1424

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Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, April 2018

20-04-2018

The April plenary session's highlight was the debate on the future of Europe with the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, detailing his ambitions for a reinvigorated Europe, ready to face existing and emerging challenges. Members also heard from the European Council and Commission Presidents on the outcome of the March European Council meeting. High Representative Federica Mogherini made statements on the UN global compacts for migration and refugees, Syria, Russia, the situation in ...

The April plenary session's highlight was the debate on the future of Europe with the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, detailing his ambitions for a reinvigorated Europe, ready to face existing and emerging challenges. Members also heard from the European Council and Commission Presidents on the outcome of the March European Council meeting. High Representative Federica Mogherini made statements on the UN global compacts for migration and refugees, Syria, Russia, the situation in the Korean peninsula and of Greek soldiers arrested in Turkey. Parliament adopted, inter alia, legislative resolutions on greenhouse gas emissions, the circular economy, European political parties and foundations, anti-money-laundering, market surveillance of motor vehicles, and organic production and labelling. Members granted discharge for the execution of the 2016 budget to the European Commission and all EU institutions and agencies, except the Council/European Council and European Asylum Support Office.

Socioeconomic inequality in Russia

19-04-2018

Russia has gone from Soviet-era egalitarianism to extremes of wealth and poverty. Economic growth since 2000 has slightly reduced the gap between rich and poor, but inequality is still higher than in most other developed countries. The income gap is exacerbated by such factors as corruption and low taxes for the rich, but it is also mitigated by a relatively inclusive education system.

Russia has gone from Soviet-era egalitarianism to extremes of wealth and poverty. Economic growth since 2000 has slightly reduced the gap between rich and poor, but inequality is still higher than in most other developed countries. The income gap is exacerbated by such factors as corruption and low taxes for the rich, but it is also mitigated by a relatively inclusive education system.

Water disputes in the Mekong basin

17-04-2018

The Mekong is south-east Asia's longest river (around 4 900km). From its source in Tibet, it flows southwards through the Chinese province of Yunnan before passing through five south-east Asian countries (Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam). Nearly half of the river is in China, where it is known as the Lancang. For the 70 million people who live in the Mekong basin, the river is a vital source of food and water, as well as an important transport route. Increasingly, it is being used to ...

The Mekong is south-east Asia's longest river (around 4 900km). From its source in Tibet, it flows southwards through the Chinese province of Yunnan before passing through five south-east Asian countries (Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam). Nearly half of the river is in China, where it is known as the Lancang. For the 70 million people who live in the Mekong basin, the river is a vital source of food and water, as well as an important transport route. Increasingly, it is being used to generate hydroelectricity. Human activity threatens the river's fauna and flora, and competition for natural resources is intensifying.

A renewed partnership with the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific

17-04-2018

This note seeks to provide an initial analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the above-mentioned impact assessment (IA), which originally accompanied the joint communication on a renewed partnership with the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, published on 22 November 2016. Subsequently, on 12 December 2017, the Commission adopted a recommendation for a Council decision authorising the opening of negotiations with the countries of the Cotonou Agreement, which was referred to ...

This note seeks to provide an initial analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the above-mentioned impact assessment (IA), which originally accompanied the joint communication on a renewed partnership with the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, published on 22 November 2016. Subsequently, on 12 December 2017, the Commission adopted a recommendation for a Council decision authorising the opening of negotiations with the countries of the Cotonou Agreement, which was referred to Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET). The Commission considers the analysis and conclusions of the impact assessment conducted in 2016 for the joint communication to be valid for the December 2017 recommendation for the opening of negotiations, which are to begin officially before 1 September 2018.

Renewed chemical attack in Syria

12-04-2018

As the conflict in Syria enters its eighth year, Parliament is due to debate the situation, following a recent escalation. The Assad regime is suspected of having carried out a toxic gas attack on the besieged town of Douma near Damascus on 7 April 2018, killing around 80 people and injuring hundreds. The United Nations Security Council debated the attack during an emergency meeting on 9 April 2018, during which Russia denied Syrian regime responsibility for the attack. The EU has strongly condemned ...

As the conflict in Syria enters its eighth year, Parliament is due to debate the situation, following a recent escalation. The Assad regime is suspected of having carried out a toxic gas attack on the besieged town of Douma near Damascus on 7 April 2018, killing around 80 people and injuring hundreds. The United Nations Security Council debated the attack during an emergency meeting on 9 April 2018, during which Russia denied Syrian regime responsibility for the attack. The EU has strongly condemned the latest use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict, and the United States, France and the United Kingdom have signalled their willingness to respond with air-strikes in order to uphold the global ban on the use of chemical weapons.

Outcome of the EU leaders' meetings on 22 and 23 March 2018

09-04-2018

On 22 and 23 March 2018, the EU Heads of State or Government convened in four different formations with varying compositions and levels of formality: a regular meeting of the European Council, a Leaders' Meeting on taxation, a Euro Summit and a European Council (Article 50) meeting. While economic and competitiveness issues featured, as is traditional, on the agenda of this spring European Council, the discussions focused largely on trade, the Salisbury attack, Turkey and Brexit. The informal leaders ...

On 22 and 23 March 2018, the EU Heads of State or Government convened in four different formations with varying compositions and levels of formality: a regular meeting of the European Council, a Leaders' Meeting on taxation, a Euro Summit and a European Council (Article 50) meeting. While economic and competitiveness issues featured, as is traditional, on the agenda of this spring European Council, the discussions focused largely on trade, the Salisbury attack, Turkey and Brexit. The informal leaders' meeting on tax considered ways of adapting European taxation systems to the digital economy and of strengthening the fight against tax evasion and avoidance. At the European Council (Article 50) meeting, the EU-27 Heads of State or Government considered the framework and adopted guidelines for post-Brexit relations with the UK. They also welcomed the agreement reached by the negotiators on parts of the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the transition period. While there were no formal conclusions at the Euro Summit meeting, participants discussed the long-term development of Economic and Monetary Union and agreed to take relevant decisions in June 2018.

China [What Think Tanks are thinking]

23-03-2018

The National People's Congress has recently confirmed Xi Jinping as China's President, along with several appointments of his allies to top state jobs. It has also approved amendments to China's Constitution which, in particular, abolish the limit of two five-year terms for the office of President, prompting concerns that the country is moving towards a more autocratic system. These decisions have cemented Xi's grip on power in a country that plays an increasingly important role in the global economy ...

The National People's Congress has recently confirmed Xi Jinping as China's President, along with several appointments of his allies to top state jobs. It has also approved amendments to China's Constitution which, in particular, abolish the limit of two five-year terms for the office of President, prompting concerns that the country is moving towards a more autocratic system. These decisions have cemented Xi's grip on power in a country that plays an increasingly important role in the global economy, as well as in security and foreign affairs. Analysts say that China's growing assertiveness poses a challenge to the United States, whose policies are becoming increasingly unpredictable, and to other international actors. This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on China, its ties with the EU and related issues. More studies on the topics can be found in a previous edition of 'What Think Tanks are thinking' published in June, 2017.

Outlook for the meetings of EU leaders on 22-23 March 2018

21-03-2018

On 22 and 23 March 2018, the EU Heads of State or Government will convene in four different formations with varying compositions and levels of formality: a regular meeting of the European Council, a Leaders’ meeting on taxation, a Euro Summit and a European Council (Article 50) meeting. The agenda of the formal European Council includes single market issues, the European semester, social policy and international trade relations. Following the recent announcements by the US administration on trade ...

On 22 and 23 March 2018, the EU Heads of State or Government will convene in four different formations with varying compositions and levels of formality: a regular meeting of the European Council, a Leaders’ meeting on taxation, a Euro Summit and a European Council (Article 50) meeting. The agenda of the formal European Council includes single market issues, the European semester, social policy and international trade relations. Following the recent announcements by the US administration on trade matters, the latter issue is likely to take a more prominent place than originally expected. The informal Leaders’ meeting will focus exclusively on taxation, in particular in the digital economy, whilst the Euro Summit will discuss further developments in the euro area, banking union and the gradual completion of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). At the European Council (Article 50) meeting, EU-27 leaders are due to adopt guidelines for the framework for the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom (UK).

Future trade relations between the EU and the UK: Options after Brexit

16-03-2018

This study analyses the various options for the future trade relations between the EU and the UK, after Brexit. It examines the various models against the canvas of two distinct paradigms: market integration and trade liberalization. It finds that an intermediate model, which would allow for continued convergence and mutual recognition in some sectors/freedoms, but not others, is unavailable and cannot easily be constructed for legal, institutional, and political reasons. The stark choice is between ...

This study analyses the various options for the future trade relations between the EU and the UK, after Brexit. It examines the various models against the canvas of two distinct paradigms: market integration and trade liberalization. It finds that an intermediate model, which would allow for continued convergence and mutual recognition in some sectors/freedoms, but not others, is unavailable and cannot easily be constructed for legal, institutional, and political reasons. The stark choice is between a customs union/free trade agreement, or continued internal market membership through the EEA or an equivalent agreement. The study further analyses the effects of Brexit on the UK’s continued participation in the trade agreements concluded by the EU. Notwithstanding a range of complexities, the study finds that such continued participation is not automatic but subject to negotiation.

External author

Piet Eeckhout

China's Maritime Silk Road initiative increasingly touches the EU

15-03-2018

Five years since China launched its 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative, with the aim of improving its maritime links – on its own terms – with south-east and south Asia, east Africa and ultimately Europe, the country has made significant progress in gaining long-term control over strategic overseas ports. Moreover, the state-driven merger of two giant state-owned shipping conglomerates, China Shipping and China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) in 2016, and the subsequent debt-financed takeover ...

Five years since China launched its 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative, with the aim of improving its maritime links – on its own terms – with south-east and south Asia, east Africa and ultimately Europe, the country has made significant progress in gaining long-term control over strategic overseas ports. Moreover, the state-driven merger of two giant state-owned shipping conglomerates, China Shipping and China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) in 2016, and the subsequent debt-financed takeover of rival Orient Overseas, have brought China closer to global leadership in container lines, with it now in third place. China's massive push for the construction of large-scale, high-risk and debt-financed infrastructure along the Maritime Silk Road has raised concerns about white elephants being built, and host countries becoming overburdened from servicing their debts to China. The large numbers of such projects has seen some host countries forced to repay their loans by handing over the operation of strategic assets to China for decades ahead. Their experience suggests that, while host countries may never see the much touted 'win-win' results of these projects, China may be poised for double wins from them. Among the requirements applicable to securing loans for Chinese-funded projects is that engineering contracts be awarded directly to Chinese firms without public tender. While this requirement practically excludes other countries' contractors from participation, it also challenges China's repeated rhetoric that its initiative is open to third-party participation. In recent years, China has made major inroads into the EU by acquiring minority or majority stakes in port infrastructure of strategic relevance for China. Hence, China is increasingly able to shape outcomes in its interest from within the EU.

Upcoming events

24-04-2018
Preventing and Countering Radicalisation
Hearing -
TERR
24-04-2018
Outlook for the US mid-term elections: Where next for American politics?
Other event -
EPRS
24-04-2018
CAP post-2020 - the future of food and farming: interparliamentary committee meeting
Other event -
AGRI

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