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Posted on 24-05-2017

Mercury: Aligning EU legislation with Minamata

24-05-2017

The United Nations' Minamata Convention on mercury was agreed in 2013 with a view to protecting human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. Although mercury use has declined significantly in recent decades, mercury released into the air, water and land remains a serious threat to human health and the environment. EU policy banned exports of mercury, provided for the storage of mercury waste, restricted the use of mercury in various products and sought to address pollution ...

The United Nations' Minamata Convention on mercury was agreed in 2013 with a view to protecting human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. Although mercury use has declined significantly in recent decades, mercury released into the air, water and land remains a serious threat to human health and the environment. EU policy banned exports of mercury, provided for the storage of mercury waste, restricted the use of mercury in various products and sought to address pollution caused by it. However, there were some regulatory gaps between EU legislation and the Minamata Convention. In February 2016, the European Commission submitted a legislative proposal aiming to align this legislation with the Convention in view of its ratification. After completion of the legislative procedure at first reading in the European Parliament and the Council, the presidents of the co-legislators signed the final act on 17 May 2017. The regulation will apply from 1 January 2018.

Limitations of scope for aviation activities in the EU ETS

24-05-2017

The IA defines the problems and objectives of the proposed initiative clearly, and relies on comprehensive, and updated, sources of information. Overall, most of the objectives seem to be relevant, sufficiently measurable, and achievable, though not always specific or time-bound. The selection of policy options regarding the 2017-2020 period is not entirely convincing, especially considering that those included in the initial selection were quickly discarded. The IA assesses, with a considerable ...

The IA defines the problems and objectives of the proposed initiative clearly, and relies on comprehensive, and updated, sources of information. Overall, most of the objectives seem to be relevant, sufficiently measurable, and achievable, though not always specific or time-bound. The selection of policy options regarding the 2017-2020 period is not entirely convincing, especially considering that those included in the initial selection were quickly discarded. The IA assesses, with a considerable level of depth, the environmental, economic, and social impacts of the options retained. The analysis is, in general, balanced, clear and comprehensive, and is supported by two quantitative models (AERO-MS, and PRIMES) previously used by the Commission. However, the choice of these models is not entirely convincing, for reasons highlighted in this briefing. The analysis of the competitiveness of small emitters (SMEs) is sufficiently broad, and includes specific sections dealing with competition between direct city-pair routes, between one-stop services, and between tourist destinations. However, it is not always easy to read and, at least in the case when the IA describes the impact of an increase in fuel prices, is sometimes not very clear. The Commission consulted a broad range of stakeholders, whose views are described and analysed extensively. The IA seems to have addressed most of the RSB's recommendations. However, it keeps the full scope of the EU ETS as the baseline, whereas the RSB recommended the continuation of the current policy as a more realistic choice. In addition, sufficient information about EU and ICAO policies on aircraft technologies, operational measures and sustainable alternative fuels, as recommended by the RSB, still seems to be missing.

Preventive restructuring, second chance and efficient restructuring, insolvency and discharge procedures

24-05-2017

This Commission impact assessment is based on a wealth of information drawing from both research and consultation. Research quoted spans the last decade and encompasses international organisation, academic and think tank work. The consultation performed by the Commission has been essential to prioritising the issues to be further harmonised and in choosing the detailed sub-options. Among the strengths of the IA, there is a genuine attempt to comply as much as possible with the Commission Better Regulation ...

This Commission impact assessment is based on a wealth of information drawing from both research and consultation. Research quoted spans the last decade and encompasses international organisation, academic and think tank work. The consultation performed by the Commission has been essential to prioritising the issues to be further harmonised and in choosing the detailed sub-options. Among the strengths of the IA, there is a genuine attempt to comply as much as possible with the Commission Better Regulation Guidelines and transparency in providing information. This is particularly evident in the broad range of options presented and in the presentation of the territorial impacts of the initiative. In this regard, for instance, the IA provides a useful legal analysis of the most important issues for most Member States. Nevertheless, economic impacts appear to be analysed more in depth than social and employment outcomes. Among the additional weaknesses, the numerous objectives identified are not time-bound and may be difficult to measure. Finally, although the IA states that Member States should not incur significant monitoring costs, the requirements in the IA appear to be shorter and less detailed than the ones in the Commission proposal.

From TPP to new trade arrangements in the Asia-Pacific region

24-05-2017

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), signed in February 2016 by the representatives of its 12 member countries, is a comprehensive regional agreement dealing with a wide range of trade and trade-related issues. In January 2017, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the TPP, making it impossible for the agreement, as it is currently drafted, to take effect. Despite the US withdrawal, the remaining TPP participating countries are determined to salvage the benefits of the agreement, ...

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), signed in February 2016 by the representatives of its 12 member countries, is a comprehensive regional agreement dealing with a wide range of trade and trade-related issues. In January 2017, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the TPP, making it impossible for the agreement, as it is currently drafted, to take effect. Despite the US withdrawal, the remaining TPP participating countries are determined to salvage the benefits of the agreement, and are working to develop alternative approaches to bring the trade deal into force. The failure of the TPP is likely to influence the way that other economic and trade cooperation initiatives, including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), will develop in the Asia-Pacific region. The US withdrawal also represents an opportunity for the EU, which is strongly committed to a robust trade policy and an open trading system, to advance its interests in the region. The EU is currently working on or has already concluded bilateral trade agreements with almost all TPP member countries.

Circular economy package: Four legislative proposals on waste

24-05-2017

Although waste management in the EU has improved considerably in recent decades, over a quarter of municipal waste is still landfilled and less than half is recycled or composted, with wide variations between Member States. Improving waste management could deliver positive effects for the environment, climate, human health and the economy. As part of a shift towards a circular economy, the European Commission made four legislative proposals introducing new waste-management targets regarding reuse ...

Although waste management in the EU has improved considerably in recent decades, over a quarter of municipal waste is still landfilled and less than half is recycled or composted, with wide variations between Member States. Improving waste management could deliver positive effects for the environment, climate, human health and the economy. As part of a shift towards a circular economy, the European Commission made four legislative proposals introducing new waste-management targets regarding reuse, recycling and landfilling, strengthening provisions on waste prevention and extended producer responsibility, and streamlining definitions, reporting obligations and calculation methods for targets. This updates an earlier edition, of September 2016; PE 589.797.

Posted on 23-05-2017

President Trump's first months in office: The course of transatlantic relations

23-05-2017

On 25 May 2017, President Trump attends the NATO Summit in Brussels, as well as meeting with top EU officials, including the Presidents of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council, Donald Tusk, and European Parliament, Antonio Tajani. A review of Trump's term thus far (using the 100-day benchmark) sheds light on current issues in transatlantic affairs in the context of this visit. While an address to Congress on 3 May by the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has helped to clarify ...

On 25 May 2017, President Trump attends the NATO Summit in Brussels, as well as meeting with top EU officials, including the Presidents of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council, Donald Tusk, and European Parliament, Antonio Tajani. A review of Trump's term thus far (using the 100-day benchmark) sheds light on current issues in transatlantic affairs in the context of this visit. While an address to Congress on 3 May by the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has helped to clarify the administration's approach, the implications of Trump’s ‘America First’ policy for EU-US cooperation are still far from clear. Unpredictability has marked President Trump’s time in office to date, and many analysts are yet to discern a firm strategic direction in his foreign policies. His proposed budget cuts for FY2018 have raised concerns on both sides of the Atlantic over a potential US retreat from its leadership on human rights and development. He has rolled back emissions regulations in the USA, but has not yet pulled out of the Paris Agreement, as promised during his campaign. Relations with Russia have fluctuated significantly. Trump has also notably altered his stance on certain issues; for example, he has acknowledged the importance of NATO, and sought to maintain good ties with China. Thus far his policy towards the Middle East has not constituted a radical departure from that of the previous administration, though as with his interactions with other world leaders, he has brought a personal touch to his exchanges with leaders from the region. Since the EU and US share common interests and cooperate in many areas, Trump’s disjointed approach has caused uncertainty in Europe. President Trump has not publicly addressed relations with the EU in the first months of his presidency, beyond acknowledging the value of a strong Europe during an April meeting with the Italian Prime Minister. Thus, the outcome of this Brussels visit will be important in establishing how EU-US relations will develop under the new administration.

Regular public hearing with Mario Draghi, Chair of the European Systemic Risk Board - ECON on 29 May 2017

23-05-2017

This briefing is provided in advance of a regular public hearing with the Chair of the European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB). It focuses on the ESRB most recent activity: ESRB latest assessment of the risks to financial stability, overview of national macro-prudential policies in 2016, the ESRB report on EMIR review, the report on the macro-prudential policy issues arising from low interest rates, and the on-going review of the macro-prudential policy framework.

This briefing is provided in advance of a regular public hearing with the Chair of the European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB). It focuses on the ESRB most recent activity: ESRB latest assessment of the risks to financial stability, overview of national macro-prudential policies in 2016, the ESRB report on EMIR review, the report on the macro-prudential policy issues arising from low interest rates, and the on-going review of the macro-prudential policy framework.

Posted on 22-05-2017

Establishing a multi-annual plan for small pelagic stocks in the Adriatic Sea and the fisheries exploiting those stocks

22-05-2017

The overall conclusion is that the IA could have deepened the analysis and perhaps discussed more thoroughly the scope of the plan in terms of areas and stocks specific to the Adriatic Sea. For instance, the potential interaction effect between small and large pelagic species and the interaction effect between fisheries and environmental factors could have been given more attention. The underlying drivers of the problems could have been analysed more thoroughly. The objectives of the proposed plan ...

The overall conclusion is that the IA could have deepened the analysis and perhaps discussed more thoroughly the scope of the plan in terms of areas and stocks specific to the Adriatic Sea. For instance, the potential interaction effect between small and large pelagic species and the interaction effect between fisheries and environmental factors could have been given more attention. The underlying drivers of the problems could have been analysed more thoroughly. The objectives of the proposed plan are quite general, only partially linked to the objectives stated in the IA, and one of them (the elimination of discards) would probably make limited difference for small pelagic stocks in the Adriatic Sea. The range of options considered in the IA is very limited as only one viable option is presented. The choice in favour of this option seems rather pre-determined since the establishment of multi-annual plans is already a priority under the Basic Regulation. Quality of data appears to be reasonable and external studies were used. The problems and their consequences are clearly elaborated and substantiated with data. General views of stakeholders seem to be reflected in the IA, although the initial scope of the public consultation was limited to the Northern Adriatic. The IA could nevertheless have discussed at more length and in more detail the impact on SMEs and the possibilities for financial assistance to mitigate the negative socio-economic impacts.

Capacity mechanisms for electricity

22-05-2017

Concerns about a lack of investment in electricity generation capacity to meet peak demand have prompted several EU Member States to introduce rewards for making capacity available, in the form of capacity mechanisms. Such mechanisms must conform to the EU guidelines on state aid for environmental protection and energy. However, capacity mechanisms are considered problematic because they risk distorting the internal electricity market. Moreover, purely national mechanisms are not as cost-effective ...

Concerns about a lack of investment in electricity generation capacity to meet peak demand have prompted several EU Member States to introduce rewards for making capacity available, in the form of capacity mechanisms. Such mechanisms must conform to the EU guidelines on state aid for environmental protection and energy. However, capacity mechanisms are considered problematic because they risk distorting the internal electricity market. Moreover, purely national mechanisms are not as cost-effective as mechanisms that allow for cross-border participation. To tackle these issues, the European Commission carried out a sector inquiry, in which it analysed capacity mechanisms in the EU and offered conclusions about the design principles needed to ensure their effectiveness and compatibility with the internal electricity market. It found that many Member States did not adequately assess the need or cost-effectiveness before introducing capacity mechanisms. Consequently, the Commission's 'clean energy for all Europeans' package, adopted in November 2016, includes a proposal for a recast of the Electricity Regulation, which updates the rules for European resource adequacy assessments and sets out design principles for national capacity mechanisms. In several resolutions, the European Parliament has expressed support for market-based cross-border capacity mechanisms, pointing out, however, that they should only be used under certain conditions. The Council of the EU stresses that ensuring the security of electricity supply is the responsibility of the Member States. Stakeholders have expressed various views about what the appropriate design of capacity mechanisms should be.

Posted on 19-05-2017

Intergovernmental agreements in the field of energy

19-05-2017

The Commission has proposed a decision which would require Member States to submit draft intergovernmental agreements with non-EU countries in the field of energy to it before they are signed. The Commission would then check whether they are compliant with EU law, and Member States would have to take full account of the Commission's opinion. At present, Member States are required to submit such agreements to the Commission after signature. The Commission considers the present system as ineffective ...

The Commission has proposed a decision which would require Member States to submit draft intergovernmental agreements with non-EU countries in the field of energy to it before they are signed. The Commission would then check whether they are compliant with EU law, and Member States would have to take full account of the Commission's opinion. At present, Member States are required to submit such agreements to the Commission after signature. The Commission considers the present system as ineffective. A trilogue agreement reached in December 2016 restricts the scope of the ex-ante assessment to gas and oil contracts, while agreements related to electricity would be subject to an ex-post assessment. If a Member State departs from the opinion in the Commission's ex-ante assessment, it would have to justify its decision in writing. The agreed text needs now to be approved by Parliament and Council.

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