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The 2017 State of the Union debate in the European Parliament

08-09-2017

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union address to the European Parliament, and the subsequent debate, on 13 September come in the context of the ongoing broader reflection on the future path of the European Union. This has been intensified by the first-ever withdrawal of a Member State from the Union; although lamented by most, this is often cited as an opportunity to rebuild the Union on stronger grounds. The debate will therefore feed into a larger reflection process ...

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union address to the European Parliament, and the subsequent debate, on 13 September come in the context of the ongoing broader reflection on the future path of the European Union. This has been intensified by the first-ever withdrawal of a Member State from the Union; although lamented by most, this is often cited as an opportunity to rebuild the Union on stronger grounds. The debate will therefore feed into a larger reflection process, to which Parliament contributed three landmark resolutions, launched by EU-27 leaders in the Rome declaration of 25 March 2017. As announced in President Juncker’s 2016 State of the Union speech, the Commission published a white paper on the future of Europe, identifying five scenarios for the further course of the Union. The Commission President has recently pointed to a sixth scenario to be revealed in his State of the Union speech. The State of the Union debate forms part of the process for the adoption of the annual Commission Work Programme and thus plays an important role in identifying major political priorities to be agreed in interinstitutional dialogue. This briefing is an update of an earlier one of September 2016, PE 586.665.

EU and UK positions on citizens’ rights: First phase of Brexit negotiations

13-07-2017

Negotiations on the arrangements for the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU started on 19 June 2017, with citizens’ rights being one of the top priorities. However, the EU and the UK positions differ considerably. The EU aims at a withdrawal agreement which safeguards the existing right to residence as well as to equal treatment with nationals, including access to social security, for EU-27 citizens who have moved to the UK and for UK nationals resident in an EU-27 Member State prior to the ...

Negotiations on the arrangements for the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU started on 19 June 2017, with citizens’ rights being one of the top priorities. However, the EU and the UK positions differ considerably. The EU aims at a withdrawal agreement which safeguards the existing right to residence as well as to equal treatment with nationals, including access to social security, for EU-27 citizens who have moved to the UK and for UK nationals resident in an EU-27 Member State prior to the withdrawal date. By contrast, the UK’s intention is to create new rights, detached from EU law, whose conditions will be governed by UK law. The EU and UK positions also differ regarding the cut-off date which would govern the status of citizens. According to the EU, this should be the date of the UK’s actual withdrawal from the EU, whereas the UK has proposed to agree on an earlier date. Differences between the two positions can also be observed with regard to the conditions for family reunification and access to social security benefits. Furthermore, whilst the EU proposes that the European Commission and the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) oversee compliance with the withdrawal arrangements by both the UK and the EU-27 Member States, the UK seeks enforceability of the citizens’ rights through the UK judicial system and rejects the jurisdiction of the CJEU.

The Brexit negotiations: Issues for the first phase

22-06-2017

Negotiations on the arrangements for the UK's withdrawal from the EU started on 19 June 2017. The European Commission is negotiating on behalf of the EU, on the basis of the European Council guidelines and the mandate given to it by the Council. The European Parliament, for its part, has laid down key principles and conditions for its approval of a UK withdrawal agreement. Three key priorities are set to dominate the first phase of the negotiations (with the future relationship between the EU and ...

Negotiations on the arrangements for the UK's withdrawal from the EU started on 19 June 2017. The European Commission is negotiating on behalf of the EU, on the basis of the European Council guidelines and the mandate given to it by the Council. The European Parliament, for its part, has laid down key principles and conditions for its approval of a UK withdrawal agreement. Three key priorities are set to dominate the first phase of the negotiations (with the future relationship between the EU and the UK being left to a second phase). These are: citizens' rights for EU-27 citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU-27; the settlement of the UK's financial obligations; and ensuring the Northern Ireland peace process is not compromised. This paper looks at the EU negotiating position and the major issues raised under those three priorities to date.

Provisions governing the activity of high political office-holders in election or selection processes: A comparative analysis of the provisions and practices in the EU, its Member States and selected international organisations

16-02-2017

In its resolution of 28 April 2016 on the discharge procedure for the year 2014, the European Parliament instructed the European Parliamentary Research Service to undertake a study including 'a comparative analysis of the legal framework governing the compatibilities of candidates who run for election campaigns in other international organisations and in the Member States (election of prime minister, secretary general, chancellor, etc.)'. This study therefore examines relevant rules on the use of ...

In its resolution of 28 April 2016 on the discharge procedure for the year 2014, the European Parliament instructed the European Parliamentary Research Service to undertake a study including 'a comparative analysis of the legal framework governing the compatibilities of candidates who run for election campaigns in other international organisations and in the Member States (election of prime minister, secretary general, chancellor, etc.)'. This study therefore examines relevant rules on the use of public resources by high political office-holders in electoral/selection processes at EU, international and EU Member State level. An initial version of this study was delivered to the Members of the Committee on Budgetary Control in October 2016. This revised version incorporates some minor changes following final verifications. Nonetheless, the information in this study does not reflect any further possible recent changes in any individual Member State.

The State of the Union debate in the European Parliament, 2016

09-09-2016

The 2016 State of the Union debate in the European Parliament comes at a time of severe challenges for the European Union, ranging from the refugee and migration crisis and the situation in Turkey and Ukraine, to the uncertainties following the UK referendum on leaving the EU, the economic difficulties persisting in many Member States, and more general questions on the future path of the EU. The State of the Union speech by the President of the European Commission constitutes an important instrument ...

The 2016 State of the Union debate in the European Parliament comes at a time of severe challenges for the European Union, ranging from the refugee and migration crisis and the situation in Turkey and Ukraine, to the uncertainties following the UK referendum on leaving the EU, the economic difficulties persisting in many Member States, and more general questions on the future path of the EU. The State of the Union speech by the President of the European Commission constitutes an important instrument for ex-ante accountability vis-à-vis Parliament but it is also aimed at rendering the definition of priorities at EU level more transparent and at communicating those priorities to citizens. It resembles similar speeches in national democracies. The United States for instance has a long-standing tradition of presidential State of the Union addresses, in which the President speaks in the Capitol to a joint session of Congress, thus fulfilling his constitutional obligation. In contrast to the US Constitution, the EU Treaties do not prescribe the State of the Union address, which was instigated with the 2010 Framework agreement between Parliament and the Commission. José Manuel Barroso gave four State of the Union speeches from 2010 to 2013, marked mainly by the economic and financial crisis. Last year’s speech by President Jean-Claude Juncker took place in a wider context of political agenda-setting that started with the Spitzenkandidaten process in the run-up to the 2014 European elections, the election of the Commission President and the adoption of the 2015 Commission Work Programme. The 2016 debate marks in contrast the second year of the Juncker Commission, with President Juncker’s ten priorities, around which the Commission organises its work, increasingly being the basis on which the delivery of the Commission is examined. This briefing updates an earlier one, from September 2015. See also our briefing from then on 'The US President's State of the Union Address'.

Public expectations and EU policies - Identifying the gaps

30-06-2016

Citizens’ expectations of the European Union vary widely across policy areas. A Eurobarometer survey – Europeans in 2016: Perceptions and expectations, fight against terrorism and radicalisation – seeks to identify those areas in which EU citizens want to see the Union doing more. Having identified areas in which there is a gap between the EU’s current action and citizens’ expectations of the Union, the next step is to look at the potential – within the constraints of the EU legal foundations – for ...

Citizens’ expectations of the European Union vary widely across policy areas. A Eurobarometer survey – Europeans in 2016: Perceptions and expectations, fight against terrorism and radicalisation – seeks to identify those areas in which EU citizens want to see the Union doing more. Having identified areas in which there is a gap between the EU’s current action and citizens’ expectations of the Union, the next step is to look at the potential – within the constraints of the EU legal foundations – for the EU to do more to meet citizens’ expectations.

UK withdrawal from the EU – Next steps

28-06-2016

The referendum held in the United Kingdom on 23 June on the question of whether to remain in, or leave, the European Union resulted in 51.9% of those voting (on a 71.8% turn-out) supporting withdrawal from the Union. Although, formally speaking, the referendum was consultative, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and his government had indicated clearly in advance that the outcome would be considered binding. In announcing his resignation, Cameron said that the UK would activate the procedure ...

The referendum held in the United Kingdom on 23 June on the question of whether to remain in, or leave, the European Union resulted in 51.9% of those voting (on a 71.8% turn-out) supporting withdrawal from the Union. Although, formally speaking, the referendum was consultative, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and his government had indicated clearly in advance that the outcome would be considered binding. In announcing his resignation, Cameron said that the UK would activate the procedure set out in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) enabling a Member State to withdraw, but that this process would wait until his successor had been chosen (by October). In a resolution adopted at the conclusion of a special plenary session on 28 June, MEPs called on the UK government to instigate ‘a swift and coherent implementation of the withdrawal procedure’, to prevent ‘damaging uncertainty for everyone and to protect the Union’s integrity’.

Parliament's committees of inquiry and special committees

02-06-2016

The European Parliament has recently been making increasing use of its investigative instruments – special and inquiry committees. The TAXE Committee, established in the aftermath of the 'LuxLeaks' scandal to look into unfair tax practices in the EU, was followed by the TAXE 2 special committee on tax rulings. The EMIS committee of inquiry is looking into emission measurements in the automotive sector. The recently revealed 'Panama papers' prompted a new committee of inquiry on tax havens. Parliament's ...

The European Parliament has recently been making increasing use of its investigative instruments – special and inquiry committees. The TAXE Committee, established in the aftermath of the 'LuxLeaks' scandal to look into unfair tax practices in the EU, was followed by the TAXE 2 special committee on tax rulings. The EMIS committee of inquiry is looking into emission measurements in the automotive sector. The recently revealed 'Panama papers' prompted a new committee of inquiry on tax havens. Parliament's right of inquiry is an important instrument for the exercise of its control functions. Its investigative powers, however, fall short of the powers of committees of inquiry in national parliaments, which have quasi-judicial investigative tools at their disposal. Committees of inquiry are limited to examinations of alleged contraventions and maladministration in the implementation of EU law, thus excluding evidence-gathering about general subjects and inquiries into actions by third-country authorities. 'Special committees', on the other hand, can be set up for any parliamentary inquiry and have thus been used more often by Parliament. Although they are not equipped with formal powers, special committees conduct their work using the same investigative mechanisms as committees of inquiry. The Lisbon Treaty conferred on Parliament the power to propose and adopt a binding regulation on the inquiry rules.

Understanding the d'Hondt method: Allocation of parliamentary seats and leadership positions

08-04-2016

The allocation of seats in collegiate organs such as parliaments requires a method to translate votes proportionally into whole seats. The 'd'Hondt method' is a mathematical formula used widely in proportional representation systems, although it leads to less proportional results than other systems for seat allocation such as the Hare-Niemeyer and Sainte-Laguë/Schepers methods. Moreover, it tends to increase the advantage for the electoral lists gaining most votes to the detriment of those with fewer ...

The allocation of seats in collegiate organs such as parliaments requires a method to translate votes proportionally into whole seats. The 'd'Hondt method' is a mathematical formula used widely in proportional representation systems, although it leads to less proportional results than other systems for seat allocation such as the Hare-Niemeyer and Sainte-Laguë/Schepers methods. Moreover, it tends to increase the advantage for the electoral lists gaining most votes to the detriment of those with fewer votes. It is, however, effective in facilitating majority formation and thus in securing parliamentary operability. The d'Hondt method is used by 17 EU Member States for the elections to the European Parliament. Furthermore, it is also used within the Parliament as a formula for distributing the chairs of the parliamentary committees and delegations, as well as to distribute those posts among the national delegations within the political groups. Such proportional distribution of leadership positions within Parliament prevents domination of parliamentary political life by only one or two large political groups, ensuring smaller political groups also have a say on the political agenda. Some argue however that this limits the impact of the election results on the political direction of decision-making within Parliament and call for a 'winner-takes-all' approach instead. Many national parliaments in the EU also distribute committee chairs and other posts proportionally among political groups (either using the d'Hondt method or more informally). Other Member States, however, apply a 'winner-takes-more' approach with only some committee chairs with particular relevance to government scrutiny being reserved for opposition groups, while in the US House of Representatives committee chairs have to come from the majority party. Please click here for the full publication in PDF format xxxx

The UK's 'new settlement' in the European Union: Renegotiation and referendum

25-02-2016

Following the election of a majority Conservative government in the UK general election of May 2015, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, opened negotiations with the other EU Member States and the EU institutions to establish a 'new settlement' between the UK and the Union. This renegotiation, conducted in recent months, has now concluded. On the basis of proposals made by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, Member States reached an agreement at the European Council meeting ...

Following the election of a majority Conservative government in the UK general election of May 2015, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, opened negotiations with the other EU Member States and the EU institutions to establish a 'new settlement' between the UK and the Union. This renegotiation, conducted in recent months, has now concluded. On the basis of proposals made by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, Member States reached an agreement at the European Council meeting of 18-19 February. The agreement comprises a decision by the Heads of State or Government – constituting an agreement between Member States under international law rather than a European Council decision – as well as a draft Council decision on the banking union and several declarations by the European Commission committing it to submit proposals to amend existing EU legislation in the fields of free movement and access to social benefits for EU workers. The agreement would enter into force once the UK has notified the Council of its decision to stay in the EU, following the in–out referendum, now set for 23 June 2016.

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