Texts adopted
Thursday, 27 November 2014 - Strasbourg
Pakistan: blasphemy laws
 Serbia: the case of accused war criminal Šešelj
 Iraq: kidnapping and mistreatment of women
 Non-objection to a delegated act: provisional system of instalments on contributions to cover the administrative expenditures of the Single Resolution Board during the provisional period
 Delays in the start-up of cohesion policy for 2014-2020
 Commission’s impact assessment guidelines
 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
 Digital single market
 Child malnutrition in developing countries

Pakistan: blasphemy laws
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European Parliament resolution of 27 November 2014 on Pakistan: blasphemy laws (2014/2969(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Pakistan,

–  having regard to Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,

–  having regard to the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion or Belief,

–  having regard to the reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief,

–  having regard to the report of 4 April 2013 by the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, drawn up following her mission to Pakistan from 19 to 29 May 2012,

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 December 2013 on the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2012 and the European Union’s policy on the matter(1), condemning the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities,

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief(2),

–  having regard to the EU-Pakistan five-year engagement plan of March 2012, containing priorities such as good governance and dialogue on human rights, and to the closely related 2nd EU-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue of 25 March 2014,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions on Pakistan of 11 March 2013(3), reiterating the EU’s expectations regarding the promotion of and respect for human rights and condemning all violence, including against religious minorities,

–  having regard to the statement of 18 October 2014 by the Spokesperson of the European External Action Service (EEAS) on the Lahore High Court decision to uphold the conviction of Ms Asia Bibi in Pakistan,

–  having regard to the press release of 29 October 2014 issued by the European Union Delegation to Pakistan, on the occasion of the visit by the EU Special Representative for Human Rights to Pakistan from 26 to 29 October 2014,

–  having regard to its resolution of 12 March 2014 on Pakistan’s regional role and political relations with the EU(4),

–  having regard to Rules 135(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas Asia Bibi, a Christian woman from Punjab, was arrested in 2009 and sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy under Section 295-C of the Pakistani Penal Code; whereas on 16 October 2014 the Lahore High Court dismissed Asia Bibi’s appeal and upheld the verdict; whereas on 24 November 2014 the defendant filed an appeal in the Supreme Court, a procedure which may take years; whereas the President of Pakistan, by presidential pardon, can still overturn the Lahore High Court decision and grant amnesty to Asia Bibi;

B.  whereas on 7 November 2014 a Christian couple, Shama Bibi and Shahbaz Masih, were beaten by a mob accusing them of burning pages from the Koran in eastern Pakistan; whereas their bodies were incinerated in a brick kiln, with some reports indicating they were still alive when thrown into the kiln;

C.  whereas recently a number of death sentences have been handed out to Pakistani citizens on the grounds of violating the blasphemy laws, including Mr Sawan Masih, a Christian, for allegedly insulting the prophet Mohammad in a conversation, and Christian couple Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar for allegedly insulting the Prophet in a text message;

D.  whereas human rights activist and lawyer Rashid Rehman was murdered on 7 May 2014; whereas weeks before, Rehman had been threatened for defending a lecturer facing prosecution under Pakistan’s blasphemy law;

E.  whereas in October 2014 Mohammad Asgar, a UK national of Pakistani origin, who had been imprisoned for blasphemy in Pakistan despite having been diagnosed as mentally ill in the United Kingdom, was shot and wounded by a prison guard; whereas his attacker has been arrested and charged with attempted murder by the provincial authorities, and whereas eight other prison guards have been suspended from duty;

F.  whereas on 5 November 2014 Tufail Haider, a 45-year-old Shia, was killed by an interrogating police officer who later claimed Mr Haider had made derogatory remarks against ‘companions of the prophet Mohammad’;

G.  whereas it has been reported that a total of 1 438 people were accused of blasphemy in Pakistan between 1987 and October 2014, including 633 Muslims, 494 Ahmedis, 187 Christians and 21 Hindus; whereas since 1990 at least 60 have been killed by mob violence in blasphemy-related cases;

H.  whereas several dozen people, including Muslims, Hindus, Christians and others, are currently in prison on blasphemy charges; whereas to date no death sentence based on blasphemy charges has been carried out, but several accused have been killed by mob violence; whereas there is tremendous pressure on the Pakistani court system from certain religious leaders to uphold and carry out the death sentences, which are usually handed down by lower courts; whereas judicial proceedings often take many years and have a devastating effect on innocent Pakistani citizens and their families and communities;

I.  whereas Pakistan’s blasphemy laws make it dangerous for religious minorities to express themselves freely or engage openly in religious activities; whereas the widespread abuse of these laws is well documented; whereas instead of protecting religious communities they have laid a blanket of fear over Pakistani society; whereas any attempts to reform the laws or their application have been stifled by threats and assassinations; whereas attempts to discuss these issues in the media, online or offline, are often met with threats and harassment, including from the government;

J.  whereas Pakistan plays an important role in fostering stability in South Asia and could be expected to lead by example in strengthening the rule of law and human rights;

K.  whereas Pakistan recently ratified seven of the nine most significant international agreements on human rights, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which contain a range of provisions on the administration of justice, the right to a fair trial, equality before the law and non-discrimination;

L.  whereas Pakistan has been asked through UN human rights mechanisms to repeal the blasphemy laws or, at the very least, put immediate safeguards in place to prevent abuse of the laws to victimise citizens, often from minority religious communities;

M.  whereas the EU and Pakistan have deepened and broadened their bilateral ties, as exemplified by the five-year engagement plan, launched in February 2012, and the second EU-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, held in March 2014; whereas the aim of the EU-Pakistan five-year engagement plan is to build a strategic relationship and forge a partnership for peace and development rooted in shared values and principles;

N.  whereas Pakistan entered the GSP+ scheme for the first time on 1 January 2014; whereas this scheme ‘should provide a strong incentive to respect core human and labour rights, the environment and good governance principles’;

1.  Is deeply concerned and saddened by the Lahore High Court’s decision of 16 October 2014 to confirm the death sentence handed down to Asia Bibi for blasphemy; calls on the Supreme Court to start its proceedings on the case swiftly and without delay and to uphold the rule of law and full respect for human rights in its ruling;

2.  Calls on the Pakistani courts also to proceed swiftly with the reviews of the death sentences against Sawan Masih, Mohammad Asgar and Shafqat Emmanuel and his wife Shagufta Kausar, and indeed those of all other citizens currently on death row for allegedly violating the blasphemy laws;

3.  Strongly condemns the murders of Shama Bibi and Shahbaz Masih and offers its condolences to their families, as well as to the families of all the innocent victims murdered as a result of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan; calls for the perpetrators of these acts to be brought to justice; takes note of the decision of the Punjab government to set up a committee to fast-track the investigation into the killings of Shama Bibi and Shahbaz Masih and to order additional police protection for Christian neighbourhoods in the province; underlines, however, the need to end the climate of impunity and for broader reforms in order to address the issue of violence against religious minorities, which remains pervasive in Pakistan;

4.  Expresses its deep concern that the controversial blasphemy laws are open to misuse that can affect people of all faiths in Pakistan; expresses its particular concern that the blasphemy laws, which were publicly opposed by the late Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the late Governor Salman Taseer and Rashid Rehman, who were killed for their stance in favour of religious tolerance, are increasingly used to target vulnerable minority groups, including Ahmedis and Christians, in Pakistan;

5.  Calls on the Government of Pakistan to carry out a thorough review of the blasphemy laws and their current application, in particular Sections 295 B and C of the Penal Code, which prescribe mandatory life sentences (295 B and C) or even the death penalty (295 C) for alleged acts of blasphemy, with a view to repealing the laws; calls on the Government of Pakistan to abolish the death penalty, including for blasphemy or apostasy, and to put in place safeguards to prevent abuse of legal provisions on blasphemy or apostasy;

6.  Calls on the Pakistani authorities to guarantee the independence of the courts, the rule of law and due process in line with international standards on judicial proceedings, including by taking into account the recent recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; calls, furthermore, on the Pakistani authorities to provide sufficient protection to all those involved in blasphemy cases, including by shielding judges from outside pressure, protecting the accused and their families and communities from mob violence and providing solutions for those who are acquitted but cannot go back to their places of origin;

7.  Recalls that freedom of religion and minority rights are guaranteed by Pakistan’s constitution; welcomes the measures taken in the interest of religious minorities by the Government of Pakistan since November 2008, such as establishing a 5 % quota for minorities in the federal job sector, recognising non-Muslim public holidays and declaring a National Minorities Day;

8.  Urges the Pakistani Government, however, to increase efforts towards better inter-religious understanding, to actively address religious hostility by societal actors and combat religious intolerance, acts of violence and intimidation, and to act against real or perceived impunity;

9.  Strongly condemns all acts of violence against religious communities, as well as all kinds of discrimination and intolerance on the grounds of religion and belief; stresses that the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is a fundamental human right; stresses, furthermore, that all Pakistanis, irrespective of their faith and religion, deserve equal respect, and promotion and protection of their human rights;

10.  Calls on the EEAS and the Commission to use any tools at their disposal, including as formulated in the EU Guidelines for the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief, to aid religious communities and to pressurise the Pakistani Government to do more for the protection of religious minorities; appreciates, in this regard, the recent visit of the EU Special Representative for Human Rights to Pakistan, and the discussions he held there;

11.  Underlines that the granting of the GSP+ status is conditional and, among other things, subject to the ratification and implementation of 27 international conventions, as indicated in Annex VIII to the new GSP Basic Regulation, most of them on human rights, and that the EU may decide to withdraw GSP+ preferences should a country not meet its engagements;

12.  Urges the EEAS and the Commission to strictly monitor Pakistan’s compliance with its commitments under the GSP+, and to promote and defend human rights in Pakistan;

13.  Calls on the EEAS and the Commission to work with the Pakistani authorities in order to reform the way the blasphemy laws are used, including by implementing the measures suggested in paragraph 6 above;

14.  Encourages the Government of Pakistan to work with the UN bodies, including the UN Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, to address valid concerns about human rights problems;

15.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice‑President of the European Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Secretary-General of the UN, the UN Human Rights Council, and the Government and Parliament of Pakistan.

(1)Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0575.
(4) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0208.

Serbia: the case of accused war criminal Šešelj
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European Parliament resolution of 27 November 2014 on Serbia: the case of accused war criminal Šešelj (2014/2970(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Serbia,

–  having regard to the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States and the Republic of Serbia, which entered into force on 1 September 2013,

–  having regard to the Commission’s 2014 progress report on Serbia of 8 October 2014 (SWD(2014)0302),

–  having regard to the Statute of the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991 (ICTY),

–  having regard to Rule 65 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the ICTY,

–  having regard to Rules 135(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas Vojislav Šešelj, the president of the Serbian Radical Party, is indicted before the ICTY for persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, deportation, inhumane acts (forcible transfer) (crimes against humanity), and for murder, torture, cruel treatment, wanton destruction of villages or devastation not justified by military necessity, destruction or wilful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion or education, plunder of public or private property (violations of the laws or customs of war) in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and parts of Vojvodina (Serbia), committed between 1991 and 1993;

B.  whereas the ICTY was established by the United Nations in 1993 to deal with war crimes that took place in the 1990s, laying the foundations for conflict resolution and post-conflict development in the region;

C.  whereas on 6 November 2014, after more than eleven years of detention and while his trial is still ongoing, the Trial Chamber of the Tribunal issued an order proprio motu for the provisional release of Šešelj on the grounds of the deterioration of his health, subject to the conditions that he: (i) does not influence witnesses and victims; and (ii) appears before the Chamber as soon as it so orders; whereas Šešelj has displayed a hostile attitude towards the ICTY since the start of the trial by repeatedly interrupting, disrupting and retracting the proceedings before the Court, and has been charged with contempt of court on three separate occasions for intimidation of witnesses;

D.  whereas following his return to Serbia Šešelj made several public speeches in Belgrade in which he emphasised that he will not voluntarily return to the Tribunal when requested to do so, thereby announcing his intention to violate one of the two conditions under which he was released;

E.  whereas in his public statements Šešelj repeatedly called for the creation of ‘Greater Serbia’, publicly stating claims on neighbouring countries, including EU Member State Croatia, and inciting hatred against non-Serb people; whereas in a press release he congratulated the Serbian Chetniks on the ‘liberation’ of Vukovar, on the 23rd anniversary of the fall of that Croatian city to Serbian paramilitary forces and the Yugoslav army in 1991 and the associated atrocities, thereby violating the requirement not to influence the victims; whereas the Serbian peace group ‘Women in black’ gathered in Belgrade to mourn the victims of the siege in a performance entitled ‘We will never forget the crimes of Vukovar’;

1.  Strongly condemns Šešelj’s warmongering, incitement to hatred and encouragement of territorial claims and his attempts to derail Serbia from its European path; deplores his provocative public activities and wartime rhetoric since his provisional release, which have reopened the victims’ psychological wounds from the war and the atrocities of the early 1990s; stresses that Šešelj’s recent statements could have the effect of undermining the progress made in regional cooperation and reconciliation and subverting the efforts of recent years;

2.  Reminds the Serbian authorities of their obligations under the framework for cooperation with the ICTY and of Serbia’s obligations as an EU candidate country; notes with concern that the absence of an adequate political reaction and legal response by the Serbian authorities regarding Šešelj’s behaviour undermines the trust of the victims in the judicial process; encourages the Serbian authorities and the democratic parties to condemn any public manifestation of hate speech or wartime rhetoric and to promote the protection of minority and cultural rights; asks the Serbian authorities to investigate whether Šešelj has violated Serbian law and to strengthen and fully apply the legislation outlawing hate speech, discrimination and incitement to violence; supports all political parties, NGOs and individuals in Serbia that fight against hate speech;

3.  Calls on the ICTY and its Prosecutor’s Office to take measures to re-examine the existence of requirements for provisional release under new circumstances; notes that different standards regarding the Tribunal’s practice concerning provisional release would not contribute to the achievement of the ICTY’s objectives; encourages the ICTY to take determined action to restore the trust in it that has been weakened by Šešelj’s appalling and inadmissible public statements, including taking all necessary measures to accelerate the completion of all trials and appeals before it; recalls that bringing perpetrators of war crimes to justice is an indispensable condition for a genuine and lasting reconciliation process;

4.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the President, Government and National Assembly of Serbia, the United Nations Security Council and the President of the ICTY.

Iraq: kidnapping and mistreatment of women
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European Parliament resolution of 27 November 2014 on Iraq: kidnapping and mistreatment of women (2014/2971(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Iraq,

–  having regard to the Foreign Affairs Council conclusions on the ISIL/Da’esh crisis in Syria and Iraq of 20 October 2014,

–  having regard to UN Human Rights Council resolution S-22/1 of 1 September 2014 on the human rights situation in Iraq in the light of abuses committed by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and associated groups,

–  having regard to the UN Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, entitled ‘Rule of Terror: Living under ISIS in Syria’, of 14 November 2014,

–  having regard to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Iraq, of the other part, and to its resolution of 17 January 2013 on the EU-Iraq Partnership and Cooperation Agreement(1),

–  having regard to UN Security Council resolution 2106 (2013) of 24 June 2013 on sexual violence in armed conflict and post-conflict situations,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, to which Iraq is a party,

–  having regard to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to which Iraq is a signatory, and to UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000),

–  having regard to Rules 135(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the so-called Islamic State (IS) has committed numerous atrocities, which amount to crimes against humanity, involving mass killings, executions ordered by self-appointed IS courts, the imposition of a harsh interpretation of Shariah law, sexual violence against women and children, enslavement, rape, forced marriages, human trafficking, displacement and abduction, and which have caused a catastrophic humanitarian crisis and the displacement of large numbers of people from the areas under their control;

B.  whereas in August 2014 IS fighters pushed further into northern Iraq, overwhelming Kurdish Peshmerga forces that had moved into areas abandoned by the Iraqi army; whereas the town of Sinjar was overrun, the strategically important Mosul dam, which supplies water and electricity to large parts of Iraq, was seized and the IS fighters came within 40 kilometres of Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan; whereas many Kurdish women are fighting in Kobani, including women who are members and leaders of PKK forces;

C.  whereas members of ethnic and religious minorities, in particular Christians and Yazidis, Turkmens, Shabaks, Kaka’e, Sabaeans and Shi’a communities, as well as many Arabs and Sunni Muslims, have been targeted by IS in Mosul and surrounding areas, including Sinjar and Tal Afar;

D.  whereas Human Rights Watch estimates that 3 133 Yazidis have been kidnapped and killed by IS, or have been missing since the IS assaults of early August; whereas this list includes 2 305 people believed to have been abducted, of whom 412 are children; whereas IS is indoctrinating captured Yazidi children;

E.  whereas in October 2014 UN researchers stated that an estimated 5 000 to 7 000 women were also being held in makeshift detention centres, from which they were being taken away and either sold into servitude or handed to jihadists as concubines; whereas the town of Tal Afar alone is thought to hold around 3 500 women and children in five detention centres;

F.  whereas IS and other jihadist extremists in Iraq and Syria have caused refugee flows to fill refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, where women and girls in particular are experiencing tough humanitarian conditions and are extremely vulnerable to harassment, sexual violence, forced marriage and other abuses;

G.  whereas the transnational character of IS and associated terrorist groups is a matter of global concern;

H.  whereas the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is deeply concerned about the ability of the international community to meet urgent winter needs in Iraq, in particular for the recently displaced;

I.  whereas Iraq’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity are essential for stability and economic development in the country and the region;

1.  Condemns in the strongest possible terms the systematic human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law resulting from the acts committed by IS and associated terrorist groups, which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity; strongly condemns in particular all violence against persons based on their religious and ethnic affiliation, and violence against women and children;

2.  Strongly condemns the numerous atrocities committed by IS, targeting specifically women, which amount to crimes against humanity, such as abductions, rape and other forms of sexual violence, enslavement, and forced marriages and conversions; stresses the need for those responsible for such violations of human rights and international humanitarian law to be held to account;

3.  Emphasises that children should be immediately reunited with their families, forced marriages and sexual abuse brought to an end, and all civilian detainees, notably women, held by IS released immediately;

4.  Calls on the Iraqi Government to ratify the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to allow the ICC to prosecute the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by IS;

5.  Calls on the Iraqi Government to promote and protect human rights by involving all components of Iraqi society in a spirit of national unity and reconciliation and upholding human rights and international humanitarian law in its efforts to confront IS; offers its support in helping the government build a fairer, more inclusive society, including one which protects and promotes the rights of women;

6.  Welcomes the efforts of the international community, notably the US, to support the Iraqi national and local authorities in their fight against IS, to stop the advance of IS and to facilitate access for humanitarian support; supports the global coalition against IS and its efforts to combat it, including by military means; urges the international community to deliver the necessary life-saving assistance for people in Iraq over the winter, including the Yazidi families who are still on Mount Sinjar defending their temples against destruction by IS;

7.  Calls on all regional actors to do everything within their power to stop all activities by official or private bodies aimed at propagating and spreading extreme Islamist ideologies in words and acts; calls on the international community, especially the EU, to facilitate a regional dialogue on the problems facing the Middle East and to include all significant parties, in particular Iran and Saudi Arabia;

8.  Urges the UN, in particular its Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Rashida Manjoo, to do its utmost to trace the victims, and to investigate and establish the facts and circumstances of abuses and violations against girls and women committed by IS and associated terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring full accountability; supports the work of the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura;

9.  Calls on the international humanitarian agencies working in Iraq, including UN agencies, to increase medical and counselling services for displaced people who have fled the IS advances, paying special attention to the needs of survivors of sexual violence and children;

10.  Reiterates its call on the Commission, the European External Action Service and the Member States to take specific measures to address the situation of women in Iraq and guarantee their freedom and respect for their most fundamental rights, and to adopt measures to prevent the exploitation of, and abuse and violence against, women and children; is particularly concerned at the increase in all forms of violence against Yazidi women, who are imprisoned, raped, sexually abused and sold by the members of IS; calls, in particular, on the Member States to enhance policies in such a way as to meet the needs of survivors and to establish a mechanism to enable traumatised women from Syria and Iraq, notably Yazidi women, to receive special post-traumatic counselling tailored to their needs;

11.  Is convinced that immediate humanitarian assistance and protection needs to be complemented by long-term strategies in support of the socioeconomic rights and livelihood opportunities of returnee, internally displaced and refugee women, enhanced leadership and participation, with a view to empowering them to choose durable solutions that suit their needs; considers that there is a need to address the specific risks and particular needs of different groups of women who are subjected to multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination;

12.  Condemns the fact that, with the advance of IS, acts of violence and murder against LGBT Iraqis have been taking place with total impunity; notes that, while LGBT Iraqis are not the only group at risk in the current crisis and conflict, they find themselves in an extremely vulnerable situation, given the limited family and community support and government protection available to them; notes that LGBT Iraqis remain marginalised and at risk in refugee communities or in certain host societies; calls on the Iraqi Government to provide protection for LGBT Iraqis;

13.  Regrets that, as a consequence of the years of dictatorship and conflict, the lives of Iraqi women have significantly deteriorated; calls for the promotion and implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security in order to ensure the participation of women in conflict resolution and democracy building; insists that without women’s participation in decision making there will be no real protection, nor any real security, for women in Iraq;

14.  Calls for a concerted international effort, in close cooperation with Muslim countries, organisations and communities, to challenge the radical Salafi/Wahhabi ideology that underpins and inspires the actions of IS and associated terrorist organisations and is becoming a growing security threat for the Member States; calls on the EEAS and the Member States, in their dialogue with the Gulf countries, to raise strong concerns about the ongoing Salafi/Wahhabi indoctrination efforts in many Muslim-majority countries and Muslim communities worldwide by actors from these countries;

15.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Government and Council of Representatives of Iraq, the Regional Government of Kurdistan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the United Nations Human Rights Council.

(1) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0022.

Non-objection to a delegated act: provisional system of instalments on contributions to cover the administrative expenditures of the Single Resolution Board during the provisional period
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European Parliament decision of 27 November 2014 to raise no objections to the Commission delegated regulation of 8 October 2014 on the provisional system of instalments on contributions to cover the administrative expenditures of the Single Resolution Board during the provisional period (C(2014)7164 – 2014/2882(DEA))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission delegated regulation of 8 October 2014 (C(2014)7164),

–  having regard to the Commission’s letter of 23 October 2014 asking Parliament to declare that it will raise no objections to the delegated regulation,

–  having regard to the letter of 4 November 2014 from the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs to the Chair of the Conference of Committee Chairs,

–  having regard to Article 290 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 806/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 July 2014establishing uniform rules and a uniform procedure for the resolution of credit institutions and certain investment firms in the framework of a Single Resolution Mechanism and a Single Resolution Fund and amending Regulation (EU) No 1093/2010(1), and in particular points (a), (b) and (c) of Article 65(5) thereof,

–  having regard to the recommendation for a decision by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs,

–  having regard to Rule 105(6) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas Article 42 of Regulation (EU) No 806/2014 (the SRM Regulation) provides for the establishment of the Single Resolution Board (the Board) as of 19 August 2014 in the form of a European Union agency;

B.  whereas Article 98 of the SRM Regulation requires the Board to be fully operational as of 1 January 2015;

C.  whereas the Board is to have an autonomous budget which is not part of the Union budget and is to be financed through contributions from the banking sector, in particular contributions for the administrative expenditures of the Board to be paid by the credit institutions, parent undertakings, investment firms and financial institutions that are covered by the SRM Regulation;

D.  whereas Article 65(5) of the SRM Regulation empowers the Commission to adopt delegated acts on contributions in order to determine the type and the calculation of contributions, and in particular the annual contributions necessary to cover the administrative expenditure of the Board before it becomes fully operational;

E.  whereas the Commission adopted on 8 October 2014, in line with the aforementioned empowerment, the Commission delegated regulation on the provisional system of instalments on contributions to cover the administrative expenditures of the Single Resolution Board during the provisional period;

F.  whereas this delegated regulation may enter into force at the end of the scrutiny period of Parliament and the Council only if no objection has been expressed by either Parliament or the Council or if, before the expiry of that period, both Parliament and the Council have informed the Commission that they will not object; whereas the scrutiny period has been set, pursuant to Article 93(6) of the SRM Regulation, at three months from the date of notification, i.e. until 8 January 2015, and may be extended by a further three months;

G.  whereas, in order for the Board to be functioning smoothly by 1 January 2015, the latter will need to have its funding arrangements in place as soon as possible, and in any event before 1 January 2015, thus allowing it to cover the first administrative expenditures (staff remuneration, infrastructure, administrative and operational expenses) from own resources;

H.  whereas the aforementioned delegated regulation should therefore enter into force in 2014, before the expiry of the scrutiny period referred to in recital F;

1.  Declares that it has no objections to the delegated regulation;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision to the Council and the Commission.

(1) OJ L 225, 30.7.2014, p. 1.

Delays in the start-up of cohesion policy for 2014-2020
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European Parliament resolution of 27 November 2014 on delays in the start-up of cohesion policy for 2014-2020 (2014/2946(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, in particular Articles 4, 162 and 174 to 178 thereof,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006(1),

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1311/2013 of 2 December 2013 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020(2),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(3),

–  having regard to Draft Amending Budget No 3 to the General Budget 2014 (COM(2014)0329),

–  having regard to Rules 128(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas cohesion policy represents the main EU-wide investment policy in the real economy and is an established catalyst for growth and jobs in the EU, with a budget of over EUR 350 billion until 2020; whereas it forms a major part of the EU’s strategy to redress regional imbalances and inequalities, to assist diversification and adaptation to industrial change and to achieve economic, social and territorial cohesion; and whereas in some Member States it forms the principal source of public investment;

B.  whereas through thematic concentration these resources are targeted at a limited number of strategic goals with growth-enhancing potential, such as innovation and research, the digital agenda, support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the low-carbon economy, training, education and infrastructure;

C.  whereas the Partnership Agreements and Operational Programmes are strategic tools for guiding investments in Member States and regions, in line with the overall Europe 2020 goal of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth;

D.  whereas Articles 14, 16 and 29 of Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 lay down the timeline for the submission and adoption of Partnership Agreements and Operational Programmes, according to which Partnership Agreements should have been adopted by the end of August 2014 and Operational Programmes by the end of January 2015 at the latest;

E.  whereas there is a clear delay in the programming process, with only a limited number of Operational Programmes (just over 100) expected to be adopted by the end of 2014;

F.  whereas, at the request of the Member States, the Commission has prepared a non-paper on the treatment of 2014 commitments under programmes co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund which are not adopted by the Commission by 31 December 2014;

G.  whereas two scenarios are envisaged for the adoption of Operational Programmes, both implying further delays as regards the start of implementation, namely: (i) the carry-over procedure for those programmes considered ‘ready for adoption’ by 31 December 2014, and (ii) the rebudgeting of the unused 2014 allocation for the European Structural and Investment Funds – entailing a technical revision of the multiannual financial framework (MFF) – for those considered ‘not ready for adoption’ by the end of 2014;

H.  whereas, according to the timeline presented by the Commission, Operational Programmes could be adopted between 15 February and 31 March 2015 under the carry-over procedure, and after 1 May 2015 under the rebudgeting procedure;

I.  whereas in addition to the delay in implementation for the 2014-2020 programming period, cohesion policy also faces a backlog in payments amounting to some EUR 23 billion for the 2007-2013 programming period, further undermining its credibility, effectiveness and sustainability;

J.  whereas the President of the Commission has indicated that he intends to launch a EUR 315 billion investment package;

1.  Expresses its serious concern as regards the significant delay in the implementation of cohesion policy for the 2014-2020 period, while recognising the importance of adopting high-quality Operational Programmes at the start of the programming period in order to avoid reprogramming at a later stage;

2.  Stresses that the current delays are challenging national, regional and local authorities’ capacity to plan effectively and implement the European Structural and Investment Funds for the 2014‑2020 period;

3.  Recalls that cohesion policy, together with the co-financing ensured by the Member States, provides for a major proportion of the growth-related public expenditure in the EU; stresses that it is therefore imperative to start the implementation of the new programmes as soon as possible in order to maximise the results of the investments, boost job creation and raise productivity growth;

4.  Urges the Commission and the Member States to show responsibility and do their utmost to speed up the adoption of a maximum number of Operational Programmes in 2014, and to ensure that as many programmes as possible are ‘ready for adoption’ by 31 December 2014 so that they can benefit from the carry-over procedure in accordance with Article 13(2)(a) of the Financial Regulation and Article 4 of its Rules of Application;

5.  Demands that the Commission – while keeping a high focus on quality and the need to keep up the fight against fraud – to analyse all possible ways of streamlining its internal procedures in order to ensure that Operational Programmes resubmitted after the deadline of 24 November 2014 are also taken into consideration in order to conclude the inter-service consultation by the end of the year, being treated as ready for adoption if they fulfil the quality requirements;

6.  Is aware that the second of the aforementioned scenarios, applicable to those Operational Programmes not ready for adoption by the end of 2014, namely the rebudgeting of uncommitted amounts from 2014 in 2015 in accordance with Article 19 of the MFF, implies a revision of the MFF by 1 May 2015 which, albeit technical, must comply with the multiannual budget procedure; invites the Commission, therefore, to engage as soon as possible in discussions with Parliament and the Council in order to lay out a credible roadmap that ensures the adoption of the MFF revision as early as possible in 2015;

7.  Stresses, moreover, that in order to have the Operational Programmes adopted, a corresponding draft amending budget covering the respective commitment appropriations for 2015 also needs to be approved, and that this implies, in the best-case scenario, a delay in the effective start of the implementation of those programmes until mid-2015;

8.  Asks the Commission, in view of the above, to present to Parliament the measures it envisages taking to facilitate, as soon as possible, the implementation of the Operational Programmes, together with the timeline it envisages;

9.  Is alarmed about the status of the payments backlog under cohesion policy for the 2007-2013 Operational Programmes; stresses the importance and the urgency of reaching an agreement on the subject, on the basis of new proposals from the Commission, by the end of 2014;

10.  Calls on the Commission to explain the impact of this delay in payments on the start of implementation of the new Operational Programmes, and to put forward solutions for limiting the damage as far as possible; demands, furthermore, that the Commission, in the context of the report on the outcome of the negotiations provided for in Article 16(3) of the Common Provisions Regulation, analyse the possible impact of the belated start-up of the 2014-2020 cohesion policy on growth and jobs, and to make recommendations based on the lessons learnt;

11.  Requests that the EUR 315 billion investment package to be announced by the Commission be fully complementary with the 2014-2020 cohesion policy;

12.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the Council, the Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee and the other relevant institutions.

(1) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 320.
(2) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 884.
(3) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.

Commission’s impact assessment guidelines
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European Parliament resolution of 27 November 2014 on the revision of the Commission’s impact assessment guidelines and the role of the SME test (2014/2967(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the recent public consultation on the revision of the Commission’s impact assessment (IA) guidelines and the corresponding draft revised IA guidelines,

–  having regard to its resolution of 8 June 2011 on guaranteeing independent impact assessments(1),

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) and (4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas IAs, as an early-stage tool when legislation is being developed, play a key role in the Commission’s smart regulation agenda with the purpose of providing transparent, comprehensive and balanced evidence on economic, social and environmental effects, the added value of EU action, the regulatory and administrative burden to be expected and the cost and benefits of alternative courses of action for all stakeholders;

B.  whereas the existing IA guidelines provide for a central role for the Commission Secretariat‑General and the Impact Assessment Board (IAB) as regards the decision on whether or not an IA is necessary for a specific initiative;

C.  whereas the IAB plays an important role as a central quality control point for IAs;

D.  whereas the Treaties contain horizontal social and environmental clauses – together with obligations to respect the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality – which must be taken into account in defining and implementing the Union’s policies and activities and require an in-depth analysis of the relevant impact of any proposed legislation;

E.  whereas according to a Commission expert group, the cost for an SME to comply with a regulation can be 10 times greater than for larger companies; whereas, therefore, a proper and independent IA is of particular relevance for SMEs, which often have more difficulties than large enterprises in adapting to new legal and administrative requirements and, by reason of their size, are less capable of anticipating regulatory changes at an early stage;

F.  whereas the ‘think small first’ principle is the foundation of the Small Business Act for Europe of 2008; whereas it has been part of the IA guidelines since 2009, and of other Commission texts since 2005; whereas this principle is aimed at taking SMEs’ interests into account at the very early stages of policymaking so as to make legislation more SME‑friendly; whereas a range of tools is available to ensure the effective implementation of this principle, including the application of an ‘SME test’ to forthcoming legislative proposals;

G.  whereas the current IA guidelines provide for specific guidance in the form of an SME test, including for possible mitigation measures; whereas the draft revised guidelines do not include any provisions on the SME test;

H.  whereas a proper assessment of Parliament’s substantive amendments to the initial Commission proposal shows considerable added value to support Parliament’s position in trilogue negotiations;


1.  Welcomes the Commission’s commitment to regularly reviewing the IA guidelines with a view to improving the IA procedures;

2.  Underlines the fact that the Commission should ensure that economic, social, administrative and environmental aspects are assessed in equal depth;

3.  Is concerned, however, that the draft revised guidelines are much less specific than the existing guidelines in terms of the scope for IAs and that they leave significantly more room for interpretation by the directorate-general responsible as regards the decision on whether or not an IA is required; believes that the existing practices involving the IAB in the decision‑making process should be retained;

4.  Believes that the Commission should maintain its existing approach of submitting an IA for all initiatives meeting at least one of the following criteria:

   (a) legislative proposals included in the Commission’s Legislative and Work Programme (CLWP);
   (b) non-CLWP legislative proposals with clearly identifiable economic, administrative, social and environmental impacts;
   (c) non-legislative initiatives which define future policies (e.g. white papers, action plans, expenditure programmes and negotiating guidelines for international agreements);
   (d) delegated or implementing acts introduced by the Commission – and its agencies where relevant – which are likely to have significant identifiable economic, social, environmental and administrative-burden impacts;

5.  Notes that the assessment of the impact must be rigorous, comprehensive and based on the most accurate, objective and complete information available, with an analysis which is proportionate and focuses on the proposal’s aim and objective, so as to allow a well-informed political decision;

6.  Is convinced that IAs are an important means of supporting decision-making in all EU institutions and an important part of the better regulation process; recognises, nevertheless, that IAs cannot be substitutes for political evaluation and decisions;

7.  Highlights the importance of consulting all relevant stakeholders at an early stage in the IA process so that their input can be taken into consideration when IAs are being prepared, and before they are published;

8.  Notes that the scope of an IA may not correspond to the proposals adopted where these are altered once submitted for approval by the College of Commissioners; requests that the draft revised guidelines state that the IA should be updated to ensure continuity between matters considered in it and any proposal finally adopted by the Commission;

Impact Assessment Board (IAB)

9.  Expresses serious concern at the fact that the role of the IAB in the IA process is not more clearly defined in the draft revised guidelines; strongly insists that the Commission reconsider this omission and set out procedures relating to the IAB more clearly in a new set of draft revised guidelines when responding to this resolution adopted by Parliament;

10.  Considers that such new procedures should establish in a clear, understandable and transparent manner the process for submission, revision and ultimate approval of IAs presented to the IAB;

11.  Reiterates the view that proposals should not be adopted by the Commission unless accompanied by an opinion cleared by the IAB;

12.  Reminds the Commission, further, of Parliament’s request that the independence of the IAB be strengthened, and in particular that members of the IAB not be subject to political control; considers that the IAB should be composed only of highly qualified people who are competent to assess the analysis presented as regards economic, social and environmental impacts;

13.  Looks forward to a clarification by the new Commission as to how it intends to proceed on aspects raised in this resolution, so that it can take this approach more fully into account when preparing its position on the Commission’s recent REFIT communication, without prejudice to Parliament’s position in this context;

SME test

14.  Recalls that in its 2011 review of the Small Business Act the Commission considered it regrettable that only eight Member States had integrated the SME test into their national decision-making processes; asks the Commission to work with the Member States to better disseminate the principles of the SME test in the context of national procedures, in support of SME policy;

15.  Welcomes the clear commitment by the Commission in that review to further strengthening the SME test; deplores, however, the fact that, contrary to these announcements, the SME test is not even mentioned in the draft revised IA guidelines;

16.  Recalls that the Commission, in the Small Business Act, made a commitment to implementing the ‘think small first’ principle in its policymaking, and that this includes the SME test to assess the impact of forthcoming legislation and administrative initiatives on SMEs; stresses that it is vital to make sure that this test is done properly, and considers that there is a significant margin of progress still to be completed;

17.  Insists that the SME test, as laid down in Annex 8 to the guidelines, should be maintained in order to avoid SMEs being disproportionately affected or disadvantaged by Commission initiatives compared with large companies;

18.  Stresses that in such cases the IA should include options covering alternative mechanisms and/or flexibilities in order to help SMEs comply with the initiative (as provided for in Annex 8.4); welcomes, in this connection, the exclusion of micro-enterprises from the scope of a legislative proposal as a policy option stated in the draft revised guidelines; believes, however, that exempting micro-enterprises by default may not always be the best approach, and that this must therefore be assessed on a case-by-case basis for each proposal in order to reflect the policy of reversing the burden of proof, i.e. that micro-enterprises should remain outside the scope of proposals unless it is demonstrated that they should be included; supports the consideration of adapted solutions and lighter regimes for SMEs in IAs where this does not inappropriately limit the effectiveness of legislation;

Application and monitoring

19.  Notes that the final form of a legislative act may differ significantly from the proposal adopted by the Commission; believes that it would be useful for a summary of the estimated benefits and costs to be prepared for adopted legislative acts, and updated to reflect changes from the analysis contained in the IA as a result of amendments made during the legislative process; considers that the monitoring and assessment of a proposal’s impact would be simplified by such an exercise;

Establishing a Better Regulation Advisory Body

20.  Acknowledges the work of, and the final report submitted by, the High-Level Group on Administrative Burdens, as mandated by the Commission; recalls the Commission’s intention, as stated in its latest communication on REFIT (June 2014), to establish a new high-level group on better regulation, consisting of stakeholder representatives and national experts;

21.  Proposes that the Commission establish this group as a high-level Better Regulation Advisory Body involving both stakeholder expertise and national experts as soon as possible; proposes a strong and independent advisory mandate for this body, which should complement the Commission’s work on IAs; believes that such a body’s expertise, including as regards subsidiarity and proportionality, could provide added value for the IA procedure and for other initiatives relating to better regulation; asks that Parliament and the Council be involved in the expert nomination procedure; suggests that the best practices and experience of existing better regulation bodies (such as those in Sweden, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Germany) be taken into account;

22.  Calls on the Commission to submit new draft revised IA guidelines, taking into consideration the points stressed by this resolution and the newly introduced structure of the Commission, in particular the role of the new Vice-President in charge of Better Regulation;

Impact assessments in Parliament

23.  Calls for Commission IAs to be examined systematically and as early as possible by Parliament, and in particular at committee level;

24.  Recalls its resolution of 8 June 2011 on guaranteeing independent impact assessments, which called for more consistent use to be made of the parliamentary IA, an instrument that is already available; recalls that a specific budget line and dedicated services are available to cover the carrying-out of IAs; considers recourse to a parliamentary IA to be particularly necessary when substantive changes to the initial Commission proposal have been introduced;

Impact assessments in the European Council

25.  Expects the Council to honour its commitment to systematically assessing the impact of its own substantive amendments;

o   o

26.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission and the Council.

(1) OJ C 380 E, 11.12.2012, p. 31.

25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
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European Parliament resolution of 27 November 2014 on the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (2014/2919(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted in New York on 20 November 1989,

–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted in New York on 13 December 2006,

–  having regard to Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to Article 24 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Stockholm programme adopted in 2009 and to the associated action plan for 2010-2014,

–  having regard to General Comment No 14 (2013) of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on the right of the child to have his or her best interests taken as a primary consideration,

–  having regard to the EU Agenda for the Rights of the Child, adopted in February 2011,

–  having regard to the European Consensus on Development,

–  having regard to the declaration and action plan adopted at the High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness held in Busan from 29 November to 1 December 2011,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 5 February 2008 entitled ‘A special place for children in EU external action’ (COM(2008)0055),

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child,

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict,

–  having regard to the UN action plan entitled ‘A World Fit for Children’,

–  having regard to the EU Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy,

–  having regard to Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2011 on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA(1),

–  having regard to Directive 2011/93/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2004/68/JHA(2),

–  having regard to the EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012-2016, in particular the provisions on financing the development of guidelines on child protection systems and on the exchange of best practices,

–  having regard to Commission recommendation 2013/112/EU of 20 February 2013 entitled ‘Investing in children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage’(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 12 September 2013 on the situation of unaccompanied minors in the EU(4),

–  having regard to the 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and to the Beijing Platform for Action,

–  having regard to its resolutions of 25 February 2014 with recommendations to the Commission on combating violence against women(5) and of 6 February 2014 on the Commission communication entitled ‘Towards the elimination of female genital mutilation’(6),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 5 June 2014 on preventing and combating all forms of violence against women and girls, including female genital mutilation,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 19 May 2014 on a rights-based approach to development cooperation, encompassing all human rights,

–  having regard to Article 7 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which reaffirms that the EU ‘shall ensure consistency between its policies and activities, taking all of its objectives into account’,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 2 June 2014 entitled ‘A decent life for all: from vision to collective action’ (COM(2014)0335),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 12 April 2005 entitled ‘Policy Coherence for Development’ (COM(2005)0134), and to the conclusions of the 3166th Foreign Affairs Council meeting of 14 May 2012, entitled ‘Increasing the Impact of EU Development Policy: an Agenda for Change’,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the optional protocols thereto constitute the standard in the promotion and protection of the rights of the child, containing a comprehensive set of international legal standards for the protection and well-being of children;

B.  whereas all the EU Member States have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and have clear legal obligations to promote, protect and fulfil the rights of every child in their jurisdictions;

C.  whereas the promotion of children’s rights is an explicit objective of EU policies, and whereas the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights requires that the best interests of the child be a primary consideration in all EU action;

D.  whereas the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights respect the child’s rights to be heard and to have their views on matters which concern them taken into consideration according to their age and maturity;

E.  whereas the rights of the child – namely the principle of the best interests of the child, the child’s right to life, survival and development, non-discrimination and respect for the child’s right to express an opinion – concern all EU policies;

F.  whereas progress has been made since the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 25 years ago, but whereas children’s rights continue to be violated in many parts of the world, including in EU Member States, as a result of violence, abuse, exploitation, poverty, social exclusion and discrimination based on religion, disability, gender, sexual identity, age, ethnicity, migration or residence status;

G.  whereas for rights to have meaning, all children and their families must have inclusive access to justice and fair, timely and effective remedies;

H.  whereas some 6,6 million children under the age of 5 died in 2012, mostly from preventable causes, and were thus deprived of their fundamental right to survive and develop; whereas 168 million children aged 5 to 17 are engaged in child labour, which compromises their right to be protected from economic exploitation and infringes their right to learn and play; whereas 11 % of girls are married before they turn 15, which jeopardises their rights to health, education and protection; whereas in sub‑Saharan Africa 1 in every 10 children born still dies before their 5th birthday;

I.  whereas education – specifically free primary schooling for all children – is a fundamental right to which governments committed themselves under the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; whereas the target for 2015 is to ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling; whereas despite some progress in the developing world, this goal is far from being achieved;

J.  whereas comprehensive sexuality education is an integral and important part of strengthening boys’ and girls’ rights to well-being and health, promoting equality and fighting stereotypes;

K.  whereas humanitarian crises continue to have a devastating impact on children, and whereas in 2014 the lives of more than 59 million children were directly affected by crises, mainly conflict-related; whereas there are an estimated 250 000 child soldiers in the world today, 40 % of whom are girls;

L.  whereas in 2012 alone almost 95 000 children and adolescents under the age of 20 were victims of homicide, almost 1 billion children aged between 2 and 14 were subjected to physical punishment, one in three adolescents aged between 13 and 15 experienced bullying and around 70 million girls aged between 15 and 19 were victims of some form of physical violence, and whereas 120 million girls worldwide have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives;

M.  whereas children make up half the population in developing countries, and whereas around 100 million children live in the EU;

N.  whereas according to the latest United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report card on child poverty in rich countries, 2,6 million children have sunk below the poverty line in the world’s most affluent countries since 2008, bringing the total number of children in the developed world living in poverty to an estimated 76,5 million; whereas according to the same study, 7,5 million young people in the EU were classified as NEETs (not in employment, education or training) in 2013;

O.  whereas violence against children takes many forms, including psychological, physical, sexual, emotional and verbal abuse, neglect and deprivation, and occurs in many settings, including the home, the school, the health care and justice systems, the workplace, communities and online;

P.  whereas the EU Agenda on the Rights of the Child outlines a clear framework for EU action, and whereas its implementation has resulted in significant progress in a number of key areas of action and legislation, including establishing missing children hotlines, promoting child-friendly justice, improving data collection and integrating children’s rights into external action;

Q.  whereas every child is first and foremost a child whose rights should be fulfilled without discrimination, regardless of their or their parents’ ethnic origin, nationality or social, migration or residence status;

R.  whereas girls and boys experience both similar and different expectations and forms of socialisation, and whereas the discrimination experienced by girls and boys differs at different ages;

S.  whereas although substantial progress has been made, in particular in the fields of trafficking, sexual exploitation and victims’ rights, and for asylum-seeking and unaccompanied children, much more needs to be done to ensure that the rights of migrant children are fully respected across the EU; whereas many unaccompanied children disappear and abscond after their first arrival in the EU and are particularly vulnerable to abuse;

T.  whereas, given its international nature, child exploitation and child sexual exploitation online – including the proliferation of child sexual exploitation material on the internet and cyber predation – continues to be a major concern for law enforcement authorities, with offences ranging from sexual extortion and grooming to self-produced child abuse material and live streaming, which pose particular investigative challenges owing to technological innovations that provide easier and faster access to material for offenders, including cyber predators;

U.  whereas children are particularly affected by poverty and by cuts in social security systems and key social benefits such as family allowances, and whereas such cuts have increased in the EU since 2007; whereas in the EU, even after the social transfers, the child poverty risk rate remains very high (20,3 % in 2013);

V.  whereas the post-2015 framework for global development will represent an opportunity to invest in the rights of all children, in every place in the world – regardless of the child’s gender, ethnicity, race or economic, disability or other status;

1.  Considers that children’s rights are at the heart of EU policies and that the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is an opportunity to ensure its full implementation in policy and in practice and to take additional measures to ensure respect for the rights of every child everywhere, especially the most vulnerable;

2.  Welcomes the EU’s commitment under the Stockholm programme to develop an integrated EU strategy for effectively promoting and safeguarding the rights of the child in the EU’s internal and external policies and to support the Member States’ efforts in this area; calls on the Commission to propose an ambitious and comprehensive child rights strategy and action plan for the next five years, building on and upgrading the EU Agenda on the Rights of the Child;

3.  Welcomes the EU’s commitment to further developing integrated EU child protection guidelines in order to reduce fragmentation resulting from issue-based responses dealing with specific child protection concerns, so as to ensure that all children across the EU are effectively protected against all forms of violence;

4.  Calls on the Commission to monitor and report on the implementation of its recommendation entitled ‘Investing in Children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage’ in the Member States and to ensure access to quality services and participation of children; calls on those Member States with above-average rates of child poverty to set national targets and prioritise investments aimed at reducing poverty and social exclusion among children and young people;

5.  Calls on the EU and its Member States to make the Millennium Development Goals the top priority in their internal policies and their relations with third countries; highlights the fact that these objectives, especially poverty eradication, access to education for all and gender equality, will only be achieved through the development of public services which are accessible to all;

6.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to integrate an explicit child and youth focus in the European Semester, the Annual Growth Survey and a revised Europe 2020 strategy in order to better implement the Commission recommendation entitled ‘Investing in children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage’;

7.  Calls on the Commission to ensure increased coordination within its different services with a view to effectively mainstreaming children’s rights in all EU legislative proposals, policies and financial decisions and monitoring their full compliance with the EU acquis on children and with obligations under the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child; calls on the Commission to ensure that the mandate and resources of the children’s rights coordinator adequately reflect the EU’s commitment to systematically and effectively mainstreaming children’s rights;

8.  Calls on the Commission to seize the opportunity afforded by the mid-term review of the multiannual financial framework to ensure that EU funds benefit the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children;

9.  Calls on the Member States and the Commission to explicitly consider children as a priority when programming and implementing regional and cohesion policies, such as the European disability strategy, the EU framework for national Roma integration strategies and the EU’s equality and non-discrimination policy; reiterates the importance of protecting and promoting equal access to all rights for Roma children;

10.  Insists that all children’s rights policies must integrate a gender equality perspective, and calls for specific measures to strengthen the rights of girls, including to education and health;

11.  Calls on the Member States to ensure that the principle of the best interests of the child is respected in all legislation, in decisions taken by government representatives at all levels and in all court decisions, and encourages the Member States to share best practices with a view to improving the correct application of the principle of the best interests of the child across the EU;

12.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to take the necessary action to ensure that all children can effectively access justice systems that are tailored to their specific needs and rights, whether as suspects, perpetrators, victims or parties to proceedings;

13.  Calls on the Commission to assess the impact of detention policies and criminal justice systems on children; points out that across the EU children’s rights are directly affected in the case of children living in detention facilities with their parents; underlines the fact that an estimated 800 000 children in the EU are separated from an imprisoned parent each year, which impacts on the rights of children in multiple ways;

14.  Considers that children are vulnerable in their access to goods and services; calls on the business community and stakeholders to refrain from aggressive and misleading advertising to children, both online and offline, including by implementing existing codes of conduct and similar initiatives; considers that advertising aimed at children for food with high fat, salt or sugar content should be done responsibly, bearing in mind the increase in child obesity and diabetes;

15.  Considers that children’s personal data online must be duly protected and that children need to be informed in an accessible and child-friendly manner about the risks and consequences of using their personal data online; stresses that online profiling of children should be prohibited; considers that all children should have the right to enjoy a healthy and safe environment and access to play;

16.  Calls on the Member States to implement Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings, as the majority of victims of trafficking are young girls and boys who are child victims of labour and sexual exploitation and other abuses; calls also for the Member States and the EU to strengthen police and judicial cooperation with a view to preventing and prosecuting such crimes; calls on the Member States to take measures to combat the illicit transfer of children, to work in cooperation with third countries to address the growing problem of child smuggling and trafficking, and to prosecute traffickers, with appropriate sanctions;

17.  Considers that steps must be taken to combat cyber bullying, and that children, teachers, and youth and children’s organisations must play an active role in raising awareness of this issue;

18.  Calls for the EU and its Member States to invest in public services for children, including childcare, education and health, and particularly in extending the public network of kindergartens, nurseries and public utility services offering leisure activities for children;

19.  Given that the first levels of education do not always guarantee the necessary basic standard of learning, calls on the Member States to provide free compulsory secondary education for all, this being a sine qua non for the exercise of the right to equal opportunities;

20.  Calls on the Member States to adopt laws to safeguard and strengthen maternity and paternity rights in order to provide a healthy, stable environment for children in the first months of their lives;

21.  Calls on the Member States to implement Directive 2011/93/EU on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children, and child pornography, and to strengthen the legal ability, technical capabilities and financial resources of law enforcement authorities to increase cooperation, including with Europol, with a view to investigating and dismantling child sex offender networks more effectively, while prioritising the rights and safety of the children involved;

22.  Calls for an effective partnership approach and information exchange between law enforcement agencies, judicial authorities, the ICT industry, internet service providers (ISPs), the banking sector and non-governmental organisations, including youth and children’s organisations, with a view to ensuring the rights and protection of children online and regarding them as vulnerable persons under the law; calls on the Commission to take the initiative of asking all the Member States to take action to tackle all forms of cyber predation and cyber bullying;

23.  Considers that unaccompanied children are particularly vulnerable; calls on the Commission and the Member States to implement Parliament’s resolution of 12 September 2013 on the situation of unaccompanied minors in the EU; calls on the Member States to fully implement the Common European Asylum System package in order to improve the condition of unaccompanied minors in the EU; calls on the Member States to take action to end the detention of migrant children across the EU; welcomes the Court of Justice judgment in Case C-648/11 MA, BT, DA v Secretary of State for the Home Department, which stated that the Member State responsible for examining an asylum application made in more than one Member State by an unaccompanied minor is the State in which the minor is present after having lodged an application there; recalls that an unaccompanied minor is above all a child who is potentially in danger and that child protection, rather than immigration policies, must be the leading principle for Member States and the EU when dealing with unaccompanied minors, thus respecting the core principle of the best interests of the child;

24.  Calls on all the Member States to implement the standards set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child for children deprived of parental care, and in the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children; calls on the Commission to use the EU structural funds to support the transition from institutional to community-based services; calls on the Commission, in view of the considerable number of cases alleging that public authorities in some Member States have proceeded with forced adoption without parental consent, to put forward specific measures to ensure that the adoption practices carried out in the Member States are in the best interests of child;

25.  Calls on all the Member States to facilitate family reunification in a positive, humane and expeditious manner, in line with Article 10 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;

26.  Stresses the need for a more coordinated approach to finding missing children in the EU; calls on the Member States to increase police and judicial cooperation in cross‑border cases involving missing children and to develop hotlines to search for missing children and support victims of child abuse; calls on the Member States to facilitate the smooth accession of Morocco, Singapore, the Russian Federation, Albania, Andorra, Seychelles, Gabon and Armenia to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction;

27.  Calls on the Commission, in revising Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, to take serious note of the best interests of the child, in view of the loopholes in the implementation and enforcement of this regulation in the Member States as regards parental and custody rights;

28.  Condemns any form of violence against children, physical, sexual and verbal abuse, forced marriages, child labour, prostitution, trafficking, torture, honour killing, female genital mutilation, the use of child soldiers and of children as human shields, deprivation, neglect and malnutrition; considers that tradition, culture and religion should never be used to justify violence against children; calls on the Member States to uphold their obligations and combat any form of violence against children, including by formally prohibiting and sanctioning corporal punishment against children; calls on the Member States to increase their cooperation and dialogue with third countries, to raise awareness and to advocate for children’s rights to be respected everywhere in the world;

29.  Condemns the use of children for military and terrorist activities or purposes; recalls the importance of providing psychological support and assistance for all children who have been exposed to violent events or are victims of war; welcomes the EU Children of Peace initiative and underlines the importance of ensuring access to education for children affected by conflicts; calls on the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) to support the UN campaign ‘Children, not soldiers’, aimed at ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers by national security forces by 2016;

30.  Calls on the VP/HR to prioritise children’s rights in all EU external action so as to ensure the effective mainstreaming of children’s rights, including in the context of Human Rights Dialogues, trade agreements, the accession process and the European Neighbourhood Policy, and in relations with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, in particular countries in conflict; calls on the VP/HR to report annually to Parliament on the results achieved with regard to child-focused EU external action;

31.  Calls on the Commission to integrate children’s rights into development cooperation and into humanitarian aid in order to ensure adequate funding and to increase the level of protection for children affected by emergencies or man-made or natural disasters, internally displaced children and child refugees; underlines the importance of linking relief, rehabilitation and development, especially in protracted crises, and of integrating innovation and new technologies into EU policies and programmes so as to better promote children’s rights in development and emergency settings;

32.  Welcomes the fact that the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai for their commitment to defending children’s rights, in particular the right of all children to education; commends the public endorsement by the Sakharov Prize Network of initiatives to raise awareness of violence against children; considers these to be clear demonstrations of the important role played by civil society and international organisations in advocacy and in the promotion and protection of the rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;

33.  Underlines the important role played by the social partners and by local authorities in promoting children’s rights, and calls on the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee to take action and draft opinions with a view to being fully engaged in the promotion of children’s rights across EU policies;

34.  Calls on the EU institutions, the Member States, local authorities, the social partners and civil society to join forces and cooperate at all levels to improve the situation of children in the EU and in the rest of the world; welcomes and supports the Child Rights Manifesto co-authored by UNICEF and 14 organisations promoting children’s rights, and encourages more Members of the European Parliament, as well as national parliamentarians, to sign the Manifesto and become ‘child rights champions’;

35.  Expresses the will to establish an intergroup within the European Parliament on children’s rights and well-being, based on the Child Rights Manifesto, as a permanent body responsible for promoting children’s rights across all European Parliament policies and activities in the context of both internal and external affairs; supports, therefore, the initiative of appointing ‘focal points’ for children’s rights within each parliamentary committee to ensure the mainstreaming of children’s rights in every policy and legislative text adopted;

36.  Considers it important to increase child participation in its parliamentary activities in line with the practices established by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and UNICEF; calls on the Commission, the Member States and local authorities to explore ways and means of increasing children’s and adolescents’ involvement in the decision-making process; encourages the use of new technologies and innovation to consult children and youth and increase child participation;

37.  Calls on the Member States to ratify without delay all the optional protocols to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;

38.  Calls on the Commission and the VP/HR to explore ways and means for the EU to accede unilaterally to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;

39.  Encourages the USA, Somalia and South Sudan to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child in order to achieve universal ratification;

40.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the European External Action Service, the Committee of the Regions, the European Social and Economic Committee, the UN Secretary-General, the Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Executive Director of UNICEF.

(1) OJ L 101, 15.4.2011, p. 1.
(2) OJ L 335, 17.12.2011, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 59, 2.3.2013, p. 5.
(4) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0387.
(5) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0126.
(6) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0105.

Digital single market
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European Parliament resolution of 27 November 2014 on supporting consumer rights in the digital single market (2014/2973(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 3(3) and 6 of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to Articles 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 26, 36, 114(3) and 169(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, in particular to Articles 7, 8, 11, 21, 38 and 52 thereof,

–  having regard to codecision procedure 2013/0309 on a proposal for a regulation laying down measures concerning the European single market for electronic communications and to achieve a Connected Continent (COM(2013)0627),

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document of 23 April 2013 entitled ‘E‑commerce Action Plan 2012-2015 – State of play 2013’ (SWD(2013)0153),

–  having regard to the Commission’s Internal Market Scoreboard 26 of 18 February 2013,

–  having regard to the Commission’s 2014 Digital Agenda Scoreboard reports,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 11 January 2012 entitled ‘A coherent framework for building trust in the digital single market for e-commerce and online services’ (COM(2011)0942),

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 June 2013 on a new agenda for European consumer policy(1),

–  having regard to its resolution of 4 February 2014 on the implementation of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive 2005/29/EC(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 10 December 2013 on unleashing the potential of cloud computing in Europe(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 4 July 2013 on completing the digital single market(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 December 2012 on completing the digital single market(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 22 May 2012 on a strategy for strengthening the rights of vulnerable consumers(6),

–  having regard to its resolution of 20 April 2012 on ‘A competitive digital single market – eGovernment as a spearhead’(7),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 November 2011 on a new strategy for consumer policy(8),

–  having regard to the 2013 study by its Policy Department A on how to build a ubiquitous EU digital society,

–  having regard to the 2013 study by its Policy Department A entitled ‘Entertainment x.0 to boost broadband deployment’,

–  having regard to its recommendation to the Council of 26 March 2009 on strengthening security and fundamental freedoms on the Internet(9),

–  having regard to its resolution of 12 March 2014 on the US NSA surveillance programme, surveillance bodies in various Member States and their impact on EU citizens’ fundamental rights and on transatlantic cooperation in Justice and Home Affairs(10),

–  having regard to the 2013 study by its Policy Department A on discrimination of consumers in the digital single market,

–  having regard to the Court of Justice judgment of 8 April 2014 in Joined Cases C-293/12 and C-594/12, in which the Data Retention Directive was declared invalid,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the digital single market is one of the area of progress which, though entailing challenges, offers potential for high-efficiency gains that could amount to EUR 260 billion per year, thereby contributing to Europe’s recovery from the crisis;

B.  whereas the completion of a European digital single market would create millions of jobs and potentially enable Europe to gain 4 % in GDP by 2020;

C.  whereas the app economy alone is expected to triple its revenue from 2013 to 2018, creating 3 million jobs in the same period;

D.  whereas Parliament has commissioned a study to analyse the Cost of Non-Europe in the Digital Single Market, which reinforces the importance of seeing digital solutions as an opportunity for consumers, citizens and businesses and not as a threat;

E.  whereas the Union needs to foster the mass adoption of cloud computing in Europe, as it constitutes a powerful driver for the growth of the European economy; whereas the study gives evidence of significant expected gains linked to its fast development;

F.  whereas obstacles hindering consumers’ participation in the digital single market relate to discriminatory practices such as the restriction of service providers to certain countries or territories, simple refusal to sell, automatic rerouting, and unjustified diversification of conditions of sale;

G.  whereas secure, efficient, competitive and innovative mobile payments and e payments are crucial if consumers are to enjoy the full benefits of the single market;

H.  whereas the protection of personal data and of privacy, as well as the cybersecurity and security of electronic communications and networks are a priority in the digital single market, as these are fundamental prerequisites for its functioning and the creation of citizens’ and consumers’ trust in it;

I.  whereas the trans-European availability of widespread, high-speed and secure fast internet access and digital services in the public interest is essential for social and economic growth, competitiveness, social inclusion and the single market;

J.  whereas research, development and innovation in the digital economy will help ensure that Europe remains competitive in the mid to longer term;

K.  whereas a rapid deployment of high-speed broadband networks is crucial for the development of European productivity and for the emergence of new and small enterprises that can be leaders in different sectors, for example healthcare, manufacturing and the service industries;

L.  whereas the private sector should play the leading role in rolling out and modernising broadband networks, supported by a competitive and investment-friendly regulatory framework;

M.  whereas the digital single market is one of the most innovative sectors of the economy and is therefore playing a major role in the competitiveness of the European economy and contributing to economic growth through the development of e-commerce, while also facilitating the administrative and financial compliance of businesses and presenting consumers with a wider choice of goods and services;

N.  whereas the digital single market not only offers economic benefits but also has a profound impact on the daily political, social and cultural life of EU consumers and citizens;

O.  whereas a competitive digital single market cannot exist without fast, higher-capacity broadband and telecommunications networks across all EU regions, including remote areas;

P.  whereas the existing and steadily widening digital divide is having a direct negative impact on the development of the digital single market, in terms of both access to the internet and e-skills;

Q.  whereas the protection of personal data and of privacy and the security of electronic communications and networks are a priority in the digital single market, as these are fundamental prerequisites for its functioning and the securing of citizens’ and consumers’ trust in it;

R.  whereas online markets need to be both flexible and consumer-friendly if they are to grow and expand;

S.  whereas e-commerce is an important complement to offline trade and a major driver of consumer choice, competition and technological innovation, and thus contributes to the European Union’s convergence into a knowledge-driven economy;

T.  whereas unfettered competition and a level playing field for companies, which will foster investment, are vital to this sector of the economy as they will ensure its long-term sustainable development to the benefit of end-users; whereas effective competition is a good driver of efficient investment and can provide benefits for consumers in terms of choice, price and quality;

U.  whereas in some areas of the digital single market there are vulnerabilities brought about by excessive market concentration and dominant operators;

V.  whereas the challenge of market fragmentation and lack of interoperability in the European Union is an obstacle to the rapid development of the digital single market;

W.  whereas employment created through the digital single market is, on average, highly skilled and remunerated and, as such, is an important contribution to the creation of quality and sustainable employment;

X.  whereas the Commission should guard against antitrust behaviour affecting media plurality, in terms of both content provision and ownership, as access to information is key to a thriving democracy;

1.  Calls on the Member States and the Commission, through sustained efforts of implementation of existing rules and enforcement of these rules, as part of an overarching strategy, to address all existing barriers that are hindering the development of the digital single market, while making sure that measures are impact-assessed, future-proof and fit for the digital age; believes that these efforts need to be at the heart of the EU’s efforts to generate economic growth and employment and strengthen its competitiveness and resilience within the global economy;

2.  Stresses that any legislative proposal related to the digital single market must comply with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, so that rights enshrined therein are fully protected in the digital domain;

3.  Highlights, in particular, the potential of e-commerce, which, it is estimated, could save consumers more than EUR 11,7 billion a year if they could choose from the full range of EU goods and services when shopping online;

4.  While welcoming the growth of e-commerce, notes the dominant position in some Member States of only a few actors in the direct sale of physical goods or as a market-based platform for others to sell physical goods; stresses the need at European level to monitor and prevent the abuse of such dominant positions in terms of the availability of goods to consumers and the charges required of SMEs for using such market-based platforms;

5.  Stresses the need to tackle and combat the digital divide in order to fully grasp the potential of the digital single market and to enable the inclusion of all citizens, regardless of their income, social situation, geographical location, health or age, in society in the digital era;

6.  Notes, in particular, the need to address the obstacles which remain for consumers and businesses regarding e commerce, including online services, access to digital content, fraud prevention, website registrations, sales promotions and labelling;

7.  Calls on the Commission to ensure the swift implementation of the single market for services and to ensure the implementation and enforcement of rules such as the Consumer Rights Directive, alternative dispute resolution and online dispute resolution, while ensuring the reduction of administrative burdens;

8.  Calls for the swift adoption of the new modernised Data Protection Package in order to provide an appropriate balance between a high level of protection of personal data, user safety and control over one’s personal data and a stable, predictable legislative environment in which businesses can flourish in an enhanced single market for the benefit of end-users, a level playing field fostering investment, and an environment contributing to the attractiveness of the EU as a destination for businesses; calls on the Commission and the Member States to allocate the necessary resources to fight cybercrime by means of legislative measures and law enforcement cooperation, at both national and EU level;

9.  Stresses the need to ensure a level playing field for companies operating in the digital single market in order for them to be able to compete; calls, therefore, on the Commission to properly enforce EU competition rules in order to prevent excessive market concentration and abuse of dominant position and to monitor competition with regard to bundled content and services;

10.  Notes that a level playing field for companies in the digital single market must be ensured in order to guarantee a vibrant digital economy in the EU; stresses that a thorough enforcement of EU competition rules in the digital single market will be determinant for the growth of the market, consumer access and choice and competitiveness in the long term; highlights the importance of affording consumers the same protection online as they enjoy in their traditional markets;

11.  Urges the Council to make swift progress and open negotiations with Parliament on the proposal for a regulation laying down measures concerning the European single market for electronic communications and to achieve a Connected Continent, as this would, concretely, put an end to roaming charges inside the EU, provide more legal certainty as regards net neutrality, and improve consumer protection inside the digital single market; believes that this regulation could constitute a crucial step towards realising a single European mobile market;

12.  Considers that the Commission should act to create and ensure a legislative and legally certain environment conducive to encouraging creativity and innovation for start-ups, micro-enterprises and SMEs;

13.  Asks the Commission to put forward an initiative for digital entrepreneurship, since this is critical for the creation of new jobs and innovative ideas, including measures to improve access to finance for new digital entrepreneurs (for instance through crowdsourcing) and encourage second chances for failed entrepreneurs;

14.  Stresses that all internet traffic should be treated equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference, irrespective of its sender, receiver, type, content, device, service or application;

15.  Notes that the online search market is of particular importance in ensuring competitive conditions within the digital single market, given the potential development of search engines into gatekeepers and the possibility they have of commercialising secondary exploitation of information obtained; calls, therefore, on the Commission to enforce EU competition rules decisively, based on input from all relevant stakeholders and taking into account the entire structure of the digital single market in order to ensure remedies that truly benefit consumers, internet users and online businesses; calls, furthermore, on the Commission to consider proposals aimed at unbundling search engines from other commercial services as one potential long-term means of achieving the aforementioned aims;

16.  Furthermore calls on the Commission to act quickly to consider potential solutions tending towards a balanced, fair and open internet search structure;

17.  Stresses that, when operating search engines for users, the search process and results should be unbiased in order to keep internet searches non-discriminatory, to ensure more competition and choice for users and consumers and to maintain the diversity of sources of information; notes, therefore, that indexation, evaluation, presentation and ranking by search engines must be unbiased and transparent; calls on the Commission to prevent any abuse in the marketing of interlinked services by search engine operators;

18.  Welcomes the announcement of further investigations by the Commission into search engine practices and the digital market in general;

19.  Stresses the importance of ensuring an efficient and balanced framework for the protection of copyright and intellectual property rights, geared to the reality of the digital economy;

20.  Encourages swift adoption and enactment of international provisions facilitating access of disabled users to digital content and to printed works through their digitisation;

21.  Welcomes the conclusion of the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access for the visually impaired to books, and encourages all signatories to ratify the Treaty; believes that the Marrakesh Treaty represents a good step forward, but that much work remains to be done in order to open up access to content for people with disabilities, in addition to those affected by visual impairment; highlights the importance of further enhancing accessibility across a broad spectrum of areas, from copyright and search engines to telecommunications operators;

22.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to further develop and implement EU and national regulatory frameworks in order to allow an integrated and secure online and mobile payments market, while ensuring the protection of consumers and customer data; underlines, in this connection, the need for clear and predictable rules, set out in legislation;

23.  Recalls that cloud computing can become a powerful instrument for the development of the digital single market, and can offer economic benefits, particularly for SMEs, by reducing IT infrastructure and other costs; highlights in this connection the fact that, if cloud services are provided only by a limited number of large providers, an increasing amount of information will be aggregated in the hands of those providers; recalls, furthermore, that cloud computing also entails risks for users, in particular as regards sensitive data; calls for proper implementation of the European strategy to guarantee competitive and secure cloud computing;

24.  Calls on the Commission to take the lead in promoting international standards and specifications for cloud computing, which enable privacy-friendly, reliable, accessible, highly interoperable, secure and energy-efficient cloud services as an integral part of a future Union industrial policy; stresses that reliability, security and protection of data are needed for consumer confidence and competitiveness;

25.  Underlines the need to ensure internet safety online, in particular for children, and to prevent child exploitation by ensuring that means are in place to detect and eradicate illegal child abuse images on the internet and by enabling means to prevent children and adolescents accessing age-restricted content;

26.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0239.
(2) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0063.
(3) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0535.
(4) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0327.
(5) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2012)0468.
(6) OJ C 264 E, 13.9.2013, p. 11.
(7) OJ C 258 E, 7.9.2013, p. 64.
(8) OJ C 153 E, 31.5.2013, p. 25.
(9) OJ C 117 E, 6.5.2010, p. 206.
(10) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0230.

Child malnutrition in developing countries
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European Parliament resolution of 27 November 2014 on child undernutrition and malnutrition in developing countries (2014/2853(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, in particular Article 25 thereof, which recognises the right to food as part of the right to an adequate standard of living,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in particular Article 11 thereof, which recognises the right to ‘an adequate standard of living […], including adequate food’ and the ‘fundamental right […] to be free from hunger’,

–  having regard to the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, adopted in 2008, which makes the right to food enforceable at the international level,

–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, in particular Articles 24(2)(c) and 27(3) thereof,

–  having regard to the Declaration on World Food Security adopted at the World Food Summit convened by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome in 1996,

–  having regard to the Right to Food Guidelines, adopted in 2004 by the FAO, which offer guidance to states on how to implement their obligations as regards the right to food,

–  having regard to the Millennium Development Goals, in particular Goals 1 (to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015) and 4 (to reduce child mortality),

–  having regard to the Food Assistance Convention, adopted in 2012,

–  having regard to the global and synthesis reports of the UN International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, which were published in 2009(1),

–  having regard to the 2009 report of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on world food shortages affecting children,

–  having regard to the report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food entitled ‘Agroecology and the Right to Food’, which was presented at the 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council on 8 March 2011,

–  having regard to Expo Milano 2015, the theme of which will be ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 31 March 2010 entitled ‘Humanitarian Food Assistance’ (COM(2010)0126),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 31 March 2010 entitled ‘An EU policy framework to assist developing countries in addressing food security challenges’ (COM(2010)0127),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 3 October 2012 entitled ‘The EU approach to resilience: Learning from food security crises’ (COM(2012)0586),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 12 March 2013 entitled ‘Enhancing Maternal and Child Nutrition in External Assistance: an EU Policy Framework’ (COM(2013)0141),

–  having regard to its resolution of 27 September 2011 on an EU policy framework to assist developing countries in addressing food security challenges(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 December 2013 on ‘the EU approach to resilience and disaster risk reduction in developing countries: learning from food security crises’(3),

–  having regard to the question to the Commission on child malnutrition in developing countries (O-000083/2014 – B8‑0041/2014),

–  having regard to the motion for a resolution of the Committee on Development,

–  having regard to Rules 128(5) and 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas close to a billion people are still suffering from hunger, and whereas at least 225 million of the world’s children under the age of five are suffering from acute and chronic undernutrition or from stunted growth as a result of chronic child and maternal undernutrition, with an estimated 2,6 million of such children dying every year in developing countries;

B.  whereas, according to the Global Hidden Hunger Indices and Maps(4), an estimated 2 billion people globally, or one out of three people in developing countries, are suffering from chronic deficiency of essential vitamins and minerals (micronutrients), a condition known as ‘hidden hunger’, which drastically increases their susceptibility to birth defects, infection and compromised development;

C.  whereas, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), undernutrition is by far the biggest contributor to child mortality and causes 35 % of the disease burden in children under the age of five;

D.  whereas almost 20 million children are still suffering from severe acute malnutrition in both emergency and non-emergency contexts, and whereas only 10 % of them have access to treatment;

E.  whereas the nutrition of children aged five or younger depends a great deal on their mothers’ nutrition levels during pregnancy and breastfeeding;

F.  whereas undernutrition is also a cause of morbidity and loss of productivity, and impedes social and economic development in developing countries;

G.  whereas those who survive undernutrition often suffer lifelong physical and cognitive deficiencies that limit their ability to learn and to enter the world of work, leaving them trapped in an intergenerational cycle of disease and poverty;

H.  whereas, owing to the effects of climate change on agricultural production and hence on nutrition, the number of undernourished children is expected to increase;

I.  whereas one important cause of hunger in developing countries is massive rural and urban poverty, exacerbated by rural migration, which is triggered by the fact that for many people small‑scale farming is not a viable option;

J.  whereas 25 years after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, some of the States Parties have not been able to create an enabling environment in which children’s access to adequate food can be secured;

K.  whereas at the 1996 World Food Summit governments reaffirmed the right to food and committed themselves to halving the number of hungry and malnourished people from 840 million to 420 million by 2015; whereas, however, the number of hungry and malnourished people, especially children, has increased in recent years, primarily as a result of the food crises of 2008 and 2011;

L.  whereas various international legal instruments link the right to food to other human rights, including the rights to life, livelihood, health, property, education and water;

M.  whereas the right of all to food and good nutrition is paramount to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); whereas nutrition is linked to most, if not all, of the MDGs, which are themselves closely interrelated;

N.  whereas international organisations confirm that there is sufficient food production to feed the whole of the world’s population and that child undernutrition is linked to food insecurity and poverty of households, exclusion, inadequate care and feeding practices, unhealthy household environments and inadequate health services;

O.  whereas the right to food and good nutrition is essential in order to build resilient families and communities and enhance their ability to reduce long recovery periods after an emergency, in a context characterised by an increase in the number and scale of disasters;

P.  whereas optimal nutritional status results when children have access to affordable, diverse, nutrient-rich food, and also to appropriate maternal and childcare practices, adequate health services and a healthy environment, including safe water, sanitation and good hygiene practices;

1.  Points out that the causes of child undernutrition are numerous, and that most of them are man-made and therefore avoidable, including inefficient economic structures, unequal distribution and/or unsustainable use of resources, poor governance, over‑reliance on individual crops and monocultural cropping practices, discrimination against women and children, and ill-health caused by deficient health systems, together with lack of education, especially for mothers;

2.  Insists that public authorities must guarantee the three dimensions of the right to food and good nutrition: availability, meaning that it is possible either to feed oneself directly from productive land or other natural resources, or to establish well‑functioning distribution, processing and market systems; accessibility, meaning that both economic and physical access to food is guaranteed; and adequacy, meaning that food must be safe and satisfy the dietary needs of every individual, taking into account age, living conditions, health, occupation, sex, culture and religion;

3.  Underlines the fact that, from a life-cycle perspective, the most crucial time to meet a child’s nutritional requirements is in the first 1 000 days of life, including the period of pregnancy, as this is when the child has increased nutritional needs in order to support rapid growth and development, is more susceptible to infections and is totally dependent on others for nutrition, care and social interaction;

4.  Reaffirms that addressing child and maternal undernutrition requires an integrated approach and coordinated action in a number of sectors which influence undernutrition, such as health, education, agriculture, water, energy access and sanitation, together with the responsible involvement of all stakeholders, and calls on the Commission and the Member States to adopt consistent long-term development strategies and to make efforts to reduce undernutrition, including in the context of emergency situations and humanitarian intervention;

5.  Calls for the EU to increase the support provided by its development aid programmes for sustainable smallholder, peasant and medium-scale agriculture production for – primarily – local consumption, and to invest in participatory, nationally led plans, which should be implemented at a local level in cooperation with farmers and their representatives, local and regional authorities and civil society organisations;

6.  Commends the improvements made over the last few years in the fight against child undernutrition, as demonstrated by the indicators of progress in achieving MDG1; considers, however, that the number of children dying or suffering from undernutrition remains unacceptably high and contributes to maintaining the vicious circle of poverty and hunger;

7.  Stresses, therefore, that the fight against child undernutrition and the provision of universal access to adequate nutritious food should remain one of the most important targets of the post-2015 agenda under the goal of ending hunger, with a specific call to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030 and to achieve, by 2025, the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under the age of five;

8.  Considers that the reduction of funds for agriculture under the 10th European Development Fund (EFD) as compared with the 9th EDF was a mistake; exhorts the Council, therefore, to reflect on this and to take corrective action with a view to the 11th EDF;

9.  Stresses the importance of political will in addressing undernutrition; welcomes the Road Map for Scaling-Up Nutrition (SUN) developed by the UN Standing Committee on Nutrition (UNSCN) to accelerate nutrition improvement, particularly in high‑burden countries, with the participation of various stakeholders, including those UN agencies with a mandate in the area of nutrition; calls on the Commission and the Member States to implement the principles outlined in the SUN road map; urges the Commission to encourage and orchestrate participation in the SUN initiative by civil society and grassroots organisations with direct links to small farmers and their families;

10.  Welcomes the Commission’s commitment to investing EUR 3,5 billion between 2014 and 2020 in improving nutrition in some of the world’s poorest countries, and calls on the Commission to scale up its commitments as regards nutrition-specific interventions in order to meet its objective of reducing by 7 million the number of stunted children under the age of five by 2025;

11.  Stresses that women play a crucial role in child nutrition and food security by breastfeeding, by producing, buying, preparing and distributing family food, by caring for children and the sick, and by ensuring proper hygiene; points out that although 60 % of chronic hunger affects women and girls, women produce 60-80 % of the food in developing countries;

12.  Underlines the fact that women, although responsible for approximately 80 % of farming in Africa, formally own as little as 2 % of the land; further points out that recent programmes in India, Kenya, Honduras, Ghana, Nicaragua and Nepal have found that female-headed households have greater food security, better health care and a stronger focus on education than male-headed households;

13.  Stresses that there is a close correlation between a woman’s level of education and the nutritional status of her family; urges, therefore, that the gender barriers to education and literacy be removed in order to give women greater access to education;

14.  Calls, therefore, for inclusion of the gender dimension and promotion of women’s empowerment in all policies aimed at fighting child undernutrition;

15.  Stresses that undernutrition among pregnant women has devastating effects on newborns, which are likely to irreversibly handicap the child’s future development; calls, therefore, for particular attention to be paid to the protection of women’s health and rights and for nutritional training to be an integral part of education programmes and school curricula for girls;

16.  Reaffirms the importance of literacy as a powerful tool for fighting poverty and enhancing economic development; stresses, therefore, the importance of supporting girls’ education, as investing in girls improves the chances for both them and their future children to lead healthier and more productive lives;

17.  Stresses that child undernutrition is found mostly in developing countries, not only among rural populations but also in urban settings; takes the view, therefore, that one of the key vectors for the eradication of child hunger lies in agricultural policies and reforms aimed at enabling small-scale farmers to produce more effectively and sustainably in order to ensure sufficient food for themselves and their families;

18.  Emphasises that failure to address child undernutrition in a timely manner in both development cooperation and humanitarian intervention is likely to threaten all dimensions of human development, to undermine national education programmes, to burden national health expenditure and to hamper the socioeconomic development of developing countries, causing them economic losses that have been estimated at 2-8 % of their GDP;

19.  Recalls that micronutrient deficiencies, which account for approximately 7 % of the global disease burden, have grave consequences for physical and cognitive development in infants and young children; highlights the fact that in the 20 countries with the highest Hidden Hunger Index scores (18 of which are in sub-Saharan Africa and two – India and Afghanistan – in Asia), stunting, iron-deficiency anaemia and vitamin A deficiency are highly prevalent among preschool children;

20.  Points out that child undernutrition originates not only from shortage of food and lack of infrastructure but also from problems of food distribution, inadequate access to food and lack of purchasing power, particularly in the face of high food prices exacerbated by speculation on commodities; notes that lack of purchasing power particularly affects the urban poor, who are unable to produce their own food; stresses, in this connection, the importance of protecting small farmers and traditional farming methods;

21.  Calls on the Commission to involve the Member States that have acceded to Expo 2015 to launch a joint initiative taking as its point of departure ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’, with a view to securing commitments and binding targets for combating hunger and undernutrition, alongside diversified strategies in areas ranging from agriculture to cooperation;

22.  Recognises that improvements in child and maternal nutrition, and in food security in general, will require effective and coordinated action in respect of a number of policies and sectors, including: effective and sustainable rural development, land- and water-use policies; appropriate health, safe water and sanitation services; appropriate maternal and childcare practices; the protection of marine life and other ecosystems and biodiversity; deforestation and climate change mitigation; adaptation and disaster-risk reduction; sustainable production and consumption; sustainable and secure access to energy; trade; fisheries; social inclusion; and decent employment;

23.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to mainstream nutrition, food safety and sustainable agriculture in all their development policies with a view to protecting and promoting nutrition and ensuring a holistic approach from the local to the global level; invites the Council and the Commission, as appropriate, to prioritise nutrition as a key development goal in development cooperation instruments, notably the 11th EDF and the new Development Cooperation Instrument;

24.  Stresses that, in order to be more effective, development and emergency programmes need to be closely linked so as to anticipate and prevent food crises, help reduce the damage caused and facilitate recovery;

25.  Calls on the governments of developing countries to create an enabling environment for better child nutrition through improved policies, coordination between national plans and strategies relating to nutrition and donors’ programmes, governance, and accountability to their citizens; encourages greater transparency in developing countries’ budgets, for example via budget tracking, so as to be able to better assess the number and quality of projects addressing malnutrition;

26.  Highlights the need for improved and coordinated data on undernutrition and micronutrient deficiency in order to better assist intervention programmes and to provide targeted and informed support to the countries concerned;

27.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to mobilise long-term financial investments and resources for nutrition in cooperation with actors including UN agencies, the G8/G20, emerging countries, international and non-governmental organisations, academic institutions, civil society organisations and the private sector, and to identify nutrition as a priority for innovative financing;

28.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, and the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition.

(2) OJ C 56 E, 26.2.2013, p. 75.
(3) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0578.
(4) Global Hidden Hunger Indices and Maps: An Advocacy Tool for Action

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