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Revision of the Blue Card Directive

12-12-2017

Attracting highly qualified immigrants to Europe has been one of the EU’s key priorities for several years. However, up until now the EU has not been as successful as other OECD countries. This demand for workers is expected to increase due to the increasing shortage of certain skills and the aging of the EU’s population. The proposed directive, which would replace the 2009 Blue Card Directive, increases the attractiveness of the EU highly skilled migration scheme by expanding its scope, lowering ...

Attracting highly qualified immigrants to Europe has been one of the EU’s key priorities for several years. However, up until now the EU has not been as successful as other OECD countries. This demand for workers is expected to increase due to the increasing shortage of certain skills and the aging of the EU’s population. The proposed directive, which would replace the 2009 Blue Card Directive, increases the attractiveness of the EU highly skilled migration scheme by expanding its scope, lowering criteria for admission, expanding the rights of beneficiaries, and abolishing parallel national schemes. Stakeholders and experts agree with some proposed changes, while others have received more criticism (for example, the abolition of national schemes). The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs has adopted its report, and voted to open interinstitutional negotiations. The Council has also agreed its mandate and trilogue meetings started in September 2017. Second edition. The ‘EU Legislation in Progress’ briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure. Please note this document has been designed for on-line viewing.

European Stability Mechanism

12-12-2017

A proposal to transform the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) into a European Monetary Fund (EMF) within EU law was adopted by the Commission on 6 December 2017. The publication of the proposal was announced in Annex I of the 2018 Commission work programme, as one of the actions within the item 'Completing the Economic and Monetary Union'. In the context of the proposal, this briefing provides information on the functioning of the ESM, which recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. The European ...

A proposal to transform the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) into a European Monetary Fund (EMF) within EU law was adopted by the Commission on 6 December 2017. The publication of the proposal was announced in Annex I of the 2018 Commission work programme, as one of the actions within the item 'Completing the Economic and Monetary Union'. In the context of the proposal, this briefing provides information on the functioning of the ESM, which recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. The European Stability Mechanism is an intergovernmental organisation that began operating on 8 October 2012, with the aim of providing financial assistance to euro-area countries experiencing or threatened by severe financing problems, and with a lending capacity of €500 billion. During the last five years, five EU countries: Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Spain have received support from the ESM. Around 33 % of the ESM's lending capacity has been committed.

Outlook for the meetings of EU leaders on 14-15 December 2017

12-12-2017

On 14 and 15 December 2017, EU leaders will convene in four different settings with varying compositions and levels of formality: a regular summit of the European Council, a Leaders’ meeting on migration, a European Council (Article 50) meeting, and an enlarged Euro Summit. The agenda of the formal European Council concentrates on defence, social policy, and education and culture, whilst the informal Leaders’ meeting will focus exclusively on migration, and notably on the reform of the Common European ...

On 14 and 15 December 2017, EU leaders will convene in four different settings with varying compositions and levels of formality: a regular summit of the European Council, a Leaders’ meeting on migration, a European Council (Article 50) meeting, and an enlarged Euro Summit. The agenda of the formal European Council concentrates on defence, social policy, and education and culture, whilst the informal Leaders’ meeting will focus exclusively on migration, and notably on the reform of the Common European Asylum System. At the European Council (Article 50) meeting, EU leaders will consider the Commission's recommendation that ‘sufficient progress’ has been made in the negotiations with the United Kingdom, and decide whether to move to the next phase. The enlarged Euro Summit will discuss further developments in the euro area, the banking union and the gradual completion of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

Combating fraud and counterfeiting of non-cash means of payment

08-12-2017

The IA presents the problem of non-cash payment fraud in a coherent and clear manner. The link between the problem (sub-) drivers, specific and general objectives of the proposal is rather straightforward. The objectives could be more specific and time-bound, however, to bring them in line with the SMART criteria. The IA sets out the content of all options in a clear manner. However, the quality of data, analysis and stakeholder consultation leaves an overall poor impression, partly because the combined ...

The IA presents the problem of non-cash payment fraud in a coherent and clear manner. The link between the problem (sub-) drivers, specific and general objectives of the proposal is rather straightforward. The objectives could be more specific and time-bound, however, to bring them in line with the SMART criteria. The IA sets out the content of all options in a clear manner. However, the quality of data, analysis and stakeholder consultation leaves an overall poor impression, partly because the combined IA and evaluation study, which is the external expertise informing the assessment, is not available online and therefore impossible to verify. For instance, according to the IA, the qualitative scores were validated with the focus group participants and external reviewers; however, the results of the validations are not reported in the IA report and only seven stakeholders attended the focus group. Such low attendance is rather surprising, considering that the qualitative assessment was given particular weight when deciding on the preferred option. The IA provides a rather inconsistent synopsis of the three consultation processes and the stakeholders’ contributions are not available online. The IA does not make clear what the stakeholders’ views were on the retained or discarded measures and options. Making the study accessible online could perhaps provide the information needed to understand the logic behind the assessment, the stakeholder consultation and the choice of the preferred option.

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Revision of the Eurovignette Directive

08-12-2017

The Commission adopted a legislative proposal for a directive amending Directive 1999/62/EC on the charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures (known as the Eurovignette Directive) in May 2017. The initiative is linked to two wider strategies, the energy union strategy, which inter alia envisaged a road transport package, including more efficient infrastructure pricing, and the Commission's strategy for low-emission mobility. The proposal was presented within the context ...

The Commission adopted a legislative proposal for a directive amending Directive 1999/62/EC on the charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures (known as the Eurovignette Directive) in May 2017. The initiative is linked to two wider strategies, the energy union strategy, which inter alia envisaged a road transport package, including more efficient infrastructure pricing, and the Commission's strategy for low-emission mobility. The proposal was presented within the context of the Commission's 'Europe on the move' package that seeks to modernise mobility and transport and includes several legislative proposals. The objective of the Eurovignette proposal, which substantially amends the existing legislation by extending the scope of vehicles covered, is to make progress in the application of the 'polluter pays' and 'user pays' principles.

European defence [What Think Tanks are thinking]

08-12-2017

The European Union is moving closer to developing integrated European defence after 23 of its 28 Member States agreed in November on joint military investment in equipment, research and develop¬ment through Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), an enhanced-cooperation mechanism enshrined in the 2009 Lisbon Treaty. The plan is to jointly develop European military capabilities and make them available for operations separately from, or in complementarity with, NATO. This note brings together commentaries ...

The European Union is moving closer to developing integrated European defence after 23 of its 28 Member States agreed in November on joint military investment in equipment, research and develop¬ment through Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), an enhanced-cooperation mechanism enshrined in the 2009 Lisbon Treaty. The plan is to jointly develop European military capabilities and make them available for operations separately from, or in complementarity with, NATO. This note brings together commentaries, analyses and studies by major international think tanks and research institutes on European Union defence. Earlier publications on the topic can be found in a previous edition of 'What Think Tanks are Thinking' published in May 2017.

United States' nuclear weapons policy: New priorities, new challenges

08-12-2017

The United States is the world's second largest nuclear power, coming close behind Russia. Together the two states account for 93 % of the world's nuclear weapons. Since the end of the Cold War, the US has followed a policy of reducing its nuclear arsenal, while maintaining a nuclear triad. Under President Obama, it embarked on an intense nuclear modernisation programme, while making commitments towards nuclear non-proliferation and – as a long-term goal – nuclear disarmament. President Donald Trump ...

The United States is the world's second largest nuclear power, coming close behind Russia. Together the two states account for 93 % of the world's nuclear weapons. Since the end of the Cold War, the US has followed a policy of reducing its nuclear arsenal, while maintaining a nuclear triad. Under President Obama, it embarked on an intense nuclear modernisation programme, while making commitments towards nuclear non-proliferation and – as a long-term goal – nuclear disarmament. President Donald Trump took office in January 2017 with the promise to discontinue the previous administration's policy priorities. This is reflected in the current realignment of the US nuclear weapons policy. The new administration aims to expand US nuclear capabilities, is sceptical of international arms-control agreements, and has a more determinant stance on non-proliferation. President Trump has criticised the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and consequently decertified the multilateral Iran nuclear deal in October 2017. The President has also characterised the bilateral New START Treaty, limiting the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons between the US and Russia, as 'a one-sided deal'. The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), a landmark nuclear arms control treaty between the US and the former USSR, seems to be in limbo, and nuclear proliferation efforts in North Korea have sparked a war of words between Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un. The ongoing Nuclear Posture Review, together with the coming passage of the annual defence policy bill in Congress, the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2018, have the potential to provoke shifts in US nuclear policy.

Understanding the rationale for compiling 'tax haven' lists

08-12-2017

With taxation constantly in the headlines as one tax leak follows another, the question of which tax jurisdictions are regularly associated with the schemes revealed has gained in importance. Broadly speaking, tax havens provide taxpayers, both legal and natural persons, with opportunities for tax avoidance, while their secrecy and opacity also serves to hide the origin of the proceeds of illegal and criminal activities. One may ask why establishing a list of tax havens is useful. Drawing up such ...

With taxation constantly in the headlines as one tax leak follows another, the question of which tax jurisdictions are regularly associated with the schemes revealed has gained in importance. Broadly speaking, tax havens provide taxpayers, both legal and natural persons, with opportunities for tax avoidance, while their secrecy and opacity also serves to hide the origin of the proceeds of illegal and criminal activities. One may ask why establishing a list of tax havens is useful. Drawing up such a list started with the actions to stop harmful tax practices arising from the discrepancy between the global reach of financial flows and the geographically limited scope of jurisdictions, matching or inside national borders. This difference is central to the inter-connected issues of tax avoidance, tax evasion and fraud, and money laundering. Whatever name is used (tax haven, offshore centre, non-cooperative jurisdiction) they all have in common that they make it possible to escape taxation: low or zero taxation, a fictitious residence (with no bearing on reality) and tax secrecy. The last two are key for hiding the ultimate beneficial owner, and consequently for money laundering. In short, the tax-haven issue reveals the discrepancy between real economic activity and the form and appearance given to it, through complex and global schemes. In the EU, the process of adopting a common list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions was initiated as part of efforts towards good governance in tax, and the external dimension thereof. On 5 December 2017, the Council adopted a first common list.

Multilateralism in international trade: WTO achievements and challenges

07-12-2017

Multilateralism has been at the core of global trade governance since the end of World War II. The multilateral trading system, first under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and subsequently in the World Trade Organization (WTO), has managed to increasingly integrate countries’ economies over time and tempered unilateral approaches to international trade. The WTO also has an effective Dispute Settlement System (DSS) and has recently shown that it can deliver multilateral results, ...

Multilateralism has been at the core of global trade governance since the end of World War II. The multilateral trading system, first under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and subsequently in the World Trade Organization (WTO), has managed to increasingly integrate countries’ economies over time and tempered unilateral approaches to international trade. The WTO also has an effective Dispute Settlement System (DSS) and has recently shown that it can deliver multilateral results, namely the 2013 Trade Facilitation Agreement and the 2015 Nairobi Package. The WTO, however, has failed to conclude the 2001 Doha Development Round of trade negotiations and has been unable to address new trade issues that have arisen since its creation in 1995. This has led many countries to pursue bilateral, regional and plurilateral trade agreements outside the multilateral framework. The worldwide rise of protectionism also threatens the WTO’s objective of free trade. This is exemplified by the election as United States President of Donald Trump, who has called the WTO ‘a disaster’. His administration is currently blocking new appointments to the WTO’s Appellate Body, which could prevent the DSS from enforcing multilateral trade rules. The EU nevertheless continues to strongly support the multilateral trading system, as it benefits from the WTO’s rules-based system that supports free trade. At the same time, the EU views bilateral, regional and plurilateral agreements as complementary approaches to the WTO and is thus actively pursuing agreements along both avenues. Finally, the EU is also actively involved in settling disputes before the WTO, including with the USA. The European Parliament has expressed its support for this approach. This is an update of a briefing published in May 2017.

The political crisis in Venezuela

07-12-2017

In December 2015, the results of elections to the Venezuelan National Assembly saw the Democratic Unity Roundtable coa