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EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Human Rights

28-06-2019

In the 70 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the first international document to set common standards of achievement for all states – the pivotal role and moral, legal and political significance of human rights in the international arena have become indisputable. However, despite considerable progress in many areas on recognition, codification and implementation, human rights have also come under increased attack. Whether in theatres of war or in the political ...

In the 70 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the first international document to set common standards of achievement for all states – the pivotal role and moral, legal and political significance of human rights in the international arena have become indisputable. However, despite considerable progress in many areas on recognition, codification and implementation, human rights have also come under increased attack. Whether in theatres of war or in the political arena, human rights are now often rejected on ideological grounds. The EU itself has not been spared by the current backlash. In its Member States, a populist wave has empowered some political forces that increasingly question the significance of core human rights, such as the right to freedom of expression. In these troubled times for human rights, opinion polls show that European citizens perceive human rights as one of the most important values for them personally and one of the values that best represent the EU itself. Having emerged from World War II and its atrocities, European countries were determined to secure lasting peace, and the Union they created is founded on respect for democracy, the rule of law and human rights, which guide and shape its legislation and policies. Within the EU, recent action has included new legislation on data protection and access to justice, the European Pillar of Social Rights, and initiatives to combat inequality, discrimination and hate speech. There is also an acknowledgement that more needs to be done to complete the legal framework to combat discrimination and strengthen internal mechanisms for upholding the rule of law. Human rights are additionally a general objective of EU external action. The EU is deeply committed to promoting human rights, as enshrined in international treaties, in its relations with third countries and with other multilateral regional and global institutions. During Parliament's last mandate, the EU consistently applied and deepened a range of policy approaches that strengthen its role and image as a normative power that inspires others through its example. Maintaining and consolidating this policy remains vital for preserving the EU's image and credibility as a normative power based on values, and one that has the capacity to act at a time when the principle of multilateralism is increasingly questioned. This is an update of an earlier briefing issued in advance of the 2019 European elections.

Area of freedom, security and justice: Cost of Non-Europe

08-05-2019

Substantial progress has been made since creating an area of freedom, security and justice became a major political objective for the EU 20 years ago. Still, there is a lack of consistent monitoring and enforcement of EU values and norms as well as outstanding gaps in the EU’s framework in certain areas. These deficiencies have a significant impact at individual level, notably in terms of preventing the effective exercise of fundamental rights by EU citizens and third country nationals alike. They ...

Substantial progress has been made since creating an area of freedom, security and justice became a major political objective for the EU 20 years ago. Still, there is a lack of consistent monitoring and enforcement of EU values and norms as well as outstanding gaps in the EU’s framework in certain areas. These deficiencies have a significant impact at individual level, notably in terms of preventing the effective exercise of fundamental rights by EU citizens and third country nationals alike. They also have a negative effect on budgetary spending, growth and tax revenue, which is estimated at at least €180 billion annually, with the lack of enforcement of EU values still to be assessed in more detail. Further EU action in four main areas: 1. monitoring and enforcement; 2. the creation of safe legal pathways for migrants and asylum seekers to enter the EU; 3. ingraining a European law enforcement culture; and 4. completing the Union’s fundamental rights framework, would have significant benefits. In particular, it could allow individuals to fully enjoy their fundamental rights and make EU society more secure, open, fair and prosperous. This would also foster trust in the EU on the basis of its ability to deliver on its aims

Is transparency the key to citizens’ trust?

11-04-2019

Trust in political institutions is a key element of representative democracies. Trust in the rule of law is also the basis for democratic participation of citizens. According to the spring 2018 Eurobarometer survey of public awareness of the EU institutions, 50 % of respondents indicated they trust the European Parliament, which represents a 34 % increase since the beginning of the 2014-2019 legislative term. A transparent political decision-making processes has become a common objective to help ...

Trust in political institutions is a key element of representative democracies. Trust in the rule of law is also the basis for democratic participation of citizens. According to the spring 2018 Eurobarometer survey of public awareness of the EU institutions, 50 % of respondents indicated they trust the European Parliament, which represents a 34 % increase since the beginning of the 2014-2019 legislative term. A transparent political decision-making processes has become a common objective to help strengthen citizens’ trust in policy-makers and enhance the accountability of public administrations. In this regard, regulation of lobbying (the exchange between policy makers and stakeholders), and bolstering the integrity of this process, is often considered a vital ingredient. Public expectations for increased transparency of the exchange between policy-makers and interest representatives varies from one political system to the next, but it has increasingly become a topic of debate for parliaments across Europe, and a regular demand during election campaigns.

India: taking stock of Modi's five years

10-04-2019

From 11 April to 18 May 2019, 900 million Indians are invited to take part in the world's biggest democratic event: the election of the 543 members of the Lok Sabha (lower chamber). Voting will be held across the country in seven phases and the result will be declared on 23 May. In 2014 the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) obtained the absolute majority in India's Lok Sabha, and Narendra Modi became prime minister. Enjoying a strong and undisputed mandate, Modi has generated expectations ...

From 11 April to 18 May 2019, 900 million Indians are invited to take part in the world's biggest democratic event: the election of the 543 members of the Lok Sabha (lower chamber). Voting will be held across the country in seven phases and the result will be declared on 23 May. In 2014 the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) obtained the absolute majority in India's Lok Sabha, and Narendra Modi became prime minister. Enjoying a strong and undisputed mandate, Modi has generated expectations of unleashing the country's economic potential and has adopted many flagship initiatives in a bid to change the country. In the last five years, India has overtaken China as the fastest growing economy, becoming the world's sixth biggest economy and a space power. Doing business in the country has become easier. Poverty has been reduced. The government succeeded in introducing major fiscal unification reform and a new law on bankruptcy. It failed, however to create the necessary stock of jobs for young people or to promote long-awaited labour reforms. The situation for farmers has worsened, and an overnight demonetisation hindered progress among small businesses and rural communities, while failing to bring real advances in the fight against corruption. State banks hold large stocks of bad loans and the government has increased pressure on the central bank and on its independence. Hindu nationalism and religious intolerance, pressure on freedom of expression, possible state intrusion into privacy, citizenship issues and other topics have been matters for concern in the area of human rights, although the country remains a robust democracy governed by the rule of law. Modi has increased the country's presence in the global arena, although the framework of India's relations with the major powers has not changed. Following two summits in 2016 and 2017, the EU and India have embarked on a road towards cooperation on non-trade issues. Trade has meanwhile stagnated and little progress has been made in negotiations on a trade and investment agreement.

Taiwan's political survival in a challenging geopolitical context

26-03-2019

Since the landmark victory of Tsai Ing-wen from Taiwan's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the 2016 presidential elections, mainland China has intensified the island's international isolation and intimidation through political pressure, economic coercion and military drills. In a January 2019 speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 1979 'Message to Compatriots in Taiwan', China's President, Xi Jinping, alluded to the inevitability of unification based on a 'one country ...

Since the landmark victory of Tsai Ing-wen from Taiwan's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the 2016 presidential elections, mainland China has intensified the island's international isolation and intimidation through political pressure, economic coercion and military drills. In a January 2019 speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 1979 'Message to Compatriots in Taiwan', China's President, Xi Jinping, alluded to the inevitability of unification based on a 'one country, two systems' formula, which is widely rejected in Taiwan. Taiwan's successful transition from an authoritarian anti-communist bulwark led by the Nationalist Party or Kuomintang (KMT), to a liberal multi-party democracy that embraces individual political freedoms, the rule of law and universal human rights, is a challenge for the authoritarian one-party system of the People's Republic of China (PRC), as it belies mainland China's rhetoric that a liberal multi-party democracy is unsuitable for Chinese people. Taiwan's political survival within the fragile status quo of cross-strait relations ultimately depends on the United States' continued national interest in ensuring that Taiwan's defence capabilities and the US's military supremacy over the PRC act as a deterrent against a potential invasion of Taiwan by mainland China's military forces. Against the backdrop of the PRC's increasingly aggressive Taiwan policy and growing US-China strategic competition on multiple fronts, the US has expanded its long-standing commitments in support of Taiwan's defence and democracy, and considers the island as a partner in promoting the goals and values of the US's free and open Indo-Pacific strategy. The EU maintains a 'One China' policy, which recognises the PRC government as the sole legal government of China. However, since the EU and Taiwan are like-minded in many regards and the EU respects Taiwan's governance system, it is interested in closer cooperation with Taiwan on non-political issues, even in the absence of diplomatic recognition.

State of the Union: Spring 2019 [What Think Tanks are thinking]

22-03-2019

The run-up to the European Parliament elections on 23-26 May has intensified debate about the state of the European Union, the challenges it faces and the reforms needed, both to strengthen its resilience and to enhance its international role. Many analysts focus on the rise of anti-establishment movements and a perceived divide between the east and west of the Union regarding adherence to EU values and the rule of law. Some others discuss whether the EU should have more competence in areas such ...

The run-up to the European Parliament elections on 23-26 May has intensified debate about the state of the European Union, the challenges it faces and the reforms needed, both to strengthen its resilience and to enhance its international role. Many analysts focus on the rise of anti-establishment movements and a perceived divide between the east and west of the Union regarding adherence to EU values and the rule of law. Some others discuss whether the EU should have more competence in areas such as defence, international relations, migration and taxation. This note offers links to reports and commentaries from some major international think-tanks and research institutes on the state of the Union, proposed reforms and other issues being discussed ahead of the European elections. Studies and commentaries on Brexit can be found in a previous item in the series. Papers on economic challenges faced by the EU and the euro area are available in still another. Some further analyses on the European elections can be found in a ‘What think tanks are thinking’ published in January.

The Generalised Scheme of Preferences Regulation (No 978/2012): European Implementation Assessment

19-12-2018

This evaluation of the EU Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) focuses on the incentives in the GSP provisions that aim to push beneficiaries to comply with human rights and the extent to which these have been implemented and have had an impact on poverty reduction and good governance. The annexed economic evaluation of the GSP Regulation examines three inter-related questions: how beneficiaries have graduated from the GSP and what role preferences have played; how trade relations between the ...

This evaluation of the EU Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) focuses on the incentives in the GSP provisions that aim to push beneficiaries to comply with human rights and the extent to which these have been implemented and have had an impact on poverty reduction and good governance. The annexed economic evaluation of the GSP Regulation examines three inter-related questions: how beneficiaries have graduated from the GSP and what role preferences have played; how trade relations between the countries that have recently graduated from the GSP and those that still benefit from it are affected; and what the impact of changes in the rules of origin has been.

Rule of law and human rights in Cuba and Venezuela and EU engagement

11-12-2018

The European Parliament (EP) has consistently followed the situation in Cuba and Venezuela. It has expressed its support for defenders of human rights and democracy with the award of the Sakharov prize to Cuban activists on three occasions (2002, 2005, 2010), and to Venezuela’s Democratic Opposition in 2017. In line with this engagement, a workshop on human rights and rule of law in both countries was held on 6 September 2018, in Brussels, at the request of the EP’s Subcommittee on Human Rights ( ...

The European Parliament (EP) has consistently followed the situation in Cuba and Venezuela. It has expressed its support for defenders of human rights and democracy with the award of the Sakharov prize to Cuban activists on three occasions (2002, 2005, 2010), and to Venezuela’s Democratic Opposition in 2017. In line with this engagement, a workshop on human rights and rule of law in both countries was held on 6 September 2018, in Brussels, at the request of the EP’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI). Dr. Par Engstrom (University College London) presented the first draft of an independent study analysing the main human rights developments in Cuba and Venezuela since 2014 and the EU’s response. The paper, which focused specifically on the Sakharov laureates, was discussed with Members and other experts, including from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European External Action Service and the European Commission. During the lively discussion, there was broad agreement with the description of major trends in the human rights situation in the two countries. Critical comments and controversial issues related to the impact of the government’s repression of the Venezuelan opposition, the need to consider not only civil and political but also economic and social rights, the effectiveness of sanctions against Venezuela and the potential role of the Sakharov Prize. Observations and comments made during the workshop fed into the final version of the study, which is also included in this report.

Parlamendiväline autor

Par ENGSTROM; Giulia BONACQUISTI

Action for damages against the EU

07-12-2018

Most legal systems, both of states and of international organisations, provide for the liability of public administrations for damage done to individuals. This area of the law, known as 'public tort law', varies considerably from country to country, even within the European Union (EU). The EU Treaties have, from the outset, provided for liability of the EU for public torts (wrongs), in the form of action for damages against the EU, now codified in the second and third paragraphs of Article 340 of ...

Most legal systems, both of states and of international organisations, provide for the liability of public administrations for damage done to individuals. This area of the law, known as 'public tort law', varies considerably from country to country, even within the European Union (EU). The EU Treaties have, from the outset, provided for liability of the EU for public torts (wrongs), in the form of action for damages against the EU, now codified in the second and third paragraphs of Article 340 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). However, these rules are notoriously vague and brief, and refer to the 'general principles common to the laws of the Member States' as the source for the rules of EU public tort law. Since the laws of the Member States on public torts differ significantly, the reference has been treated by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) as empowerment to develop EU public tort law in its own case law. The rules developed by the CJEU have been criticised by some academics as being very complex, non-transparent and unpredictable. Experts have also pointed out that the threshold of liability is set so high that actions for damages prove successful in very few cases only. According to the data available, from the establishment of the EU until 2014, the Court only actually granted compensation to applicants in 39 cases. As a result, some scholars have even pointed out that the principle of EU liability for public torts is 'illusory' and that action for damages is not an effective means of protecting fundamental rights. Other academics add that the question of establishing the principles of EU public tort law is not merely a technical issue, but a political one, as it touches upon fundamental questions of distributive justice and the form of government in the Union, and therefore should be the subject of democratic debate. This Briefing is one in a series aimed at explaining the activities of the CJEU.

FYR Macedonia: 2018 country report

27-11-2018

During its November II 2018 plenary session, the European Parliament is expected to debate a resolution on the European Commission’s 2018 enlargement report on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYR Macedonia). The progress report acknowledges significant progress and a political will to advance the EU agenda.

During its November II 2018 plenary session, the European Parliament is expected to debate a resolution on the European Commission’s 2018 enlargement report on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYR Macedonia). The progress report acknowledges significant progress and a political will to advance the EU agenda.

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