary policy measures;

H.   whereas a fiscal capacity and the related convergence code are vital elements in this enterprise, which can be successful only if responsibility and solidarity are closely linked;

I.   whereas the settlement of a fiscal capacity for the euro area is only one piece of the puzzle, which needs to go hand in hand with a clear European spirit of refoundation among its members and the ones yet to join the euro area;

1.   Adopts the following roadmap:

i. General principles

The transfer of sovereignty over monetary policy requires alternative adjustment mechanisms such as the implementation of growth-enhancing structural reforms, the single market, the Banking Union, the Capital Markets Union, to create a safer financial sector, and a fiscal capacity to cope with macroeconomic shocks and increase the competitiveness and stability of Member States’ economies, in order to make the euro area an optimal currency area.

Convergence, good governance and conditionality enforced through institutions being held democratically accountable at euro-area and/or national level are key, notably in preventing permanent transfers, moral hazard and unsustainable public risk sharing.

As the magnitude and credibility of the fiscal capacity increase, it will contribute to restoring the trust of the financial market in the sustainability of public finances in the euro area, making it possible, in principle, to better protect tax payers and reduce public and private risk.

The fiscal capacity shall include the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and a specific additional budgetary capacity for the euro area. The budgetary capacity shall be created in addition to and without any prejudice to the ESM.

As a first step, the specific euro-area budgetary capacity should be part of the Union budget, over and above the current ceilings of the multiannual financial framework, and should be financed by euro-area and other participating members via a source of revenue to be agreed between participating Member States and considered to be assigned revenue and guarantees; once in a steady state, the fiscal capacity could be financed through own resources, following the recommendations of the Monti report on the future financing of the EU.

The ESM, while fulfilling its ongoing tasks, should be further developed and turned into a European Monetary Fund (EMF) with adequate lending and borrowing capacities and a clearly defined mandate, to absorb asymmetric and symmetric shocks.

ii. Three pillars of the fiscal capacity for convergence and stabilisation of the euro area

The fiscal capacity should fulfil three different functions:

   first, economic and social convergence within the euro area should be incentivised to foster structural reforms, modernise economies and improve the competitiveness of each Member State and the resilience of the euro area, thereby also contributing to Member States’ capacity to absorb asymmetric and symmetric shocks;
   second, differences in the business cycles of euro-area Member States stemming from structural differences or a general economic vulnerability create a need to address asymmetric shocks (situations whereby an economic event affects one economy more than another, for instance when demand collapses in one specific Member State and not in the others following an external shock beyond the influence of a Member State);
   third, symmetric shocks (situations whereby an economic event affects all the economies in the same way, for example variation in oil prices for euro-area countries) should be addressed to increase the resilience of the euro area as a whole.

In view of these objectives, it will be necessary to consider which functions can be achieved within the existing legal framework of the Union and which will require Treaty adjustment or change.

Pillar 1: the convergence code

The current economic situation requires an investment strategy in parallel to fiscal consolidation and responsibility through compliance with the economic governance framework.

Beside the Stability and Growth Pact, the convergence code, adopted under the ordinary legislative procedure and taking into account the country-specific recommendations, should focus for a five-year period on convergence criteria regarding taxation, labour market, investment, productivity, social cohesion, and public administrative and good governance capacities within the existing Treaties.

Within the economic governance framework, compliance with the convergence code should be a condition for full participation in the fiscal capacity, and each Member State should come forward with proposals on how to reach the criteria of the convergence code.

A euro-area fiscal capacity should be complemented by a long-term strategy for debt sustainability and debt reduction and enhancing growth and investment in euro-area countries, which would bring down overall refinancing costs and debt/GDP ratios.

Pillar 2: absorption of asymmetric shocks

Given the strong integration of the euro-area Member States, asymmetric shocks with an impact on the stability of the euro area as a whole cannot be ruled out completely, despite all efforts on Member-State policy coordination, convergence and sustainable structural reforms.

Stabilisation provided through the ESM/EMF should be complemented by automatic shock absorption mechanisms.

Stabilisation must incentivise good practices and avoid moral hazard.

Such a system must include clear rules on timeframe-possible payments and repayments, and must clearly be defined in terms of size and funding mechanisms, while being budgetary neutral over a longer cycle.

Pillar 3: absorption of symmetric shocks

Future symmetric shocks could destabilise the euro area as a whole since the currency area is not yet endowed with the instruments necessary to cope with another crisis of the same extent as the previous one.

In the case of symmetric shocks brought about by a lack of internal demand, monetary policy alone cannot reignite growth, particularly in a context of zero lower bound. The euro-area budget should be of sufficient size to address these symmetric shocks by funding investment aimed at aggregating demand and full employment in line with Article 3 TEU.

iii. Governance, democratic accountability and control

The Community method should prevail in economic governance for the euro area.

The European Parliament and national parliaments should exercise a strengthened role in the renewed economic governance framework in order to reinforce democratic accountability. This includes increased national ownership on the European semester and a reform of the interparliamentary conference provided for in Article 13 of the Fiscal Compact to give it more substance, in order to develop a stronger parliamentary and public opinion. To improve ownership, national parliaments should scrutinise national governments, just as the European Parliament should scrutinise the European executives.

The positions of President of the Eurogroup and Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs could be merged, and in such case the President of the Commission should appoint this Commissioner as Vice-President of the Commission.

A finance minister and treasury within the Commission should be fully democratically accountable and equipped with all necessary means and capacities to apply and enforce the existing economic governance framework and to optimise the development of the euro area in cooperation with the ministers of finance of the euro-area Member States.

The European Parliament should review its rules and organisation to ensure the full democratic accountability of the fiscal capacity to MEPs from participating Member States;

2.  Calls on:

   the European Council to set guidelines, as described above, by no later than the EU meeting in Rome (March 2017), including a framework for the long-term sustainable stabilisation of the euro area;
   the Commission to come forward with a White Paper with an ambitious core chapter on the euro area and the respective legislative proposals in 2017 by using all means within the existing Treaties, including the convergence code, the euro-area budget and automatic stabilisers, and to set a precise timeframe for the implementation of these measures;

3.   Declares its readiness to finalise all legislative measures that do not require Treaty changes by the end of the current mandate of the Commission and the European Parliament and to set the stage for the necessary Treaty changes required in the medium and long term to make a sustainable euro area possible;

4.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the President of the European Council, the Commission, the Council, the Eurogroup, the European Central Bank, the Managing Director of the European Stability Mechanism and the parliaments of the Member States.


Civil Law Rules on Robotics
PDF 253k   DOC 74k
Resolution
Annex
European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2017 with recommendations to the Commission on Civil Law Rules on Robotics (2015/2103(INL))
P8_TA(2017)0051 A8-0005/2017

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to Article 225 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–   having regard to Council Directive 85/374/EEC(1) ,

–   having regard to the study on Ethical Aspects of Cyber-Physical Systems carried out on behalf of the Parliament's Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel and managed by the Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA), European Parliamentary Research Service;

–   having regard to Rules 46 and 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (A8-0005/2017 ),

Introduction

A.   whereas from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein's Monster to the classical myth of Pygmalion, through the story of Prague's Golem to the robot of Karel Čapek, who coined the word, people have fantasised about the possibility of building intelligent machines, more often than not androids with human features;

B.   whereas now that humankind stands on the threshold of an era when ever more sophisticated robots, bots, androids and other manifestations of artificial intelligence ("AI") seem to be poised to unleash a new industrial revolution, which is likely to leave no stratum of society untouched, it is vitally important for the legislature to consider its legal and ethical implications and effects, without stifling innovation;

C.   whereas there is a need to create a generally accepted definition of robot and AI that is flexible and is not hindering innovation;

D.   whereas between 2010 and 2014 the average increase in sales of robots stood at 17% per year and in 2014 sales rose by 29%, the highest year-on-year increase ever, with automotive parts suppliers and the electrical/electronics industry being the main drivers of the growth; whereas annual patent filings for robotics technology have tripled over the last decade;

E.   whereas, over the past 200 years employment figures had persistently increased due to the technological development; whereas the development of robotics and AI may have the potential to transform lives and work practices, raise efficiency, savings, and safety levels, provide enhanced level of services; whereas in the short to medium term robotics and AI promise to bring benefits of efficiency and savings, not only in production and commerce, but also in areas such as transport, medical care, rescue, education and farming, while making it possible to avoid exposing humans to dangerous conditions, such as those faced when cleaning up toxically polluted sites;

F.   whereas ageing is the result of an increased life expectancy due to progress in living conditions and in modern medicine, and is one of the greatest political, social, and economic challenges of the 21st century for European societies; whereas by 2025 more than 20 % of Europeans will be 65 or older, with a particularly rapid increase in numbers of people who are in their 80s or older, which will lead to a fundamentally different balance between generations within our societies, and whereas it is in the interest of society that older people remain healthy and active for as long as possible;

G.   whereas in the long-term, the current trend leans towards developing smart and autonomous machines, with the capacity to be trained and make decisions independently, holds not only economic advantages but also a variety of concerns regarding their direct and indirect effects on society as a whole;

H.   whereas machine learning offers enormous economic and innovative benefits for society by vastly improving the ability to analyse data, while also raising challenges to ensure non-discrimination, due process, transparency and understandability in decision-making processes;

I.   whereas similarly, assessments of economic shifts and the impact on employment as a result of robotics and machine learning need to be assessed; whereas, despite the undeniable advantages afforded by robotics, its implementation may entail a transformation of the labour market and a need to reflect on the future of education, employment, and social policies accordingly;

J.   whereas the widespread use of robots might not automatically lead to job replacement, but lower skilled jobs in labour-intensive sectors are likely to be more vulnerable to automation; whereas this trend could bring production processes back to the EU; whereas research has demonstrated that employment grows significantly faster in occupations that use computers more; whereas the automation of jobs has the potential to liberate people from manual monotone labour allowing them to shift direction towards more creative and meaningful tasks; whereas automation requires governments to invest in education and other reforms in order to improve reallocation of the types of skills that the workers of tomorrow will need;

K.   whereas in the face of increasing divisions in society, with a shrinking middle class, it is important to bear in mind that developing robotics may lead to a high concentration of wealth and influence in the hands of a minority;

L.   whereas the development of robotics and AI will definitely influence the landscape of the workplace what may create new liability concerns and eliminate others; whereas the legal responsibility need to be clarified from both business sight model, as well as the workers design pattern, in case emergencies or problems occur;

M.   whereas the trend towards automation requires that those involved in the development and commercialisation of AI applications build in security and ethics at the outset, thereby recognizing that they must be prepared to accept legal liability for the quality of the technology they produce;

N.   whereas Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council(2) (the General Data Protection Regulation) sets out a legal framework to protect personal data; whereas further aspects of data access and the protection of personal data and privacy might still need to be addressed, given that privacy concerns might still arise from applications and appliances communicating with each other and with databases without human intervention;

O.   whereas the developments in robotics and AI can and should be designed in such a way that they preserve the dignity, autonomy and self-determination of the individual, especially in the fields of human care and companionship, and in the context of medical appliances, 'repairing' or enhancing human beings;

P.   whereas ultimately there is a possibility that in the long-term, AI could surpass human intellectual capacity;

Q.   whereas further development and increased use of automated and algorithmic decision-making undoubtedly has an impact on the choices that a private person (such as a business or an internet user) and an administrative, judicial or other public authority take in rendering their final decision of a consumer, business or authoritative nature; whereas safeguards and the possibility of human control and verification need to be built into the process of automated and algorithmic decision-making;

R.   whereas several foreign jurisdictions, such as the US, Japan, China and South Korea, are considering, and to a certain extent have already taken, regulatory action with respect to robotics and AI, and whereas some Member States have also started to reflect on possibly drawing up legal standards or carrying out legislative changes in order to take account of emerging applications of such technologies;

S.   whereas the European industry could benefit from an efficient, coherent and transparent approach to regulation at Union level, providing predictable and sufficiently clear conditions under which enterprises could develop applications and plan their business models on a European scale while ensuring that the Union and its Member States maintain control over the regulatory standards to be set, so as not to be forced to adopt and live with standards set by others, that is to say the third countries which are also at the forefront of the development of robotics and AI;

General principles

T.   whereas Asimov's Laws(3) must be regarded as being directed at the designers, producers and operators of robots, including robots assigned with built-in autonomy and self-learning, since those laws cannot be converted into machine code;

U.   whereas a series of rules, governing in particular liability, transparency and accountability, are useful, reflecting the intrinsically European and universal humanistic values that characterise Europe's contribution to society, are necessary; whereas those rules must not affect the process of research, innovation and development in robotics;

V.   whereas the Union could play an essential role in establishing basic ethical principles to be respected in the development, programming and use of robots and AI and in the incorporation of such principles into Union regulations and codes of conduct, with the aim of shaping the technological revolution so that it serves humanity and so that the benefits of advanced robotics and AI are broadly shared, while as far as possible avoiding potential pitfalls;

W.   Whereas a Charter on Robotics is annexed to this resolution, drawn up with the assistance of the Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA), European Parliamentary Research Service, which proposes a code of ethical conduct for robotics engineers, a code for research ethics committees, a 'licence' for designers and a 'license' for users;

X.   whereas a gradualist, pragmatic and cautious approach of the type advocated by Jean Monnet(4) should be adopted for the Union with regard to future initiatives on robotics and AI so as to ensure that we do not stifle innovation;

Y.   whereas it is appropriate, in view of the stage reached in the development of robotics and AI, to start with civil liability issues;

Liability

Z.   whereas, thanks to the impressive technological advances of the last decade, not only are today's robots able to perform activities which used to be typically and exclusively human, but the development of certain autonomous and cognitive features – e.g. the ability to learn from experience and take quasi-independent decisions – has made them more and more similar to agents that interact with their environment and are able to alter it significantly; whereas, in such a context, the legal responsibility arising through a robot’s harmful action becomes a crucial issue;

AA.   whereas a robot's autonomy can be defined as the ability to take decisions and implement them in the outside world, independently of external control or influence; whereas this autonomy is of a purely technological nature and its degree depends on how sophisticated a robot's interaction with its environment has been designed to be;

AB.   whereas the more autonomous robots are, the less they can be considered to be simple tools in the hands of other actors (such as the manufacturer, the operator, the owner, the user, etc.); whereas this, in turn, questions whether the ordinary rules on liability are sufficient or whether it calls for new principles and rules to provide clarity on the legal liability of various actors concerning responsibility for the acts and omissions of robots where the cause cannot be traced back to a specific human actor and whether the acts or omissions of robots which have caused harm could have been avoided;

AC.   whereas, ultimately, the autonomy of robots raises the question of their nature in the light of the existing legal categories or whether a new category should be created, with its own specific features and implications;

AD.   whereas under the current legal framework robots cannot be held liable per se for acts or omissions that cause damage to third parties; whereas the existing rules on liability cover cases where the cause of the robot’s act or omission can be traced back to a specific human agent such as the manufacturer, the operator, the owner or the user and where that agent could have foreseen and avoided the robot’s harmful behaviour; whereas, in addition, manufacturers, operators, owners or users could be held strictly liable for acts or omissions of a robot;

AE.   whereas according to the current legal framework for product liability - where the producer of a product is liable for a malfunction- and rules governing liability for harmful actions -where the user of a product is liable for a behaviour that leads to harm- apply to damages caused by robots or AI;

AF.   whereas in the scenario where a robot can take autonomous decisions, the traditional rules will not suffice to give rise to legal liability for damage caused by a robot, since they would not make it possible to identify the party responsible for providing compensation and to require that party to make good the damage it has caused;

AG.   whereas the shortcomings of the current legal framework are also apparent in the area of contractual liability insofar as machines designed to choose their counterparts, negotiate contractual terms, conclude contracts and decide whether and how to implement them, make the traditional rules inapplicable; whereas this highlights the need for new, efficient and up-to-date ones, which should comply with technological developments and innovations that have recently arisen and are used on the market;

AH.   whereas, as regards non-contractual liability, Directive 85/374/EEC can cover only damage caused by a robot's manufacturing defects and on condition that the injured person is able to prove the actual damage, the defect in the product and the causal relationship between damage and defect, therefore strict liability or liability without fault framework may not be sufficient;

AI.   whereas, notwithstanding the scope of Directive 85/374/EEC, the current legal framework would not be sufficient to cover the damage caused by the new generation of robots, insofar as they can be equipped with adaptive and learning abilities entailing a certain degree of unpredictability in their behaviour, since those robots would autonomously learn from their own variable experience and interact with their environment in a unique and unforeseeable manner;

General principles concerning the development of robotics and artificial intelligence for civil use

1.  Calls on the Commission to propose common Union definitions of cyber physical systems, autonomous systems, smart autonomous robots and their subcategories by taking into consideration the following characteristics of a smart robot:

   the acquisition of autonomy through sensors and/or by exchanging data with its environment (inter-connectivity) and the trading and analysing of those data;
   self-learning from experience and by interaction (optional criterion);
   at least a minor physical support;
   the adaptation of its behaviour and actions to the environment;
   absence of life in the biological sense;

2.   Considers that a comprehensive Union system of registration of advanced robots should be introduced within the Union’s internal market where relevant and necessary for specific categories of robots, and calls on the Commission to establish criteria for the classification of robots that would need to be registered; in this context, calls on the Commission to investigate whether it would be desirable for the registration system and the register to be managed by a designated EU Agency for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence;

3.   Stresses that the development of robot technology should focus on complementing human capabilities and not on replacing them; considers it essential, in the development of robotics and AI, to guarantee that humans have control over intelligent machines at all times; considers that special attention should be paid to the possible development of an emotional connection between humans and robots ‒ particularly in vulnerable groups (children, the elderly and people with disabilities) ‒ and highlights the issues raised by the serious emotional or physical impact that this emotional attachment could have on humans;

4.   Emphasises that a Union-level approach can facilitate development by avoiding fragmentation in the internal market and at the same time underlines the importance of the principle of mutual recognition in the cross-border use of robots and robotic systems; recalls that testing, certification and market approval should only be required in a single Member State; stresses that this approach should be accompanied by effective market surveillance;

5.   Stresses the importance of measures to help small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups in the robotics sector that create new market segments in this sector or make use of robots;

Research and innovation

6.   Underlines that many robotic applications are still in an experimental phase; welcomes the fact that more and more research projects are being funded by the Member States and the Union; considers it to be essential that the Union, together with the Member States by virtue of public funding, remains a leader in research in robotics and AI; calls on the Commission and the Member States to strengthen financial instruments for research projects in robotics and ICT, including public-private partnerships, and to implement in their research policies the principles of open science and responsible ethical innovation; emphasises that sufficient resources need to be devoted to the search for solutions to the social, ethical, legal and economic challenges that the technological development and its applications raise;

7.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to foster research programmes, to stimulate research into the possible long-term risks and opportunities of robotics and AI technologies and to encourage the initiation of a structured public dialogue on the consequences of developing those technologies as soon as possible; calls on the Commission to increase its support in the mid-term review of the Multiannual Financial Framework for the Horizon 2020 funded SPARC programme; calls on the Commission and the Member States to combine their efforts in order to carefully monitor and guarantee a smoother transition for these technologies from research to commercialisation and use on the market after appropriate safety evaluations in compliance with the precautionary principle;

8.   Stresses that innovation in robotics and AI and the integration of robotics and AI technology within the economy and the society require digital infrastructure that provides ubiquitous connectivity; calls on the Commission to set a framework that will meet the connectivity requirements for the Union’s digital future and to ensure that access to broadband and 5G networks is fully in line with the net neutrality principle;

9.   Strongly believes that interoperability between systems, devices and cloud services, based on security and privacy by design is essential for real time data flows enabling robots and AI to become more flexible and autonomous; asks the Commission to promote an open environment, from open standards and innovative licensing models, to open platforms and transparency, in order to avoid lock-in in proprietary systems that restrain interoperability;

Ethical principles

10.   Notes that the potential for empowerment through the use of robotics is nuanced by a set of tensions or risks and should be seriously assessed from the point of view of human safety, health and security; freedom, privacy, integrity and dignity; self-determination and non-discrimination, and personal data protection;

11.   Considers that the existing Union legal framework should be updated and complemented, where appropriate, by guiding ethical principles in line with the complexity of robotics and its many social, medical and bioethical implications; is of the view that a clear, strict and efficient guiding ethical framework for the development, design, production, use and modification of robots is needed to complement the legal recommendations of the report and the existing national and Union acquis ; proposes, in the annex to the resolution, a framework in the form of a charter consisting of a code of conduct for robotics engineers, of a code for research ethics committees when reviewing robotics protocols and of model licences for designers and users;

12.   Highlights the principle of transparency, namely that it should always be possible to supply the rationale behind any decision taken with the aid of AI that can have a substantive impact on one or more persons’ lives; considers that it must always be possible to reduce the AI system´s computations to a form comprehensible by humans; considers that advanced robots should be equipped with a ‘black box’ which records data on every transaction carried out by the machine, including the logic that contributed to its decisions;

13.   Points out that the guiding ethical framework should be based on the principles of beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy and justice, on the principles and values enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, such as human dignity, equality, justice and equity, non-discrimination, informed consent, private and family life and data protection, as well as on other underlying principles and values of the Union law, such as non-stigmatisation, transparency, autonomy, individual responsibility and social responsibility, and on existing ethical practices and codes;

14.   Considers that special attention should be paid to robots that represent a significant threat to confidentiality owing to their placement in traditionally protected and private spheres and because they are able to extract and send personal and sensitive data;

A European Agency

15.   Believes that enhanced cooperation between the Member States and the Commission is necessary in order to guarantee coherent cross-border rules in the Union which encourage the collaboration between European industries and allow the deployment in the whole Union of robots which are consistent with the required levels of safety and security, as well as the ethical principles enshrined in Union law;

16.   Asks the Commission to consider the designation of a European Agency for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence in order to provide the technical, ethical and regulatory expertise needed to support the relevant public actors, at both Union and Member State level, in their efforts to ensure a timely, ethical and well-informed response to the new opportunities and challenges, in particular those of a cross-border nature, arising from technological developments in robotics, such as in the transport sector;

17.   Considers that the potential of and the problems linked to robotics use and the present investment dynamics justify providing the European Agency with a proper budget and staffing it with regulators and external technical and ethical experts dedicated to the cross-sectorial and multidisciplinary monitoring of robotics-based applications, identifying standards for best practice, and, where appropriate, recommending regulatory measures, defining new principles and addressing potential consumer protection issues and systematic challenges; asks the Commission (and the European Agency, if created) to report to the European Parliament on the latest developments in robotics and on any actions that need to be taken on an annual basis;

Intellectual property rights and the flow of data

18.   Notes that there are no legal provisions that specifically apply to robotics, but that existing legal regimes and doctrines can be readily applied to robotics, although some aspects appear to call for specific consideration; calls on the Commission to support a horizontal and technologically neutral approach to intellectual property applicable to the various sectors in which robotics could be employed;

19.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that civil law regulations in the robotics sector are consistent with the General Data Protection Regulation and in line with the principles of necessity and proportionality; calls on the Commission and the Member States to take into account the rapid technological evolution in the field of robotics, including the advancement of cyber-physical systems, and to ensure that Union law does not stay behind the curve of technological development and deployment;

20.   Emphasises that the right to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data as enshrined in Article 7 and 8 of the Charter and in Article 16 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) apply to all areas of robotics and that the Union legal framework for data protection must be fully complied with; asks in this regard for clarification within the implementation framework of the GDPR of rules and criteria regarding the use of cameras and sensors in robots; calls on the Commission to make sure that the data protection principles such as privacy by design and privacy by default, data minimisation, purpose limitation, as well as transparent control mechanisms for data subjects and appropriate remedies in compliance with Union data protection law and are followed and appropriate recommendations and standards are fostered and are integrated into Union policies;

21.   Stresses that the free movement of data is paramount to the digital economy and development in the robotics and AI sector; stresses that a high level of security in robotics systems, including their internal data systems and data flows, is crucial to the appropriate use of robots and AI; emphasises that the protection of networks of interconnected robots and AI has to be ensured to prevent potential security breaches; emphasises that a high level of security and protection of personal data together with due regard for privacy in communication between humans, robots and AI are fundamental; stresses the responsibility of designers of robotics and AI to develop products to be safe, secure and fit for purpose; calls on the Commission and the Member States to support and incentivise the development of the necessary technology, including security by design;

Standardisation, safety and security

22.   Highlights that the issue of setting standards and granting interoperability is key for future competition in the field of AI and robotics technologies; calls on the Commission to continue to work on the international harmonisation of technical standards, in particular together with the European Standardisation Organisations and the International Standardisation Organisation, in order to foster innovation, to avoid fragmentation of the internal market and to guarantee a high level of product safety and consumer protection including where appropriate minimum safety standards in the work environment; stresses the importance of lawful reverse-engineering and open standards, in order to maximise the value of innovation and to ensure that robots can communicate with each other; welcomes, in this respect, the setting up of special technical committees, such as ISO/TC 299 Robotics, dedicated exclusively to developing standards on robotics;

23.   Emphasises that testing robots in real-life scenarios is essential for the identification and assessment of the risks they might entail, as well as of their technological development beyond a pure experimental laboratory phase; underlines, in this regard, that testing of robots in real-life scenarios, in particular in cities and on roads, raises a large number of issues, including barriers that slow down the development of those testing phases and requires an effective strategy and monitoring mechanism; calls on the Commission to draw up uniform criteria across all Member States which individual Member States should use in order to identify areas where experiments with robots are permitted, in compliance with the precautionary principle;

Autonomous means of transport

a)Autonomous vehicles

24.   Underlines that autonomous transport covers all forms of remotely piloted, automated, connected and autonomous ways of road, rail, waterborne and air transport, including vehicles, trains, vessels, ferries, aircrafts, drones, as well as all future forms of developments and innovations in this sector;

25.   Considers that the automotive sector is in most urgent need of efficient Union and global rules to ensure the cross-border development of automated and autonomous vehicles so as to fully exploit their economic potential and benefit from the positive effects of technological trends; emphasises that fragmented regulatory approaches would hinder implementation of autonomous transport systems and jeopardise European competitiveness;

26.   Draws attention to the fact that driver reaction time in the event of an unplanned takeover of control of the vehicle is of vital importance and calls, therefore, on the stakeholders to provide for realistic values determining safety and liability issues;

27.   Takes the view that the switch to autonomous vehicles will have an impact on the following aspects: civil responsibility (liability and insurance), road safety, all topics related to environment (e.g. energy efficiency, use of renewable technologies and energy sources), issues related to data (e.g. access to data, protection of data, privacy and sharing of data), issues related to ICT infrastructure (e.g. high density of efficient and reliable communication) and employment (e.g. creation and losses of jobs, training of heavy goods vehicles drivers for the use of automated vehicles); emphasises that substantial investments in roads, energy and ICT infrastructure will be required; calls on the Commission to consider the above-mentioned aspects in its work on autonomous vehicles;

28.   Underlines the critical importance of reliable positioning and timing information provided by the European satellite navigation programmes Galileo and EGNOS for the implementation of autonomous vehicles, urges, in this regard, the finalisation and launch of the satellites which are needed in order to complete the European Galileo positioning system;

29.  Draws attention to the high added value provided by autonomous vehicles for persons with reduced mobility, as such vehicles allow them to participate more effectively in individual road transport and thereby facilitate their daily lives;

   b) Drones (RPAS)

30.   Acknowledges the positive advances in drone technology, particularly in the field of search and rescue; stresses the importance of a Union framework for drones to protect the safety, security and privacy of the citizens of the Union, and calls on the Commission to follow-up on the recommendations of Parliament’s resolution of 29 October 2015 on safe use of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), commonly known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), in the field of civil aviation(5) ; urges the Commission to provide assessments of the safety issues connected with the widespread use of drones; calls on the Commission to examine the need to introduce an obligatory tracking and identification system for RPAS which enables aircraft’s real-time positions during use to be determined; recalls, that the homogeneity and safety of unmanned aircrafts should be ensured by the measures set out in Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council(6) ;

Care robots

31.   Underlines that elder care robot research and development has, in time, become more mainstream and cheaper, producing products with greater functionality and broader consumer acceptance; notes the wide range of applications of such technologies providing prevention, assistance, monitoring, stimulation, and companionship to elderly people and people with disabilities as well as to people suffering from dementia, cognitive disorders, or memory loss;

32.   Points out that human contact is one of the fundamental aspects of human care; believes that replacing the human factor with robots could dehumanise caring practices, on the other hand, recognises that robots could perform automated care tasks and could facilitate the work of care assistants, while augmenting human care and making the rehabilitation process more targeted, thereby enabling medical staff and caregivers to devote more time to diagnosis and better planned treatment options; stresses that despite the potential of robotics to enhance the mobility and integration of people with disabilities and elderly people, humans will still be needed in caregiving and will continue to provide an important source of social interaction that is not fully replaceable;

Medical robots

33.   Underlines the importance of appropriate education, training and preparation for health professionals, such as doctors and care assistants, in order to secure the highest degree of professional competence possible, as well as to safeguard and protect patients' health; underlines the need to define the minimum professional requirements that a surgeon must meet in order to operate and be allowed to use surgical robots; considers it vital to respect the principle of the supervised autonomy of robots, whereby the initial planning of treatment and the final decision regarding its execution will always remain with a human surgeon; emphasises the special importance of training for users to allow them to familiarise themselves with the technological requirements in this field; draws attention to the growing trend towards self-diagnosis using a mobile robot and, consequently, to the need for doctors to be trained in dealing with self-diagnosed cases; considers that the use of such technologies should not diminish or harm the doctor-patient relationship, but should provide doctors with assistance in diagnosing and/or treating patients with the aim of reducing the risk of human error and of increasing the quality of life and life expectancy;

34.   Believes that medical robots continue to make inroads into the provision of high accuracy surgery and in performing repetitive procedures and that they have the potential to improve outcomes in rehabilitation, and provide highly effective logistical support within hospitals; notes that medical robots have the potential also to reduce healthcare costs by enabling medical professionals to shift their focus from treatment to prevention and by making more budgetary resources available for better adjustment to the diversity of patients’ needs, continuous training of the healthcare professionals and research;

35.   Calls on the Commission to ensure that the procedures for testing new medical robotic devices are safe, particularly in the case of devices that are implanted in the human body, before the date on which Regulation (EU) 2017/745 on medical devices becomes applicable;

Human repair and enhancement

36.   Notes the great advances delivered by and further potential of robotics in the field of repairing and compensating for damaged organs and human functions, but also the complex questions raised in particular by the possibilities of human enhancement, as medical robots and particularly cyber physical systems (CPS) may change our concepts about the healthy human body since they can be worn directly on or implanted in the human body; underlines the importance of urgently establishing in hospitals and in other health care institutions appropriately staffed committees on robot ethics tasked with considering and assisting in resolving unusual, complicated ethical problems involving issues that affect the care and treatment of patients; calls on the Commission and the Member States to develop guidelines to aid in the establishment and functioning of such committees;

37.   Points out that for the field of vital medical applications such as robotic prostheses, continuous, sustainable access to maintenance, enhancement and, in particular, software updates that fix malfunctions and vulnerabilities needs to be ensured;

38.   Recommends the creation of independent trusted entities to retain the means necessary to provide services to persons carrying vital and advanced medical appliances, such as maintenance, repairs and enhancements, including software updates, especially in the case where such services are no longer carried out by the original supplier; suggests creating an obligation for manufacturers to supply these independent trusted entities with comprehensive design instructions including source code, similar to the legal deposit of publications to a national library;

39.   Draws attention to the risks associated with the possibility that CPS integrated into the human body may be hacked or switched off or have their memories wiped, because this could endanger human health, and in extreme cases even human life, and stresses therefore the priority that must be attached to protecting such systems;

40.   Underlines the importance of guaranteeing equal access for all people to such technological innovations, tools and interventions; calls on the Commission and the Member States to promote the development of assistive technologies in order to facilitate the development and adoption of these technologies by those who need them, in accordance with Article 4 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which the Union is party;

Education and employment

41.   Draws attention to the Commission's forecast that by 2020 Europe might be facing a shortage of up to 825 000 ICT professionals and that 90 % of jobs will require at least basic digital skills; welcomes the Commission’s initiative of proposing a roadmap for the possible use and revision of a Digital Competence framework and descriptors of Digital Competences for all levels of learners, and calls upon the Commission to provide significant support for the development of digital abilities in all age groups and irrespective of employment status, as a first step towards better aligning labour market shortages and demand; stresses that the growth in the robotics requires Member States to develop more flexible training and education systems so as to ensure that skill strategies match the needs of the robot economy;

42.   Considers that getting more young women interested in a digital career and placing more women in digital jobs would benefit the digital industry, women themselves and Europe's economy; calls on the Commission and the Member States to launch initiatives in order to support women in ICT and to boost their e-skills;

43.   Calls on the Commission to start analysing and monitoring medium- and long-term job trends more closely, with a special focus on the creation, displacement and loss of jobs in the different fields/areas of qualification in order to know in which fields jobs are being created and those in which jobs are being lost as a result of the increased use of robots;

44.   Highlights the importance of foreseeing changes to society, bearing in mind the effect that the development and deployment of robotics and AI might have; asks the Commission to analyse different possible scenarios and their consequences on the viability of the social security systems of the Member States;

45.   Emphasises the importance of the flexibility of skills and of social, creative and digital skills in education; is certain that, in addition to schools imparting academic knowledge, lifelong learning needs to be achieved through lifelong activity;

46.   Notes the great potential of robotics for the improvement of safety at work by transferring a number of hazardous and harmful tasks from humans to robots, but at the same time, notes their potential for creating a set of new risks owing to the increasing number of human-robot interactions at the workplace; underlines in this regard the importance of applying strict and forward-looking rules for human-robot interactions in order to guarantee health, safety and the respect of fundamental rights at the workplace;

Environmental impact

47.   Notes that the development of robotics and AI should be done in such a manner that the environmental impact is limited through effective energy consumption, energy efficiency by promoting the use of renewable energy and of scarce materials, and minimal waste, such as electric and electronic waste, and reparability; therefore encourages the Commission to incorporate the principles of a circular economy into any Union policy on robotics; notes that the use of robotics will also have a positive impact on the environment, especially in the fields of agriculture, food supply and transport, notably through the reduced size of machinery and the reduced use of fertilizers, energy and water, as well as through precision farming and route optimisation;

48.   Stresses that CPS will lead to the creation of energy and infrastructure systems that are able to control the flow of electricity from producer to consumer, and will also result in the creation of energy ‘prosumers’, who both produce and consume energy; thus allowing for major environmental benefits;

Liability

49.   Considers that the civil liability for damage caused by robots is a crucial issue which also needs to be analysed and addressed at Union level in order to ensure the same degree of efficiency, transparency and consistency in the implementation of legal certainty throughout the European Union for the benefit of citizens, consumers and businesses alike;

50.   Notes that development of robotics technology will require more understanding for the common ground needed around joint human-robot activity, which should be based on two core interdependent relationships, namely predictability and directability; points out that these two interdependent relationships are crucial for determining what information need to be shared between humans and robots and how a common basis between humans and robots can be achieved in order to enable smooth human-robot joint action;

51.   Asks the Commission to submit, on the basis of Article 114 TFEU, a proposal for a legislative instrument on legal questions related to the development and use of robotics and AI foreseeable in the next 10 to 15 years, combined with non-legislative instruments such as guidelines and codes of conduct as referred to in recommendations set out in the Annex;

52.   Considers that, whatever legal solution it applies to the civil liability for damage caused by robots in cases other than those of damage to property, the future legislative instrument should in no way restrict the type or the extent of the damages which may be recovered, nor should it limit the forms of compensation which may be offered to the aggrieved party, on the sole grounds that damage is caused by a non-human agent;

53.   Considers that the future legislative instrument should be based on an in-depth evaluation by the Commission determining whether the strict liability or the risk management approach should be applied;

54.   Notes at the same time that strict liability requires only proof that damage has occurred and the establishment of a causal link between the harmful functioning of the robot and the damage suffered by the injured party;

55.   Notes that the risk management approach does not focus on the person "who acted negligently" as individually liable but on the person who is able, under certain circumstances, to minimise risks and deal with negative impacts;

56.   Considers that, in principle, once the parties bearing the ultimate responsibility have been identified, their liability should be proportional to the actual level of instructions given to the robot and of its degree of autonomy, so that the greater a robot's learning capability or autonomy, and the longer a robot's training, the greater the responsibility of its trainer should be; notes, in particular, that skills resulting from “training” given to a robot should be not confused with skills depending strictly on its self-learning abilities when seeking to identify the person to whom the robot's harmful behaviour is actually attributable; notes that at least at the present stage the responsibility must lie with a human and not a robot;

57.   Points out that a possible solution to the complexity of allocating responsibility for damage caused by increasingly autonomous robots could be an obligatory insurance scheme, as is already the case, for instance, with cars; notes, nevertheless, that unlike the insurance system for road traffic, where the insurance covers human acts and failures, an insurance system for robotics should take into account all potential responsibilities in the chain;

58.   Considers that, as is the case with the insurance of motor vehicles, such an insurance system could be supplemented by a fund in order to ensure that reparation can be made for damage in cases where no insurance cover exists; calls on the insurance industry to develop new products and types of offers that are in line with the advances in robotics;

59.  Calls on the Commission, when carrying out an impact assessment of its future legislative instrument, to explore, analyse and consider the implications of all possible legal solutions, such as:

   a) establishing a compulsory insurance scheme where relevant and necessary for specific categories of robots whereby, similarly to what already happens with cars, producers, or owners of robots would be required to take out insurance cover for the damage potentially caused by their robots;
   b) ensuring that a compensation fund would not only serve the purpose of guaranteeing compensation if the damage caused by a robot was not covered by insurance;
   c) allowing the manufacturer, the programmer, the owner or the user to benefit from limited liability if they contribute to a compensation fund, as well as if they jointly take out insurance to guarantee compensation where damage is caused by a robot;
   d) deciding whether to create a general fund for all smart autonomous robots or to create an individual fund for each and every robot category, and whether a contribution should be paid as a one-off fee when placing the robot on the market or whether periodic contributions should be paid during the lifetime of the robot;
   e) ensuring that the link between a robot and its fund would be made visible by an individual registration number appearing in a specific Union register, which would allow anyone interacting with the robot to be informed about the nature of the fund, the limits of its liability in case of damage to property, the names and the functions of the contributors and all other relevant details;
   f) creating a specific legal status for robots in the long run, so that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons responsible for making good any damage they may cause, and possibly applying electronic personality to cases where robots make autonomous decisions or otherwise interact with third parties independently;

International aspects

60.   Notes that current general private international law rules on traffic accidents applicable within the Union do not urgently need substantive modification to accommodate the development of autonomous vehicles, however, simplifying the current dual system for defining applicable law (based on Regulation (EC) No 864/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council(7) and the Hague Convention of 4 May 1971 on the law applicable to traffic accidents) would improve legal certainty and limit possibilities for forum shopping;

61.   Notes the need to consider amendments to international agreements such as the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic of 8 November 1968 and the Hague Convention on the law applicable to traffic accidents;

62.   Expects the Commission to ensure that Member States implement international law, such as the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, which needs to be amended, in a uniform manner in order to make driverless driving possible, and calls on the Commission, the Member States and the industry to implement the objectives of the Amsterdam Declaration as soon as possible;

63.   Strongly encourages international cooperation in the scrutiny of societal, ethical and legal challenges and thereafter setting regulatory standards under the auspices of the United Nations;

64.   Points out that the restrictions and conditions laid down in Regulation (EC) No 428/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council(8) on the trade in dual-use items – goods, software and technology that can be used for both civilian and military applications and/or can contribute to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – should apply to applications of robotics as well;

Final aspects

65.   Requests, on the basis of Article 225 TFEU, the Commission to submit, on the basis of Article 114 TFEU, a proposal for a directive on civil law rules on robotics, following the recommendations set out in the Annex hereto;

66.   Confirms that the recommendations respect fundamental rights and the principle of subsidiarity;

67.   Considers that the requested proposal would have financial implications if a new European agency is set up;

o
o   o

68.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution and the accompanying recommendations to the Commission and the Council.

ANNEX TO THE RESOLUTION:

RECOMMENDATIONS AS TO THE CONTENT OF THE PROPOSAL REQUESTED

Definition and classification of 'smart robots'

A common European definition for smart autonomous robots should be established, where appropriate including definitions of its subcategories, taking into consideration the following characteristics:

–   the capacity to acquire autonomy through sensors and/or by exchanging data with its environment (inter-connectivity) and the analysis of those data;

–   the capacity to learn through experience and interaction;

–   the form of the robot’s physical support;

–   the capacity to adapt its behaviour and actions to the environment.

Registration of smart robots

For the purposes of traceability and in order to facilitate the implementation of further recommendations, a system of registration of advanced robots should be introduced, based on the criteria established for the classification of robots. The system of registration and the register should be Union-wide, covering the internal market, and could be managed by a designated EU Agency for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence in case such an Agency is created.

Civil law liability

Any chosen legal solution applied to the liability of robots and of artificial intelligence in cases other than those of damage to property should in no way restrict the type or the extent of the damages which may be recovered, nor should it limit the forms of compensation which may be offered to the aggrieved party on the sole grounds that damage is caused by a non-human agent.

The future legislative instrument should be based on an in-depth evaluation by the Commission defining whether the strict liability or the risk management approach should be applied.

An obligatory insurance scheme, which could be based on the obligation of the producer to take out insurance for the autonomous robots it produces, should be established.

The insurance system should be supplemented by a fund in order to ensure that damages can be compensated for in cases where no insurance cover exists.

Any policy decision on the civil liability rules applicable to robots and artificial intelligence should be taken with due consultation of a European-wide research and development project dedicated to robotics and neuroscience, with scientists and experts able to assess all related risks and consequences;

Interoperability, access to code and intellectual property rights

The interoperability of network-connected autonomous robots that interact with each other should be ensured. Access to the source code, input data, and construction details should be available when needed, to investigate accidents and damage caused by smart robots, as well as in order to ensure their continued operation, availability, reliability, safety and security.

Charter on Robotics

The Commission, when proposing legal acts relating to robotics, should take into account the principles enshrined in the following Charter on Robotics.

CHARTER ON ROBOTICS

The proposed code of ethical conduct in the field of robotics will lay the groundwork for the identification, oversight and compliance with fundamental ethical principles from the design and development phase.

The framework, drafted in consultation with a European-wide research and development project dedicated to robotics and neuroscience, must be designed in a reflective manner that allows individual adjustments to be made on a case-by-case basis in order to assess whether a given behaviour is right or wrong in a given situation and to take decisions in accordance with a pre-set hierarchy of values.

The code should not replace the need to tackle all major legal challenges in this field, but should have a complementary function. It will, rather, facilitate the ethical categorisation of robotics, strengthen the responsible innovation efforts in this field and address public concerns.

Special emphasis should be placed on the research and development phases of the relevant technological trajectory (design process, ethics review, audit controls, etc.). It should aim to address the need for compliance by researchers, practitioners, users and designers with ethical standards, but also introduce a procedure for devising a way to resolve the relevant ethical dilemmas and to allow these systems to function in an ethically responsible manner.

CODE OF ETHICAL CONDUCT FOR ROBOTICS ENGINEERS

PREAMBLE

The Code of Conduct invites all researchers and designers to act responsibly and with absolute consideration for the need to respect the dignity, privacy and safety of humans.

The Code asks for close cooperation among all disciplines in order to ensure that robotics research is undertaken in the European Union in a safe, ethical and effective manner.

The Code of Conduct covers all research and development activities in the field of robotics.

The Code of Conduct is voluntary and offers a set of general principles and guidelines for actions to be taken by all stakeholders.

Robotics research funding bodies, research organisations, researchers and ethics committees are encouraged to consider, at the earliest stages, the future implications of the technologies or objects being researched and to develop a culture of responsibility with a view to the challenges and opportunities that may arise in the future.

Public and private robotics research funding bodies should request that a risk assessment be performed and presented along with each submission of a proposal for funding for robotics research. Such a code should consider humans, not robots, as the responsible agents.

Researchers in the field of robotics should commit themselves to the highest ethical and professional conduct and abide by the following principles:

Beneficence – robots should act in the best interests of humans;

Non-maleficence – the doctrine of ‘first, do no harm’, whereby robots should not harm a human;

Autonomy – the capacity to make an informed, un-coerced decision about the terms of interaction with robots;

Justice – fair distribution of the benefits associated with robotics and affordability of homecare and healthcare robots in particular.

Fundamental Rights

Robotics research activities should respect fundamental rights and be conducted in the interests of the well-being and self-determination of the individual and society at large in their design, implementation, dissemination and use. Human dignity and autonomy – both physical and psychological – is always to be respected.

Precaution

Robotics research activities should be conducted in accordance with the precautionary principle, anticipating potential safety impacts of outcomes and taking due precautions, proportional to the level of protection, while encouraging progress for the benefit of society and the environment.

Inclusiveness

Robotics engineers guarantee transparency and respect for the legitimate right of access to information by all stakeholders. Inclusiveness allows for participation in decision-making processes by all stakeholders involved in or concerned by robotics research activities.

Accountability

Robotics engineers should remain accountable for the social, environmental and human health impacts that robotics may impose on present and future generations.

Safety

Robot designers should consider and respect people’s physical wellbeing, safety, health and rights. A robotics engineer must preserve human wellbeing, while also respecting human rights, and disclose promptly factors that might endanger the public or the environment.

Reversibility

Reversibility, being a necessary condition of controllability, is a fundamental concept when programming robots to behave safely and reliably. A reversibility model tells the robot which actions are reversible and how to reverse them if they are. The ability to undo the last action or a sequence of actions allows users to undo undesired actions and get back to the ‘good’ stage of their work.

Privacy

The right to privacy must always be respected. A robotics engineer should ensure that private information is kept secure and only used appropriately. Moreover, a robotics engineer should guarantee that individuals are not personally identifiable, aside from exceptional circumstances and then only with clear, unambiguous informed consent. Human informed consent should be pursued and obtained prior to any man-machine interaction. As such, robotics designers have a responsibility to develop and follow procedures for valid consent, confidentiality, anonymity, fair treatment and due process. Designers will comply with any requests that any related data be destroyed, and removed from any datasets.

Maximising benefit and minimising harm

Researchers should seek to maximise the benefits of their work at all stages, from inception through to dissemination. Harm to research participants, human subject, an experiment, trial, or study participant or subject must be avoided. Where risks arise as an unavoidable and integral element of the research, robust risk assessment and management protocols should be developed and complied with. Normally, the risk of harm should be no greater than that encountered in ordinary life, i.e. people should not be exposed to risks greater than or additional to those to which they are exposed in their normal lifestyles. The operation of a robotics system should always be based on a thorough risk assessment process, which should be informed by the precautionary and proportionality principles.

CODE FOR RESEARCH ETHICS COMMITTEES (REC)

Principles

Independence

The ethics review process should be independent of the research itself. This principle highlights the need to avoid conflicts of interest between researchers and those reviewing the ethics protocol, and between reviewers and organisational governance structures.

Competence

The ethics review process should be conducted by reviewers with appropriate expertise, taking into account the need for careful consideration of the range of membership and ethics‑specific training of RECs.

Transparency and accountability

The review process should be accountable and open to scrutiny. RECs need to recognise their responsibilities and to be appropriately located within organisational structures that give transparency to the REC operation and procedures to maintain and review standards.

The role of a Research Ethics Committee

A REC is normally responsible for reviewing all research involving human participants conducted by individuals employed within or by the institution concerned; ensuring that ethics review is independent, competent and timely; protecting the dignity, rights and welfare of research participants; considering the safety of the researcher(s); considering the legitimate interests of other stakeholders; making informed judgements of the scientific merit of proposals; and making informed recommendations to the researcher if the proposal is found to be wanting in some respect.

The constitution of a Research Ethics Committee

A REC should normally be multidisciplinary; include both men and women; be comprised of members with a broad experience of and expertise in the area of robotics research. The appointment mechanism should ensure that the committee members provide an appropriate balance of scientific expertise, philosophical, legal or ethical backgrounds, and lay views, and that they include at least one member with specialist knowledge in ethics, users of specialist health, education or social services where these are the focus of research activities, and individuals with specific methodological expertise relevant to the research they review; and they must be so constituted that conflicts of interest are avoided.

Monitoring

All research organisations should establish appropriate procedures to monitor the conduct of research which has received ethics approval until it is completed, and to ensure continuing review where the research design anticipates possible changes over time that might need to be addressed. Monitoring should be proportionate to the nature and degree of risk associated with the research. Where a REC considers that a monitoring report raises significant concerns about the ethical conduct of the study, it should request a full and detailed account of the research for full ethics review. Where it is judged that a study is being conducted unethically, the withdrawal of its approval should be considered and its research should be suspended or discontinued.

LICENCE FOR DESIGNERS

–   You should take into account the European values of dignity, autonomy and self-determination, freedom and justice before, during and after the process of design, development and delivery of such technologies including the need not to harm, injure, deceive or exploit (vulnerable) users.

–   You should introduce trustworthy system design principles across all aspects of a robot’s operation, for both hardware and software design, and for any data processing on or off the platform for security purposes.

–   You should introduce privacy by design features so as to ensure that private information is kept secure and only used appropriately.

–   You should integrate obvious opt-out mechanisms (kill switches) that should be consistent with reasonable design objectives.

–   You should ensure that a robot operates in a way that is in accordance with local, national and international ethical and legal principles.

–   You should ensure that the robot’s decision-making steps are amenable to reconstruction and traceability.

–   You should ensure that maximal transparency is required in the programming of robotic systems, as well as predictability of robotic behaviour.

–   You should analyse the predictability of a human-robot system by considering uncertainty in interpretation and action and possible robotic or human failures.

–   You should develop tracing tools at the robot’s design stage. These tools will facilitate accounting and explanation of robotic behaviour, even if limited, at the various levels intended for experts, operators and users.

–   You should draw up design and evaluation protocols and join with potential users and stakeholders when evaluating the benefits and risks of robotics, including cognitive, psychological and environmental ones.

–   You should ensure that robots are identifiable as robots when interacting with humans.

–   You should safeguard the safety and health of those interacting and coming in touch with robotics, given that robots as products should be designed using processes which ensure their safety and security. A robotics engineer must preserve human wellbeing while also respecting human rights and may not deploy a robot without safeguarding the safety, efficacy and reversibility of the operation of the system.

–   You should obtain a positive opinion from a Research Ethics Committee before testing a robot in a real environment or involving humans in its design and development procedures.

LICENCE FOR USERS

–   You are permitted to make use of a robot without risk or fear of physical or psychological harm.

–   You should have the right to expect a robot to perform any task for which it has been explicitly designed.

–   You should be aware that any robot may have perceptual, cognitive and actuation limitations.

–   You should respect human frailty, both physical and psychological, and the emotional needs of humans.

–   You should take the privacy rights of individuals into consideration, including the deactivation of video monitors during intimate procedures.

–   You are not permitted to collect, use or disclose personal information without the explicit consent of the data subject.

–   You are not permitted to use a robot in any way that contravenes ethical or legal principles and standards.

–   You are not permitted to modify any robot to enable it to function as a weapon.

(1) Council Directive 85/374/EEC of 25 July 1985 on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning liability for defective products (OJ L 210, 7.8.1985, p. 29).
(2) Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation) (OJ L, 119 4.5.2016, p. 1).
(3) (1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. (2) A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. (3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws (See: I.Asimov, Runaround, 1943) and (0) A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
(4) Cf. the Schuman Declaration (1950): "Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity."
(5) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0390 .
(6) Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 February 2008 on common rules in the field of civil aviation and establishing a European Aviation Safety Agency, and repealing Council Directive 91/670/EEC, Regulation (EC) No 1592/2002 and Directive 2004/36/EC (OJ L 79, 19.3.2008, p. 1).
(7) Regulation (EC) No 864/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 July 2007 on the law applicable to non-contractual obligations (Rome II) (OJ L 199, 31.7.2007, p. 40).
(8) Council Regulation (EC) No 428/2009 of 5 May 2009 setting up a Community regime for the control of exports, transfer, brokering and transit of dual-use items (OJ L 134, 29.5.2009, p. 1).


European Cloud Initiative
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European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2017 on the European Cloud Initiative (2016/2145(INI) )
P8_TA(2017)0052 A8-0006/2017

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 19 April 2016 entitled ‘European Cloud Initiative – Building a competitive data and knowledge economy in Europe’ (COM(2016)0178 ) and the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2016)0106 ),

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 6 May 2015 entitled ‘A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe’ (COM(2015)0192 ) and the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2015)0100 ),

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 2 July 2014 entitled ‘Towards a thriving data-driven economy’ (COM(2014)0442 ),

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 10 October 2012 entitled ‘A stronger European industry for growth and economic recovery’ (COM(2012)0582 ),

–   having regard to the Commission Communication of 27 September 2012 entitled ‘Unleashing the potential of cloud computing in Europe’ (COM(2012)0529 ),

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 15 February 2012 entitled ‘High-Performance Computing: Europe’s place in a global race’ (COM(2012)0045 ),

–   having regard to Council conclusions of 27 May 2016 on the transition towards an Open Science system,

–   having regard to Council conclusions of 29 May 2015 on open, data-intensive and networked research as a driver for faster and wider innovation,

–   having regard to its resolution of 5 May 2010 on a new Digital Agenda for Europe: 2015.eu(1) ,

–   having regard to Decision (EU) 2015/2240 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2015 establishing a programme on interoperability solutions and common frameworks for European public administrations, businesses and citizens (ISA² programme) as a means for modernising the public sector(2) ,

–   having regard to Directive 2013/37/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 amending Directive 2003/98/EC on the re-use of public sector information(3) (PSI Directive),

–   having regard to its resolution of 10 March 2016 on ‘Towards a thriving data-driven economy’(4) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 19 January 2016 on ‘Towards a Digital Single Market Act’(5) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 15 January 2014 on ‘Reindustrialising Europe to promote competitiveness and sustainability’(6) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 10 December 2013 on unleashing the potential of cloud computing in Europe(7) ,

–   having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 16 January 2013 on the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on ‘Unleashing the Potential of Cloud Computing in Europe’(TEN/494),

–   having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee entitled ‘European Cloud Initiative – Building a competitive data and knowledge economy in Europe’ (2016 TEN/592 EESC-2016),

–   having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions entitled ‘European Cloud Initiative and ICT Standardisation Priorities for the Digital Single Market 2016’ (SEDEC-VI-012),

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 10 June 2016 entitled ‘A new skills agenda for Europe: Working together to strengthen human capital, employability and competitiveness’ (COM(2016)0381 ),

–   having regard to Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation)(8) ,

–   having regard to Directive (EU) 2016/1148 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 July 2016 concerning measures for a high common level of security of network and information systems across the Union(9) (NIS Directive),

–   having regard to the Commission’s proposal of 14 September 2016 for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the European Electronic Communications Code (COM(2016)0590 ),

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 25 May 2016 entitled ‘Online Platforms and the Digital Single Market Opportunities and Challenges for Europe’ (COM(2016)0288 ),

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 9 December 2015 entitled ‘Towards a modern, more European copyright framework’ (COM(2015)0626 ),

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 19 April 2016 entitled ‘ICT Standardisation Priorities for the Digital Single Market’ (COM(2016)0176 ),

–   having regard to the report ‘Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World – A vision for Europe’, published in May 2016 by the Commission’s Directorate-General for Research & Innovation (RTD),

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

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and the opinions of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0006/2017 ),

A.   whereas the current cloud capacity available in the EU is insufficient and data produced by EU research and industry is therefore often processed elsewhere, making EU researchers and innovators move to places outside the EU, where high data and computing capacity is more immediately available;

B.   whereas the lack of a clear structure of incentives to share data, the lack of interoperability of scientific data systems and the fragmentation of scientific data infrastructures across disciplines and borders hamper the full potential of data-driven science;

C.   whereas the EU is lagging behind on the development of high-performance computing (HPC) as a result of its under-investment in establishing a complete HPC system, when countries like the USA, China, Japan and Russia are seriously investing in such systems, making them a strategic priority, with national programmes to develop them;

D.   whereas the full potential of cloud computing for Europe can only be realised when data can flow freely across the Union with clear rules, and when international data flows play an increasingly important role in the European and global economy;

E.   whereas the ability to analyse and exploit big data is changing the way scientific research is carried out;

F.   whereas the Commission communication entitled ‘European Cloud Initiative – Building a competitive data and knowledge economy in Europe’ recognises the transformative potential of open science and cloud computing as part of Europe’s digital economy;

G.   whereas access policies for networking, data storage and computing differ between Member States, creating silos and slowing down the circulation of knowledge;

H.   whereas the General Data Protection Regulation, the NIS Directive and the Digital Single Market Strategy can provide the basis for a competitive and thriving European digital economy that is open to all market players who abide by the rules;

I.   whereas data are the raw material of the digital economy, and whereas the use of data is essential for the digitisation of European science and industry, for the development of new technologies and for the creation of new jobs;

J.   whereas the recently adopted General Data Protection Regulation provides strong safeguards for personal data protection, and a harmonised approach to its implementation should be ensured;

K.   whereas the Commission’s 2015 Digital Single Market Strategy promised to tackle restrictions on the free movement of data and unjustified restrictions on the location of data for storage or processing;

L.   whereas it is necessary for the Commission to bring forward firm proposals to remove restrictions on the free movement of data if it is to create and deliver the best possible Digital Single Market;

M.   whereas the deployment and development of cloud services are confronted with challenges, given the insufficient availability of necessary high-speed infrastructure and networks in Europe;

N.   whereas the aim to facilitate and support the implementation and long-term sustainability of the research and data infrastructures, including world-class High Performance Computing Centres and other research infrastructure networks, will, through intensified cooperation and exchange of results, help efforts to respond to the great challenges faced in science, industry and society;

O.   whereas the volume of data is growing at an unprecedented pace, with 16 trillion gigabyte of data expected to be available by 2020, corresponding to an annual growth rate of 236 % in data generation;

P.   whereas a data-driven economy depends on a wider ICT ecosystem to succeed, including an internet of things (IoT) for sourcing, high-speed broadband networks for transporting and cloud computing for processing data, as well as skilled scientists and employees;

Q.   whereas cooperation among European scientists, the use and exchange of data, always in accordance with the data protection authorities, and the use of new technological solutions, including cloud computing and digitisation of European science, are key to the development of the Digital Single Market; whereas the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) will have positive effects on scientific development in Europe; and whereas the EOSC must be developed and used with due regard for the fundamental rights enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights (CFR);

General

1.   Welcomes the EOSC as a model for the use of a cloud in the private and public sectors; welcomes the Commission’s plan to extend the user base to the industry and to governments as fast as possible;

2.   Welcomes the Commission communication entitled ‘European Cloud Initiative – Building a competitive data and knowledge economy in Europe’, and believes that this is the first step in setting the proper basis for open and competitive European actions in the field of cloud computing and high-performance computing;

3.   Welcomes the Commission’s European Cloud Initiative as part of the implementation of the Digital Single Market (DSM) Strategy and the Digitising European Industry Package, thus fostering the growth of the European digital economy, contributing to the competitiveness of European businesses and services and enhancing global market positioning; calls on the Commission to ensure, by means of clearly defined measures, that this initiative is fit for purpose, outward-looking and future proof, and that it does not create disproportionate or unjustified barriers;

4.   Underlines the importance of making the European Union a centre for global research, gaining critical mass and creating clusters of excellence; stresses that in order for the Union to attract world-leading research, both capacity in terms of resources and an attractive environment is required; highlights, furthermore, that in order for the EU to become the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world, openness towards international researchers, thereby attracting international investments, is of utmost importance;

5.   Stresses that work on standardisation in cloud computing should be accelerated; emphasises that better standards and interoperability will enable communication between different cloud-based systems and will avoid vendor lock-in effects for cloud products and services; calls on the Commission to cooperate closely with commercial cloud providers in developing open standards for this domain;

6.   Stresses that the added value of this European initiative is based on the sharing of open data and on developing a trusted, open environment for the community for storing, sharing and re-using scientific data and results;

7.   Stresses that creating more awareness of the benefits of cloud computing is crucial, as demand for cloud services is still too low in Europe; points out that cloud computing will lead to economic growth as a result of its cost-efficiency and scalability; reiterates that SMEs are Europe’s most important engine for jobs and growth; underlines that cloud benefits can be particularly substantive for SMEs as they frequently lack the resources to invest in extensive, on-site physical IT systems;

8.   Welcomes the Open Science approach and the role it plays in building a European knowledge economy, and in further stimulating the quality of research and its development in the European Union; stresses that, at present, the value of collected research data is not being utilised in an optimal manner by the industry, especially by SMEs, owing to the lack of free cross-border data flows and of access to a single platform or portal, and notes that the Commission aims to make all scientific data produced by the Horizon 2020 programme open by default;

9.   Emphasises that the EOSC should be accompanied by a comprehensive cyber-security strategy, because the scientific community has a need for a reliable data infrastructure that can be used without exposing research work to data loss, corruption or intrusion; calls on the Commission to take into account cyber-security issues from the very first stage of all its IT initiatives;

10.   Urges the Commission to lead by example, and to make all research data funded by European programmes – such as Horizon 2020, the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI) and others – and its results to be open by default, based on the findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR) principles;

11.   Is concerned by the EUR 4,7 billion financing gap of the European Cloud Initiative; calls on the Commission to identify appropriate financing mechanisms for the EOSC and the European Data Infrastructure (EDI); calls, furthermore, on the Commission to provide sufficient resources for this policy area in Horizon 2020 and in its proposal for the Ninth Framework Programme;

12.   Recommends the Commission to ensure that the EOSC benefits all regions of the Union, exploring the use of regional development funds for widening the initiative;

13.   Highlights that, at present, only 12 % of the financing committed under EFSI goes to digital-related actions; urges the Commission to present targeted steps which could genuinely enhance the involvement of all EU funds, in particular EFSI, in DSM-related projects, including data-sharing initiatives, digital accessibility, infrastructure and Union-wide digital connectivity, and to direct more resources towards boosting European research, development and innovation, including, among other things, in the field of privacy-enhancing technologies and open-source security; believes that this initiative should be developed in synergy with other Horizon 2020 programmes, including on private cloud computing and e-government services;

14.   Believes that the private sector should be involved in the user base of the EOSC from the beginning, for example through offering Software as a Service (SaaS); points out that European business is expected to contribute to closing the EUR 4,7 billion financing gap of the European Cloud Initiative; notes that it is unlikely that businesses will invest in the programme if they will be unable to reap its benefits as well;

15.   Underlines that a state-of-the-art supercomputing infrastructure is crucial for the EU’s competitiveness; calls on the Commission to realise the availability of operational exascale computers in the EU by the year 2022;

16.   Calls on the Commission to incentivise the participation of European SMEs and industries in the manufacturing of the hardware and software of the EDI, boosting the EU’s economy and promoting sustainable growth and job creation;

17.   Invites the Commission to engage with the Member States, and with other research funders, in the design and implementation of the roadmap for governance and funding, ensuring that appropriate resources are allocated to the initiative, and to facilitate the coordination of national efforts, avoiding unnecessary duplication and spending;

18.   Agrees that interoperability and data portability is key to addressing grand societal challenges that require efficient data sharing and a multidisciplinary and multi-actor approach; notes that the action plan foreseen in the Commission’s communication on the European Cloud Initiative (COM(2016)0178 ) is a necessary tool for reducing fragmentation and for ensuring the use of research data under the FAIR principle;

19.   Asks the Commission to present an action plan, based on the principles of full transparency and disclosure, with clear working packages and timelines, defining the results to be achieved, the sources of financing and the stakeholders involved throughout the process;

20.   Supports the EOSC as part of the European Cloud Initiative that will create a virtual environment where scientists and professionals from all regions can store, share, manage, analyse and reuse their research data, including publicly funded research data, across disciplines and borders, thus helping to remove fragmentation of the Single Market; urges the Commission to apply a comprehensive approach towards open science that is inclusive towards the open science community and independent scientists, to provide more clarity on the definitions used in the communication and, in particular, to create a clear distinction between the European Cloud Initiative and the EUSC, and in accordance with this, to update legislation to facilitate the re-use of research results;

21.   Believes that the European Cloud Initiative ensures investments in the science and research sectors in order to create the incentives and tools to share and use data as widely as possible, underpinned by the building of a strong cloud and data infrastructure in the European Union;

22.   Stresses that SMEs are at the heart of the EU’s economy, and that more actions are needed to promote the global competitiveness of SMEs and start-ups with a view to creating the best possible environment, with high-quality data, data analytics, secure services and expected cost efficiency for the uptake of new promising technological developments;

23.   Calls on the Commission to establish an economically viable basis for a European Cloud, and to take clear steps to encourage SMEs to offer competitive solutions for data processing and storage in facilities based in the Member States;

24.   Recalls the positive results achieved by existing pan-European structures and the open data available in the national data storage facilities; acknowledges that there are still many barriers in the Single Market that prevent the full deployment of this initiative; calls on the Commission and the Member States to examine the potential of already available data, and to ensure a coherent strategy on open data and the reusability of this data across Member States; notes that the Commission and the Member States must explore the need for further investments in cross-border physical infrastructure, with special focus on combining HPC, high-speed broadband networks and mass-data storage facilities in order to realise a thriving European data-driven economy; calls on the Commission to analyse global industry-led and other international partnerships with regard to this matter;

25.   Notes that the uptake of cloud services among European SMEs needs to be encouraged further; notes that European Cloud providers need further coordinated support in participating in the digital world, in widening trust on the user side and in raising awareness on the benefits of adopting cloud computing;

26.   Stresses that access to broadband internet for businesses and citizens is an indispensable element of a competitive data and knowledge economy in the EU; believes, in this regard, that the development of the cloud should go hand in hand with initiatives that increase access to broadband internet for businesses and citizens, especially in rural areas;

27.   Notes that digital education actions across generations, including cyber skills, are critical for cloud development in order to identify and act on top technical and effectiveness skills gaps to achieve digital goals; welcomes the proposals presented within the framework of the Commission’s recently adopted New Skills Agenda for Europe, and underlines the need for proper financial resources;

28.   Believes that cloud start-ups are emerging with niche solutions to make cloud computing faster, easier and more reliable, flexible and secure;

29.   Stresses that HPC, which is important for cloud development, should be treated as an integral part of the European Data Infrastructure across the whole ecosystem, and that the benefits should be promoted widely;

30.   Notes that the involvement of academic and research institutions, and of other stakeholders, should be encouraged with a view to maintaining and supporting integrated scientific data infrastructures and HPC;

31.   Notes that, with the existing services, and those which will be offered in the future by the private sector and by countries outside the EU, the EOSC needs to provide both incentives and new services to break the long-formed habit of relying on existing research practices;

32.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that there is a focus on future-oriented European growth in order to build a competitive cloud industry in the EU; emphasises the importance of ensuring that the market demand for cloud solutions continues to increase, and that cloud adoption is encouraged in vertical industries such as finance, taxation and social security, manufacturing, banking, health, media and entertainment, and agriculture;

33.   Believes that the General Data Protection Regulation provides a framework for the protection of personal data; notes, however, that fragmentation in its implementation across Member States would make it more difficult for researchers to carry out their work and share their findings, which in turn would undermine efforts to establish the cooperation between researchers enabled by cloud computing; calls, therefore, for the proper implementation and enforcement of that Regulation;

34.   Stresses that solutions under the European Cloud Initiative should be developed with due regard for the fundamental rights enshrined in the CFR, in particular the rights of data protection, privacy, liberty and security;

35.   Notes that the data economy is still in its very early stages, that business models are still in development and that those that exist are already being disrupted and evolving; calls on the Commission to ensure that any legislation in this field will be in line with the technology-neutral ‘innovation principle’ and will not impose serious hurdles to innovation, the digitisation of industry or the development of new technologies such as IoT and artificial intelligence (AI) in the EU;

36.   Calls on the Commission to work with the Member States, and with all stakeholders, to participate in identifying the necessary implementing actions needed to maximise the potential offered by the European Cloud Initiative; believes that open innovation and open science involve far more actors in the innovation process, from researchers to entrepreneurs, users, governments and civil society;

The open science cloud

37.   Notes the under-representation of key stakeholders in the discussions and in large-scale pilot projects; considers that, while avoiding administrative burdens, the active involvement of public and private sector stakeholders, and civic society, at local, regional, national and Union levels must be a precondition for an effective exchange of information; stresses that the European Cloud Initiative should meet the needs of and benefit not only the scientific community, but also industry, including SMEs and start-ups, public administrations and consumers;

38.   Stresses that the development of the EOSC must take place with due regard for the fundamental rights enshrined in the CFR, with particular attention to the rights of data protection, privacy, liberty and security, and that it must abide by the principles of privacy by design and by default, and the principles of proportionality, necessity, data minimisation and purpose limitation; recognises that the application of additional safeguards, such as pseudonymisation, anonymisation or cryptography, including encryption, can reduce risks and enhance protection for the data subjects concerned when personal data are used in big data applications or cloud computing; recalls that anonymisation is an irreversible process, and calls on the Commission to prepare guidelines on how to anonymise data; reiterates the need for special protection for sensitive data in compliance with existing legislation; stresses that the aforementioned principles, together with high standards of quality, reliability and confidentiality, are needed to ensure consumers’ confidence in the European Cloud Initiative;

39.   Stresses that the Open Science Cloud Initiative should lead to a trusted cloud for all: scientists, businesses and public services;

40.   Notes that there is a necessity to foster an open, trusted collaborative platform for the management, analysis, sharing, reuse and preservation of research data on which innovative services can be developed and delivered under certain terms and conditions;

41.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to explore appropriate governance and funding frameworks, taking sufficient consideration of existing initiatives, their sustainability and their ability to foster a European-wide level playing field; stresses that Member States should consider integrating their national funding programmes with EU funding programmes;

42.   Calls on the Commission to analyse the full range of financial sources for establishing the EOSC and to strengthen existing instruments to ensure faster development, focusing in particular on best practices;

43.   Asks the Commission to ensure that all scientific research and data produced by the Horizon 2020 programme is open by default, and asks the Member States to adapt their national research programmes accordingly;

44.   Understands that the EOSC will promote digital science by mainstreaming IT as a service to the public research sector in the EU; calls for ‘a science cloud federal model’ that brings together public research organisations, stakeholders, SMEs, start-ups and e-infrastructures with commercial suppliers in order to build a common platform offering a range of services to the EU’s research communities;

45.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States, in cooperation with other stakeholders, to establish a roadmap to give as fast as possible a clear timescale for the implementation of the actions envisaged by the EOSC;

46.   Calls on the Commission to assess carefully the needs of European public researchers in order to identify possible gaps in the supply of cloud infrastructure in the EU; believes that, if gaps are identified, the Commission should invite European cloud infrastructure providers to share their development roadmaps in order to asses if private investments are sufficient to address such gaps, or if further public funding is needed to bridge them;

47.   Asks the Commission to ensure that all scientific research and data produced by the Horizon 2020 programme should benefit European businesses and the public; advocates a change in the incentive structures for academics, industry and public services for sharing their data and improving data management, training, engineering skills and literacy;

48.   Welcomes the fact that the Cloud Initiative focuses on building high-bandwidth networks, large-scale storage facilities, high-performance computing and a European big data ecosystem;

49.   Stresses that 5G development, as well as the rules of the European Electronic Communications Code, should make the EOSC more attractive by offering a high-quality internet and new, top-quality infrastructure;

50.   Approves the Commission’s ambition for the Union to be capable of handling large amounts of data, with infrastructures operated by services using real-time data from sensors or applications that link data from different sources; notes that the European Cloud Initiative aims to ensure better and more harmonised work on infrastructure development;

51.   Supports further development of GÉANT network with the aim of making it the most advanced international network and maintaining the EU’s leadership in research;

52.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to coordinate with stakeholders in order to reduce the fragmentation of digital infrastructures by establishing a roadmap for actions and a robust governance structure involving funders, procurers and users, and stresses the need to promote the open science principles for data management and sharing without hampering innovation and without violating privacy and intellectual property in the digital age;

53.   Stresses the importance of founding the European Cloud Initiative on the basis of the Connecting Europe Facility building blocks, in particular eIDs and e-signatures, with a view to reinforcing the trust of users in secure, interoperable and seamless electronic communications across the Union;

54.   Calls on the Commission to direct more resources towards boosting European research, development, innovation and training in the field of cloud computing, stressing the need for infrastructure and processes that safeguard the open data and the privacy of users;

55.   Insists that standards should enable easy and complete portability, and a high degree of interoperability, between cloud services;

56.   Strongly believes that the Open Science Cloud initiative should rely on open standards to ensure interoperability and seamless communication, and to avoid lock-in;

57.   Stresses that the use of open standards, and free and open-source software, are especially important in guaranteeing the necessary transparency about how personal and other sensitive types of data are in fact being protected;

58.   Notes that the European economy is increasingly relying on the power of supercomputers to invent innovative solutions, reduce cost and decrease time to market for products and services; supports the Commission’s efforts to create an exascale supercomputer system based on European hardware technology;

59.   Believes that Europe needs a complete HPC ecosystem to acquire leadership-class supercomputers, secure its HPC system supply and provide HPC services to industry and SMEs for simulation, visualisation and prototyping; considers that it is of upmost importance for the EU to rank among the top supercomputing powers in the world by 2022;

60.   Believes that the European Technology Platform and the contractual Public-Private Partnership (cPPP) on HPC are crucial to defining the EU’s research priorities in developing European technology in all segments of the HPC solution supply chain;

61.   Welcomes the Commission’s proposal, in line with the Quantum Manifesto, to launch a EUR 1 billion flagship-scale initiative in quantum technology;

62.   Reminds the Commission that the cloud services industry has already invested billions of euros into building top-of-the art infrastructure in Europe; points out that EU scientists and researchers can today use a cloud infrastructure that offers them the ability to experiment and innovate quickly by accessing a wide variety of services, only paying for what they use, thus improving time-to-science fast; notes that the EU’s critical support to research and development should not be spent on duplicating existing resources, but instead on encouraging breakthrough in new scientific areas that can boost growth and competitiveness;

63.   Stresses that the scientific community needs a secured, safe and open-source high-capacity infrastructure in order to advance research and to prevent potential security breaches, cyber-attacks or misuse of personal data, especially when large amounts of data are collected, stored and processed; calls on the Commission and the Member States to support and incentivise the development of the necessary technology, including cryptographic technologies, taking into account the ‘security by design’ approach; supports the Commission’s efforts to enhance cooperation – among public authorities, European industry (including SMEs and start-ups), researchers and academia in the area of big data and cybersecurity – from the early stages of the research and innovation process in order to enable the creation of innovative and trustworthy European solutions and market opportunities, while ensuring an adequate level of security;

64.   Believes that the development of clear standards for cloud interoperability, data portability and service level agreements will ensure certainty and transparency for both cloud providers and end-users;

65.   Stresses that reliability, security and protection of personal data is needed for ensuring consumer confidence, such trust being a basis for healthy competitiveness;

66.   Notes that industry should play a key role in developing widely accepted standards fit for the digital age, and that such standards would give cloud providers confidence to keep innovating, and users confidence to adopt cloud services further at Union level;

67.   Calls on the Commission to take the lead in promoting intersectoral, cross-lingual and cross-border interoperability and cloud standards, and in supporting privacy-friendly, reliable, secure and energy-efficient cloud services as an integral part of a common strategy focusing on maximising the opportunities to develop standards that have the capacity of becoming worldwide standards;

68.   Notes that an action plan on data interoperability is needed to harness the high quantity of data that European scientists produce and to improve the reusability of this data in science and industry; calls on the Commission to work with key scientific stakeholders to produce effective systems to make data – including meta-data, common specifications and data object identifiers – findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR);

69.   Notes that the EU is failing to invest in its HPC ecosystem to the same degree as other regions of the world are doing, and that this is not in line with its economic and knowledge potential;

70.   Calls on the Commission to promote interoperability, and to prevent vendor ‘lock-in’, by encouraging multiple cloud infrastructure providers in Europe to offer a choice of competitive, inter-operable and portable infrastructure services;

71.   Calls for measures to preserve a high-quality standardisation system that can attract the best technology contributions; asks the Commission to adopt policies that remove excessive barriers in innovative sectors in order to incentivise investments in research and development, and in Union-wide standardisation;

72.   Urges the Commission to maximise its efforts to avoid the possibility of vendor lock-in on the digital market from start, especially in emerging areas such as the European Cloud Initiative;

73.   Acknowledges the importance of interoperability and standards in boosting competitiveness in the ICT sector; asks the Commission to identify gaps in standards in the EOSC, including as regards SMEs, start-ups and key European sectors; supports the development of market-driven, voluntary, technology-neutral, transparent, globally compatible and market-relevant standards;

74.   Considers that the ISA2 programme offers an opportunity to develop interoperability standards for big data management within public administrations and in their dealings with businesses and citizens;

75.   Recognises that standards should respond to a demonstrated need from the industry and other stakeholders; stresses that it is essential to develop, and agree on, common high standards to ensure efficient use and sharing of data, going beyond individual disciplines, institutions and national borders; calls on the Commission to identify, where appropriate, the best certification schemes across the Member States, with a view to laying out, with the involvement of relevant stakeholders, a demand-driven, pan-European set of standards that facilitates data sharing and is based on open and global standards whenever justified; stresses that actions taken with regard to the European Cloud Initiative must ensure that the needs of the Single Market are reflected, and that it remains globally accessible and responsive to technological evolution;

76.   Supports the Commission’s intention to remove barriers, especially technical and legal ones, to the free movement of data and data services, to remove as well disproportionate data localisation requirements, and to promote the interoperability of data by linking the European Cloud Initiative to the Free Flow of Data Initiative; considers that, in order to achieve a digital society, the free flow of data must be regarded as the fifth freedom within the Single Market; notes that a clear legal framework, sufficient skills and resources related to the management of big data, as well as the recognition of relevant professional qualifications are prerequisites for unleashing the full potential of cloud computing; urges the Commission to engage with stakeholders, especially the industry, in identifying big data, as well as coding-related training opportunities, also in the scope of the New Skills Agenda, and to create incentives for stakeholders, in particular SMEs and start-ups, to use, open and share data in the Single Market;

77.   Welcomes the Commission’s proposal, in line with the Quantum Manifesto to launch a EUR 1 billion flagship-scale initiative in quantum technology; stresses, however, that in order to accelerate their development and bring commercial products to public and private users, transparent and open stakeholder consultation is crucial;

Sharing open data, sharing research data

78.   Welcomes the fact that the development of the EOSC will allow researchers and science professionals a place to store, share, use and re-use data, and can set the foundation for data-driven innovation in the EU; stresses that the benefits of data sharing have been widely recognised;

79.   Notes that data has become essential for decision making at the local, national and global level; notes that sharing data has also important benefits for local and regional authorities, and that opening up government data enhances democracy and provides new business opportunities;

80.   Supports the Commission’s efforts, together with those of European industry researchers and academia, to develop the Big Data Value Public-Private Partnership (PPP), in synergy with the cPPP on HPC that enhances community building around data and HPC and sets the grounds for a thriving data-driven economy in the EU; supports the cybersecurity PPP that fosters cooperation between public and private actors at early stages of the research and innovation process in order to access innovative and trustworthy European solutions;

81.   Stresses that the Commission should liaise closely, and as early as possible, with industry partners, especially SMEs and start-ups, in order to guarantee that business and industry requirements are addressed and integrated adequately in the later stage of the initiative;

82.   Encourages public administrations to consider safe, reliable and secure cloud services by providing a clear legal framework and by working further to develop cloud-specific certifications schemes; notes that business and consumers need to feel confident in adopting new technologies;

83.   Believes that public administrations should have open access to government public data by default; call for progress to be made in determining the degree and pace of releasing information as open data, in identifying key datasets to be made available and in promoting the re-use of open data in an open form;

84.   Notes that the staggering growth in digital technologies is the key driver for generation of massive raw data streams in cloud environments, and that this huge collection of raw data streams in big data systems increases computational complexity and resource consumption in cloud-enabled data mining systems; notes further that the concept of pattern-based data sharing enables local data processing near the data sources and transforms the raw data streams into actionable knowledge patterns; points out that these knowledge patterns have dual utility of availability of local knowledge patterns for immediate actions as well as for participatory data sharing in cloud environments;

85.   Endorses the May 2016 Council conclusions on the transition towards an open science system, in particular the conclusion that the underlying principle for the optimal reuse of research data should be ‘as open as possible, as closed as necessary’;

Text and data mining

86.   Stresses that full availability of public data within the EOSC will not be sufficient to remove all barriers to data-based research;

87.   Notes that the initiative needs to be complemented by a modern copyright framework that should allow for the removal of fragmentation and lack of interoperability from the European data research process;

88.   Believes that the initiative should preserve the balance between the rights of researchers and those of rights holders and other actors in the scientific sphere, with full respect ensured for the rights of authors and publishers, while at the same time supporting innovative research in Europe;

89.   Believes that research data can be shared within the EOSC without prejudice to copyright owned by researchers or research institutions, by establishing licensing models where necessary; believes that best practices in this regard are being established within the Horizon 2020 Open Research Data pilot;

90.   Believes that the Database Directive 96/9/EC, which needs to be reviewed, limits the use of data without evidence of creating added economic or scientific value;

Data protection, fundamental rights and data security

91.   Urges the Commission to take action to promote the further harmonisation of laws in the Member States in order to avoid jurisdictional confusion and fragmentation, and to ensure transparency in the digital single market;

92.   Believes that the European Union is leading the way in privacy protection, and advocates a high level of data protection worldwide;

93.   Stresses that a coordinated approach is needed to be taken by data protection authorities, policy makers and industry, to the benefit of organisations in this transition by providing compliance toolkits and uniform interpretation and application of obligations, and by raising awareness about the key issues for citizens and the business;

94.   Stresses that the EU is a global importer and exporter of digital services, and that it requires a strong cloud computing and data economy to be competitive; calls on the Commission to take a lead in striving towards the creation of uniform, globally accepted standards of personal data protection;

95.   Believes that global data flows are vital to international trade and economic growth, and that the Commission’s initiative on the free flow of data should enable companies operating in Europe – and in particular in the growing cloud computing sector – to be in the forefront of the global innovation race; stresses that the initiative should also aim to lift any arbitrary restrictions on where companies should locate infrastructure or store data, as such restrictions would hamper the development of Europe’s economy;

96.   Believes that current EU data protection legislation, in particular the recently adopted the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection in Law Enforcement Directive (Directive (EU) 2016/680)(10) , provides strong safeguards for the protection of personal data, including those collected, aggregated and pseudonymised for scientific research purposes and sensitive data related to health, together with specific conditions regarding their publication and disclosure, data subjects’ right to object to further processing, and rules on access for law enforcement authorities in the context of criminal investigations; calls on the Commission to take these safeguards into account for the development of the EOSC and the implementation of rules governing access to data stored therein; recognises that a harmonised approach to the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation, including guidelines, compliance toolkits and awareness-raising campaigns for citizens, researchers and businesses, is crucial, especially for the development of the EOSC and the facilitation of research cooperation, including by high-performance computing;

97.   Believes that the free flow of data is beneficial to the digital economy and the development of science and research; emphasises that the Commission’s initiative on the free flow of data should enable the growing European cloud computing sector to be in the forefront of the global innovation race, including for science and innovation purposes; recalls that any transfer of personal data to the cloud infrastructures or other recipients located outside the Union should respect the rules for transfers foreseen in the General Data Protection Regulation, and that the Commission initiative on the free flow of data should be in compliance with these provisions; stresses that the initiative should also aim to reduce restrictions as to where companies should place infrastructure or store data, as these would hamper the development of Europe’s economy and prevent scientists from reaping the full benefits of data-driven science, while maintaining restrictions in compliance with the data protection legislation to prevent possible future abuses regarding the EOSC;

98.   Strongly believes that the Union should be at the forefront as regards the security and protection of personal data, including sensitive data, and should advocate a high level of data protection and data security worldwide; believes that the EU data protection framework, together with an inclusive cybersecurity strategy that will ensure reliable data infrastructures which are protected against data loss, intrusion or attacks, could form a competitive advantage for European companies regarding privacy; urges the Commission to ensure that the EOSC will preserve scientific independence and objectivity of research, as well as protect the work of the scientific community within the Union;

99.   Calls on the Commission to ensure that concerns with regard to fundamental rights, privacy, data protection, intellectual property rights and sensitive information are dealt with in strict compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC); stresses that security threats to cloud infrastructure have become more international, diffuse and complex, are hampering its more intensive use, and do require European cooperation; urges the Commission and the Member States’ national authorities, in consultation with the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA), to cooperate in establishing a safe and trustworthy digital infrastructure and to build up high levels of cybersecurity in compliance with the NIS Directive;

100.   Calls on the Commission to ensure that this initiative is fit for purpose, outward looking, future proof and technologically neutral, and highlights the fact that the Commission and the Member States must take their lead from the market and from the cloud computing industry itself in order to meet the current and future demands of the sector in the best way, and to drive innovation in cloud based technologies;

101.   Notes the potential of big data for prompting technological innovation and building the knowledge based economy; notes that reducing obstacles to knowledge-sharing will boost the competitiveness of businesses while also benefiting local and regional authorities; highlights the importance of facilitating data portability;

102.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to work with industry-led standard-setting initiatives to ensure that the single market remains accessible to third countries and responsive to technological evolution, avoiding barriers which will hinder innovation and competitiveness in Europe; notes that standard-setting in relation to data security and privacy is closely related to the question of jurisdiction, and that national authorities have a key role to play;

103.   Stresses that consideration must be paid to existing initiatives to avoid duplication that could hinder openness, competition and growth, and that market-driven, pan-European standards for data sharing must be in line with international standards;

104.   Emphasises the need to find a balance between legitimate data protection concerns and the necessity to secure an untapped ‘free flow of data’; calls on the need for existing data protection rules to be respected in an open big data market;

105.   Supports the proposal to make open research data the default option for new Horizon 2020 projects, as publicly funded research data are a public good, produced in the public interest and should be made openly available, with as few restrictions as possible and in a timely and responsible manner;

106.   Notes that the European Cloud Initiative focuses on potentially sensitive sectors of R&D and government e-portals; reiterates that cyber security for cloud services is best dealt with under the framework of the NIS Directive;

107.   Notes the importance of facilitating the interoperability of different equipment within networks, providing assurance of security and promoting component supply chains, all of which are important for the commercialisation of the technology;

o
o   o

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

(1) OJ C 81 E, 15.3.2011, p. 45.
(2) OJ L 318, 4.12.2015, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 175, 27.6.2013, p. 1.
(4) Texts adopted P8_TA(2016)0089 .
(5) Texts adopted P8_TA(2016)0009 .
(6) OJ C 482, 23.12.2016, p. 89.
(7) OJ C 468, 15.12.2016, p. 19.
(8) OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 1.
(9) OJ L 194, 19.7.2016, p. 1.
(10) OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 89.


Investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds
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European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2017 on investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds: an evaluation of the report under Article 16(3) of the CPR (2016/2148(INI) )
P8_TA(2017)0053 A8-0385/2016

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to Article 174 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–   having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 (hereinafter ‘the CPR’)(1) ,

–   having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1301/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on the European Regional Development Fund and on specific provisions concerning the Investment for growth and jobs goal and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1080/2006(2) ,

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

–   having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1698/2005(4) ,

–   having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1299/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on specific provisions for the support from the European Regional Development Fund to the European territorial cooperation goal(5) ,

–   having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1302/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 amending Regulation (EC) No 1082/2006 on a European grouping of territorial cooperation (EGTC) as regards the clarification, simplification and improvement of the establishment and functioning of such groupings(6) ,

–   having regard to Regulation (EU) No 508/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 May 2014 on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Council Regulations (EC) No 2328/2003, (EC) No 861/2006, (EC) No 1198/2006 and (EC) No 791/2007 and Regulation (EU) No 1255/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council(7) ,

–   having regard to Regulation (EU) 2015/1017 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 June 2015 on the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the European Investment Advisory Hub and the European Investment Project Portal and amending Regulations (EU) No 1291/2013 and (EU) No 1316/2013 – the European Fund for Strategic Investments(8) ,

–   having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds’ (COM(2015)0639 ),

–   having regard to its resolution of 11 May 2016 on acceleration of implementation of cohesion policy(9) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 6 July 2016 on synergies for innovation: the European Structural and Investment Funds, Horizon 2020 and other European innovation funds and EU programmes(10) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 26 November 2015 entitled ‘Towards simplification and performance orientation in cohesion policy 2014-2020’(11) ,

–   having regard to the Council conclusions of 26 February 2016 on ‘Investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds’,

–   having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 25 May 2016 on the Commission communication ‘Investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds’(12) ,

–   having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 9 July 2015 entitled ‘Outcome of the negotiations on the partnership agreements and operational programmes’(13) ,

–   having regard to the Sixth Report on Economic, Social and Territorial Cohesion (COM(2014)0473 ),

–   having regard to the study by its Directorate-General for Internal Policies (Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policies) of June 2016 entitled ‘Maximisation of synergies between European Structural and Investment Funds and other EU instruments to attain the Europe 2020 goals’,

–   having regard to the study by its Directorate-General for Internal Policies (Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policies) of September 2016 entitled ‘Evaluation of the Report under Article 16(3) of the CPR’,

–   having regard to the analysis by its Directorate-General for Internal Policies (Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policies) of September 2016 entitled ‘Financial instruments in the 2014-20 programming period: first experiences of Member States’,

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

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Regional Development and the opinions of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on Budgets, the Committee on Transport and Tourism, the Committee on Agricultural and Rural Development and the Committee on Culture and Education (A8-0385/2016 ),

A.   whereas cohesion policy represents a significant part of the EU budget, amounting to approximately one third of all expenditure;

B.   whereas, with a budget of EUR 454 billion for the period 2014-2020, the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds) are the EU’s main investment policy tool and are a vital source of public investment in many Member States, resulting in more jobs, growth and investment being provided across the EU, as well as reducing disparities at regional and local level in order to promote economic, social and territorial cohesion;

C.   whereas the Partnership Agreements (PAs) form the basis for the Article 16(3) report presented by the Commission;

D.   whereas the negotiations for PAs and Operational Programmes (OPs) for the period 2014-2020 have been a modernised, strongly adjusted and intensive exercise with a new framework for performance, ex ante conditionalities and thematic concentration, but have also resulted in serious delays in the actual commencement of cohesion policy implementation, also because of shortcomings in the administrative capacity of several regions and Member States, matters being further slowed down by the procedure for designation of managing authorities;

E.   whereas it is undisputed that due to the late adoption of the regulatory framework at the end of 2013 as a consequence of the long negotiations and late agreement on the MFF, operational programmes could not be adopted on time; whereas consequently the implementation of OPs had a slow start, thereby impacting the take-up of the policy on the ground;

F.   whereas common provisions were established for all five ESI Funds, thereby strengthening the relationships between them;

G.   whereas cohesion policy is confronted in the current period with many political and economic challenges, deriving both from the financial crisis, leading to a decrease in public investment in many Member States, leaving the ESI Funds and co-financing by the Member States as the main tool for public investment in many Member States, and from the migration crisis;

H.   whereas in the programming period 2014-2020 cohesion policy has acquired a more focused policy approach, through thematic concentration and supporting the priorities and objectives of the Union;

I.   whereas the ESI Funds in the current funding period are more strongly result-oriented and are built on an investment environment that allows greater effectiveness;

J.   whereas there must be a stronger alignment of investment under cohesion policy with the priorities of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and with the European Semester;

K.   whereas the Task Force for Better Implementation has helped ease bottlenecks and backlogs in the allocation of funds;

Sharing results, communication and visibility

1.   Notes that Europe is going through a difficult phase in economic, social and political terms, so that an effective investment policy that is oriented towards economic growth and employment, close to the citizens and more suitable for specific territorial vocations, is needed more than ever, and should seek to tackle both unemployment and social inequalities within the Union, creating European added value; believes that in order to regain the trust of its citizens the EU must initiate adjustment processes to meet the requirements laid down in Article 9 TFEU;

2.   Notes that cohesion policy over the period 2014-2020 has been thoroughly reworked, requiring a change in mentality and working methods at all levels of governance, including horizontal coordination and involvement of stakeholders as well as, to the extent possible, of Community-led Local Development (CLLD); points out that the recent forward-looking and exemplary reforms are often ignored, but that cohesion policy is still often perceived as a traditional expenditure policy rather than a development and investment policy offering tangible results;

3.   Considers that the key communication on cohesion policy projects should focus on European added value, solidarity and the visibility of success stories, while underlining the importance of exchange of best practices as well as learning from projects that fail to achieve their objectives; insists that communication on the subject of the ESI Funds should be modernised and intensified; stresses the need to identify and implement new tools for communicating the results of cohesion policy; considers it necessary to invest in regional intelligence and data gathering, as part of a continuous effort to create and update databases, taking account of local and regional needs, specificities and priorities, as in the case of the already-existing S3 platform, which would enable the interested public to effectively check the European added value of projects;

4.   Highlights the fact that in order to improve communication on and the visibility of ESI Funds, greater focus must be placed on participation by stakeholders and recipients, and on involving citizens in the design and implementation of cohesion policy in a meaningful way; additionally, urges the Commission, Member States, regions and cities to communicate more on both the achievements of cohesion policy and the lessons to be learned, and to come forward with a coordinated and targeted action plan;

Thematic concentration

5.   Welcomes thematic concentration, as it has proved a helpful tool for creating a focused policy and greater effectiveness for the EU’s priorities and the Europe 2020 strategy, enhancing the process of converting knowledge into innovation, jobs and growth; calls, therefore, on the Member States and regional and local authorities to take clear decisions on investment priorities and to select projects on the basis of priorities set for the ESI Funds, as well as to use streamlined and efficient implementation processes;

6.   Notes that an analysis of thematic concentration should point out how the strategic choices of Member States and allocation of resources across thematic objectives (TOs) meet the specific needs of the territories; regrets that this aspect is less apparent in the Commission’s Article 16 report;

7.   Considers that the results and benefits of cohesion policy need to be put across more effectively, not least in order to restore confidence in the European project;

8.   Insists that cohesion policy should continue to have thematic focus, while allowing for the degree of flexibility that is sufficient in order to take on board the specific needs of each region, especially the specific needs of the less developed regions, as laid down in the regulations; calls for continued ESI Fund investment in transition regions in order to preserve what has been achieved by the resources and efforts already deployed;

9.   Underlines, in particular, that consideration should be given to the circumstances of urban or rural regions, the so-called ‘lagging regions’, transition regions and regions with permanent natural or geographical handicaps, and appropriate support policies should be drawn up for the development of these areas, which without cohesion policy might have been unable to catch up with more developed regions; calls on the Commission to pursue and expand strategies to implement the urban agenda, together with local authorities and metropolitan regions conceived as EU growth centres; recalls in this context that it is important to allow sufficient flexibility for Member States and regions to support new policy challenges, such as those relating to immigration (while keeping in mind the original and still relevant goals of cohesion policy and the specific needs of regions), as well as the broadly understood digital dimension of cohesion policy (including ICT and broadband access issues, which are linked to the completion of the Digital Single Market); draws attention to the Energy Union Strategy, the Circular Economy Strategy, and the EU’s commitments under the Paris climate change agreement, as the ESI Funds have an important role to play in delivery;

10.   Considers that more attention should be given to sub-regional areas with a considerable accumulation of challenges, often found in pockets of poverty, segregated communities and deprived neighbourhoods with an overrepresentation of marginalised groups such as Roma;

11.   Supports the gradual shift of focus from one based on major infrastructure-related projects towards one based on stimulating the knowledge economy, innovation and social inclusion, as well as on capacity building and empowering of actors, including from civil society, in cohesion policy, while taking into consideration the specific features of less developed regions that still need support in the field of infrastructural development and for which market-based solutions are not always feasible, also keeping in consideration that there should be flexibility to enable each Member State to make investments according to its priorities as laid down in the PAs in order to promote its economic, social and territorial development;

12.   Is of the opinion that the ESI Funds, including in particular the European Territorial Cooperation Programmes, should be used to create and boost quality jobs, as well as quality lifelong learning and vocational (re)training systems, including school infrastructure, to allow workers to adapt under good conditions to the changing realities of the world of work, and to stimulate sustainable growth, competitiveness and development and shared prosperity aimed at achieving a socially just, sustainable and inclusive Europe, while focusing on the least developed areas and sectors having structural problems and supporting the most vulnerable and exposed groups in society, in particular young people (in conjunction with programmes such as Erasmus+) and those with fewest skills or qualifications, promoting greater employment through a circular economy, and preventing early school leaving; draws attention to the fact that ESF is an instrument which supports implementation of policies of public interest;

13.   Expresses concern that unemployment – in particular youth and women unemployment, as well as unemployment in rural areas – remains very high in many Member States, despite all efforts, and cohesion policy must provide answers to this too; recommends to the Commission that it pay more attention to the impact of cohesion policy on promoting employment and reducing unemployment; notes in this context that the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) has been integrated into 34 ESF programmes in the 20 eligible Member States, thus allowing unemployed young people to benefit from the YEI with the purpose to find their skills and qualifications; is concerned, however, about the delayed start to the implementation of the YEI and at the way in which the Youth Guarantee is being implemented in certain regions; urges Member States to intensify their efforts in order to achieve substantial and tangible effects rapidly and successfully from the funds invested, particularly with respect to funds made available in the form of advance payments, and that the YEI is implemented correctly and ensure decent working conditions for young workers; calls, in particular, for account to be taken of the real needs of the business community in using ESI Funds to meet training requirements, so as to create real employment opportunities and to achieve long-term employment; considers that the fight against youth unemployment, social inclusion and the future demographic challenges that Europe is facing nowadays and in the mid-term future should be the main areas where cohesion policy should be focused; calls for a continuation of the YEI beyond 2016, so as to sustain efforts to combat youth unemployment, while subjecting it to a thorough operational analysis designed to achieve the corrections necessary to make it more effective;

14.   Expresses serious concern that in the case of the Youth Guarantee scheme, which in 2014‑2020 will receive a total of EUR 12,7 billion from the ESF and the special YEI, and which, on the basis of this funding, is already seen as the driving force behind efforts to boost youth employment, the Commission has not carried out a cost-benefit analysis, which is standard procedure for all major Commission initiatives; consequently there is a lack of information on the potential overall cost of implementing the guarantee throughout the EU and, as the European Court of Auditors has stressed, a risk that the total amount of funding may be insufficient;

15.   Stresses the importance of communication, particularly digital communication, through which information on potential assistance in finding training, a traineeship or work cofinanced through EU funds can reach the greatest number of young people; calls for more communication to promote such portals as DROP’PIN and EURES and to increase young people’s opportunities for mobility in the internal market, which is considered the biggest untapped potential in the fight against unemployment in the EU;

16.   Calls on the Commission to ensure that Member States comply with the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities when implementing projects supported by the ESI Funds, including the aim of fostering a shift from institutional to community living for persons with disabilities;

17.   Recalls that completion of the core TEN-T network is a European transport policy priority, and that the ESI Funds are a very important tool in the implementation of this project; emphasises the need to tap the potential of the ESI Funds in order to connect the potential of the core and comprehensive TEN-T networks with regional and local transport infrastructure; recognises the importance of the Cohesion Fund for improving infrastructure and connectivity in Europe, and insists that this fund be maintained in the new post-2020 financial framework;

18.   Emphasises that the multimodality of transport should be a vital factor in the assessment of infrastructure projects financed by the ESI Funds, but that it should not be the only criterion used to assess proposed projects, especially in the case of Member States with major investment needs in the area of transport infrastructure;

19.   Emphasises the need to maintain traditional trades, including the craft tradition and associated skills, and to establish strategies to foster growth for traditional trade entrepreneurship in order to maintain the cultural identity of the traditional trade sectors; draws attention to the importance of supporting work linked to professional training and to the mobility of young craftsmen and women;

Ex ante conditionalities

20.   Underlines that effective monitoring of ex ante conditionalities is necessary to record efforts and achievements; considers that ex ante conditionalities, in particular the one on Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3), have proved their usefulness, and suggests that they be further improved; points out that more attention should be paid to the strengthening of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises;

21.   Draws attention to the fact that a significant proportion of ex ante conditionalities have not yet been fulfilled; calls, therefore, for an analysis of the current situation and the adoption of targeted action to counteract this, while not compromising the optimal takeup of the funds or making cohesion policy less efficient;

Performance-based budgeting

22.   Emphasises that the regulatory framework for the period 2014-2020 and the PAs have led to a strongly results-oriented focus in cohesion programmes, and that this approach can be exemplary for other parts of EU budget expenditure as well; welcomes the introduction of common indicators which would allow measuring and benchmarking results; considers that work on indicators has to continue in order to improve evidence on ESI Funds spending and optimise project selection;

23.   Points out that an important innovation has been the introduction of thematic concentration, whereby investments are focused on specific objectives and priorities corresponding to performance indicators and targets specifically agreed for all the themes;

24.   Recalls that a performance reserve was introduced for each Member State, consisting of 6 % of the resources allocated to the ESI Funds; recalls that, on the basis of the national reports of 2017 and the performance review of 2019, the reserve is to be allocated only to those programmes and priorities which have achieved their milestones; calls for flexibility in the launch of new commitments from the performance reserve when the programmes have attained their targets and milestones in the coming years; asks the Commission to assess whether the performance reserve actually creates added value or whether it has led to more red tape;

The European Semester

25.   Takes note of the fact that, in the course of the programming process, Member States have found more than two thirds of the Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) that were adopted in 2014 relevant to cohesion policy investments, and welcomes the fact that they have taken this into account in their programming priorities; acknowledges that in the near future CSRs might trigger amendments to ESI Funds programmes, ensuring support for structural reforms in Member States; points out that CSRs and National Reform Programmes (NRPs) represent a clear linkage between the ESI Funds and the processes of the European Semester;

26.   Stresses the importance of establishing a balanced link between cohesion policy and the European Semester, as both work towards achieving the same aims under the Europe 2020 strategy, without prejudice to achieving the social, economic and territorial cohesion objectives in order to reduce disparities as established by the treaties; is of the opinion that we should rethink the rationale behind suspension of the ESI Funds in case of a deviation from the objectives of the European Semester, as this could be counterproductive for boosting growth and jobs;

Synergies and Financial Instruments

27.   Notes that the regulatory framework for ESI Funds for the period 2014-2020 supports financial instruments; underlines, however, that the use of grants is still indispensable; observes that there seems to be a focus on a gradual shift from grants to loans and guarantees; emphasises that this trend has been strengthened by the Investment Plan for Europe and the newly established European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI); notes also that the use of the multi-fund approach still appears to be difficult; stresses, given the complexity of these instruments, the vital importance of providing appropriate support to local and regional institutions in the training of the officials responsible for managing them; points out that financial instruments could offer solutions for efficient use of the EU budget, contributing alongside grants to bringing about investment to stimulate economic growth and create sustainable jobs;

28.   Points out that a separate agenda is being pursued with EFSI, which is presented as a success story when it comes to fast implementation and results in the form of existing operations, despite considerable shortcomings such as lack of additionality; against this background, asks the Commission to provide specific data on EFSI’s impact in terms of growth and employment and to come forward after the evaluation with learning points to enable the ESI Funds to be put to use more successfully in the new programming period from 2021 onwards; requests, in addition to the European Court of Auditors’ opinion No 2/2016(14) , an analysis of EFSI’s contributions to the objectives of the ESI Funds and a stocktaking of what EFSI has achieved in terms of its own priorities;

29.   Notes, however, the lack of evidence on the outcomes and results achieved by financial instruments and the loose link between those financial instruments and the overarching objectives and priorities of the EU;

30.   Notes that the Commission’s Article 16 Report provides little information on coordination and synergies among different programmes and with instruments of other policy areas, and in particular has not always presented reliable data on the expected results of the ESF and YEI programmes; emphasises that having a common regulation for the five ESI Funds has increased synergy among them, including in the second pillar of the common agricultural policy; is convinced that synergies with other policies and instruments, including EFSI and other financial instruments, should be enhanced in order to maximise the impact of investment; stresses that state aid rules apply to the ESI Funds, but not to EFSI or Horizon 2020, and that this causes problems with regard to increasing the level of synergy among the funds, programmes and instruments; underlines the fact that in order to ensure the necessary complementarity and synergy between EFSI, the financial instruments and the ESI Funds, the question of state aid rules needs to be further examined in order to be clarified, simplified and adapted accordingly; calls on the Commission to deliver comprehensive guidance to managing authorities on combining EFSI with shared and direct management instruments, including the ESI Funds, the Connecting Europe Facility and Horizon 2020;

31.   Argues for continuing a balanced use of financial instruments where they have an added value and are not prejudicial to traditional support from cohesion policy; emphasises, however, that this should only take place after a careful assessment of the contribution of financial instruments to cohesion policy objectives; stresses that all regions must keep a diversified range of sources of financing, while subsidies remain the most suitable instruments in certain sectors for achieving growth and employment targets; asks the Commission to come forward with incentives to ensure that managing authorities are fully informed on the opportunities for using financial instruments and their scope, and to analyse the management costs of grants and of repayable assistance implemented in shared and centrally managed programmes; stresses that clear, consistent and focused rules on financial instruments to help simplify the preparation and implementation process for fund managers and recipients are key to improving their effective implementation; draws attention to the forthcoming own-initiative report of its Committee on Regional Development entitled ‘The right funding mix for Europe’s regions: balancing financial instruments and grants in EU cohesion policy’ (2016/2302(INI) );

Simplification

32.   Notes that one of the main goals of the 2014-2020 programming period is further simplification for beneficiaries of the ESI Funds, and acknowledges that simplification is one of the key factors for better access to funding;

33.   Welcomes the fact that the current modernised regulatory framework for the ESI Funds provides new possibilities for simplification in terms of common eligibility rules, simplified cost options and e-governance; regrets, however, that the Commission communication on Article 16(3) CPR does not include any specific information as regards the use of Simplified Cost Options (SCOs); underlines that there is a need for further efforts to develop the full potential of SCOs in terms of alleviating administrative burden; notes that significant simplification measures are still needed for both beneficiaries and managing authorities, focusing on public procurement, project management, and audits during and after the operations;

34.   Calls on the Commission to provide an ongoing assessment of administrative burden, including in particular components such as time, cost and paperwork in EU funding in the form of both grants and financial instruments, based on the evidence of results from the 2007-2013 period and the start of the new period as from 2014;

35.   Recommends for the prospective programming period starting in 2021 that all levels of governance work towards a system of single audit by eliminating duplicate checks among the various tiers of government; urges the Commission to clarify the range and legal status of existing guidance across the ESI Funds, as well as to develop, in close collaboration with managing authorities and all relevant audit authority tiers, a joint interpretation of audit issues; reiterates that there is a need for further steps in the area of simplification, including in particular in programmes targeted on youth, by introducing inter alia greater proportionality in controls; welcomes the preliminary outcome of the work of the High Level Group on Simplification set up by the Commission;

36.   Recommends that standard procedures be established for drawing up operational programmes and for management, especially where the numerous territorial cooperation programmes are concerned;

Administrative capacity

37.   Notes that Member States have different administrative cultures and levels of performance in their policy framework, which the ex ante conditionalities should help to overcome; stresses the need to strengthen administrative capacity as a priority in the context of cohesion policy and the European Semester exercise, particularly in Member States with low absorption of funds; notes the need to provide technical, professional and practical assistance to Member States, regions and localities during applications for funding; appreciates the impact of the Jaspers facility, and reiterates that poor investment planning results in major delays in the completion of projects and in the inefficient use of funding;

38.   Points out that the slow start of some programmes, the lack of management capacity for complex projects, the delays recorded in finalising projects, the administrative burden in the Member States, overregulation and errors in public procurement procedures are the main obstacles to the cohesion policy’s implementation; regards it as essential to identify and simplify the unnecessarily complex processes and procedures in the shared management that create additional burdens for authorities and beneficiaries; points out that administrative capacity has to be constantly improved, monitored and strengthened; is therefore of the opinion that in this regard it is necessary to exploit functional and flexible e-government solutions, as well as improved information and coordination between Member States; additionally, underlines the need for greater focus on training the administration;

39.   Points out that tailor-made regulatory frameworks, conditions and solutions (such as the Taiex Regio Peer 2 Peer exchange mechanism among the various regions) aimed at simplification can address the needs and challenges faced by different regions more effectively when it comes to administrative capacity;

European Territorial Cooperation

40.   Highlights – especially from the point of view of reducing disparities between border regions – the European added value of European Territorial Cooperation (ETC), which should be reflected in an increased level of appropriations for this cohesion policy objective, to be introduced as soon as practicable; calls at the same time on Member States to provide the necessary cofinancing; underlines the need to preserve this instrument as one of the core elements of cohesion policy after 2020;

41.   Stresses the importance of macro-regional strategies, as instruments which have proved useful for the development of territorial cooperation and the economic development of the areas concerned; highlights the decisive role of local and regional authorities for the success of the measures included in those strategies;

42.   Recommends that more intensive use be made of the modified and expanded EGTC legal instrument as the legal basis for territorial cooperation;

43.   Proposes the establishment of a permanent link between RIS3 and interregional cooperation on an EU-wide scale, preferably in the form of a permanent element of the INTERREG programme;

44.   Underlines that the concept of results orientation requires that INTERREG programmes ensure high-quality project-level cooperation and the adaptation of evaluation methods and criteria to take into account the specific nature of each programme; calls on the Commission, the Member States and the managing authorities to work together and exchange information and good practices in order to ensure that results orientation is implemented and targeted as effectively as possible, taking account of ETC specificities;

45.   Stresses the potential of using financial instruments in INTERREG programmes that, through complementing grants, help to support SMEs and develop research and innovation, by increasing investment, creating new jobs, allowing better results to be achieved and boosting the effectiveness of projects;

46.   Deplores the low public awareness and insufficient visibility of ETC programmes, and calls for more effective communication of the achievements of completed projects; calls on the Commission, the Member States and the managing authorities to establish mechanisms and broad institutionalised platforms for cooperation in order to ensure better visibility and awareness-raising; calls on the Commission to map the achievements of the ETC programmes and projects so far;

Partnership principle and multi-level governance

47.   Welcomes the code of conduct agreed during the negotiations on the current funding period, which outlines the minimum standards for a well-functioning partnership; observes that the code has improved the implementation of the partnership principle in most Member States, but regrets the fact that many Member States have centralised large parts of the negotiation and implementation of the PAs and OPs; stresses the need to actively involve regional and local authorities and other stakeholders at all stages, and therefore calls for their real participation to be guaranteed in future in the negotiation and implementation process in respect of countries’ specific structures; believes that overcentralisation and lack of trust have also played a role in the delayed implementation of ESI Funds, with some Member States and managing authorities less keen to place greater responsibility for management of EU funds in the hands of local and regional authorities;

48.   Stresses that clarification is needed from the Commission regarding the performance of Member States and regions on the Article 5 CPR principles, with an emphasis on how government can be encouraged to fully apply the partnership principle; stresses that shared ownership is a precondition for stronger recognition of EU cohesion policy;

49.   Supports the Commission’s new approach of setting up special working groups, that is to say project teams intended to ensure better management of ESI Funds in Member States, and calls for this approach to be developed further;

50.   Stresses that future cohesion policy must incorporate supporting measures to help refugees integrate successfully into the EU’s labour market, thus promoting economic growth and helping ensure general safety in the EU;

Future cohesion policy

51.   Emphasises that the ESI Funds contribute to GDP, jobs and growth in the Member States, which are essential elements to be considered in the 7th Cohesion Report expected for 2017; points out, furthermore, that substantial investments in the less developed regions also contribute to GDP in more developed Member States; is of the opinion that should Article 50 TEU be formally invoked by the UK government, the 7th Cohesion Report should also take account of the possible effects of ‘Brexit’ on structural policy;

52.   Is of the opinion that GDP might not be the only legitimate indicator for ensuring a fair distribution of funds, and that specific territorial needs and the importance of agreed programme priorities for development of the programme areas should be taken into account when deciding on the future allocation; considers it important that consideration be given in future to introducing new dynamic indicators in addition to GDP; notes that many regions in Europe are facing high rates of unemployment and a shrinking population; invites the Commission to give thought to developing and introducing a ‘demographic indicator’;

53.   Recalls that a substantial amount of public investment is made at local and regional level; stresses that the European System of Accounts (ESA) must not limit local and regional authorities’ ability to undertake necessary investments, since this would prevent Member States from putting up cofinancing for projects eligible for structural funding, thus making them unable to use this important source of funding to help find a way out of the economic crisis and kick-start growth and employment; strongly encourages the Commission to reassess the ESA’s strictly annual approach, so that public expenditure financed from the ESI Funds is considered as capital investment and not merely as debt or operating expenses;

54.   Stresses that ETC, which serves the broader principle of territorial cohesion as introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, could be improved; therefore encourages all stakeholders involved in negotiations on the future policy to strengthen this dimension of territorial cohesion; calls on the Commission to give ETC the necessary importance in the 7th Cohesion Report;

55.   Considers that thematic concentration must be maintained in the future, as it has proved its viability; expects the Commission to come forward with an overview of achievements brought about by thematic concentration in cohesion policy;

56.   Is convinced that the future performance-oriented cohesion policy must be founded on data and indicators that are appropriate for measuring efforts, outcomes and impacts achieved, as well as experience at regional and local level in the area (performance-based budgeting, ex ante conditionalities and thematic concentration), as this provides clear practical guidelines for local and regional authorities – including those which have not so far attempted to apply this approach – on the implementation of its principles;

57.   Underlines that faster take-up of the available funds and a more balanced progression of expenditure during the programming cycle will be needed in future, also in order to avoid frequently turning to ‘retrospective projects’, which are often aimed at avoiding automatic decommitment at the end of the programming period; takes the view that after adoption of the general regulation and the fund-specific regulations, implementation of the OPs in the next funding period as from 2021 will be able to start more quickly, as Member States will already have experience with a performance-oriented policy after the efforts made for cohesion policy in the period 2014-2020; points out in this regard that Member States should avoid delays in appointing managing authorities for the OPs;

58.   Insists that the legislative process to adopt the next MFF should be concluded by the end of 2018, so that the regulatory framework for future cohesion policy can be adopted swiftly after that and can come into force without delay on 1 January 2021;

59.   Takes the view that cohesion policy should continue to cover all Member States and all of Europe’s regions, and that simplifying arrangements for access to EU funds is an essential prerequisite for the future success of the policy;

60.   Believes that the spirit of innovation and smart specialisation, alongside sustainable development, must remain an important driver of cohesion policy; stresses that smart specialisation should be a leading mechanism for future cohesion policy;

61.   Underlines the high risk of the accumulation of payment claims under Heading 1b in the second half of the current MFF, and calls for a sufficient level of payment appropriations to be made available on a yearly basis up to the end of the current perspective, in order to prevent a new backlog of unpaid bills; stresses, for this purpose, the need for the three EU institutions to develop and agree upon a new joint payment plan for 2016-2020, which should provide for a clear strategy to meet all payment needs up to the end of the current MFF;

62.   Recommends to the Commission that it analyse the real impact of ESI Fund investment during the previous programming period and the extent to which European objectives have been achieved through the funds invested, and that it draw conclusions in relation to positive and negative experiences, as a starting point in order to add value to the investment process;

o
o   o

63.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Committee of the Regions, and the governments and national and regional parliaments of the Member States.

(1) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 320.
(2) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 289.
(3) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 470.
(4) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 487.
(5) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 259.
(6) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 303.
(7) OJ L 149, 20.5.2014, p. 1.
(8) OJ L 169, 1.7.2015, p. 1.
(9) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0217 .
(10) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0311 .
(11) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0419 .
(12) OJ C 303, 19.8.2016, p. 94.
(13) OJ C 313, 22.9.2015, p. 31.
(14) European Court of Auditors Opinion No 2/2016 ‘concerning the proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) No 1316/2013 and 2015/1017 and the accompanying Commission evaluation in accordance with Article 18(2) of Regulation (EU) 2015/1017’.


Aviation Strategy for Europe
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European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2017 on an Aviation Strategy for Europe (2016/2062(INI) )
P8_TA(2017)0054 A8-0021/2017

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 7 December 2015 entitled ‘An Aviation Strategy for Europe’ (COM(2015)0598 ),

–   having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), and in particular Article 4(2)(b) and (g), Article 16 and Titles VI and X thereof,

–   having regard to Protocol No 2 on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality,

–   having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 14 July 2016 on ‘An Aviation Strategy for Europe’(1) ,

–   having regard to Commission Decision 2012/21/EU of 20 December 2011 on the application of Article 106(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to State aid in the form of public service compensation granted to certain undertakings entrusted with the operation of services of general economic interest(2) ,

–   having regard to the Commission communication on ‘Guidelines on State aid to airports and airlines’(3) ,

–   having regard to the Commission notice on the notion of State aid as referred to in Article 107(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union(4) ,

–   having regard to the draft Commission Regulation amending Regulation (EU) No 651/2014 declaring certain categories of aid compatible with the internal market in application of Articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty(5) ,

–   having regard to the Commission proposal of 7 December 2015 on common rules in the field of civil aviation and establishing a European Union Aviation Safety Agency, and repealing Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council (COM(2015)0613 ),

–   having regard to the conclusions of the high-level conference ‘A Social Agenda for Transport’, held on 4 June 2015 in Brussels(6) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 4 February 2016 on the special situation of islands(7) ,

–   having regard to the outcome of the 39th Session of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Assembly, held in 2016,

–   having regard to Regulation (EC) No 551/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 March 2004 on the organisation and use of the airspace in the Single European Sky,

–   having regard to its resolution of 11 November 2015 on aviation(8) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 29 October 2015 on allocation by the World Radiocommunication Conference, held in Geneva from 2 to 27 November 2015 (WRC-15), of the necessary radio spectrum band to support the future development of a satellite-based technology to enable global flight tracking systems(9) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 7 June 2011 on international air agreements under the Treaty of Lisbon(10) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 25 April 2007 on the establishment of a European common aviation area(11) ,

–   having regard to its position adopted at first reading on 12 March 2014 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the implementation of the Single European Sky (recast)(12) ,

–   having regard to its position adopted at first reading on 12 March 2014 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 in the field of aerodromes, air traffic management and air navigation services(13) ,

–   having regard to its position adopted at first reading on 5 February 2014 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights and Regulation (EC) No 2027/97 on air carrier liability in respect of the carriage of passengers and their baggage by air(14) ,

–   having regard to its position adopted at first reading on 12 December 2012 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on common rules for the allocation of slots at EU airports (recast)(15) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 29 October 2015 on safe use of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), commonly known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), in the field of civil aviation(16) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 2 July 2013 on ‘The EU’s External Aviation Policy – Addressing Future Challenges’(17) ,

–   having regard to the conclusions of the European Aviation Summit held at Schiphol airport (Netherlands) on 20 and 21 January 2016(18) ,

–   having regard to the Chicago Convention of 7 December 1944,

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

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Transport and Tourism and the opinions of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (A8-0021/2017 ),

A.   whereas EU transport policy ultimately aims at serving the interests of European citizens and businesses by providing ever greater connectivity, the highest level of safety and security and barrier-free markets;

B.   whereas stringent standards of safety should remain a key objective when pursuing competitiveness in air transport;

C.   whereas the EU single aviation market is a most successful example of regional liberalisation of air transport, which has strongly contributed to unprecedented levels of air connectivity by expanding travel opportunities within and outside Europe while lowering prices; whereas the aviation sector is a fundamental part of the European transport network, indispensable to ensure connectivity and territorial cohesion within the EU and worldwide; whereas the remote and isolated location of the outermost regions leaves them, unlike more centrally located and well integrated regions, no alternative to air transport; whereas the objective of supporting increased air connectivity should be not only to expand the network of connections but also to ensure an appropriate quality of connectivity in terms of flight frequency, network range and convenience of schedules;

D.   whereas the aviation sector is a driver with a multiplier effect for growth and job creation and is an important pillar of the EU economy, fostering innovation, trade and the quality of jobs, which has significant direct and indirect benefits for citizens; whereas air traffic growth and availability and variety of flight connections promote economic growth, confirming that air transport acts as a catalyst for economic development; whereas regional and local airports also play a significant role in the development of regions by increasing their competitiveness and facilitating access for tourism;

E.   whereas 4,7 million jobs in the Union are directly (1,9 million) and indirectly (2,8 million) generated by air transport, airports and the related manufacturing industry; whereas a further 917 000 jobs elsewhere in the global economy are supported by the European aviation industry; whereas the mobile and transnational nature of aviation makes it difficult to detect social abuses and circumvention of labour standards and means that it is impossible to tackle the problems solely at national level; whereas recent ILO findings suggest a deterioration of working conditions in the aviation sector; whereas greater diversification in contracts can be a tool for more flexibility, but can also be misused for purposes of ‘rule shopping’ to avoid paying social security contributions;

F.   whereas the lack of proper implementation of EU legislation and political unwillingness in the Council prevent the aviation sector from unleashing its full potential, thus damaging its competitiveness and leading to greater costs at the expense of businesses, passengers and the economy;

G.   whereas in a sector that is driven by technology and by research and innovation, which require both large-scale investment and a developed infrastructure, the success of a strategy lies in its capacity to adopt a long-term vision with properly planned investment and to fully take account of all transport modes;

H.   whereas air transport plays an important role in meeting the EU’s climate objectives by introducing measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;

I.   whereas, even though the Single European Sky provides for the establishment of functional airspace blocks (FABs), the implementation of those FABs has, to date, been considerably delayed; whereas, therefore, the Commission has estimated that some EUR 5 billion per year are being lost because of the lack of progress in this regard;

J.   whereas security is one of the challenges that the aviation industry faces most directly;

1.   Welcomes the Commission’s communication on an Aviation Strategy for Europe and its effort to identify sources for boosting the sector by finding new market opportunities and dismantling barriers, and for its proposals to meet and anticipate new challenges on the basis of a common European vision, by developing modern regulatory frameworks; believes that, in a longer-term perspective, a further holistic and more ambitious approach should be embraced in order to provide the necessary boost for a sustainable and competitive European aviation industry;

2.   Believes that safety is a guiding principle for the European Aviation Strategy and that it must be continuously improved; welcomes, therefore, the review of the EASA (European Air Safety Agency) Basic Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 216/2008), aimed at achieving the highest levels of safety in aviation; calls on the Commission and the Council, in this respect, to equip EASA with sufficient resources and staff to ensure high safety standards and to strengthen its role on the international scene;

3.   Urges the Council and the Member States finally to make swift progress on other essential dossiers which are currently deadlocked, such as the Recast of the Regulation on the Implementation of the Single European Sky (SES2+) and the revision of the Slot Regulation and the Air Passenger Rights Regulations; calls on the Commission to rethink ongoing initiatives and propose viable alternatives to remove the deficiencies of the aviation sector resulting from the late and incomplete implementation of EU legislation such as the Single European Sky (SES); stresses that if legal clarity and certainty are to be ensured the publication of guidelines, although helpful, is no substitute for the proper revision of the existing regulations;

4.   Stresses that the aviation files blocked in Council are meant to equip the EU with better legal certainty and a strengthened framework for the protection of Air passengers’ rights, a more efficient and rational use of EU airspace and improved provisions to implement the Single European Sky, all essential elements for the realisation of the Aviation strategy; calls on the Council to take steps to move forward the negotiations on these files;

International dimension of the Aviation Strategy

5.   Welcomes the Commission's proposal to revise Regulation (EC) No 868/2004 addressing unfair current practices, such as unacceptable state aid, which is neither adequate nor effective, thus shedding light on the major concerns surrounding potential distortions of competition under European rules; stresses, however, that neither an unacceptable trend towards protectionism, nor, on their own, measures to ensure fair competition can guarantee the competitiveness of the EU aviation sector;

6.   Believes that the European aviation sector, though facing increased pressure from new competitors, many of which have used air transport as a strategic tool for international development, can fit into a competitive global environment by further building on and developing its assets, such as high safety and security standards, the role of EASA, geographical positioning, an innovative industry and social and environmental goals; strongly believes that competition from third countries, if fair, should be seen as an opportunity to develop further an innovative European aviation model that has the potential to provide a unique and competitive response to the specificities of competitors;

7.   Believes that the possibility to attract foreign investment is important for the competitiveness of EU airlines and should not be hampered; welcomes, therefore, the Commission’s intention to issue guidelines that will bring clarity regarding the ownership and control rules, as laid down in Regulation (EC) No 1008/2008, with particular reference to the ‘effective control’ criteria, so as to ensure the effectiveness of those rules;

8.   Welcomes the initiative to negotiate at EU level air transport agreements and bilateral aviation safety agreements with third countries representing emerging and strategic markets (China, Japan, ASEAN, Turkey, Qatar, the UAE, Armenia, Mexico, China, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia), and encourages prompt and constructive negotiations; recalls that new agreements should be correctly implemented and enforced by all parties and need to include a fair competition clause on the basis of international standards (ICAO, ILO); calls on the Commission and the Council, on a basis of respect for Article 218 TFEU, to fully involve Parliament at all stages of negotiations;

9.   Calls on the Commission to make negotiating air transport agreements with third countries conditional on high safety standards, appropriate labour and social standards and participation in the market-based climate change instrument for air transport emissions and, in air transport agreements, to ensure equal market access, equal ownership conditions and a level playing field based on reciprocity;

10.   Asks the Commission for a swift conclusion of ongoing negotiations, and in the future to launch new aviation dialogues with other strategic aviation partners; stresses that air services agreements also contribute to the promotion of technological progress, as well as to the implementation and strengthening of other European policies, such as the neighbourhood policy;

Consolidating the EU single market in aviation

11.   Recalls that airspace is also part of the EU single market, and that any fragmentation resulting from its inefficient use, as well as diverging national practices (concerning, for instance, operational procedures, taxes, levies, etc), causes longer flight times, delays, extra fuel burn, and higher levels of CO2 emissions, in addition to negatively impacting the rest of the market and hampering the EU’s competitiveness;

12.   Notes that Article 3 of Regulation (EC) No 551/2004 foresees, without prejudice to the sovereignty of Member States over their airspace, the establishment of a single European upper flight information region (EUIR), and calls on the Commission to implement this, as it will allow the overcoming of regional bottlenecks and enable continuity of air services in the densest parts of the airspace in the event of unforeseen circumstances or disruptions of air traffic; believes that the EUIR will allow the gradual establishment of a Trans-European Motorway of the Sky, which would be another step towards the completion of the Single European Sky and a cost-effective management of the EU airspace; welcomes the progress already made in the field of air traffic management aiming at increasing efficiency and reducing costs and emissions, in particular thanks to the work of the Network Manager, and calls on the Member States to complete the FABs without any further delay in order to facilitate further progress towards the Single European Sky;

13.   Strongly believes that the aviation sector should fully benefit from European satellite-based technologies, such as EGNOS and Galileo, which allow safer and more efficient navigation and approach procedures while enabling the full deployment of the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) project; therefore insists on the need for the broad implementation of these technologies; points out that to ensure the proper deployment of SESAR, and in the interests of achieving global interoperability, a specific and ambitious budget – other than the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) budget – should be allocated for its implementation;

14.   Takes note of the volume of air traffic, which is currently considerable and is forecast to increase in the next few years, as well as of the capacity constraints of European airports as regards accommodating some 2 million flights by 2035; stresses that this will require a coordinated and efficient use of airport and airspace capacity so as to mitigate congestion;

15.   Stresses the vital importance of the aviation sector for growth, job creation and the development of tourism; stresses that small and regional airports play a key role in promoting connectivity, territorial cohesion, social inclusion and economic growth, especially for the outermost regions and for islands; sees, in this respect, a need for strategic planning for the European airport system that can identify current capacities, predicted demand, current bottlenecks and future infrastructure needs at European level, and that can maintain EU citizens’ access to aviation services;

16.   Acknowledges the significant connectivity gap within the EU, characterised by a lower number of air connections in certain parts of the Union, and the importance of regional connectivity (including geographical areas excluded from the TEN-T); encourages the Commission to continue monitoring and addressing air connectivity within the EU;

17.   Believes that many of the significant limits to growth, both in the air and on the ground (e.g. capacity crunch, under- and over-utilisation of infrastructures, different Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) or limited investment), as well as the gaps in air connectivity between different regions of the EU, can be addressed by taking connectivity, at all levels (national, European and international), as one of the main indicators when assessing and planning actions in the sector;

18.   Considers that connectivity should not only be limited to number, frequency and quality of air transport services, but should also be assessed in the context of an integrated modern transport network and should take in other criteria, such as time, territorial continuity, greater network integration, accessibility, availability of transport alternatives, affordability and environmental costs, in order to reflect the actual added value of a route; calls, therefore, on the Commission to explore the possibility of developing an EU indicator based on other existing indices and on the exploratory work already carried out by Eurocontrol and the Airport Observatory;

19.   Believes that such a connectivity index, including a positive cost-benefit analysis, should consider air connections from a broad perspective, while not undermining the EU’s objective of territorial cohesion, which will be enhanced by the forthcoming interpretative guidelines on the Public Service Obligations rules; stresses that this index can serve the interests of overall strategic planning, so as to avoid wasting taxpayers’ money by making a distinction in economic terms between viable opportunities from unprofitable projects, in order, among other things, to favour the profitable specialisation of airports, including clusters or networks of airports, avoid the future emergence of ‘ghost airports’, and ensure efficient use of airport capacity and airspace, and also by identifying intermodal, cost-efficient and sustainable solutions;

20.   Believes that the benefits of the complementarity of all modes of transport without exception should be unleashed in order to improve mobility and achieve a resilient transport network in the interests of the users, both in passengers and cargo transport; points out that intermodality, by permitting a modal shift, is the only way to assure the dynamic and sustainable development of a competitive EU aviation sector; underlines that intermodality allows a more efficient use of infrastructure, by expanding and taking into account airport catchment areas and avoiding their overlapping, which would also free up slots and contribute to creating a favourable environment for trade, tourism and cargo operations; recognises the successes achieved in this field through the integration of rail and air infrastructures, and encourages further progress in this respect;

21.   Reiterates that the TEN-T corridors are the backbone for the development of multimodal options where airports are core hubs; regrets that multimodal initiatives across Europe are fragmented and limited in number; stresses the need for fast, efficient and user-friendly connections between public transport networks and airport infrastructure; calls on both the Commission and the Member States to give greater priority to the multimodal objective within the TEN-T corridors while removing bottlenecks; calls on the Commission promptly to present its proposal for a multimodal and interoperable approach to transport, with the aviation sector fully integrated, and calls on the Member States to make better use of the financial instruments at their disposal to promote intermodal connections;

22.   Considers that in order to boost the attractiveness of intermodal transport across Europe, barrier-free solutions, real-time information and integrated services (e.g. integrated ticketing) should be offered to all passengers (including persons with reduced mobility); points out that EU-funded projects have proved the technical feasibility of developing multimodal information and ticketing systems; invites the Commission, therefore, to support their actual delivering to passengers across the EU;

23.   Believes that transport operators and service providers will engage in finding intermodal and multimodal solutions if, through an EU regulatory framework, clarification and legal certainty are provided as regards passenger rights, liability, delays and cancellations, security clearance, open data and data-sharing standards; calls on the Commission to act in this respect;

24.   Notes that both public and private financing in the aviation sector are vital to guarantee territorial cohesion, foster innovation and maintain or regain European leadership of our industry; recalls that all financing must respect EU state aid guidelines and competition law; maintains that when granting public support it has to be ensured that the investment in question will be cost-effective and fit for purpose;

25.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States, in line with the Commission’s ‘Guidelines on State aid to airports and airlines’ and with the Commission notice concerning the scope of state aid under Article 107(1) TFEU, to maintain a long-term strategy to address, on the one hand, the surplus of loss-making airports in regions where other modes of transport are available and on the other hand, the contribution of secondary airports to the development, competitiveness and integration of EU regions;

26.   Notes the importance of a favourable regulatory framework for airports to attract and mobilise private investment; considers that the Commission's evaluation of the Airport Charges Directive, in conjunction with effective airline/airport consultation, should help clarify whether the current provisions are an effective tool to promote competition against the risk of abuse of monopoly power and to further the interests of European consumers and promote competition, or whether a reform is needed; acknowledges the contribution of non-aeronautical revenues to the commercial viability of airports;

27.   Notes that the Commission announced, in its Aviation Strategy published in December 2015, an evaluation of Council Directive 96/67/EC on ground handling services at EU airports; supports the inclusion of ground handling within the scope of EASA, with the aim of covering the entire aviation safety chain;

Aviation Strategy: looking ahead

28.   Believes that the entire aviation value chain has the potential to be a strategic sector for investment, which needs to be further exploited by setting long-term objectives and by granting incentives to smart initiatives fulfilling those objectives, such as greener airports or aircraft, noise reduction, connection between airport facilities and public transport; invites the Commission and the Member States to look into further measures to promote such initiatives, including through the effective use of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), and to continue promoting and financing programmes such as Clean Sky and SESAR; emphasises that the aeronautics industry is a major contributor to competitiveness in the EU aviation sector, lending strong support to the promotion of cleaner technologies and supporting SESAR deployment;

29.   Takes note of the CO2 emissions generated by the aviation sector; stresses the wide range of actions already taken and to be taken for achieving a reduction of CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions, both technically by developing alternative fuels and more efficient aircraft, and politically by abiding by international agreements; welcomes the agreement reached by the 39th Assembly of ICAO on 6 October 2016, with the adoption of a Global Market-Based Measure (GMBM) to reduce international aviation emissions, and the commitment entered into by 65 countries to participate in the voluntary phase by 2027, which means that approximately 80 % of emissions above 2020 levels will be offset by the scheme until 2035; stresses the importance of maintaining beyond 31 December 2016 the derogation granted under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to emissions from flights to or from an airfield in an outermost region as defined in Article 349 TFEU; welcomes the Commission’s intention to review the EU’s measures to reduce CO2 emissions from aviation in light of this agreement;

30.   Is of the opinion that, in view also of the Commission’s Circular Economy Package, further initiatives aimed at increasing environmental capacity and reducing emissions and noise from operational activities from, to and within airports should be encouraged, for example by adopting renewable fuels (e.g. biofuels), by developing efficient systems for environment-friendly certified recycling, dismantling and reuse of aircraft, by promoting ‘green airports’ and ‘green way-to-airports’, and by achieving the most efficient logistics management;

31.   Calls for the best emission-reducing practices within the sector to be collected and disseminated, bearing in mind that high environmental standards must be preserved and enhanced over time in order to ensure that aviation develops sustainably;

32.   Urges the Commission and the Member States to monitor strictly the new procedures which have been in force from June 2016 to reduce noise and ultrafine particles in exhaust gas emissions from aircraft taking off from airports close to cities and populated hubs, so as to improve quality of life and especially air quality;

33.   Acknowledges the substantial cost of security measures; stresses that the security challenges, including cybersecurity, facing the aviation sector will increase in the future, requiring an immediate shift to a more risk-based and intelligence-based approach and a reactive security system that improves the security of airports’ facilities and makes it possible to adapt to evolving threats without constantly responding with new measures or merely shifting the risk without reducing it;

34.   Welcomes the Commission's proposal for a EU certification system for aviation security screening equipment; insists on the need for a consistent implementation of the existing rules regarding staff recruitment and training; calls on the Commission to look into the possibility of deepening the one-stop security concept, and of developing a EU pre-check system allowing pre-registered EU travellers to transit security clearance in a more efficient manner; urges the Member States to commit to sharing intelligence systematically and to exchange best practices on airport security systems;

35.   Takes note of the High Level Report on Conflict Zones, and calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that the report’s recommendations are implemented, including the sharing of information to ensure the development of an EU risk assessment and the ability to share information in a speedy manner; also underlines that security concerns arising from non-cooperative military flights with no active transponders must continue to be addressed;

36.   Considers that innovation is a prerequisite for a competitive European aviation industry; notes that relative to other transport modes, aviation is already a leading sector in putting to use the benefits of digitalisation, information and communication technologies and open data, and encourages the sector to continue to take a lead in this process, while ensuring fair competition, interoperability of systems, neutrality, and transparency of access to clear and concise information for all users, such as, for instance, consumers booking an entire journey or freight companies involved in air cargo operations; welcomes the Commission’s proposal for an aviation big data project and asks for clarification on its implementation;

37.   Recalls the ‘sweep’ of travel service websites across the Union undertaken by the Commission and national enforcement bodies in 2013; notes that this ‘sweep’ uncovered significant problems with more than two-thirds of the websites checked; calls on the Commission to report more fully on the progress made in bringing travel websites into compliance with EU law, and its future plans for enforcement in this area, as regards both online and offline air ticket sales; recalls that consumers must always have a route available to them for submitting complaints to traders and claiming refunds; believes this route should be available in a manner which does not dissuade consumers from exercising their rights and should be clearly signposted to consumers; calls on the Commission to work closely with national enforcement bodies in order to ensure that traders meet these requirements;

38.   Welcomes the innovation and economic development which can be fostered by the further development of the civil use of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPASs); notes that the market for RPASs is growing rapidly, and that such aircraft are increasingly used for private purposes, in commercial activities and by public authorities in the performance of their tasks; underlines the urgent need for swift adoption of a clear, proportionate, harmonised, and risk-based regulatory framework for RPASs in order to stimulate investment and innovation in the sector and fully exploit its enormous potential while maintaining the highest possible safety standards;

39.   Recalls that regulation of the aviation sector should take into account the specific needs of general aviation, on a basis that provides for individual air transport solutions, as well as for air sports activities;

Social agenda of the Aviation Strategy

40.   Acknowledges the need to clarify the ‘home base’ criterion and the definition of ‘principal place of business’, so as to ensure that they can be applied consistently and effectively prevent use of flags of convenience and ‘rule-shopping’ practices; recalls that one of the core responsibilities of EASA is to issue both Air Operations Certificates and Third Countries Operators authorisations, with the purpose of guaranteeing safety and contributing to improving working conditions;

41.   Calls on EASA and the Member States to continue scrutinising new business and employment models in order to ensure aviation safety, and asks the Commission to regulate where necessary; notes that particular attention should be paid to, among other things, zero-hour contracts, pay-to-fly schemes, bogus self-employment and the situation of crew from third countries on EU-registered aircraft; emphasises the importance of the regulation on Occurrence Reporting in Aviation and ‘just culture’ practices for strengthening and improving safety standards, as well as health and working conditions;

42.   Recalls that high-quality training contributes to aviation safety; highlights EASA’s key contribution to the establishment of common training and safety standards for pilots, crew members and air traffic controllers, also through its Virtual Academy, and calls on the Member States to invest in lifelong education and training for all parts of the aviation value chain, as the success of European aviation is highly dependent on skilled workers and innovation; recognises the need to address any skills gaps which may emerge; emphasises the importance of partnerships between educational institutions, research centres and the social partners in order to update training programmes and ensure that they reflect labour market needs;

43.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to expand dual training models in aeronautical engineering, and to extend them through international cooperation;

44.   Encourages the Commission to come forward with concrete initiatives in order to protect workers’ rights; calls on the Member States to guarantee all workers in the aviation sector decent working conditions, including health and safety at work, regardless of the size and type of company which employs them, the place of employment or the underlying contract;

45.   Notes that all airlines operating in the European Union must be fully compliant with EU and Member State social and employment requirements; points out that there are significant differences between Member States as regards working conditions and social protection and that undertakings exploit freedom of establishment in order to reduce costs; calls on the Member States to put a stop to this damaging competition; calls on the Commission and the Member States to present proposals on how to prevent indirect employment being misused to circumvent EU and national legislation on taxation and social security in the aviation sector; calls on the Commission and the Member States to prevent social abuses and circumvention of labour standards by guaranteeing protection for those providing information, facilitating open reporting and enhancing cooperation between Member States’ labour inspectorates; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure the application and proper enforcement of labour law, social legislation and collective agreements for airlines operating in a given Member State;

46.   Underlines that the right to form and join a trade union and to undertake collective action is a fundamental right and must be respected, as laid down in Article 12 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union; rejects any attempts to undermine the right to strike in the aviation sector; highlights the importance of having strong, independent social partners in the aviation sector, a regular, institutionalised social dialogue at all levels, and participation and representation of employees in company matters; insists on a proper consultation process and strengthened social dialogue ahead of any EU initiative concerning the aviation sector; welcomes attempts by the social partners to negotiate an agreement on the working conditions and social rights of employees in the European aviation sector; encourages them to negotiate collective agreements in all parts of the sector in line with national laws and practices, as such agreements are an effective instrument in combating a race to the bottom regarding social, working and employment standards and in ensuring decent remuneration for all workers;

47.   Believes that no employee should be in doubt on the applicable labour legislation or on where he or she is entitled to social security; draws attention to the special situation of highly mobile workers in the aviation sector in this context, and calls for better coordination of social security systems within the EU; insists that the need for further clarification of applicable law and competent courts vis-à-vis the employment contracts of mobile workers in aviation should be assessed in close cooperation with the representatives of those workers;

o
o   o

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

(1) EESC, AC TEN/581.
(2) OJ L 7, 11.1.2012, p. 3.
(3) OJ C 99, 4.4.2014, p. 3.
(4) OJ C 262, 19.7.2016, p. 1.
(5) OJ C 382, 15.10.2016, p. 1.
(6) https://ec.europa.eu/transport/media/events/event/high-level-conference-2015-social-agenda-transport_en
(7) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0049 .
(8) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0394 .
(9) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0392 .
(10) OJ C 380 E, 11.12.2012, p. 5.
(11) OJ C 74 E, 20.3.2008, p. 658.
(12) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0220 .
(13) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0221 .
(14) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0092 .
(15) OJ C 434, 23.12.2015, p. 217.
(16) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0390 .
(17) OJ C 75, 26.2.2016, p. 2.
(18) https://english.eu2016.nl/documents/reports/2016/01/20/report-aviation-summit-2016


Delayed implementation of ESI Funds operational programmes – impact on cohesion policy and the way forward
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European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2017 on delayed implementation of ESI Funds operational programmes – impact on cohesion policy and the way forward (2016/3008(RSP) )
P8_TA(2017)0055 B8-0149/2017

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to its resolution of 11 May 2016 on acceleration of implementation of cohesion policy(1) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 27 November 2014 on delays in the start-up of cohesion policy for 2014-2020(2) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 14 January 2014 on the EU Member States preparedness to an effective and timely start of the new Cohesion Policy programming period(3) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 26 October 2016 on the mid-term revision of the MFF 2014-2020(4) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 16 February 2017 on investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds: an evaluation of the report under Article 16(3) of the CPR(5) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 26 November 2015 on ‘Towards simplification and performance orientation in cohesion policy 2014-2020’(6) ,

–   having regard to the question to the Commission on delayed implementation of European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds operational programmes – impact on cohesion policy and the way forward (O-000005/2017 – B8-0202/2017 ),

–   having regard to Protocol No 2 on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality,

–   having regard to Rules 128(5) and 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.   whereas the late conclusion of the 2014-2020 MFF negotiations and the late adoption of the ESI Funds regulations resulted in delays in the process of adoption and implementation of partnership agreements and operational programmes, designation of managing, certifying and auditing authorities, the process of defining and fulfilling ex-ante conditionalities, and project implementation at local, regional and national level; whereas, although factual information and analysis are missing on the reasons for these delays, they are impacting in the first part of the programming period on the potential of the ESI Funds to increase competitiveness and enhance social, economic and territorial cohesion;

B.   whereas 564 ESI Funds operational programmes have now been adopted and the Commission has received notifications of designation of authorities for 374 operational programmes; whereas interim payments cannot take place without the designation of managing authorities; whereas, according to the data available as of 30 November 2016, EUR 14,750 billion of interim payments have been executed, implying lower payment needs than originally foreseen;

C.   whereas at the same stage during the last programming period, despite similar delays and technical obstacles related to the requirement concerning management and control systems, an uptake of interim payments was already registered in July 2009 and, according to the payment appropriations foreseen in the 2010 budget, the implementation of cohesion policy programmes was expected to reach full cruising speed that year;

D.   whereas the current level of interim payments represents a comparatively low share of the overall programme allocation in the context of the programming period advancement; whereas Parliament is worried that according to the autumn 2016 Member States’ forecasts, this would continue to proceed at the same pace;

E.   whereas delayed implementation and consequently lower payment needs already led to a EUR 7,2 billion reduction in payments under Heading 1b in 2016, through Draft Amending Budget No 4/2016; whereas at the same stage in the 2007-2013 programming period a similar draft amending budget was not necessary; whereas for 2017 there is a nearly 24 % decrease in payments appropriations compared to 2016;

F.   whereas closer cooperation between Member States and the European institutions is strongly recommended to ensure that payment appropriations for cohesion policy in the 2018 EU budget will stabilise at a satisfactory level and the overall payment plan for 2014-2020 will be respected or, where appropriate, adapted according to the actual situation;

G.   whereas administrative capacity both at national and at regional and local level is a key precondition for the successful implementation of cohesion policy;

1.   Reiterates the contribution made by ESI Funds investments to reducing economic, social and territorial disparities within and between the European regions, as well as to generating smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and job creation; expresses concerns, therefore, that further delays in the implementation of cohesion policy operational programmes will impact negatively on the achievement of these goals, contributing moreover to a widening of the differences in regional development;

2.   Acknowledges that the introduction of several new requirements, such as thematic concentration, ex-ante conditionalities and financial management, despite ensuring increased performance of the programmes, contributed in the context of the late adoption of the legislative framework to the delays in implementation; draws attention to the fact that the current pace of implementation risks leading to large amounts of decommitments in the following years, and emphasises that necessary measures should be taken to avoid this; calls on the Commission to indicate the actions it foresees in this regard;

3.   Stresses that, due to these implementation delays, the use of financial instruments under the ESI Funds operational programmes might increase the already existing risk of low disbursement rates, excessive capital endowments, an inability to attract satisfactory levels of private capital, a low leverage effect and problematic revolving; notes that further clarifications and actions are needed to achieve an equal level of capacity to work with financial instruments as leverage tools in the Member States, and calls on Member States to make a balanced use of these instruments put in place by the Commission and the EIB; recalls also the possibility of combining funding from the ESI Funds and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) in order to address the fall-off in investment, in particular in sectors best placed to boost growth and employment;

4.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to make full use of the flexibility available under the Stability and Growth Pact, given that in many Member States the economic crisis has brought liquidity problems and resulted in governments having less money available for public investment and that cohesion policy funding is becoming the principal source of public investment;

5.   Calls, therefore, on the Commission, in close cooperation with Member States and on the basis of an objective analysis of the factors contributing to current delays, to present a ‘Cohesion acceleration plan’ in the first quarter of 2017 in order to facilitate an accelerated implementation of ESI Funds operational programmes; underlines nevertheless in this context the need to ensure low error rates, the fight against fraud, and the strengthening of administrative capacity at national, regional, as well as local level as a pre-condition to achieve timely and successful results; believes that tailor-made measures should follow the analysis of the Summary Report of the programme annual implementation reports covering implementation in 2014-2015, made available by the Commission at the end of 2016, and calls on the Member States to continuously monitor the progress made in the implementation of projects; stresses in this regard the need and added value of concentrating efforts on the thematic objectives priority sectors; moreover, calls on the Commission to continue providing support through the Task Force for Better Implementation and to make available an action plan of its activities to Parliament;

6.   Is concerned by the delays in the designation of managing, certifying and auditing authorities, which result in delays in the submission of payment applications; calls, therefore, on Member States to complete the designation process, and on the Commission to deploy the technical assistance and advisory services needed to managing, certifying and auditing authorities, with a view to facilitating and speeding up the implementation of operational programmes on the ground, including for the preparation of project pipelines, the simplification and acceleration of the financial management and control system, as well as for contracting and monitoring procedures;

7.   Acknowledges that a quicker and more effective implementation of ESI Funds operational programmes is directly linked to increased simplification; takes note in this regard of the priorities laid down in the framework of the Omnibus proposal; notes, however, that further efforts should be made, especially in addressing project management costs, heterogeneity and frequent changes of rules, the complex approval procedures for major projects, public procurement, unsolved property relations, long-lasting permit and decision obtainment procedures, the issue of retroactive application of audit and control rules, late payments to beneficiaries, difficulties in combining ESIF funding with other funding sources, state aid rules and slow dispute resolution; calls on the Commission to ensure appropriate coordination and make the state aid rules much simpler and to ensure that they are consistent with cohesion policy; reminds that efforts are needed also to improve communication of the results of the ESI Funds investments;

8.   Calls on the Commission to consider and develop solutions, including additional forms of flexibility such as flexibility among priorities and among operational programmes at the request of the relevant managing authorities, in keeping with the Europe 2020 strategy objectives while ensuring the required stability and predictability, and the already proposed reflow of decommitments, including from heading 1b, as a result of total or partial non-implementation, into the EU budget, also with a view to the future programming period;

9.   Calls for efforts to be increased with a view to ensuring and facilitating synergies between the EU funding opportunities, such as ESI Funds, Horizon 2020 and EFSI, through joint funding, close cooperation among the competent authorities, support for actions in smart specialisation, and through closer coordination with national bodies underwriting preferential loans for projects in line with the objectives of operational programmes;

10.   Calls for better communication between Commission structures (the respective Directorates-General), between the Commission and the Member States, and with the national and regional authorities, as this is a crucial prerequisite in order to increase the absorption rate and the quality of the actions under the cohesion policy;

11.   Reiterates the added value of the adoption of a performance-oriented approach and welcomes the Commission’s efforts to ensure the policy performance in practice; notes the conclusions of the Summary Report of the programme annual implementation reports covering implementation in 2014-2015 and awaits the upcoming Strategic Report by the Commission planned for the end of 2017 that will provide more information on implementation of the priorities by reference to the financial data, common and programme-specific indicators and quantified target values and progress towards the milestones, as well as the situation regarding the completion of the action plans linked to outstanding ex-ante conditionalities(7) ;

12.   Points to the existing payment plan 2014-2020; taking into consideration the decommitment rules, calls on the Commission to establish an adequate payment plan up to 2023, proposing increased payment ceilings under Heading 1b, if necessary, until the end of the current programming period; encourages the Commission and the Member States to make e-Cohesion fully operational and easy to use in order to adjust the payment plan according to concrete developments, as well as to prepare the ‘Cohesion acceleration plan’; requests therefore that Member States enter data on project pipelines, procurement plans with planned and actual dates for tendering, contracting and implementation, as well as all financial and accounting data related to invoices, co-financing, eligibility of expenditures, etc.;

13.   Expects the Commission to continue discussions on these issues in the Cohesion Forum and to come forward with solutions in the 7th Cohesion Report, with a view to ensuring full implementation of cohesion policy and to meeting the EU’s investment needs; calls also for the necessary steps to be taken for a timely start to the post-2020 programming period;

14.   Asks the Commission to draw lessons based on the information contained in the annual reports, with a view to the debate on the post-2020 Cohesion Policy;

15.   Urges the Commission to submit the legislative package concerning the next programming period by the beginning of 2018 at the latest, and to facilitate a smooth and timely negotiation of the post-2020 MFF, including a regulatory and procedural cushion, in order to avoid system shocks to cohesion policy investments and implementation; believes that the UK referendum result and the upcoming Brexit arrangements should be duly taken into consideration;

16.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the Council, the Committee of the Regions, the Member States and their national and regional parliaments.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0217 .
(2) OJ C 289, 9.8.2016, p. 50.
(3) OJ C 482, 23.12.2016, p. 56.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0412 .
(5) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0053 .
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0419 .
(7) Necessary update after the publication of the Summary Report on the programme annual implementation reports covering implementation in 2014-2015.

Last updated: 10 October 2017Legal notice