Index 
Texts adopted
Tuesday, 16 May 2017 - StrasbourgFinal edition
Protocol to the EU-Mongolia Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation (accession of Croatia) ***
 EU-Bosnia and Herzegovina Stabilisation and Association Agreement (accession of Croatia) ***
 EU-Norway Agreement on supplementary rules in relation to the instrument for financial support for external borders and visa ***
 EU Accession to the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) ***
 EU eGovernment action plan 2016-2020
 Annual report 2015 on the protection of EU’s financial interests – Fight against fraud
 Resource efficiency: reducing food waste, improving food safety
 Evaluation of external aspects of customs performance and management as a tool to facilitate trade and fight illicit trade

Protocol to the EU-Mongolia Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation (accession of Croatia) ***
PDF 240kWORD 47k
European Parliament legislative resolution of 16 May 2017 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the Union and its Member States, of the Protocol to the Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and Mongolia, of the other part, to take account of the accession of the Republic of Croatia to the European Union (09264/2016 – C8-0455/2016 – 2015/0113(NLE))
P8_TA(2017)0201A8-0074/2017

(Consent)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (09264/2016),

–  having regard to the draft Protocol to the Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and Mongolia, of the other part, to take account of the accession of the Republic of Croatia to the European Union (08940/2016),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Articles 207 and 209 and Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8-0455/2016),

–  having regard to Rule 99(1) and (4) and Rule 108(7) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A8-0074/2017),

1.  Gives its consent to conclusion of the Protocol;

2.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and of Mongolia.


EU-Bosnia and Herzegovina Stabilisation and Association Agreement (accession of Croatia) ***
PDF 243kWORD 47k
European Parliament legislative resolution of 16 May 2017 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the Union and its Member States, of the Protocol to the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, of the other part, to take account of the accession of the Republic of Croatia to the European Union (13824/2016 – C8-0527/2016 – 2016/0311(NLE))
P8_TA(2017)0202A8-0169/2017

(Consent)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (13824/2016),

–  having regard to the draft Protocol to the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, of the other part, to take account of the accession of the Republic of Croatia to the European Union (13823/2016),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 217 and Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a)(i), and Article 218(8), second subparagraph, of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8-0527/2016),

–  having regard to Rule 99(1) and (4) and Rule 108(7) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A8-0169/2017),

1.  Gives its consent to conclusion of the Protocol;

2.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and of Bosnia and Herzegovina.


EU-Norway Agreement on supplementary rules in relation to the instrument for financial support for external borders and visa ***
PDF 243kWORD 47k
European Parliament legislative resolution of 16 May 2017 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion on behalf of the Union of the Agreement between the European Union and the Kingdom of Norway on supplementary rules in relation to the instrument for financial support for external borders and visa, as part of the Internal Security Fund for the period 2014 to 2020 (13710/2016 – C8-0005/2017 – 2016/0322(NLE))
P8_TA(2017)0203A8-0174/2017

(Consent)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (13710/2016),

–  having regard to the draft Agreement between the European Union and the Kingdom of Norway on supplementary rules in relation to the instrument for financial support for external borders and visa, as part of the Internal Security Fund for the period 2014 to 2020 (13711/2016),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 77(2) and Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a)(v), of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8‑0005/2017),

–  having regard to the letter from the Committee on Foreign Affairs,

–  having regard to Rule 99(1) and (4) and Rule 108(7) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0174/2017),

1.  Gives its consent to the conclusion of the agreement;

2.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and of the Kingdom of Norway.


EU Accession to the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) ***
PDF 233kWORD 41k
European Parliament legislative resolution of 16 May 2017 on the draft Council decision on the accession of the European Union to the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) (15540/2016 – C8-0024/2017 – 2016/0349(NLE))
P8_TA(2017)0204A8-0187/2017

(Consent)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (15540/2016),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Articles 207(3) and (4) and Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a)(v), of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8‑0024/2017),

–  having regard to Rule 99(1) and (4) and Rule 108(7) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on International Trade (A8-0187/2017),

1.  Gives its consent to conclusion of the agreement;

2.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.


EU eGovernment action plan 2016-2020
PDF 197kWORD 53k
European Parliament resolution of 16 May 2017 on the EU eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020 (2016/2273(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0205A8-0178/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the G8 Open Data Charter,

–  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘The European eGovernment Action Plan 2011-2015 – Harnessing ICT to promote smart, sustainable and innovative Government’ (COM(2010)0743),

–  having regard to its resolution of 20 April 2012 on ‘A competitive digital single market – eGovernment as a spearhead’(1),

–  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘EU eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020. Accelerating the digital transformation of government’ (COM(2016)0179),

–  having regard to the Commission’s eGovernment Benchmark Report 2016,

–  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe’ (COM(2015)0192) and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2015)0100),

–  having regard to its resolution of 19 January 2016 entitled ‘Towards a Digital Single Market Act’(2),

–  having regard to Decision (EU) 2015/2240 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2015 establishing a programme on interoperability solutions and common frameworks for European public administrations, businesses and citizens (ISA2 programme) as a means for modernising the public sector,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 1 June 2016 entitled ‘European standards for the 21st century’ (COM(2016)0358),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 31 March 2011 entitled ‘Critical Information Infrastructure Protection – Achievements and next steps: towards global cyber-security’ (COM(2011)0163),

–  having regard to Directive (EU) 2016/1148 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 July 2016 concerning measures for a high common level of security of network and information systems across the Union,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 2 July 2014 entitled ‘Towards a thriving data-driven economy’ (COM(2014)0442),

–  having regard to its resolution of 10 March 2016 on ‘Towards a thriving data-driven economy’(3),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1316/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 establishing the Connecting Europe Facility, amending Regulation (EU) No 913/2010 and repealing Regulations (EC) No 680/2007 and (EC) No 67/2010,

–  having regard to the Commission communication to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions entitled ‘Connectivity for a Competitive Digital Single Market – Towards a European Gigabit Society’ (COM(2016)0587) and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2016)0300),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the European Electronic Communications Code (COM(2016)0590) and to its Annexes 1 to 11 – Impact Assessment (SWD(2016)0303), Executive Summary of the Impact Assessment (SWD(2016)0304), and Executive Summary of the Evaluation (SWD(2016)0305),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulations (EU) No 1316/2013 and (EU) No 283/2014 as regards the promotion of Internet connectivity in local communities (COM(2016)0589),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2015/2120 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2015 laying down measures concerning open internet access and amending Directive 2002/22/EC on universal service and users’ rights relating to electronic communications networks and services and Regulation (EU) No 531/2012 on roaming on public mobile communications networks within the Union,

–  having regard to Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market and repealing Directive 1999/93/EC (‘eIDAS Regulation’),

–  having regard to Directive 2013/37/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on re-use of public sector information (PSI Directive),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal of 10 January 2017 for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council introducing a European services e-card and related administrative facilities (COM(2016)0824),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 10 January 2017 entitled ‘Exchanging and Protecting Personal Data in a Globalised World’ (COM(2017)0007),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 10 January 2017 entitled ‘Building a European Data Economy’ (COM(2017)0009),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal of 10 January 2017 for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the respect for private life and the protection of personal data in electronic communications and repealing Directive 2002/58/EC (Regulation on Privacy and Electronic Communications) (COM(2017)0010),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal of 10 January 2017 for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data by the Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Regulation (EC) No 45/2001 and Decision No 1247/2002/EC (COM(2017)0008),

–  having regard to Directive 96/9/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 1996 on the legal protection of databases,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 19 April 2016 entitled ‘European Cloud Initiative – Building a competitive data and knowledge economy in Europe’ (COM(2016)0178),

–  having regard to Directive 2014/24/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on public procurement and repealing Directive 2004/18/EC,

–  having regard to Directive 2014/55/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 on electronic invoicing in public procurement,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 10 June 2016 on ‘A New Skills Agenda for Europe’ (COM(2016)0381),

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the opinions of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and the Committee on Legal Affairs (A8-0178/2017),

A.  whereas the modernisation strategies of public administrations must be adapted to a changing environment enabling the transformation to digital government;

B.  whereas the digitalisation of government services should help to achieve the full potential of the single market, promote better exercise of citizenship, improve quality of life for citizens and the social and economic development of the regions, enhance citizens’ understanding of and involvement in public services and improve their efficiency and cost effectiveness, and strengthen political participation by enhancing citizens’ dialogue with public authorities and increasing transparency; whereas the EU should encourage the exchange of best practices and technologies between Member States;

C.  whereas the ICT sector is called on to assist this transformation process by providing customised solutions for public administrations;

D.  whereas the transformation to digital government must be initiated at Union, Member State, regional and local level;

E.  whereas the full potential of a digital public administration can only be achieved if citizens and businesses can fully trust the services offered;

F.  whereas the EU e‑Justice Portal is an essential tool for access to information and to justice, and constitutes an important step in achieving the modernisation of EU public administration;

G.  whereas better access to information and the increased use of improved digital tools for company-law-related formalities throughout the lifecycle of companies should increase legal certainty and reduce company expenses;

H.  whereas efforts are ongoing to interconnect electronic business and insolvency registers across the Union, which is important for transparency and legal certainty in the internal market;

I.  whereas single access to these registers through the e‑Justice Portal is not yet possible because of differences in the technical standards used by Member States; whereas further efforts are needed to achieve accessible, interoperable, user-friendly eGovernment tools available to the EU public; whereas a degree of data security and protection in data processing is a basic prerequisite for using e‑Justice, given the nature of the data involved in judicial work;

1.  Believes that the development of eGovernment is a key element of the Digital Single Market, and calls on the Commission to identify specific, measurable targets for the Action Plan based on performance indicators, and to monitor and report annually to Parliament on the progress that has been made in its implementation; stresses that the eGovernment Action Plan 2011-2015 produced positive results both at EU and Member State level; encourages the Commission and the Member States to also assess the needs of consumers to increase the level of use of e-services;

Public administrations going digital

2.  Is of the opinion that public administrations should be open, transparent, efficient and inclusive, providing borderless, personalised, user-friendly, accessible and end-to-end digital public services to citizens and businesses by 2022, thereby reducing costs, barriers and administrative burdens for citizens and businesses, in particular SMEs, and thus reaping all the benefits of the digital revolution; considers, however, that this should be compatible with fair restructuring in public administration;

3.  Supports the plan to base future initiatives on the ‘digital by default’ principle, and stresses the importance of implementing the ‘once-only’ principle, which will make interaction with public administrations easier for citizens and businesses by avoiding unnecessarily time-consuming administrative processes and make it easier for information previously supplied to be reused for other applications; highlights that, in fact, according to the Commission’s studies, the implementation of the once-only principle’ approach at EU level is expected to save around EUR 5 billion per year by 2017; calls on the Commission to report to Parliament on the results of the once-only large-scale pilot for businesses and to launch by the end of 2017 a once-only large-scale pilot for citizens;

4.  Welcomes the Commission’s intention to establish as early as possible a single digital gateway that would provide citizens and businesses with a linked-up, coherent package of online single-market services at both national and EU level, covering information about the EU and national rules, as well as assistance services, and to complete the most important procedures for citizens and businesses in cross-border situations and help implement the once-only principle in the EU; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure its rapid and full implementation and to take all necessary measures to guarantee its efficient functioning and interoperability, so as to unlock its full potential and benefits; stresses that existing best practices already in use in some Member States should be promoted; believes that this initiative should ensure that all Member States have a single official e-service portal providing access to all their online services and the available EU interoperable services; urges the Member States to ensure rapid and full implementation of the ‘Points of Single Contact’ portals;

5.  Calls on the Commission to consider further ways to promote digital solutions for formalities throughout a company’s lifecycle, the electronic filing of company documents and the provision of cross-border and other information for business registers; notes that in this field legislation may be the only way to create an appropriate legal framework for EU-wide digital solutions;

6.  Considers that work on the electronic interconnection of Member States’ business and insolvency registers should be stepped up, and stresses the importance of this interconnection for the internal market; stresses that any information to be provided should follow a common European template or framework;

7.  Highlights the importance of inclusiveness, accessibility and general access to digital public services, an essential factor underpinning the design and delivery of policies promoting competitiveness, growth and jobs, and calls on the Member States to fully implement and apply the new directive on the accessibility of websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies, which will benefit people with disabilities and elderly people;

8.  Stresses the importance of ‘open data’, whereby certain public-sector information is freely available for use and reuse, including by third parties, within and between public administrations; stresses the need for safeguards that ensure respect for copyright and data protection; reiterates that open and inclusive free flow of data would allow the further development and creation of new innovative solutions, boosting efficiency as well as transparency; stresses that that kind of data and public information should therefore be made available where possible with a view to fostering new opportunities for knowledge and contributing to the development and strengthening of an open society; recalls that public administrations should, to the extent possible, make information available, especially when the volume of data generated is very large, such as in the case of the INSPIRE programme; considers that more efforts should be made to implement coordinated data strategies in both the EU institutions and the Member States, including increasing and speeding up the release of data into the public domain, ensuring better quality of data and easy access to data and providing eLegislation in machine-readable formats;

9.  Highlights the benefits of eParticipation and stresses that Member States should make more use of eConsultation, eInformation and eDecision-making; stresses that, in order to avoid abuse of the systems, eParticipation, and especially with regard to eDecision-making, must be in line with the eIDAS Regulation to ensure accountability and transparency;

10.  Welcomes the initiatives taken by all the EU institutions to enhance eParticipation mechanisms at EU and Member State level, and asks the Commission to further develop and promote digital tools, such as electronic voting systems and e-petitions, which aim at enhancing and encouraging the participation of citizens and businesses in the EU policy-making process;

11.  Notes that use of mobile devices has increased significantly over the past five years, while only one third of public websites are mobile-friendly; calls, therefore, on the Member States to assess the possibilities of developing mobile solutions for eGovernment services, and to ensure their user-friendliness and accessibility for all; stresses that in order to future-proof the accessibility of eGovernment services, public administration websites and instruments must be kept up to date with modern technology and the ever-evolving cyber security requirements;

12.  Calls on the Member States to promote and use eProcurement when buying supplies and services or tendering public works, thus making public spending more transparent and efficient and leading to reduced costs and less bureaucracy; calls on the Member States also to increase the use of contract registers and interoperable e-signatures in their public sectors; calls on the Commission and the Member States to take the necessary steps to ensure that public procurement procedures are transparent and that information is available in real time to all participants therein; calls on the Commission, in this regard, to facilitate the exchange of best practices on the use of the innovation criteria in public tenders, in particular by making sure that tenders do not pre-empt solutions but rather leave room for tenderers to propose innovative, open solutions; calls on the Commission to continue its work on eInvoicing standards, eSubmission and eNotification, and to encourage the use of electronic identification in public administrations’ internal systems in order to improve accountability and traceability in respect of all operations in such systems;

13.  Emphasises the importance of developing safe, reliable, interoperable cross-border public services, avoiding further fragmentation and supporting mobility; stresses that interoperability and standardisation are among the key elements for implementing eGovernment structures, and therefore welcomes the Commission communication entitled ‘European standards for the 21st century’ and also in this regard the revision of the European Interoperability Framework; highlights that the use of open standards is fundamental for EU citizens to be able to participate in government platforms, and stresses that standards must serve the interests of society at large by being inclusive, fair and future-proof, and be developed in an open and transparent way; calls on the Commission and the Member States therefore to promote open standards when developing public digital solutions and to give greater attention to interoperability and the potential benefits of using digital technology effectively;

14.  Regrets that only 28 % of European households in rural areas had a fixed fast internet connection in 2015 and that the average coverage of 4G in the EU, despite being 86 % in the EU overall, is only 36 % in rural areas, and draws attention to the urgent need for continuous support for broadband expansion, especially in rural areas, since access to a high-speed broadband connection is indispensable for using and benefiting from eGovernment services; calls on the Commission and the Member States therefore to continue providing adequate funding for broadband expansion, digital service infrastructure and cross-border interaction of public administration after 2020, within the scope of the Connecting Europe Facility or other suitable EU programmes, thereby ensuring long-term sustainability; calls on operators in this regard to invest more in infrastructure to improve connectivity in rural areas and to ensure that rural areas will also benefit from very high-capacity networks in the form of 5G, since this will be a key building block of our digital society;

15.  Stresses that the full deployment of safe, adequate, resilient, reliable and high-performance infrastructure, such as ultrafast broadband and telecommunications networks, is essential for the functioning of eGovernment services; calls, therefore, for the swift adoption of the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) to achieve European strategic objectives; considers it crucial that public authorities are kept up to date with technological developments and have sufficient capacity to adopt innovative technologies, such as big data and the internet of things, or the uptake of mobile services, such as 5G, that are able to meet users’ needs;

16.  Considers the re-use of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) technical building blocks across the public and private sector to be vital for the functioning of the digital service infrastructure; underlines the need to guarantee the long-term sustainability of CEF technical building blocks, as well as the results of large-scale pilot projects and ISA2 beyond 2020; highlights the potential offered by the Wifi4EU initiative in promoting universal access to high-speed networks; calls therefore on the Commission, together with the Member States, to develop a long-term governance structure with a view to attaining the goals of the Digital Single Market, the priority of which should be to respond to the needs of citizens and businesses, and which should, wherever possible, promote the use of common standards;

17.  Notes that the uptake of innovative solutions for data-intensive public services, such as the use of cloud services, is still slow and fragmented; recalls that services such as INSPIRE generate large volumes of data, which require higher computing capacity; welcomes in this regard the Commission’s ‘European Cloud Initiative’ and considers that the user base of the European Open Science Cloud should be extended to the public sector;

18.  Calls on the Commission to raise awareness of the importance of the e‑Justice Portal and its uses, and to make it a one-stop shop for all the relevant legal information and for access to justice in the Member States; notes, however, that not all parties to proceedings have equal access and the necessary skills to use information and communications technology, which could mean that their access to justice is limited; stresses that particular attention should be paid to giving people with disabilities access to the e‑Justice Portal;

19.  Welcomes the introduction of e‑CODEX, allowing direct communications between citizens and courts in all Member States, as a major step to facilitate cross-border access to public services;

20.  Congratulates the Council and the Commission on their work in introducing the European Case Law Identifier (ECLI), which is highly useful for legal research and judicial dialogue, and welcomes the creation of the ECLI search engine, which should facilitate access to legal information across the Union;

21.  Reiterates the need to improve the digital skills of administrative staff, as well as of all citizens and businesses, by developing and supporting training activities at national, regional and local level in order to minimise the risk of digital exclusion, and to introduce specialised training courses on eGovernment services for civil servants and decision-makers; stresses that digital skills are an absolute prerequisite for participating in eGovernment; encourages the development of eLearning curricula that are recognised in the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) system; considers that a key element of the development of eGovernment is continual growth in the development of digital skills; stresses the need to tackle and prevent digital divides between geographical areas, between people from different socioeconomic levels, and between generations; calls on the Member States to take up the suggestions in the eGovernment Action Plan for enabling young people, in particular, to deal with administrative bodies in ways that reflect their communication habits in other areas of their lives, and further underlines that teaching digital skills is of particular importance in the case of elderly people, who often lack skills or confidence when using e-services; considers that the Member States should promote life-long learning and facilitate communication and educational campaigns, including the creation of networks for media literacy teaching, so that EU citizens may make full use of the capacities offered by the new eGovernment portals and services;

22.  Stresses the need for an inclusive online and offline dual approach, so as to avoid exclusion, given the current rate of digital illiteracy and the fact that more than 22 % of Europeans, especially elderly people, prefer not to use online services when dealing with public administrations; stresses that there are multiple reasons and barriers for refusal to use online services that must be addressed or removed, such as unawareness, lack of skills, lack of trust and misperceptions; believes that, in order to avoid digital exclusion or a deeper digital divide, access and the quality of eGovernment services for citizens who live in rural, mountainous or remote areas must be ensured;

23.  Stresses that going digital can bring cost savings for public authorities; understands that digitalisation and other challenges stemming from modernisation packages are often tackled in a context of budgetary constraints, and that, in particular, regional and local authorities still have an immense workload ahead of them in the coming years that will therefore require not only the adoption of digital solutions based on open standards, thereby reducing maintenance costs and increasing innovation, but also the promotion of public-private partnerships; emphasises that cost-effectiveness will appear with time because investment in digitalisation will help to reduce administrative costs in the future; underlines that in the meantime the need for an online and offline approach remains inevitable;

24.  Points out that, in considering the digitalisation of individual administrative procedures, account must be taken of objections based on overriding public interest;

Cross-border eGovernment at all administrative levels

25.  Emphasises the importance of creating a sustainable cross-border eGovernment infrastructure with a view to simplifying access to and exercise of the four fundamental freedoms;

26.  Highlights the importance of cross-border eGovernment services for citizens in their daily life, and stresses the benefits of further developing the Electronic Exchange of Social Security Information (EESSI) and the EURES European Job Mobility portal, as well as the cross-border eHealth services;

27.  Welcomes the various Commission initiatives to develop cross-border digital prescriptions, in particular with regard to interoperability and standardisation; stresses, however, that the uptake of these solutions is far too slow given the value and importance of such services for EU citizens; calls on the Commission to ensure that the right framework is in place to foster trust between Member States and accelerate the development of cross-border digital prescriptions, from data protection and security of data exchanges to the deployment of necessary digital infrastructure and services;

28.  Asks the Commission to further develop and promote the use of the EURES European Job Mobility portal, through closer integration and collaboration between public employment services’ systems and the EURES portal, in order to facilitate and increase the mobility of employers and job seekers in the European Union;

29.  Underlines that eHealth can significantly improve the quality of life of citizens by providing more accessible, cost-effective and efficient healthcare to patients;

30.  Considers that, for the full functioning of cross-border eGovernment services, language barriers must be addressed, and that public administrations, especially in border regions, should make their information and services available in the languages of their Member States but also in other relevant European languages;

31.  Highlights the importance of an exchange of best practices, examples and project experience between all levels of administration, both within and between Member States; recognises that EU-funded large-scale pilots such as eSENSE, eCODEX and TOOP significantly contribute to enhancing cross-border services in Europe;

32.  Is of the opinion that comprehensive monitoring of eGovernment performance in the Member States should ensure that the performance methodology takes national specificities adequately into account; highlights the benefits of reliably measured performance in Member States to policy makers and public opinion;

33.  Points out that interoperability, open standards and open data are not only fundamental in a cross-border context but also needed at the national, regional and local administrative levels in each Member State, while also taking into account the need for data protection in the transfer of information;

34.  Calls on the Commission and the other EU institutions to set an example in the area of eGovernment and to offer a transparent user-friendly gateway for citizens and businesses, as well as end-to end digital services, in particular for the application for EU funding and public procurement, and calls on the Commission also to accelerate its efforts in translating its websites into all the EU official languages and in highlighting best practices;

Data protection and security

35.  Emphasises that citizens’ trust in the protection of personal data is fundamental to securing the success of the eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020, and underlines that public administrations must handle personal data securely and fully in line with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the EU Rules on Privacy, thereby boosting trust in digital services;

36.  Emphasises that an eHealth plan should also be considered in the context of the eGovernment Action Plan, as this is an important part of it; considers that the gathering and transfer of data should be improved and that cross-border data transfer should be possible if needed in certain cases, as this will facilitate the provision of health services for all EU citizens;

37.  Points out that, at the same time, data protection legislation should not be conceived as an obstacle but rather as a starting point for the development of innovative eGovernment solutions, and therefore stresses the need for effective guidance on the application of the GDPR, as well as for a continuous exchange with stakeholders;

38.  Notes that only 15 % of Europeans declare that they have a sense of complete control over the use of their personal data; considers it important to further explore the principle of data ownership, and trusts that future measures will be able to build on the Commission communication ‘Building a European data economy’ and other related proposals;

39.  Urges the Member States to ensure the fast and complete implementation of the eIDAS Regulation, as eSignature, eIdentification and eAuthentification are the underlying building blocks of cross-border digital public services; stresses the importance of encouraging the uptake of notified eID schemes under the eIDAS Regulation by citizens, businesses and public administration; stresses in this respect that the adoption of these key enablers should be priorities of both the private and the public sector in the development of digital services; calls on the Commission therefore to take action to facilitate and promote public-private cooperation in the cross-border and cross-sector use of digital identification and signatures; welcomes as well the ISA2 programme, which covers all EU policies requiring interoperability of systems’ functioning at EU and national level;

40.  Emphasises that measures to protect public authorities from cyber-attacks and to enable them to withstand such attacks are extremely important and need to be developed; stresses the need for a European-level approach in this regard, particularly given that the once-only principle, which is a component of the eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020, depends on the exchange of citizens’ data between European administrative bodies;

41.  Stresses that security of data must be taken into account as early as the design phase of applications, which must be modern and easy to handle, and of administrative processes, which must be efficient, (‘security by design’) in order to enable citizens and businesses to fully benefit from modern technologies;

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

(1) OJ C 258 E, 7.9.2013, p. 64.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0009.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0089.


Annual report 2015 on the protection of EU’s financial interests – Fight against fraud
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European Parliament resolution of 16 May 2017 on the Annual report 2015 on the protection of the EU’s financial interests – Fight against fraud (2016/2097(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0206A8-0159/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 325(5) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to its resolutions on previous annual reports of the Commission and of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF),

–  having regard to the Commission report of 14 July 2016 entitled ‘Protection of the EU’s financial interests – Fight against fraud – 2015 Annual Report’ (COM(2016)0472) and to the accompanying staff working documents (SWD(2016)0234, SWD(2016)0235, SWD(2016)0236, SWD(2016)0237, SWD(2016)0238, SWD(2016)0239),

–  having regard to the OLAF annual report 2015 and the 2015 Activity Report of the OLAF Supervisory Committee,

–  having regard to the annual report of the Court of Auditors on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2015, together with the institutions’ replies,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 18 July 2016 entitled ‘Protection of the EU budget to end 2015’ (COM(2016)0486),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 250/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 establishing a programme to promote activities in the field of the protection of the financial interests of the European Union (Hercule III programme) and repealing Decision No 804/2004/EC(1),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal of 17 July 2013 for a Council regulation on the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (COM(2013)0534),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 883/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 September 2013 concerning investigations conducted by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and replacing Regulation (EC) No 1073/1999 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Council Regulation (Euratom) No 1074/1999(2),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal of 11 July 2012 for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the fight against fraud to the Union’s financial interests by means of criminal law (COM(2012)0363),

–  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 its resolution of 25 October 2016 on the fight against corruption and follow-up of the CRIM resolution(4),

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 2988/95 of 18 December 1995 on the protection of the European Communities’ financial interests(5),

–  having regard to the 2015 Report on the VAT Gap commissioned by the Commission and on the Commission communication of 7 April 2016 on an action plan on VAT (COM(2016)0148),

–  having regard to the judgment of the European Court of Justice in Case C-105/14, Taricco and Others(6),

–  having regard to the European Court of Auditors Special Report No 24/2015 of 3 March 2016 entitled ‘Tackling intra-Community VAT fraud: More action needed’,

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 February 2017 on the role of whistleblowers in the protection of the EU’s financial interests(7),

–  having regard to Directive 2014/24/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on public procurement and repealing Directive 2004/18/EC(8),

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinions of the Committee on Regional Development and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0159/2017),

A.  whereas de jure the Member States and the Commission have shared responsibility for implementing approximately 80 % of the Union’s budget; whereas, however, de facto the Commission and the Member States spending those resources are responsible for having an overview of those projects vis-à-vis providing a certain level of control; whereas the Member States are primarily responsible for the collection of own resources, inter alia in the form of VAT and customs duties;

B.  whereas the protection of the EU’s financial interests should be a key element of the EU’s policy to increase the confidence of citizens by ensuring that their money is used properly and in accordance with the ‘best use of every euro’ approach;

C.  whereas achieving good performance with simplification processes involves regularly assessing inputs, outputs, outcomes/results and impacts through performance audits;

D.  whereas Article 325(2) of the TFEU states that ‘Member States shall take the same measures to counter fraud affecting the financial interests of the Union as they take to counter fraud affecting their own financial interests’;

E.  whereas Article 325(3) of the TFEU states that Member States ‘shall organise, together with the Commission, close and regular cooperation between the competent authorities’;

F.  whereas the diversity of legal and administrative systems in the Member States presents a challenging environment in which to overcome irregularities and combat fraud; and whereas the Commission should therefore step up its efforts to ensure that the fight against fraud is implemented effectively and produces more tangible and more satisfactory results;

G.  whereas the use of sensitive data is emerging ever more clearly as a factor contributing to fraud;

H.  whereas VAT is a major and growing source of revenue for Member States, yielding almost EUR 1 trillion in 2014, and contributing EUR 17 667 million to EU own resources or 12,27 % of the EU’s total revenue in 2014;

I.  whereas the current VAT system, in particular as applied to cross-border transactions, is vulnerable to fraud and tax avoidance strategies, in which Missing Trader Intra-Community (MTIC) fraud, commonly called carousel fraud, alone was responsible for VAT revenue losses of approximately EUR 50 billion in 2014;

J.  whereas the VAT gap amounts to approximately EUR 159,5 billion in 2014 and varies from less than 5 % to over 40 % depending on the country in question;

K.  whereas corruption affects all Member States, particularly in the form of organised crime, and not only burdens the EU economy, but undermines democracy and the rule of law all across Europe; whereas, however, the exact figures are unknown, as the Commission has decided not to publish data in the report on the EU’s anti-corruption policy;

L.  whereas fraud is an example of purposeful wrongdoing and is a criminal offence, and whereas an irregularity is a failure to comply with a rule;

M.  whereas fluctuation in the number of irregularities can be linked to the progression of the multiannual programming cycles (with higher levels of detection at the end of cycles due to the closure of programmes) as well as to late reporting by certain Member States which tend to report most of the irregularities of previous multiannual programmes at once;

Detection and reporting of irregularities

1.  Notes with concern that the number of all fraudulent and non-fraudulent irregularities reported in 2015 increased significantly, by 36 %, leading to an increase of 5 876 cases in the number of registered irregularities compared with 2014 and amounting to 22 349 cases due to certain specific situations in the cohesion policy area in two Member States; notes that even though the number of irregularities increased in 2015 the sum involved (EUR 3,21 billion) fell slightly, by 1 %, compared with 2014 (EUR 3,24 billion);

2.  Is concerned that despite the positive drop of 11 % in the number of irregularities reported as fraudulent, from 1 649 in 2014 to 1 461 in 2015, the sums involved increased by 18 % from EUR 538 million in 2014 to EUR 637,6 million in 2015; notes that false or falsified documents and declarations constituted the most common types of fraud, amounting to 34 %, while the largest proportion of irregularities reported as fraudulent (52 %) was detected in the agricultural sector, and the highest percentage of detection of all fraudulent irregularities (75 %) was made by the administrative control systems provided for by sector-specific regulations;

3.  Points out that not all irregularities are fraudulent and that a clear distinction must be drawn between errors and fraud;

4.  Takes the view that the cooperation between the Commission and the Member States in the area of fraud detection is not effective enough;

5.  Does not share the opinion of the Commission that a 14 % year-on-year increase in resources available in the EU budget could justify the 36 % increase in the number of irregularities;

6.  Welcomes the Commission package of four delegated and four implementing regulations on the reporting of irregularity provisions in the area of shared management, which aims to improve the quality and consistency of the information on irregularities and fraud reported by the Member States; regrets that those regulations do not regulate timelines in which Members States would be obliged to report the irregularities; deplores the fact that, as regards reported non-fraudulent irregularities, in 2015, 537 of 538 irregularities reported by Ireland were related to the historical reporting programme from 2000-2006 and that 5 105 of 5 619 irregularities reported by Spain related to irregularities from the cohesion policy sector detected throughout the whole period 2007-2013, and which were all reported together in 2015, and that the Netherlands reported only one case related to the fishing sector in 2014 compared with 53 cases in 2015; stresses that the situation of Member States not transmitting data in a timely manner or providing inaccurate data has been recurring for many years; emphasises that it is impossible to make comparisons and an objective assessment of the scale of fraud in the Member States of the European Union;

7.  Notes that under Article 27(3) of Council Directive 2010/24/EU concerning mutual assistance for the recovery of claims relating to taxes, duties and other measures, ‘the Commission shall report every 5 years to the European Parliament and the Council on the operation of the arrangements established by this Directive’; regrets that the evaluation scheduled for no later than 1 January 2017 is still unpublished; calls on the Commission to publish the evaluation without delay;

8.  Encourages the Commission to continue its efforts to develop programmes such as REFIT in order to simplify EU legislation; stresses that the simplification of rules and procedures helps to reduce the number of irregularities, which are often linked to complex rules and requirements; notes that a reduced administrative burden is a cost saving for public administrations and EU citizens and also encourages beneficiaries to undertake new EU programmes; stresses that simplification of rules should be consistent with the principle of an EU budget focused on results;

9.  Recalls that the Member States manage around 80 % of the EU budget; feels, therefore, that the Commission must help them to create national anti-fraud strategies;

10.  Regrets that not all Member States have adopted national anti-fraud strategies;

11.  Calls again on the Commission to establish a uniform system for the collection of comparable data on irregularities and cases of fraud from the Member States in order to standardise the reporting process and ensure the quality and comparability of the data provided;

12.  Welcomes the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2015/1525 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 September 2015, which has improved the current framework for detecting and investigating customs fraud at EU and national level;

13.  Appreciates the efforts made by the Member States to detect, evaluate and report irregularities and to implement effective and proportionate anti-fraud measures; stresses that action to combat fraud helps to boost development; calls on the Commission also to use technical assistance to help strengthen the technical and administrative capacity of managing authorities to ensure effective control systems, including the introduction of simpler and more transparent applications that are able to reduce the risks of fraud and guarantee that any losses can be recovered; recommends improving transparency at all levels of the management of projects; encourages the Commission and the Member States to continue moving in this direction by gradually incorporating into their control systems and procedures the systematic use of IT tools to combat irregularities; urges the Commission to draw up and adopt special guidelines to help the national authorities detect irregularities;

Revenue – own resources

14.  Is concerned about the losses due to the VAT gap and intra-community VAT fraud, which is responsible for EUR 159,5 billion and EUR 50 billion respectively in lost revenue in 2014; notes that only two Member States, the United Kingdom and Belgium, collect and disseminate statistics on revenue losses due to cross-border VAT fraud;

15.  Points out that the Commission does not have access to the information exchanged between Member States with a view to preventing and combating Missing Trader Intra-Community (MTIC) fraud, commonly called carousel fraud; is of the opinion that the Commission should have access to Eurofisc, in order to better control, assess and improve the exchange of data among Member States; calls on all Member States to participate in all of Eurofisc’s fields of activity so as to facilitate and accelerate information exchange with judicial and law enforcement authorities such as Europol and OLAF, as recommended by the Court of Auditors; calls on the Member States and the Council to grant the Commission access to these data in order to foster cooperation, strengthen data reliability and fight cross-border crime;

16.  Notes that the VAT Information Exchange System (VIES) has proved to be a helpful tool in fighting fraud by enabling tax authorities to harmonise data on traders across countries; calls on the Member States to improve response times for providing information, replying to queries and reacting to errors signalled, as recommended by the European Court of Auditors;

17.  Notes the Commission action plan on ‘VAT – Towards a single EU VAT area’ published on 7 April 2016; deeply regrets that the publication of the ‘Measures to improve cooperation between tax administrations and with customs and law enforcement bodies and to strengthen tax administrations’ capacity’ provided for in the action plan for 2016 will be delayed by one year; emphasises that the problems related to cross-border VAT fraud need strong, coordinated and speedy measures; urges the Commission therefore to speed up its procedures and come up with solutions in order to avoid the loss of tax revenue in the EU and in the Member States;

18.  Stresses that the implementation of short-term measures to tackle losses on VAT should not delay the Commission’s proposal for a definitive VAT system as provided for in the action plan;

19.  Notes with some satisfaction that the spike in the amount of traditional own resources (TOR) affected by fraud in 2014 was a one-year issue and that the 2015 levels (EUR 427 million) have returned to the average of the 2011-2015 years; is displeased however that some of the Member States do not communicate any cases of irregularities linked to TOR;

20.  Urges the Member States to recover the amounts of TOR due more quickly, especially those Member States which need to recover the largest amounts; urges Greece, Romania, Latvia, Malta and the Netherlands to improve their collection of TOR, as their rate of TOR due remains significantly above the EU average of 1,71 % and is 8,95 %, 5,07 %, 5,04 %, 3,84 % and 3,81 % respectively;

21.  Notes that the number of cases of irregularities being voluntarily reported is rising, and calls on the Member States to adjust their customs inspections strategies accordingly, by taking the results of voluntary reporting into account;

22.  Takes particular note of the fact that 75 % of all cases reported as fraudulent concern goods such as tobacco, electrical machinery, footwear, textiles, iron and steel, and that China, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine are most frequently reported as the countries of origin of such goods; stresses that China is the primary originating country (80 %) for counterfeit goods, followed by Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and India; asks the Commission to raise these problems during trade negotiations with these countries;

23.  Underlines the fact that the smuggling of heavily taxed goods causes significant losses of revenue to the budgets of the EU and the Member States, and that direct losses in customs revenue as a result of cigarette smuggling alone are estimated at more than EUR 10 billion a year;

24.  Notes with concern that tobacco smuggling to the EU has intensified in recent years and, according to estimates, represents an annual loss of EUR 10 billion in public revenue to the EU and Member States’ budgets and is at the same time a major source of organised crime, including terrorism; stresses that illicit tobacco trade causes severe damage to both legal trade and national economies; further notes that a considerable proportion of smuggled tobacco originates in Belarus; calls for the EU and the Member States to put pressure on Belarus to combat the illicit tobacco trade and organised crime, and to introduce sanctions if necessary; calls on the Member States to step up their cooperation in this area;

25.  Takes positive note of the successful outcomes of numerous joint customs operations (JCOs) involving the cooperation of OLAF and Member States with various third-country services, which have resulted in the seizure of, inter alia, 16 million sticks of cigarettes and 2 tonnes of cannabis; notes that operation Baltica, led by Polish customs authorities in cooperation with OLAF, Europol and five Member States (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden), seized 13 million sticks of cigarettes coming from third countries such as Belarus and Russia;

26.  Takes note of the 241 cases of reported smuggled cigarettes, involving an estimated TOR loss of EUR 31 million; calls into question the vigilance of the customs services of certain Member States which have not reported any single case of cigarette smuggling in 2015;

27.  Notes that customs controls carried out at the time of clearance of goods and inspections by anti-fraud services were the most successful methods of detecting fraudulent cases on the revenue side of the EU budget in 2015;

28.  Expresses deep concern that a decrease in customs staff may negatively influence the number of controls, and therefore have a negative impact on the detection of fraudulent actions on the revenue side of the EU budget;

29.  Reiterates that effective customs controls are a key element in protecting EU financial interests, and that budgetary measures should not prevent the Member States’ authorities from carrying out their missions;

30.  Expresses concern with regard to customs inspections and the related collection of customs duties, which are an own resource for the EU budget; points out that inspections to verify that importers are complying with the rules on tariffs and imports are carried out by Member States’ own customs authorities, and calls on the Commission to ensure that inspections at the EU’s borders are appropriate and harmonised, thereby guaranteeing the EU’s security, safety and economic interests, and to commit to fighting trade in illegal and counterfeit goods in particular;

31.  Welcomes the Commission’s recommendation that Member States should strike the right balance between trade facilitation and the protection of the EU’s financial interests; points in this respect to the fast-lane procedures of customs authorities for companies that are considered low-risk, which in itself can be a good system for quick clearance of goods, but has proved vulnerable to corruptive practices by customs officers;

Expenditure

32.  Acknowledges the low rate of reported irregularities (both fraudulent and non-fraudulent) relating to the funds directly managed by the Commission, which is below 0,7 %; asks the Commission for more detailed information on recoveries from legal residents of non-EU countries of mismanaged EU funds under the Commission’s direct management;

33.  Notes that the number of irregularities related to expenditure reported as fraudulent dropped by 10 % in 2015;

34.  Notes that detected fraudulent and non-fraudulent irregularities on the expenditure side represent 1,98 % of payments from the EU budget in 2015;

35.  Notes that the number of reported fraudulent irregularities in 2015 for national resources on the expenditure side of the budget was 14 % lower than in 2014, and that the amount involved was 8 % higher; is concerned that in this sector the number of non-fraudulent irregularities in 2015 increased by 28 % and the amount affected by 44 %;

36.  Is deeply concerned that the number of reported fraudulent and non-fraudulent irregularities relating to the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) and to the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) has been growing annually for at least five consecutive years, with the number of reported cases rising from 1 970 in 2011 to 4 612 cases in 2015; notes, however, that the irregularities concerning the EAGF have remained stable over time (+6 % compared with 2014 and 10 % with 2011), and that those related to the EAFRD have been constantly increasing; observes that the financial amount involved decreased from EUR 211 million in 2011 to EUR 119 million in 2012, but steadily increased to EUR 394 million in 2015, with the level of reported irregularities relating to the EAFRD coming close to 2 % of the entire fund; urges the Member States with the highest number of non-fraudulent irregularities reported – Romania, Italy, Spain, Poland, Hungary, Portugal and Lithuania – to urgently and efficiently regulate the situation in order to reverse this trend;

37.  Regrets that more than two-thirds of the estimated level of errors in 2015 ERDF expenditure were caused by the absence of supporting documents to justify the expenditure and non-compliance with public procurement rules; points out that, for monitoring to be effective, complete transparency is needed, including with regard to subcontractors; calls on the Commission and the Member States to address these shortcomings immediately; calls on the Commission to monitor and evaluate the transposition of Directives 2014/24/EU and 2014/25/EU on public procurement into national law as soon as possible;

38.  Expresses concern at the difference in the number of irregularities reported by the various Member States; points out that a high number of reported irregularities may also be due to the national inspection system having a greater capacity to intercept and detect irregularities; urges the Commission to continue to make every effort to support Member States in stepping up the level and quality of inspections, including via the Anti-Fraud Coordination Service (AFCOS), and completion of the establishment of a national anti-fraud strategy (NAF) in all Member States;

39.  Welcomes the fact that by the end of 2015 six Member States had adopted a national anti-fraud strategy, and calls on the remaining Member States to complete their ongoing adoption processes quickly and develop national anti-fraud strategies of their own;

40.  Is deeply worried that the fraudulent and non-fraudulent irregularities linked to the Common Fisheries Policy in 2015 doubled since 2014, and are the highest ever reported with 202 cases (19 fraudulent and 183 non fraudulent), involving the sum of EUR 22,7 million (EUR 3,2 million for fraudulent cases);

41.  Underlines that the simplification of administrative rules will decrease the number of non-fraudulent irregularities, help identify fraudulent cases and make EU funds more accessible to beneficiaries;

42.  Deplores the fact that the cohesion policy reported a sharp increase in the number of non-fraudulent irregularities, which rose between 2014 and 2015 by 104 % for the programming periods before 2007-13 and by 108 % for the 2007-13 programming period; notes, however, that the financial amounts involved for non-fraudulent irregularities increased by no more than 9 % in 2015 compared with 2014; deplores furthermore the fact that the number of fraudulent irregularities in 2015 increased by 21 % and the amount involved by 74 %;

43.  Considers that benchmarking the data found in the annual report with comparable data about national spending schemes, including on irregularities and fraud, could help in drawing targeted conclusions on cohesion policy spending, including on capacity-building needs;

44.  Refers in this regard to Special Report No 10/2015 of the European Court of Auditors recommending, inter alia, that the Commission and the Member States invest in systematic analysis of public procurement errors, and calls on the Commission to submit to Parliament this detailed analysis; invites the Commission, in particular, to express its views as regards recurrent errors and to explain why such errors would not be considered as indications of potentially fraudulent activities; calls on the Commission to swiftly finalise the Guidelines on public procurement in line with the newly adopted Directive on public procurement;

45.  Points out that complete transparency in accounting for expenditure is fundamental, especially as regards infrastructure works financed directly via EU funds or financial instruments; calls on the Commission to provide for EU citizens to have full access to information on co-financed projects;

46.  Asks for detailed explanations from the Commission regarding the reasons behind the high level of fraudulent cases in research and technological development (R&TD), innovation and entrepreneurship which has grown from 6 to 91 reported cases annually in the 2007-13 programming period, representing a sum of EUR 263 million, which constitutes over 20 % of all reported fraud cases in the cohesion policy;

47.  Welcomes the overall drop in reported irregularities in the Pre-Accession Assistance (PAA); notes, however, that the number of irregularities in the Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA I) is steadily growing, with Turkey being the contributor of 46 % of cases representing 83 % of the sums of reported irregularities; invites the Commission to consider applying the ‘more for more’ principle in a negative sense (‘less for less’), given the current political situation in Turkey, which poses a direct threat to the absorption capacities of the country;

Problems identified and measures required

Better reporting

48.  Regrets that, despite Parliament’s numerous calls for the establishment of uniform reporting principles in all Member States, the situation remains highly unsatisfactory and there are still significant differences in the number of fraudulent and non-fraudulent irregularities reported by each Member State; considers that this problem creates a distorted picture of the real situation regarding the level of infringements and the protection of the EU’s financial interests; reiterates its call on the Commission to make serious efforts to unify the differing approaches by Member States to preventing, detecting and reporting irregularities, and non-homogeneous interpretations when applying the EU legal framework; calls for the creation of a uniform reporting system;

49.  Repeats its call on the Commission to develop a system whereby competent authorities may exchange information, enabling cross-checking of accounting records for transactions between two or more Member States in order to prevent cross-border fraud in respect of the Structural and Investment Funds, hence ensuring a cross-cutting and complete approach to the protection of Member States’ financial interests;

50.  Draws attention to the conclusions of the cooperation project funded by the Hercule III programme in the anti-fraud sector, in which the Commission is urged to present a specific legislative proposal on mutual administrative assistance with respect to the Structural and Investment Funds, such a legal cooperation instrument being necessary in order to avert the risks of criminal embezzlement, taking as a starting point the ongoing mid-term evaluation of the application of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 883/2013 concerning investigations conducted by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF);

51.  Points out that in emergency situations, such as the use of funds for refugees, there are often exemptions from normal procurement procedures, involving direct access to funds; calls on the Commission to supervise more effectively the use of such exemptions and the widespread practice of splitting procurement contracts so as not to exceed the thresholds, thereby avoiding regular procurement procedures;

52.  Supports the Commission in its approach to recommend strengthening the work of the Member States which continue to report a very low number of fraudulent irregularities in relation to detecting and/or reporting fraud;

53.  Takes positive note of the increase in the amount of data published by the Commission on fraudulent and non-fraudulent irregularities and on the quality of statistical evaluation of irregularities reported;

54.  Calls on the Member States to ratify fully the EU Directive on money-laundering, with the introduction of a public register of beneficial ownership of companies and also trusts;

55.  Points out that many Member States do not have specific laws against organised crime, although its involvement in cross-border activities and sectors affecting the EU’s financial interests, such as smuggling or counterfeiting of currency, is constantly growing; considers it essential that Member States adopt the measures set out in its resolutions on combating organised crime(9);

56.  Stresses that prevention should involve constant training and support for the staff responsible for the management and control of funds within the competent authorities, as well as exchanges of information and best practices between Member States; points to the decisive role of local and regional authorities and stakeholders in combating fraud; calls on the Commission and the Member States to comply with the provisions setting out the ex-ante conditionalities in cohesion policy, in particular in the field of public procurement; calls on the Member States to step up their efforts in the areas highlighted by the Commission’s annual report, in particular as regards public procurement, financial crime, conflict of interest, corruption, whistle-blowing and the definition of fraud;

57.  Recommends that steps be taken to improve the uptake of simplification measures for 2014-2020 and with a view to the post-2020 regulatory framework for the European Structural and Investment Funds as a tool to reduce the risk of irregularities resulting from errors; underlines the importance of applying the single audit principle; believes that the simplification of rules and procedures will help reduce non-fraudulent irregularities; encourages the Member States and their local and regional authorities to share best practices in this regard, while always taking into account the need for a proper balance between vigilance tools and simplified procedures;

Better controls

58.  Welcomes the fact that the ex-ante and ex-post ‘Community controls’ are detecting more and more cases of irregularities; considers, however, that prevention is easier than recovery of losses and that provision should always be made for an ex-ante independent assessment of projects to be funded; urges the Member States therefore to better carry out the ex-ante controls with the assistance of the Commission and to use all information available to prevent errors and irregular payments related to EU funds; recalls in this respect that budget constraints cannot be invoked as reasons for reducing the staff dedicated to these ex-ante controls, as preventing irregularities pays for itself;

59.  Encourages the Commission to further enhance its supervisory role through audit, control and inspection activities, remedial action plans and early-warning letters with a view to reducing irregularities;

60.  Urges the Commission to maintain its strict policy on interruption and suspension of payments as a preventive measure against irregularities affecting the EU budget, in accordance with the relevant legal basis;

61.  Supports the Hercule III programme, which is a good example of the ‘best use of every euro’ approach; stresses the importance of this programme and its contribution to strengthening the capacities of customs authorities to monitor cross-border crime and to prevent counterfeit and smuggled goods from reaching the Member States; asks the Commission to give an interim evaluation of the results achieved under Hercule III in terms of its objectives and to monitor the use and effectiveness of grants granted;

62.  Calls on the Commission to explore the possibility of mandatory use of the Arachne risk scoring tool by all Member States in order to increase anti-fraud measures;

63.  Looks forward to the Commission’s mid-term assessment in 2018 with a view to establishing whether the new regulatory architecture for cohesion policy further prevents and reduces the risk of irregularities, including fraud, and also looks forward to receiving detailed information on the impact of the new rules on management and control systems, both as regards the risk of irregularities and fraud and as regards the general implementation of the policy;

64.  Is of the opinion that the financial control system of the Cohesion Funds needs to be evaluated before the adoption of the new multiannual financial framework (MFF) in order to correct the system’s shortcomings;

65.  Stresses that in its mid-term assessment of cohesion policy, due to take place in 2018, the Commission should take account of the need to prevent and reduce the risk of irregularities, including fraudulent ones; regrets that complex procedures are making financing through EU funds less attractive; asks the Commission to analyse the benefits of introducing incentives to increase the efficiency of spending; calls on the Commission to create a mechanism for the exchange of information between the national competent authorities, in order to allow a cross-comparison of the accounting records of transactions among Member States with a view to helping to detect any transnational fraud in the context of the MFF 2014-2020;

66.  Expresses its concern about the level of cooperation between all the control structures in Member States; calls on the Commission and the Member States to support initiatives to strengthen coordination capacity between control structures, especially those that act in the first line of control in direct contact with the beneficiaries; points out that fraud and corruption are becoming increasingly transnational in nature; emphasises, in this context, the advisability of setting up an independent European Public Prosecutor’s Office to protect the EU’s financial interests, while taking steps to ensure that the relationship between the office and the existing EU bodies is clarified and that a clear demarcation between their respective powers is established to rule out any unnecessary overlaps;

Protection of EU currency

67.  Welcomes the fact that Directive 2014/62/EU came into force in 2014, ordering that acts intentionally committed, for example counterfeiting or altering money, putting such money into circulation, and also abetting, aiding and attempting to do so, be considered a crime; deplores the fact that Belgium, France and Ireland have yet to transpose the Directive within the prescribed period, i.e. by 23 May 2016;

68.  Notes that, according to the European Central Bank, since the introduction of the euro in 2002, counterfeit currency had caused by 2016 financial losses amounting to at least EUR 500 million in the EU economy;

Whistleblowers

69.  Emphasises the role of whistleblowers in fraud prevention, detection and reporting and the need to protect them; welcomes the fact that in 2015 the Commission launched the ‘Experience Sharing Programme’ in order to coordinate and exchange best practices with a view to preventing corruption in cooperation with Member States;

70.  Stresses that corruption and fraud have a fundamental negative impact on EU financial interests and, even though the EU has a multi-layer control mechanism in place, the role of an individual is absolutely irreplaceable at the lowest level of the control system; highlights that, for that reason, whistleblowers need to have a clear position in the EU and Member States’ legislative frameworks that would clearly define their rights and obligations; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure a minimum level of protection for European whistleblowers;

71.  Welcomes the fact that Parliament, the Commission, the Council, the Court of Justice, the Court of Auditors, the European External Action Service, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, the European Ombudsman, the European Data Protection Supervisor and the majority of the EU agencies have implemented internal rules that protect whistleblowers, in accordance with Articles 22a, 22b and 22c of the Staff Regulations, and expects further improvements in terms of rules for the protection of whistleblowers;

72.  Recalls its resolution of 14 February 2017 on the role of whistleblowers in the protection of EU’s financial interests(10), and calls for timely implementation by the Member States and the Commission of the recommendations made therein and for them to inform Parliament on the follow-up of this resolution; reiterates its call on the Commission to submit as a matter of urgency a legislative proposal on the protection of whistleblowers in order to effectively prevent and combat fraud affecting the financial interests of the European Union;

Corruption

73.  Notes that in 2015 the fight against corruption remained a priority in the framework of the European Semester and the related process of economic governance; welcomes the measures taken in this fight such as organising meetings with the national contact points of the Member States, launching the Experience Sharing Programme for Member States, and the participation of OLAF on behalf of the Commission in European and international anti-corruption fora;

74.  Deplores the fact that the Commission no longer feels the need to publish the EU anti-corruption report, which impaired the assessment of the scale of corruption in 2015; regrets, in particular, that this decision was taken without any discussions with Parliament; is of the opinion that, irrespective of the Commission’s intentions as regards fighting corruption, this last-minute cancellation sends out the wrong message not only to the Member States but also to citizens; notes that, since becoming a party to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) on 12 November 2008, the European Union has not participated in the review mechanism provided for under the Convention, nor has it taken the first step of completing a self-assessment of how it is implementing its obligations under the Convention; calls on the European Union to fulfil its obligations under the UNCAC by completing a self-assessment of how it is implementing its obligations under the Convention and participating in the peer-review mechanism; urges the Commission to reconsider its views on the EU Anti-Corruption Report; calls on the Commission to carry out further analysis at the level of both the EU institutions and the Member States of the environment in which policies are implemented, in order to identify inherent critical factors, vulnerable areas and risk factors conducive to corruption;

75.  Calls for the EU to advance its application for membership of the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) as soon as possible and for Parliament to be kept up to date with the progress of this application;

76.  Reiterates its opinion that corruption is an enormous challenge for the EU and the Member States, and that, without effective measures against it, corruption undermines the EU’s economic performance, the rule of law and the credibility of democratic institutions within the Union;

77.  Urges the Commission to publish the second anti-corruption report and to present these reports regularly in order to inform the public about the achievements in the fight against corruption, inter alia in the context of the anti-corruption Experience Sharing Programme;

78.  Is alarmed by the results of research which show that the risk of fraud and corruption is higher when Member States are spending European resources, particularly when the share of European funding is significantly over 50 % of the total costs; is therefore of the opinion that in these cases the Member States do not comply completely with Article 325(2) of the TFEU, which requires Member States to take the same measures to counter fraud affecting the financial interests of the Union as they take to counter fraud affecting their own financial interests; therefore calls on the Member States to fully apply the principle of Article 325(2) and the Commission to make sure that Members indeed do so;

79.  Reiterates its call on the Commission to develop a system of strict indicators and easily applicable, uniform criteria based on the requirements set out in the Stockholm Programme, to measure the level of corruption in the Member States and to evaluate their anti-corruption policies; invites the Commission to develop a corruption index in order to rank the Member States; is of the opinion that a corruption index could provide a sound basis on which the Commission could establish its country-specific control mechanism when controlling the spending of EU resources;

Investigative journalism

80.  Is of the opinion that investigative journalism plays a key role in fostering the necessary level of transparency in the EU and the Member States; is of the opinion that investigative journalism should be encouraged and supported by legal means both in the Member States and in the EU, and supports the preparatory action which establishes a grant scheme for trans-border investigative journalism, which is to be distributed by an intermediary organisation, namely the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom in Leipzig;

PIF Directive and EPPO Regulation

81.  Welcomes the successfully concluded negotiations on the proposal for a directive on the fight against fraud to the Union’s financial interests by means of criminal law (PIF Directive) with VAT fraud included in its scope; notes that the directive defines the types of fraudulent behaviour to be criminalised and provides a definition of corruption;

82.  Recalls its resolution of 5 October 2016 on the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) and Eurojust(11) reaffirming Parliament’s longstanding support for the establishment of an efficient and independent EPPO in order to reduce the current fragmentation of national law enforcement efforts to protect the EU budget; believes that an efficient EPPO will strengthen the fight against fraud in the EU provided that it is given the necessary legal provisions and is able to work efficiently with other existing EU bodies and Member State authorities; notes that the scope of the PIF Directive directly determines the scope of the EPPO’s mandate; notes with concern the diverging opinions in the Council on the EPPO as provided for in Article 86 of the TFEU; sees its provisions not being implemented through enhanced cooperation; is of the opinion that the EPPO can only be effective if its scope covers all Member States; calls on the Member States to revise their position and to do their utmost to reach a consensus in the Council;

Tobacco

83.  Points out the Commission’s decision not to renew the PMI agreement, which expired on 9 July 2016; recalls that it asked the Commission on 9 March 2016 not to renew, extend or renegotiate the PMI agreement beyond its expiry date; believes that the three other agreements (BAT, JTI and ITL) should not be renewed;

84.  Urges the Commission to put in place, at EU level, all necessary measures to track and trace PMI tobacco products, and to bring legal action against any illegal seizures of this manufacturer’s products until all provisions of the Tobacco Products Directive are fully enforceable, so that there is no regulatory gap between the expiry of the PMI agreement and the entry into force of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC);

85.  Notes that following its call in its resolution of 9 March 2016 on the tobacco agreement (PMI agreement)(12), the Commission has to come forward with an action plan for tackling illicit tobacco trade, including the high proportion of non-branded cigarettes (‘cheap whites’); urges the Commission to submit to Parliament a proposal for such an action plan without further delay;

86.  Welcomes the Commission’s support for the timely ratification of the WTO Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products as the first multilateral legal instrument to tackle the problem of cigarette smuggling comprehensively and on a worldwide basis, and calls for its timely ratification and implementation;

87.  Recalls that to date 25 parties have ratified the FCTC, including only seven EU Member States and the EU as a whole; urges the EU Member States to ratify the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products;

Investigations and the role of OLAF

88.  Regrets that, despite the assurances of OLAF that it is doing its utmost to shorten the length of its investigations, the duration of its investigative phase has grown continuously since 2012 from 22,5 months to 25,1 months in the case of closed cases and from 17,3 months to 18,7 months in all cases;

89.  Notes OLAF’s role within different joint customs operations (JCOs) in preventing losses for the EU budget, and asks OLAF to include in its future annual reports more information and concrete figures concerning its contribution to protecting the revenue side of the EU budget;

90.  Expresses concern at the increase mentioned in OLAF’s most recent annual report in the number of cases of cross-border fraud; calls on the Commission to assess the use of joint operations in line with methods and procedures already successfully employed on the customs side, and also on the expenditure side, on the basis of Article 1(2) of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 883/2013;

91.  Supports OLAF’s participation in national and international meetings on combating fraud, such as the European contact-point network against corruption, which in November 2015 adopted the Paris Declaration on stepping up the fight against corruption;

92.  Points out that there have been many positive steps forward in the fight against fraud; welcomes, in this context, the recent establishment within OLAF of a new investigation unit for the European Structural and Investment Funds;

93.  Calls on OLAF to compare in its annual activity reports OLAF’s recommendations for financial recoveries with the amounts which were actually recovered;

94.  Recalls that, in the light of the principle of mutual sincere cooperation between the institutions, of the principle of good administration and of the requirement of legal certainty, OLAF and its Supervisory Committee are to organise their collaboration on the basis of their working protocols, fully respecting the applicable legal provisions;

95.  Welcomes OLAF’s analysis of Member States’ follow-up to OLAF’s judicial recommendations issued between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2015 as an overview of the main reasons concerning non-follow-up of its recommendations; notes, however, that the data collected in the document concerns only judicial recommendations without taking into consideration administrative, disciplinary and financial recommendations and so is not representative of the overall follow-up of OLAF’s recommendations; calls for the Commission to give a comprehensive reaction to OLAF’s recently published analysis on Member States’ follow-up to OLAF’s judicial recommendations, and asks OLAF to add a chapter to its annual report on the follow-up of these recommendations; calls on OLAF, in cooperation with the Commission, to provide a detailed analysis, including figures on the recovery of EU funds;

96.  Regrets the fact that almost one third (94 of 317) of OLAF’s judicial recommendations issued between 2008 and 2015 to the competent authorities were dismissed on the basis of insufficient evidence; calls on the Commission to assess how administrative investigations could be better used in judicial cases; encourages the competent authorities of the Member States to provide detailed information regarding reasons for dismissals, in order for OLAF to better adjust its recommendations to national laws;

97.  Is of the opinion that the proportion of OLAF recommendations submitted to the national authorities which led to indictments (around 50 %) is not sufficient; calls on the Member States’ authorities to improve their level of cooperation with OLAF; calls on the Member States, the Commission and OLAF to lay down conditions which ensure the admissibility of the evidence provided by OLAF; encourages the Member State authorities and OLAF to carry out joint investigations in order to reach the optimal result;

98.  Urges the Commission, in view of the ending mandate of OLAF’s Director-General, to start immediately the procedure for a call for proposals for a new Director-General and to start the consultation process with Parliament;

99.  Calls on the Commission to revise Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 883/2013 and to submit a proposal on strengthening the investigative powers of OLAF; recommends that greater resources should be assigned to OLAF to enable it to investigate far more reported suspected cases;

100.  Expresses its concern about the discrepancy between the information received by OLAF from public sources and that from private sources in the Member States; calls on the Commission to support initiatives aimed at increasing the collection of public information, and calls on the Member States to improve the quality of data provided;

101.  Notes that, thus far, OLAF’s judicial recommendations have seen only limited implementation in the Member States; takes the view that such a situation is intolerable, and calls on the Commission to ensure full implementation of OLAF’s recommendations in the Member States;

102.  Deplores the fact that the judicial authorities of some Member States consider OLAF’s recommendations related to the misspending of EU money to be a low priority; recalls that, in accordance with Article 325(2) of the TFEU, ‘Member States shall take the same measures to counter fraud affecting the financial interests of the Union as they take to counter fraud affecting their own financial interests’;

103.  Considers tackling the issue of poor communication between the Member States and OLAF to be a priority; invites the Commission and the Member States to promote initiatives to improve communication not only between public structures, but also between civil society in the Member States and OLAF; stresses that this is important in terms of combating corruption in the Member States;

o
o   o

104.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Court of Auditors, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and the OLAF Supervisory Committee.

(1) OJ L 84, 20.3.2014, p. 6.
(2) OJ L 248, 18.9.2013, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0403.
(5) OJ L 312, 23.12.1995, p. 1.
(6) Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 8 September 2015, Taricco and Others, C-105/14, ECLI:EU:C:2015:555.
(7) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0022.
(8) OJ L 94, 28.3.2014, p. 65.
(9) European Parliament resolution of 25 October 2016 on the fight against corruption and follow-up of the CRIM resolution (Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0403); European Parliament resolution of 23 October 2013 on organised crime, corruption and money laundering: recommendations on action and initiatives to be taken OJ C 208, 10.6.2016, p. 89).
(10) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0022.
(11) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0376.
(12) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0082.


Resource efficiency: reducing food waste, improving food safety
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European Parliament resolution of 16 May 2017 on initiative on resource efficiency: reducing food waste, improving food safety (2016/2223(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0207A8-0175/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Closing the loop – An EU action plan for the Circular Economy’ (COM(2015)0614),

–  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Towards a circular economy: A zero waste programme for Europe’ (COM(2014)0398),

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 July 2015 on resource efficiency: moving towards a circular economy(1),

–  having regard to Written Declaration 0061/2015 of 14 October 2015 on the donation of unsold consumable food to charities,

–  having regard to its resolution of 19 January 2012 on how to avoid food wastage: strategies for a more efficient food chain in the EU(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 7 June 2016 on unfair trading practices in the food supply chain(3),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 28 June 2016 on food losses and food waste,

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 15 June 2016 on food waste(4),

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 20 March 2013 on ‘Civil society’s contribution to a strategy for prevention and reduction of food losses and food waste’(5),

–  having regard to the Special Report No 34/2016 of the European Court of Auditors entitled ‘Combating Food Waste: an opportunity for the EU to improve the resource-efficiency of the food supply chain’,

–  having regard to the resolution of the United Nations Environment Assembly of 27 May 2016 on prevention, reduction and reuse of food waste,

–  having regard to the European Economic and Social Committee Comparative Study of June 2014 on EU Member States’ legislation and practices on food donation,

–  having regard to the FUSIONS (Food Use for Social Innovation by Optimising Waste Prevention Strategies) study on estimates of European food waste levels (2016),

–  having regard to the FUSIONS review of EU legislation and policies with implications on food waste (2015),

–  having regard to the FUSIONS Definitional Framework for Food Waste (2014),

–  having regard to the global Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard (FLW standard) launched in June 2016,

–  having regard to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) study ‘Food wastage footprint – Impacts on natural resources’ (FAO 2013),

–  having regard to the FAO study on global food losses and food waste (FAO 2011),

–  having regard to the petition ‘Stop Food Waste in Europe!’,

–  having regard to the Charter of Milan adopted during the Expo Milano 2015,

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (A8-0175/2017),

A.  whereas the FAO estimates that each year approximately 1,3 billion tonnes of food, which amounts to approximately one-third, by weight, of all food produced for human consumption in the world, is lost or wasted;

B.  whereas food is a precious commodity; whereas, as the ‘food system’ utilises a significant amount of resources, such as land, soil, water, phosphorous and energy, the efficient and sustainable management of these resources is of the utmost importance; whereas food waste entails massive economic and environmental costs, which are estimated by the FAO(6) to be USD 1,7 trillion per year on a global scale; whereas the prevention and reduction of food waste provides economic benefits for both households and society as a whole, while also reducing environmental damage;

C.  whereas food wastage has high social, economic and environmental costs, as well as ethical consequences; whereas food that is lost or wasted contributes to climate change, with a global carbon footprint of about 8 % of total anthropogenic global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and represents a waste of scarce resources such as land, energy and water(7) throughout the lifecycle of the products involved; whereas food chain surpluses should not directly become food waste when they could otherwise be used for human nutrition, and appropriate legislation on food surpluses could enable food waste to become a resource;

D.  whereas, according to recent studies, for every kilogram of food produced, 4,5 kg of CO2 are released into the atmosphere; whereas in Europe the approximately 89 Mt of wasted food generate 170 Mt CO2 eq./yr, broken down as follows: food industry 59 Mt CO2 eq./yr, domestic consumption 78 Mt CO2 eq./yr, other 33 Mt CO2 eq./yr; whereas the production of the 30 % of food which ends up not being consumed is responsible for an additional 50 % of water resource irrigation use, while the production of one kilogram of beef requires 5-10 tonnes of water;

E.  whereas according to several studies, extensive dietary change is proven to be the most effective method for reducing the environmental impact of food consumption; whereas achieving a sustainable food production and consumption system in Europe requires comprehensive and integrated food policy;

F.  whereas according to the World Food Programme (WFP), 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy and active life; whereas poor nutrition is responsible for nearly half (45 %) – approximately 3,1 million – of all deaths in children under the age of five; whereas one in six children in the world are underweight and one in four are stunted; whereas the reduction of food waste is therefore not only an economic and environmental obligation, but also a moral one(8);

G.  whereas almost 793 million people in the world today are malnourished(9), and more than 700 million people live below the poverty line(10) on incomes of less than USD 1,90 per day; whereas any irresponsible use of natural resources intended for food production and any food wastage should therefore be considered morally unacceptable;

H.  whereas less food waste would mean more efficient land use, better water resource management, and positive consequences for the whole agricultural sector worldwide, and would boost the fight against undernourishment in the developing world;

I.  whereas the EU has signed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted at the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2015; whereas Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12,3 is aimed at reducing by 50 % per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels by 2030 and reducing food losses along production and supply chains, including losses in primary production, transportation and storage; whereas the UN estimates that the world’s population will increase from 7,3 billion people today to 9,7 billion in 2050(11); whereas the reduction of food waste is an essential step in reducing world hunger and a necessity for feeding an ever growing world population;

J.  whereas the Consumer Goods Forum, which represents 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers and other stakeholders across 70 countries, has adopted a public resolution to halve food waste from its members’ own operations by 2025, five years ahead of SDG 12.3;

K.  whereas the prevention of food waste brings environmental benefits and advantages in social and economic terms; whereas estimates indicate that 88 million tonnes of food are wasted in the EU each year, equating to 173 kg of wasted food per person, and that the production and disposal of the EU’s food waste generates 170 tonnes of CO2 emissions and consumes 26 million tonnes of resources; whereas the costs associated with this level of food waste are estimated to amount to around EUR 143 billion(12); whereas according to the FAO, 800 million people in the world suffer from hunger;

L.  whereas, according to data from 2014, 55 million people, or 9,6 % of the EU-28 population, were unable to afford a quality meal every second day; whereas, according to data from 2015, 118,8 million people, or 23,7 % of the EU-28 population, were at risk of poverty and social exclusion(13);

M.  whereas reducing food waste can improve the economic situation for households without lowering living standards;

N.  whereas unfair trade practices and price dumping in the food sector frequently lead to food being sold at a price that is lower than its actual value, which in turn creates more waste;

O.  whereas food is lost or wasted at all steps of the food chain, including production, processing, transport, storage, retail, marketing and consumption; whereas estimates from the FUSIONS project indicate that the sectors contributing the most to food waste within the EU are households, at 53 %, and processing, at 19 %, the other contributors being retailers at 12 %, primary production at 10 %, and wholesalers at 5 %(14); whereas these estimates suggest that measures to reduce food waste in households and processing sectors would have the greatest impact; whereas food waste in developing countries occurs mainly due to infrastructural and technological limitations;

P.  whereas the data from the FUSIONS project originate from a number of sources and are based on the use of various definitions of ‘food waste’;

Q.  whereas the FUSIONS project noted that there are very few measurements of waste in agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture, fisheries or other primary production activities; whereas this prevents a good assessment of the actual scale of food loss and waste in Europe;

R.  whereas targeted measures, tailored to the operators and the relevant step in the chain, are a better way of combating food waste, as the problems encountered are not the same across the board;

S.  whereas a study carried out in the UK by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) in 2015 indicated that at least 60 % of household food waste is avoidable and could have been consumed had it been managed better(15);

T.  whereas some losses and waste in primary production are the result of retailer standards on product specifications, cancelled orders due to changes in consumer demand, and overproduction as a result of requirements to meet seasonal demands; whereas food spoilage on the production line is another reason for the loss of food during production;

U.  whereas according to the FAO, in Europe 20 % of fruits and vegetables, 20 % of roots and tuber crops, and 10 % of oilseeds and pulses are lost in agriculture, with a further 5 % of fruits and vegetables and roots and tuber crops lost post-harvest(16);

V.  whereas fruits and vegetables damaged by a natural disaster or destroyed or ploughed over on family farms as a result of a loss of a market or low prices represent a loss of investment and income for farmers;

W.  whereas operators in the food supply chain often internalise the cost of food waste and include it in the final consumer price of the product(17);

X.  whereas the European Court of Auditors’ Special Report No 34/2016 on Combating Food Waste examined the question ‘Does the EU contribute to a resource-efficient food supply chain by combating food waste effectively?’; whereas the findings of the report indicate that the EU is not combating food waste effectively at present, and that existing initiatives and policies could be used more effectively to address the problem of food waste; whereas the report stated that the Commission’s ambition to tackle food waste has diminished despite several requests from the European Parliament and the Member States to address the issue; whereas the report considers the Commission’s action thus far to be fragmented, intermittent and lacking clear coordination; whereas the report recommends that the Commission should: develop an action plan for the years ahead, consider food waste in its future impact assessments, better align the different EU policies which can combat food waste, and clarify the interpretation of legal provisions that can discourage food donation, as well as consider how to facilitate donation in other policy areas;

Y.  whereas the Commission, having invested a substantial amount of resources, and having held a very successful public consultation in 2013, ultimately decided not to publish the communication entitled ‘Building a Sustainable European Food System’, despite the fact that the communication had already been finalised and agreed by three Commissioners (DG Environment, DG SANCO and DG AGRI); whereas this communication contains a number of good approaches for addressing the problem of food waste;

Z.  whereas there is neither a common and consistent definition of ‘food waste’, nor a common methodology for measuring food waste at Union level yet, which makes it difficult to compare different datasets and to measure progress made in food waste reduction; whereas the difficulties associated with collecting full, reliable and harmonised data are an additional obstacle in evaluating food waste in the EU; whereas for the purpose of this resolution, ‘food waste’ means food intended for human consumption, either in edible or inedible status, removed from the production or supply chain to be discarded at primary production, processing, manufacturing, transportation, storage, retail and consumer levels, with the exception of primary production losses; whereas a definition of ‘primary production losses’ needs to be established;

AA.  whereas a distinction needs to be made between edible food waste and inedible parts of waste in order to avoid misleading conclusions and ineffective measures; whereas the focus of reduction efforts should be on avoiding edible food waste;

AB.  whereas the Food Loss and Waste Protocol is a multi-stakeholder effort that has yielded the development of a global accounting and reporting standard (known as the FLW Standard), for quantifying food and associated inedible parts removed from the food supply chain(18);

AC.  whereas monitoring, not only of how much is wasted, but also of the quantities of surpluses and food recovered, can provide a more complete picture, which could be useful in launching sound policies at EU level;

AD.  whereas the waste management hierarchy established by the Waste Framework Directive(19) (prevention, preparing for re-use, recycling, recovery and disposal) does not take account of the specific features of food waste, which is a highly variant waste stream; whereas currently there is no specific hierarchy for the management of unconsumed food and food waste at EU level; whereas a food waste hierarchy which takes the entire food chain into account should be established; whereas prevention and re-use for human consumption ought to be the priority measures;

AE.  whereas, with the right incentivising policies, food surpluses could be recovered and used to feed people;

AF.  whereas there is the potential for optimising the use of former foodstuffs and by-products from the food chain in animal feed production;

AG.  whereas food waste incineration and landfilling are still ongoing practices in some areas of the EU and run counter to the circular economy;

AH.  whereas Article 9(1)(f) of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers(20) requires food business operators to indicate the date of minimum durability (‘best before’ date) or the ‘use by’ date of a food;

AI.  whereas date marking on food products is poorly understood, especially by consumers; whereas ‘best before’ labelling indicates the date after which an item of food may generally still be eaten but may not be at its best in terms of quality, while ‘use by’ labelling indicates the date after which an item of food is no longer safe to eat; whereas not even half of EU citizens understand the meanings of ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ labelling(21); whereas the use of ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ labelling and the ways in which it is understood varies from one Member State to another, and between different producers, processors and distributors, even if the product is the same; whereas according to Article 13 of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on food information to consumers the due date has to be easy to find on a product and clearly legible;

AJ.  whereas the donation of unsold food along the entire food chain leads to considerable reductions in food waste, while also helping people in need of food who cannot afford to purchase particular food products or a sufficient quantity of food of the same quality; whereas supermarkets and gastronomic outlets could play a distinctive role in this process;

AK.  whereas Union funds such as the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) facilitate the donation of food by financing, inter alia, the storage and transport infrastructure for donated food; whereas Member States do not make enough use of FEAD;

AL.  whereas getting consumable surplus food to those in need is hindered by a bottleneck in the capacity of the distribution channel, or sometimes the complete lack of capacity of that channel; whereas charitable organisations and institutions which carry out social work and are maintained by the state or local authorities lack sufficient financial and human resources to be able to transport and distribute consumable food offered for charitable purposes; whereas this is especially true of the most disadvantaged regions;

AM.  whereas social and bottom-up programmes, such as food banks or eateries operated by charitable organisations, reduce food wastage and help the poorest people, and therefore also help to establish a responsible and aware society;

AN.  whereas in the Single Market many companies produce food for more than one country; whereas unsold products from such companies in some instances cannot be donated in the country of production because of labelling in foreign languages;

AO.  whereas food donors are considered as ‘food business operators’ under the General Food Law Regulation(22) and hence have to comply with all EU food legislation concerning responsibility, liability, traceability and the food safety rules established by the Food Hygiene Package(23); whereas the risks associated with the liability for donated food may drive potential food donors to discard surplus food instead of donating it(24);

AP.  whereas, owing to existing administrative barriers, major retail chains and supermarkets deem it acceptable to throw away food close to the ‘best before’ date instead of donating it;

AQ.  whereas the Commission is currently working on a clarification of European legislation on donations;

AR.  whereas several Member States have already adopted national legislation to restrict the creation of food waste, with Italy, specifically, having adopted legislation that facilitates food donation and distribution for social solidarity purposes by excluding donor liability for food that is donated in good faith and known to be fit for consumption at the time of donation;

AS.  whereas countries may also adopt national voluntary guidelines for food donations, such as those prepared by the food safety authorities in Finland, which are aimed at reducing avoidable food waste;

AT.  whereas Council Directive 2006/112/EC of 28 November 2006 on the common system of value added tax(25) (VAT Directive) provides that food donations are taxable and that tax exemptions on food donations are not allowed; whereas the Commission recommends that, for tax purposes, the value of donated food close to the best before date or not fit for sale should be set ‘fairly low, even close to zero’(26); whereas some Member States incentivise food donations by ‘abandoning’ VAT liability, but conformity with the VAT Directive is unclear; whereas other Member States offer a corporate tax credit on donated food(27);

AU.  whereas, unfortunately, in many Member States, it is more expensive to donate surplus food that is fit for consumption than to send it for anaerobic digestion, which is contrary to the public interest, given the number of people living in extreme poverty;

AV.  whereas food packaging makes an important contribution to the reduction of food waste and sustainability by extending the usable life of and protecting products; whereas food packaging that is recyclable and obtained from renewable raw materials can further contribute to environmental and resource efficiency objectives;

AW.  whereas active and intelligent food contact materials can improve the quality of packaged food and extend its shelf life, can better monitor the condition of packaged food, and can provide information on food freshness;

AX.  whereas dealing with food which is thrown away takes up additional resources;

AY.  whereas combating food waste also brings economic benefits, as each euro spent on preventing food waste makes it possible to avoid 265 kg of food waste, with a value of EUR 535, enables local authorities to save EUR 9 on the cost of waste, and enables EUR 50 to be saved on environmental costs linked to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution(28);

AZ.  whereas action to reduce food waste should be taken at the appropriate level; whereas local and regional authorities have a key role to play in reducing food waste through their responsibilities and competences in waste management, their capacities for initiating and running local campaigns, as well as their direct contact and cooperation with civil society and charity organisations, in view of their large share in public procurement and, in many cases, their authority over educational institutions;

BA.  whereas the exchange of good practices at European and international level, as well as assistance for developing countries, are of major importance in combating food waste worldwide;

BB.  whereas since the second semester of 2013, the European Parliament has been implementing a comprehensive policy with the aim of drastically reducing food waste produced by its catering services; whereas unconsumed food from overproduction is regularly donated by the Parliament’s main facilities in Brussels;

1.  Stresses the urgent need to reduce the amount of food waste, and to improve resource efficiency in the Union at every step of the food chain, including production, processing, transport, storage, retail, marketing and consumption, taking into account that in highly industrialised countries food is wasted predominantly at the sales and consumption stages, while in developing countries food begins to be wasted at the manufacturing and processing stages; underlines, in this regard, the importance of political leadership and of a commitment from both the Commission and the Member States; recalls that the European Parliament has repeatedly asked the Commission to take action against food waste;

2.  More specifically, urges the reduction in the amount of food waste generated at the retail and consumer levels and the reduction of food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses;

3.  Insists therefore on the need to improve communication between all actors in the food supply chain, in particular between suppliers and distributors, in order to match supply and demand;

4.  Calls for a coordinated policy response at EU and Member State level, in line with the respective competences, that not only takes into account policies on waste, food safety and information, but also elements of economic, fiscal, financial, research and innovation, environment, structural (agriculture and fisheries), education, social, trade, consumer protection, energy and public procurement policies; calls, in this regard, for coordination between the EU and the Member States; emphasises that the EU’s efforts to reduce food waste should be strengthened and better aligned; notes that businesses along the food supply chain are for the most part SMEs, which should not be burdened with unreasonable additional administration;

5.  Urges the Commission to involve all the relevant Commission services which deal with food waste and to ensure continued and strengthened coordination at Commission level; calls on the Commission, therefore, to employ a systematic approach that addresses all aspects of food waste and to establish a comprehensive action plan on food waste covering the various policy areas and outlining the strategy for the years ahead;

6.  Calls on the Commission to identify European legislation that might hamper the effective combating of food waste and analyse how it might be adapted to meet the food waste prevention objective;

7.  Calls on the Commission, when conducting impact assessments on new relevant legislative proposals, to evaluate their potential impact on food waste;

8.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to put existing financial support for combating food waste on a permanent footing; calls on the Member States to make better use of the opportunities offered in this area by the various European Union policies and funding programmes;

9.  Stresses the responsibility of the competent authorities in the Member States to develop a tailored approach to combat food waste within the EU framework; acknowledges the important work that has already been carried out in several Member States;

10.  Calls on the Commission and Member States to engage in awareness-raising and communication campaigns on how to prevent food waste;

11.  Calls on the Member States to take measures to reduce food losses along the whole supply chain, including in primary production, transportation and storage;

12.  Calls on the Member States to take the measures required to achieve a Union food waste reduction target of 30 % by 2025 and 50 % by 2030 compared to the 2014 baseline;

13.  Calls on the Commission to examine, by 31 December 2020, the possibility of setting up binding Union-wide food waste reduction targets to be met by 2025 and 2030 on the basis of measurements calculated in accordance with a common methodology; calls on the Commission to draw up a report, accompanied by a legislative proposal, if appropriate;

14.  Invites the Member States to monitor and assess the implementation of their food waste reduction measures by measuring the levels of food waste on the basis of a common methodology; urges the Commission to support a legally binding definition of food waste and to adopt, by 31 December 2017, a common methodology, including minimum quality requirements, for the uniform measurement of food waste levels; believes that a common EU definition and methodology for measuring food ‘loss’, applicable to the entire supply chain, would facilitate Member States’ and stakeholders’ efforts in calculating and reducing food waste;

15.  Urges the Commission and Member States to use the following definition of ‘food waste’: ‘food waste means food intended for human consumption, either in edible or inedible status, removed from the production or supply chain to be discarded, including at primary production, processing, manufacturing, transportation, storage, retail and consumer levels, with the exception of primary production losses’;

16.  Calls on the Commission to draw a clear distinction in its future policies between food wastage and food loss, which is unavoidable at primary production level owing to force majeure events such as storms;

17.  Calls on the Commission to include food losses in the agricultural and other primary production sectors in its calculations, in order to ensure an approach which takes the entire supply chain into account; notes, nevertheless, that quantifying losses at the primary production stage can be difficult and calls on the Commission to identify best practices to assist Member States in gathering such data;

18.  Calls on the Commission to work on a common definition of the concept of ‘loss’ at each step in the food chain, and a common measurement methodology in collaboration with the Member States and all the parties involved;

19.  Notes the difficulty in quantifying food wastage and food loss at the primary production stage due to the heterogeneous products and respective processes and the lack of a clear definition of food waste; calls on the Commission to identify and disseminate to Member States best practice in relation to gathering data on food loss and food waste on farms without placing an additional administrative or cost burden on farmers;

20.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to consult all relevant stakeholders on the statistical methodology and other measures to be implemented to prevent food waste throughout the Union and in all sectors;

21.  Notes that there is no common EU definition and methodology for measuring ‘surplus food’; points out that Italy has adopted legislation that defines food chain surpluses and provides a hierarchy for the recovery of surpluses, giving priority to human consumption; calls on the Commission to explore the effects of said legislation on food donation and food waste in Italy, and to consider proposing similar legislation at EU level if necessary;

22.  Calls for a specific food waste hierarchy to be applied in Directive 2008/98/EC as follows:

   (a) source prevention;
   (b) edible food rescue, prioritising human use over animal feed and the reprocessing into non-food products;
   (c) organic recycling;
   (d) energy recovery;
   (e) disposal;

23.  Highlights the initiatives contained in the Circular Economy Action Plan covering measures for establishing a financial support platform to attract investment and innovations aimed at reducing losses, as well as the guidelines addressed to the Member States for converting some food losses or agricultural by-products into energy;

24.  Stresses that energy needs should be met by using waste and by-products that are not useful in any other process higher up the waste hierarchy;

25.  Stresses that successfully combating food waste also requires strong recycling levels in the revised Waste Framework Directive and the integration of the cascading principle for biomass in EU energy policy;

26.  Stresses the need to include an obligation for the Member States to annually notify the Commission of the total level of food waste generated in a specific year;

27.  Calls on the Member States to adopt specific food waste prevention measures within their waste prevention programmes; calls on the Member States in particular to establish voluntary agreements and to create economic and fiscal incentives for donating food and other means of limiting food waste;

28.  Considers, specifically, that, with a view to ensuring a high level of environmental protection and an output, including digestate and compost, with high quality standards, the Member States should encourage home composting and separate out bio-waste at source, and ensure that this waste is subject to bio-recycling; considers that the Member States should also prohibit the placing of bio-waste in landfills;

29.  Notes the contamination risk involved from plastic and metal in food waste inputs to compost and soil, and onwards to freshwater and marine ecosystems, and urges that this pollution route be minimised; recalls, in addition, the intention of the directive on the use of sewage sludge in agriculture to minimise contamination in agricultural soils; calls therefore for caution when considering mixing of waste streams and for appropriate safeguards;

30.  Stresses that food safety is paramount and that food waste reduction measures must not compromise current food safety standards; stresses that the fight against food wastage should not compromise food safety and environmental standards, nor animal protection standards, notably animal health and welfare;

31.  Calls on the Commission to encourage competent authorities in the Member States to adopt measures to control the safety of food from the point of view of health wherever necessary in order to build citizens’ and consumers’ trust in policies which contribute to food wastage reduction;

32.  Notes that preventing the generation of food waste is the priority measure to be pursued, when correctly managing waste in line with the principles of the circular economy; stresses, however, that it is presently impossible to bring food waste generation down to zero; deems it necessary, therefore, to lay down mandatory EU measures to ensure that food waste can be turned into new resources;

33.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to provide economic incentives to support the collection of unused food, which can either be redistributed to charities or re-used for another secondary purpose which prevents food waste, such as turning unused food into a valuable resource, by using it in the production of feed for livestock and domestic animals;

34.  Notes the potential for optimisation of use of food unavoidably lost or discarded and by-products from the food chain, in particular those of animal origin, in feed production, nutrient recycling and production of soil improvers and their importance for primary production;

35.  Stresses that more effective European legislation on by-products in Directive 2008/98/EC could help to significantly reduce food waste; calls on the Commission, to that end, to support, particularly through the Horizon 2020 programme, projects involving agri-food companies designed to facilitate synergies between agriculture and industry;

36.  Reiterates the need for the Commission to draw up a report by 31 December 2018 to assess the need for cross-cutting regulatory measures in the sustainable consumption and production sector, and to draft an impact report to identify the regulations whose interaction is acting as a barrier to the development of synergies between sectors, and is hindering the use of by-products;

37.  Stresses that the use of stocks and food that would otherwise be wasted does not preclude the need for good supply management and wise management of the food chain to avoid systematic structural surpluses;

38.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to promote the higher-grade use of former foodstuffs and by-products from the entire food chain in the production of animal feed;

39.  Calls on the Commission to analyse legal barriers to the use of former foodstuffs in feed production and to promote research in this area, while at the same time stressing the need for increased traceability, compliance with biosecurity standards and using separation and treatment processes that bring food safety risk down to zero;

40.  Welcomes the recent creation of the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste, which is intended to identify priority measures to be adopted at EU level to prevent food losses and food waste, and facilitates the exchange of information between the operators involved; stresses, to that end, that the relevant involvement of the European Parliament in the Platform’s work would be desirable; calls on the Commission to provide Parliament with a precise list of measures currently being taken and the objectives and sub-objectives pursued, as well as the progress being made on a common methodology and on donations; considers that the Platform could be the right tool for measuring not only how much is wasted but also food surplus and recovery quantities; remains convinced, however, that this can only be a very first step to address the problem of food waste;

41.  Calls on the Commission to have the proceedings of the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste made available in the 24 EU languages;

42.  Calls on the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste, inter alia, to support the development of a variety of consumer information channels as well as consumer information and foodstuff education programmes; urges the Platform to facilitate local stakeholder cooperation on food waste prevention and donation initiatives, with a focus on reducing the corresponding transaction costs; reiterates the importance of exchanging best practices, combining knowledge and avoiding duplication with other relevant forums such as, for example, the EU Retail Forum on Sustainability, the European Food Sustainable Consumption and Production Roundtable, the High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain, and the Consumer Goods Forum;

43.  Calls on the Commission, within the framework of the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food waste, to assess the best practices that have hitherto been implemented in the different Member States in order to better define effective instruments to reduce food waste;

44.  Considers that, in order to reduce food waste as much as possible, it is necessary to involve all participants in the food supply chain and to target the various causes of waste on a sector-by-sector basis; calls on the Commission, therefore, to conduct an analysis of the whole food chain in order to identify the food sectors in which food waste is the most prevalent, and which solutions could be used to prevent food waste;

45.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to exchange, promote and support successful food waste reduction practices and resource conservation methods that are already being employed by stakeholders; encourages the Member States and local and regional authorities to consult the relevant stakeholders on what targeted sectoral measures should be taken in the context of food waste prevention;

46.  Emphasises that the Commission and the Member States should first and foremost consult with all key stakeholders – including the agricultural sector – and carry out an impact assessment on any proposed measures to be implemented to prevent food waste throughout the Union;

47.  Encourages the Commission, the Member States and regional and local authorities, in cooperation with all stakeholders, to engage in improving the understanding, especially by consumers, of ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates, and of the usability of foodstuffs after the ‘best before’ date, inter alia, by carrying out awareness-raising and education campaigns and by facilitating easier access to and the provision of comprehensive and understandable product information; points out that the use of dual-date labelling, for example ‘sell by’ and ‘use by’, on the same product can have a negative effect on consumers’ food management decisions; stresses the importance of empowering consumers in order to help them make informed decisions;

48.  Calls on the Commission, as part of its ongoing evaluation, to assess, in particular: whether existing EU legislation and the practice of ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates in a number of Member States is fit for purpose; whether a revision of the ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates terminology should be considered so as to make it easier for consumers to understand them; whether it might be beneficial to remove certain dates for products where no health or environmental risks are involved, and whether it might be advisable to introduce European guidelines on this issue; asks the Commission to carry out a research study in order to evaluate the link between date marking and food waste prevention;

49.  Welcomes the initiative taken by some large retail operators to promote schemes for making changes to the sales prices of products for consumption in line with expiry dates, with a view to boosting consumer awareness and encouraging the purchase of products which are close to their expiry dates;

50.  In view of the fact that many food products, in the days following the expiry of the ‘best before’ date, still retain their organoleptic and nutritional characteristics, although to a reduced extent, and continue to be consumable, provided food safety principles are complied with; calls on the Commission to identify logistical and organisational models that could make it possible to recover, in total safety, all product types that are unsold to date;

51.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to consider variable pricing linked to expiry dates, as a tool for reducing the quantity of edible food products which become waste; considers that waste in the distribution stage can be reduced considerably by introducing discounts in proportion to the time remaining before product expiry; believes that such a practice, which is currently carried out on a voluntary basis, should be promoted and supported;

52.  Asks the Commission to update the list of foods currently exempt from ‘best before’ labelling in order to prevent food waste;

53.  Considers that increased research and information is needed on use-by dates, geared to each product, along with action to promote and boost consumption of fresh and loose produce, and to reduce long-term packaging and storage;

54.  Calls on the Commission, the Member States, regional and local authorities and stakeholders to establish information and communication campaigns to promote the understanding of consumers and all operators in the food chain of food waste prevention, food safety, the value of food and good food processing, management and consumption practices; stresses that these initiatives should emphasise that combating food waste brings benefits not only for the environment, but also in economic and social terms; calls for the deployment and promotion of modern information tools, such as the use of mobile applications, in order to reach out to younger generations, who primarily use digital media; calls for the issue of food wastage and hunger – a serious problem today – to be properly addressed; points out the need for solidarity and for sharing with those most in need;

55.  Urges the Council and the Commission to designate a European Year against Food Waste, as a key information and awareness-raising initiative for European citizens, and to seek to focus the attention of national governments on this important topic, with a view to making sufficient funds available to tackle the challenges of the near future;

56.  Emphasises the importance of educating and engaging children in food waste prevention; notes that the European Court of Auditors’ Special Report No 34/2016 on Combating Food Waste underscores the importance of including food waste-related educational messages in the accompanying measures of the School Milk and the School Fruit and Vegetables Schemes and reports that very few Member States have chosen to do so; encourages the competent authorities of the Member States to harness the full potential of these schemes, which aim to instil good eating habits in young people and provide opportunities to learn about fresh food and agricultural production processes;

57.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to motivate households to combat food wastage by promoting a weekly leftovers day and by providing information on the best shopping and cooking practices for consumers to follow to reduce their food wastage;

58.  Stresses the importance of tailoring distribution, conservation and packaging procedures closely to the features of each product and to consumer needs, in order to limit product wastage;

59.  Stresses the importance, with a view to reducing waste, of ensuring that food is distributed and kept using methods which are appropriate for the characteristics of each product;

60.  Calls on the Commission, the Member States and stakeholders to provide consumers with better information on methods for keeping and/or reusing products;

61.  Underlines the important role of local authorities and municipal enterprises, alongside that of retailers and the media, in providing information and assistance to citizens on how best to keep and/or use food in order to prevent and reduce food waste;

62.  Calls on the Commission, in cooperation with the Member States, to issue recommendations on refrigeration temperatures, in view of evidence showing that non-optimal and inappropriate temperatures lead to food becoming prematurely inedible and generate unnecessary waste; underlines the fact that harmonised temperature levels throughout the supply chain would improve product conservation and reduce food waste for products that are transported and sold across borders;

63.  Highlights the need for the agri-food sector to improve the planning of its production with a view to restricting food surpluses; stresses, however, that a minimum level of food surpluses is currently a physiological factor in the entire agri-food chain, and that surpluses are also caused by external factors which cannot be controlled; considers, for this reason, that measures intended to encourage donations may constitute an important tool in preventing food surpluses from becoming waste;

64.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to encourage innovation and investment in processing technologies in agricultural production in an effort to reduce food wastage in the food supply chain and to reduce losses in food production on family farms;

65.  Encourages Member States to use the European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) to reduce food waste in primary production and the processing sector;

66.  Stresses the importance of bringing together farmers in cooperatives or professional associations in order to reduce food losses by strengthening their knowledge of markets, allowing more efficient programming and economies of scale, and improving their capacity to market their production;

67.  Highlights the importance of cooperation, for example via producer organisations or other bodies such as inter-branch organisations and cooperatives, for increased access to finance for innovation and investment in treatment technologies such as composting and anaerobic digestion, where appropriate, or further processing of products which could allow farmers to access new products, markets and customers; points out, in this connection, that sectoral organisation and the use of contracts result in better production management and more effective action against food wastage; believes that it is essential that this is done at local or regional level to respect the proximity principle;

68.  Notes the benefits of cooperation and digitalisation, which allows better access to data and demand forecasts, and developing advance production programmes for farmers, enabling them to tailor their production to demand, better coordinate with the other sectors of the food supply chain, and minimise wastage; given the challenging nature of reducing unavoidable food waste, stresses that effective use of food waste, including in the bio economy, should be promoted;

69.  Takes the view that in order to better match product supply to demand, labelling rules that provide appropriate information on the origin of the ingredients and the production and processing techniques used would enable consumers to make more informed purchases, thereby having an indirect influence also on production factors, which would have a positive impact in environmental, economic and social terms;

70.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to better inform farmers and consumers about more efficient management of energy, water and natural resources throughout the food chain, so as to significantly reduce waste of resources and food, with the aim of reducing input costs and nutrient wastage and increasing innovation and sustainability within farming systems;

71.  Considers that increased research and information is needed to avoid food waste in primary production and to replace resource-wasting practices in agricultural production, food processing or distribution, with environmentally friendly methods;

72.  Stresses that, in order to keep food waste to an absolute minimum, farmers should be put in a position, both technically and economically, to use their products in the most resource efficient way;

73.  Believes that farmer- and community-led initiatives can offer sustainable, economically viable solutions and provide value for products which might otherwise go to waste, by developing markets for products that would normally be excluded from the food chain, and highlights the potential of farmer- and community-led social innovation projects such as gleaning and donation of excess foodstuffs to food aid associations, including food banks; calls on the Commission and the Member States to recognise practices of this kind and to promote them under the second CAP pillar;

74.  Stresses that, in order to reduce wastage at the production stage, innovative techniques and technologies should be used to optimise performance in the fields and convert those products that do not meet market standards into processed goods;

75.  Points out that large quantities of perfectly edible fruits and vegetables do not reach the market for aesthetic reasons and on account of marketing standards; notes that there are successful initiatives that make use of such products, and encourages stakeholders from the wholesale and retail sector to promote such practices; calls on the Commission and the Member States to boost the development of markets for such foods, and to undertake research on the relation between marketing standards and food waste in this context;

76.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to work together to influence the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) public standards with the aim of avoiding the waste of resources by preventing the generation of food waste;

77.  Considers that increased cooperation among producers and utilisation of producer organisations is needed in order to enable and promote access to secondary market opportunities, other outlets and alternative uses for food surpluses, which would otherwise be ploughed back into the soil or wasted, giving priority to re-use for the purpose of human consumption, such as selling at lower grade for processed foods and selling at local markets;

78.  Notes that those products that can still be used for non-food purposes, such as conversion into feed, fertilisation of fields or use for the production of compost and energy, should be clearly distinguished from those considered to be waste, in order not to jeopardise their re-use;

79.  Notes that the amount of rejected crops could be reduced if they were sold closer to consumers, for example in farmers’ markets and farm shops, where marketing circuits are short and the products purchased are local products with little processing;

80.  Encourages the Member States and the Commission to promote local food and to support short food-supply chains and in-home selling of agricultural products;

81.  Stresses that local and regional products, as well as community-supported agriculture schemes, enable shorter supply chains, which increase the quality standards of products and support seasonal demands, thus having considerable social, environmental and economic benefits;

82.  Believes that short supply chains can play a vital role in reducing food waste and over-packaging, reducing food miles and providing higher quality food and transparent food chains, and, in doing so, underpin the economic viability of rural communities;

83.  Calls for the promotion of seasonal fruits and vegetables in every Member State;

84.  Calls for particular attention to be devoted to animal welfare;

85.  Calls on the Commission and Member States to adopt measures to reduce losses due to poor animal welfare;

86.  Stresses that unfair commercial practices in the supply chain can create food waste; calls on the Commission and Member States to examine how unfair trade practices in the food supply chain generate food waste, and to create a policy framework to combat such practices where necessary;

87.  Believes that resolving the problem of unfair trading practices will improve the position of farmers, the weakest links in the chain, and, by lowering overproduction and the accumulation of surpluses, could help not only to stabilise prices and provide farmers with fair and remunerative farm-gate prices, but also to reduce both food wastage along the entire chain and losses generated on family farms; points out that fairer pay to producers would increase the value of the products, resulting in a reduction of food wastage in the final links of the supply chain;

88.  Stresses that local and regional authorities and stakeholders have a key responsibility to implement food waste reduction and prevention programmes, and asks the Commission and the Member States to take this into account at all stages of the process;

89.  Calls on the Commission to recognise the role played by public agencies providing services of general interest in waste management and in efforts to combat food waste and the efforts of undertakings such as SMEs that make a direct contribution to the circular economy;

90.  Calls on the Member States to encourage local governments, civil society, supermarkets and other relevant stakeholders to support food waste reduction initiatives and contribute to a local food strategy, for example, by informing consumers, via a mobile application, about unsold foods, aligning demand and supply;

91.  Welcomes the setting-up of food establishments where food that is fit for consumption can be left to those in need (‘foodsharing’); calls for procedures to be simplified to make the establishment of such facilities easier;

92.  Takes the view that the greatest barrier in the EU to the delivery of still edible surplus food to those in need is the shortage, or sometimes complete lack of, capacity in the distribution channels; notes that charitable organisations and state- or local government-run social work bodies do not have enough material or human resources to transport and distribute the still edible food offered for charitable purposes; notes that this is true in particular for the most disadvantaged regions;

93.  Notes that the food industry has already taken initiatives to reduce food waste by strengthening cooperation with food aid associations, including food banks throughout Europe;

94.  Calls on the Commission to promote the creation in Member States of agreements stipulating that the retail food sector shall distribute unsold products to charity associations;

95.  Calls for increased engagement by all stakeholders to make sure that any food that is about to expire is first donated to charity; notes, however, that there are still barriers to donations, mainly of a legal nature; calls on the Commission to clarify the interpretation of the legal provisions discouraging donations;

96.  Is concerned that ‘clarification of relevant EU legislation related to waste, food and feed in order to facilitate food donation and utilisation of former foodstuffs for animal feed’, as announced for 2016(29), has not yet been tackled;

97.  Welcomes the draft EU guidelines on food donation as a first step in the right direction; however, with a view to the various barriers to food donation contained in EU legislation, believes that the donation of unsold food along the entire food supply chain needs to be promoted further by enacting legislative changes;

98.  Calls on the Commission to explore the modalities for donating food to charities from companies in the country of production, regardless of the language on the product packaging; points out that donations of said goods should be made possible when the information critical for maintaining food safety, e.g. on allergens, is made available to recipients in official languages of their Member States;

99.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to facilitate local and regional stakeholder cooperation on food donation by reducing transaction costs to lower the threshold for participation, e.g. by offering template tools that can be adapted to specific local needs and used by local actors to match supply and demand of surplus food and to organise logistics more efficiently;

100.  Welcomes the establishment of ‘Social Grocery Shops’, as well as public and private partnerships with charity organisations, to make the best possible use of food that is edible but not sellable;

101.  Calls on the Member States to ensure institutional and financial support to social supermarkets, as they are a key mediator in food donation;

102.  Notes that food sector operators which carry out free transfers of food surpluses must abide by sound operational practices in order to guarantee food safety in terms of hygiene and health, in accordance with the provisions of Regulation (EC) No 852/2004;

103.  Stresses the important role that national authorities can play to help actors throughout the food supply chain use edible food and food close to expiry, by taking a promotional rather than a punitive approach when implementing food safety rules;

104.  Calls on the Commission to explore the possibility and effects of introducing ‘Good Samaritan’ legislation; calls on the Commission to clarify how legislative acts such as Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 and Directive 85/374/EEC regulate liability in food donation;

105.  Calls on the Commission to propose a change in the VAT Directive that would explicitly authorise tax exemptions on food donations; calls on the Member States to follow the Commission’s recommendations and to set a VAT rate that is close to zero if a food donation is made close to the recommended expiry date or if the food is unsellable;

106.  Calls on the Commission to complement Regulation (EU) No 223/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2014 on the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived(30) with an implementing act that promotes the use of FEAD to facilitate food donations by financing the costs of collection, transport, storage and distribution and that regulates the use of intervention stocks under the CAP; encourages local, regional and national authorities to support the setting-up of food donation infrastructure in regions and areas where it is non-existent, inadequate or under capacitated;

107.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States not to divert FEAD resources that had been previously set aside for food banks and charitable organisations towards other target groups;

108.  Points out that food donations cannot be seen as a clear measure to solve the core problems of poverty; stresses, therefore, that unrealistic expectations should be avoided in this regard: food donations cannot be expected to both mitigate social problems and prevent food waste; calls on the Commission, therefore, to take more determined action in poverty prevention;

109.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to be vigilant with regard to donations and to make sure that they are not used to create an alternative market, as that could lead to those in need not benefiting from food donations and discourage businesses from donating;

110.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States, without placing an unnecessary burden on SMEs and voluntary organisations, to closely monitor food donations in order to make sure that the food is not siphoned off and sold on alternative markets, as this would prevent it from reaching those in need and discourage people in the trade from making donations, on account of the risk of this resulting in unfair competition;

111.  Calls on all actors in the food supply chain to take their shared responsibility and implement the Joint Food Wastage Declaration ‘Every Crumb Counts’ and the ‘Retail agreement on waste’; points out that the retail sector meets millions of consumers every day, and is in a unique position to boost knowledge and raise awareness about food waste, thereby facilitating informed choices; underlines that marketing practices such as ‘buy one, get one free’ increase the risk that consumers buy more than they can use; highlights in this regard, moreover, the need to offer smaller package sizes for smaller households; welcomes the fact that some retailers sell food items with short use-by dates at discount prices but believes that this practice should be more widespread;

112.  Reiterates that egg waste is still one of the main issues for retailers; asks the Commission to look into ways to reduce egg waste, taking into account the scientific assessment from EFSA, and asks Member States to properly inform consumers about this important issue;

113.  Calls on the Commission to undertake a study on the impact of reforms of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) on the generation and reduction of food waste;

114.  Emphasises that farmers’ livelihoods depend on getting produce to the market under fair conditions and at remunerative prices and that loss of produce at farm level, including produce lost due to extreme or unusual climate events, damaged in a natural disaster or destroyed because a market has been lost or prices are low, amounts to a loss of investment and income for farmers; points out, in this connection, that price volatility on agricultural markets affects production and farmers’ incomes and can result in food going to waste, and that appropriate tools to address price volatility therefore need to be built into the CAP;

115.  Stresses that the Commission has not yet conducted a study to determine the impact of the different reforms on the volume of agricultural production and its effect on food waste, and calls therefore on the Commission to integrate the issue of food waste into its future policy development and implementation of the CAP;

116.  Emphasises that food wastage at the production stage can also stem from the deterioration of our agricultural production base resulting from the degradation of land, biodiversity (reduced pollination) and natural resources of all kinds, and that due account needs to be taken of this in the future development of farming and the CAP;

117.  Encourages the Member States to harness the full potential of the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) in order to reduce food waste from fish discards and improve survival rates of aquaculture-grown organisms;

118.  Is hopeful that the landing obligation in the CFP, which is currently being phased in, will lead to more selective fishing gears and practices and ultimately to less fish being discarded at sea; notes, however, that the landing obligation does not apply to all fish and therefore further measures are needed;

119.  Is concerned about the level of waste generated after fish are caught, given their perishable nature and the often extreme voyages that they undergo for processing, including frequently going from Europe to Asia and back to Europe for final sale;

120.  Reiterates the importance of the ‘water footprint’ concept for food and feed;

121.  Points out that Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 includes among foods even water ‘intentionally incorporated into the food during its manufacture, preparation or treatment’ and that water is a key strategic resource for the entire agri-food industry;

122.  Stresses that food wastage, depending on the quality, type and quantity of water used for food production, also involves a substantial waste of water;

123.  Points to the importance of improving water management in agriculture, developing ‘water-smart’ food production systems and increasing water and food safety and security in areas that are most at risk because of climate change;

124.  Stresses that innovative and environmentally friendly solutions in areas such as the management of co- and by-products of food production, food trade, food storage, shelf-life, digital technologies, and food contact materials, can offer significant potential for food waste reduction; encourages the Commission, the Member States and other stakeholders to support research in these areas and to promote sustainable and effective solutions; believes that collaborative economy services are important for boosting awareness and promoting sustainable consumption; calls on the Commission to advance innovation through research projects and programmes financed by the EU budget, such as the European Innovation Partnership;

125.  Underlines the responsibility of all actors in the supply chain, including producers of packaging systems, in preventing food waste; stresses the positive contribution of food packaging materials and solutions to the prevention of food loss and food waste along the supply chain, for example packaging that reduces food loss in transport, storage and distribution, and that preserves the quality and hygiene of food for longer, or that extends shelf life; underlines, however, the need to make packaging fit for purpose (i.e. no over- or under-packaging) and appropriate for the product and consumer needs, as well as the need to consider the life-cycle perspective on the packaged product as a whole, including the design and use of the packaging; invites the Commission and the Member States to assess the benefits of bio-based, biodegradable and compostable food packaging, by taking into account the impact on human health and food safety and taking a life-cycle approach; stresses that food waste reduction objectives must be consistent with the measures and objectives in Directive 94/62/EC, in particular the objective of a significant reduction in the consumption of non-recyclable packaging and excessive packaging;

126.  Encourages the Commission and the Member States to support the development and deployment of active and intelligent food contact materials and other innovative solutions that contribute positively to resource efficiency and the circular economy; points out that the relevant food contact material legislation should ensure a maximum level of consumer protection for all packaging material, including imported material from third countries; calls on the Commission, therefore, to present harmonised EU rules for food contact materials and to prioritise the drawing-up of specific EU measures for materials such as paper and board in line with Parliament’s resolution of 6 October 2016 on the implementation of the Food Contact Materials Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004(31);

127.  Recommends promoting the use of voluntary codes of good practice in business developed by sectoral organisations in the food, catering and hotel sectors to aim to make optimal use of products and to promote donations to schemes aimed at collecting excess food for social purposes;

128.  Calls on the Member States to encourage the conclusion of agreements or memoranda of understanding to promote responsible conduct and good practices designed to reduce food waste, including equipping catering operators with reusable containers made of recyclable material, in order to enable customers to take home their leftover food;

129.  Recommends that, when appropriate, local and regional products and seasonal products be used in the catering and hospitality sector in order to shorten the production and consumption chain, thereby reducing the number of processing stages and thus the amount of waste generated during the various phases;

130.  Stresses the fact that developments in the digital sector offer many opportunities for preventing the generation of food waste, in particular the creation of online ‘food rescue’ platforms, which enable the catering sector to offer unsold dishes at reduced prices; highlights the fact that experiments such as these have yielded significant results in the Member States in which they have been developed;

131.  Calls on the Commission to recognise the contribution of socially responsible initiatives, such as the ‘Healthy Nutritional Standard’, the objective of which is to provide better information on food to different groups of consumers with special food needs or preferences through voluntary and co-regulated food labelling in restaurants and tourism in order to reduce food wastage in that field;

132.  Calls on the Commission and Member States to work in cooperation with developing countries to help improve their food chain infrastructure and reduce their food waste levels;

133.  Urges all institutions and bodies of the European Union to include the requirement that catering-related tenders be accompanied by food waste management and reduction plans; asks the Quaestors to give priority to actions to reduce food waste in the European Parliament and encourages other European institutions to follow suit; encourages the Member States and local and regional authorities to reduce food waste in public establishments;

134.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the national parliaments.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0266.
(2) OJ C 227 E, 6.8.2013, p. 25.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0250.
(4) OJ C 17, 18.1.2017, p. 28.
(5) OJ C 161, 6.6.2013, p. 46.
(6) FAO, ‘Food wastage footprint. Impacts on natural resources’, Rome, 2013.
(7) FAO, 2015. Food wastage footprint and climate change.
(8) https://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats.
(9) The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015, FAO, UN.
(10) Development Goals in an Era of Demographic Change, Global Monitoring Report 2015/2016, World Bank.
(11) http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/2015-report.html
(12) FUSIONS, Estimates of European food waste levels, March 2016.
(13) Eurostat, ‘People at risk of poverty or social exclusion’.
(14) FUSIONS, Estimates of European food waste levels, March 2016.
(15) WRAP, 2015. ‘Household Food Waste in the UK’, 2015.
(16) FAO (2011) “Global food losses and food waste”.
(17) European Court of Auditors’ Special Report No 34/2016, ‘Combating Food Waste: an opportunity for the EU to improve the resource-efficiency of the food supply chain’, p. 14.
(18) Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard, 2016.
(19) Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on waste and repealing certain Directives (OJ L 312, 22.11.2008, p. 3).
(20) OJ L 304, 22.11.2011, p. 18.
(21) Flash Eurobarometer 425, ‘Food waste and date marking’, September 2015.
(22) Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety (OJ L 31, 1.2.2002, p. 1).
(23) Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs (OJ L 139, 30.4.2004, p. 1); Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin (OJ L 139, 30.4.2004, p. 55); Regulation (EC) No 854/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 laying down specific rules for the organisation of official controls on products of animal origin intended for human consumption (OJ L 139, 30.4.2004, p. 206).
(24) Comparative Study on EU Member States’ legislation and practices on food donation (2014), commissioned by the European Economic and Social Council.
(25) OJ L 347, 11.12.2006, p. 1.
(26) Joint answer to two written parliamentary questions (E-003730/13, E-002939/13), 7 May 2013.
(27) Comparative Study on EU Member States’ legislation and practices on food donation (2014), commissioned by the European Economic and Social Council.
(28) Commission staff working document, executive summary of the impact assessment, impact assessment on measures addressing food waste to complete SWD(2014)0207 regarding the review of EU waste management targets (SWD(2014)0289, 23.9.2014).
(29) Annex to the Communication from the Commission COM(2015)0614.
(30) OJ L 72, 12.3.2014, p. 1.
(31) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0384.


Evaluation of external aspects of customs performance and management as a tool to facilitate trade and fight illicit trade
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European Parliament resolution of 16 May 2017 on the evaluation of external aspects of the customs performance and management as a tool to facilitate trade and fight illicit trade (2016/2075(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0208A8-0162/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 14 October 2015 entitled ‘Trade for all – Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy’ (COM(2015)0497),

–  having regard to DG TAXUD 2016-2020 Strategic Plan and to DG TAXUD 2016 Management Plan of 14 March 2016 (Ares(2016)1266241),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 21 August 2014 entitled ‘EU Strategy and Action Plan for customs risk management: Tackling risks, strengthening supply chain security and facilitating trade’ (COM(2014)0527),

–  having regard to the Commission report of 19 July 2016 entitled ‘Progress Report on the implementation of the EU Strategy and Action Plan for customs risk management’ (COM(2016)0476),

–  having regard to the Guidelines for Authorised Economic Operators (TAXUD/B2/047/2011),

–  having regard to the EU-China Smart and Secure Trade Lanes (SSTL) Pilot project,

–  having regard to the Council Resolution on the EU Customs Action Plan to combat IPR infringements for the years 2013 to 2017(1),

–  having regard to the DG TAXUD report on EU customs enforcement of intellectual property rights for 2015,

–  having regard to the Strategic Framework for Customs Cooperation between the EU and China,

–  having regard to the Action Plan concerning EU-China customs cooperation on intellectual property rights (2014/2017),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 26 February 2014 entitled ‘Action Plan for monitoring the functioning of preferential trade arrangements’ (COM(2014)0105),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 2 February 2016 entitled ‘Action Plan for strengthening the fight against terrorist financing’ (COM(2016)0050),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 21 December 2016 entitled ‘Developing the EU Customs Union and Its Governance’ (COM(2016)0813),

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 June 2015 on a strategy for the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in third countries(2),

–  having regard to the European Court of Auditors’ Special Report No 23/2016: ‘Maritime transport in the EU: in troubled waters – much ineffective and unsustainable investment’,

–  having regard to the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the World Trade Organisation,

–  having regard to the OECD report of 18 April 2016 entitled ‘Illicit Trade, Converging Criminal Networks’,

–  having regard to Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),

–  having regard to Articles 207, 208 and 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 October 2013 laying down the Union Customs Code(3), and its related Delegated Act (Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2446(4)), Implementing Act (Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/2447(5)), Transitional Delegated Act (Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/341(6)), and Work programme (Implementing Decision (EU) 2016/578(7)),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 608/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 June 2013 concerning customs enforcement of intellectual property rights and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1383/2003(8),

–  having regard to the Commission’s proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2013 on the Union legal framework for customs infringements and sanctions (COM(2013)0884), and to the opinion of the Committee on International Trade for the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection on this proposal(9),

–  having regard to Article 24(2) of Regulation (EU) 2015/478 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2015 on common rules for imports(10),

–  having regard to the principle of policy coherence for development as stated in the TFEU,

–  having regard to its resolution of 19 January 2017 on tackling the challenges of the Union Customs Code implementation(11),

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on International Trade and the opinion of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0162/2017),

A.  whereas the Customs Union is a basic pillar of the European Union, making it one of the largest trading blocs in the world, and whereas a fully functional Custom Union is essential for the credibility which the EU needs to guarantee its strength when negotiating trade agreements;

B.  whereas the implementation of the Union Customs Code is essential for the safeguarding of EU own resources, notably customs duties, and national tax interests;

C.  whereas a fully functional Customs Union is the basis for an effective fight against illicit financial flows and trade-based money laundering;

D.  whereas the implementation of the Union Customs Code (UCC), launched on 1 May 2016, risks being delayed owing to the lack of proper financing of common and functioning IT systems by 31 December 2020;

E.  whereas the progress report on the implementation of the EU Strategy and Action Plan for customs risk management highlights that insufficient financing to upgrade the existing IT systems and develop the required new systems is a major issue hampering progress, most notably in relation to the new Import Control System; whereas in the absence of additional resources, a number of actions will not be able to be implemented by the end of 2020 as envisaged in the Strategy and Action Plan; whereas a delay would also affect the implementation of commitments to customs-related aspects in the context of the EU Agenda on Security;

F.  whereas the current fragmentation of customs control policies between the Member States must not lead to a situation resulting in additional administrative and time burdens or distortion of internal trade flows;

G.  whereas the proposed directive for a Union legal framework for customs infringements and sanctions does not make a clear distinction between criminal and administrative sanctions within Member States in full respect of subsidiarity; whereas this may encourage fraudulent economic operators to make strategic choices when importing from third countries, causing distortions in tax collection and a negative environmental impact, thus proving to be an ineffective deterrent to illegal trade activities;

H.  whereas complex customs rules and procedures, as well as different criteria and sanctions applied by authorities, can overburden small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), placing considerable strain on their limited resources and affecting their trade itinerary;

I.  whereas effective customs cooperation between the Member States’ customs administrations, authorised economic operators, police forces and judicial authorities, as well as other relevant actors with third countries and at multilateral level, plays a vital role, given the significant trade volumes, and is a cornerstone in the fight against illicit trade, terrorism, organised crime, money laundering, wildlife trafficking, tax evasion, drugs and tobacco trafficking and falsified medicines, as well as in the protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs) in the EU, implementation of and respect for due diligence procedures for products in the global value chain, as indicated in the Commission’s ‘Trade for all’ strategy, and the tracking and possible elimination of interconnections between fraudulent actors involved in illicit trade activities in the international supply chain;

J.  whereas the EU has concluded customs cooperation and mutual administrative assistance agreements with South Korea, Canada, the US, India, China and Japan;

K.  whereas certain trade partners continue to ship the bulk of the illegal or counterfeited products entering the Union; whereas Malaysia accounts for only some EUR 2,5 million worth of such exports, while China and Hong Kong are responsible for over EUR 300 million and EUR 100 million respectively; whereas Belarus in 2015 alone caused a fiscal loss to the EU of EUR 1 billion, exporting products that totally circumvented VAT rules and health regulations;

L.  whereas according to the most recent Commission report on the enforcement of IPRs by EU customs authorities, the volume of counterfeit goods seized by those authorities increased by 15 % between 2014 and 2015; whereas more than 40 million products suspected of infringing IPRs, to a total value of almost EUR 650 million, have been seized at the Union’s external borders;

M.  whereas international free trade zones, together with those third countries that are most frequently the sources of illicit trade, represent potential background areas for a continued proliferation of trade in illegal products in the EU, leading to more intensive border controls and therefore being likely to require further specific analysis;

N.  whereas trade in counterfeit goods may contribute to the financing of criminal organisations active in terrorism, drug trafficking, firearms, money laundering and human trafficking;

O.  whereas combating counterfeiting is vital to protecting IPRs in Europe, safeguarding know-how and encouraging innovation;

P.  whereas the role played by customs in the security area is particularly relevant in preventing terrorist organisations from moving their funds and in disrupting their sources of revenue, as recognised in the Commission Action Plan for strengthening the fight against terrorist financing;

Q.  whereas customs services play an important role, in the context of the global trading environment, in coping with the damage done by illicit trade to the formal economy, while also aiding in better comprehending and tackling that same illicit trade;

R.  whereas networks of illicit activities have a detrimental impact on Member State economies in terms of growth, jobs, foreign investment, integrity of markets, competition, trade and loss of customs income, the latter loss being borne in the end by the European taxpayer;

S.  whereas illicit trade is a primary concern for business and poses a significant threat with growing global risks, in terms of transparency, integrity and financial value, mirroring the use of global trade schemes and supply chains;

T.  whereas counterfeiting, the illegal arms trade and drug trafficking generate large sums for transnational organised crime by means of illicit economic and business channels;

U.  whereas the increasing incidence of smuggling, trafficking and other forms of illegal and illicit trade not only have an impact on Member States’ collection of customs duties and on the EU budget, but are also strongly associated with organised international crime, threats to consumers and negative effects on the functioning of the single market, which undermine the level playing field for all competing companies, particularly SMEs;

V.  whereas protecting IPRs is key to both protecting and fostering the EU economy, as well as to growth and jobs;

1.  Calls on the Commission to work closely with the Member States to ensure a coordinated, uniform and efficient implementation of the new system set by the UCC, discouraging divergent practices among the Member States after the transition period through a common basic guideline for all European customs; calls on the Commission, in this regard, to develop benchmark analysis and information on customs operations and enforcement procedures in the Member States;

2.  Highlights that there is no system in place for identifying and monitoring differences in how customs authorities treat economic operators; calls on the Commission to require Member States to provide specific information on the type and number of customs checks at individual core port level;

3.  Invites the Commission to continue cooperation with the Member States and relevant trade stakeholders to address existing gaps in the control systems, develop further customs simplifications and reduce administrative burdens for legitimate traders focussing on the objective of simpler, safer trade, while ensuring at the same time appropriate, effective, efficient and harmonised controls at EU borders and the necessary support to relevant authorities; points out that effective customs controls must guarantee for the EU security, consumer safety, respect of environmental requirements and health regulations and of economic interests, with a particular effort regarding IPR protection and the fight against illicit trade, terrorism, money laundering, wildlife trafficking, tax evasion, drug and tobacco trafficking and falsified medicines, as well as combating all forms of unfair competition that European firms which comply with EU standards may face;

4.  Emphasises the importance of completing the work of harmonising controls at all points of entry into the Customs Union, in particular on the basis of existing instruments;

5.  Calls on the Commission to pursue greater collaboration with the private sector in identifying fraudulent operators; stresses the importance of involving private stakeholders in the fight against illegal trade, including in wildlife and wildlife products;

6.  Recalls that the opportunity provided by the UCC and its rules on interconnected IT systems and electronic exchanges should be used to access data on reliable and legal trade and make it available through channels other than customs declarations, for example through international mutual exchange programmes such as the AEO (Authorised Economic Operator) programme or the Smart and Secure Trade Lanes (SSTL) project, with the aim of facilitating exchanges;

7.  Recalls that the development of the required IT systems needs sufficient financing and calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure the availability of resources for the necessary IT systems in order to meet the objectives of the EU Strategy and Action Plan for customs risk management;

8.  Calls on the Commission to push for wider utilisation of the AEO programme; stresses the importance of promoting its benefits for trade whilst preserving stringent rules of compliance, as well as its robustness, reliability and compliance with third countries’ customs rules in trade agreement negotiations;

9.  Asks the Commission to coordinate and cooperate with customs, border agencies on the ground and stakeholders within the EU, as well as with its trade partners, in the area of data sharing, in particular as regards recognition of custom controls, trusted trade partners and mitigation strategies for dismantling illicit trade networks; calls on the Commission to improve and step up cooperation among its DGs on customs matters and, where necessary, to promote improved coordination between customs and law enforcement authorities, in particular regarding organised crime, security and the fight against terrorism, at both national and EU level;

10.  Invites the Commission to present a communication on ‘Best practices for custom controls and the enforcement of trade rules’, in the interim period, in order to provide a framework of reference for the competent control bodies in the Member States, highlight best practices and results, establish a set of key performance indicators, and analyse trade flows in counterfeit goods at border points;

11.  Urges the Commission to continue working on the implementation of the EU Strategy and Action Plan for customs risk management, notably in the areas of availability of data, access to and exchange of information for customs risk management purposes, and the strengthening of capacities;

12.  Calls on the Commission to periodically report to the responsible committees of the European Parliament on the monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the EU Strategy and Action Plan for customs risk management;

13.  Urges the Commission to investigate the different practices for customs controls in the EU and their impact on trade diversion, focusing in particular on EU customs at external borders;

14.  Notes that today divergent customs procedures, in particular regarding customs clearance, inspections, sanctions and controls, are resulting in fragmentation, additional administrative burdens, delays, variations in tax collection among Member States, market distortion and negative environmental impact; stresses that these divergent customs procedures may often favour access to some ports to the detriment of others with illegitimate operators importing counterfeit or undervalued goods, resulting in goods being delivered to their final destination via an unusual route and clearance being sought in a Member State other than the one importing the goods, either to reduce the likelihood of being subject to controls or to complicate any potential recovery procedure; asks the Commission, therefore, to analyse this ‘forum shopping’ problem and to assess its impact on trade, tax revenues, climate effects and customs duties;

15.  Reminds the Member States and the Commission of the importance of ensuring the timely availability of sufficient resources for the necessary IT systems in order that the objectives of the EU Strategy and Action Plan for customs risk management can be met while ensuring the interoperability of systems to the benefit of customs authorities, legitimate traders and, ultimately, consumers and promoting jobs and economic growth in the EU;

16.  Insists on the need to advance from the current ‘less paper’ customs environment to one that is ‘paper-free’;

17.  Requests the Commission to work closely with the Member States, the OECD and the World Customs Organisation (WCO) in reducing the existing gaps in the customs control systems by ensuring that illicit trade, counterfeiting and fraud are tackled using more systematically coordinated risk-based controls based on harmonised criteria for inspections, best practices and common procedures and working methods, in terms of both operating hours, economic and human resources and interoperable IT systems, with timely and appropriate support being provided by other competent authorities; recalls, in this regard, the importance of ensuring powers of inquiry for all EU customs and border agencies, and of guaranteeing appropriate training for their operators;

18.  Calls on Member State customs authorities to proactively use electronic data sharing facilities in order to cooperate with law enforcement agencies in the identification of anomalies in trade value mispricing and thus combat illicit financial flows and trade-based money laundering;

19.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that the progressive implementation of the UCC brings additional value to economic operators, establishing a level playing field throughout the Union, while at the same time ensuring that increased simplification of customs procedures does not create gaps in the customs risk management and control systems that could hinder the effective fight against illicit trade; regards it as essential that EU customs law should be harmonised, and calls on the Commission and the Member States to carry out regular monitoring of EU rules and their uniform application by the competent authorities, facilitating international trade as well as curbing illegal transnational activities;

20.  Urges the Commission to work further with the Member States on sharing best practices on customs procedures and VAT, cooperating with different competent authorities and, where appropriate, aligning policies as regards customs and VAT, with a view to ensuring synergies, including in finding and applying legal and practical solutions to challenges and opportunities relating to small consignments, e-commerce and simplification;

21.  Calls on the Commission, in light of Article 23 of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement calling for a Trade Facilitation Body, to consider transferring responsibilities of customs authorities from the national to the EU level as regards ensuring harmonised treatment along the EU points of entry, monitoring the performance and activities of customs administrations, and collecting and processing customs data;

22.  Invites the Commission, furthermore, to better develop an accurate cost-benefit analysis of the implications of harmonisation of the enforcement of criminal sanctions in place in the Member States to combat illicit trade activities and, if necessary, to present a proposal containing harmonised rules, always respecting subsidiarity, concerning the definition of those sanctions and offences in cases of transnational crime;

23.  Urges the Commission and the Member States to do more to develop and support joint training opportunities for customs agents in the Member States; emphasises that the harmonisation of training for customs agents in Europe will contribute to the effective implementation of the Union Customs Code;

24.  Requests the Commission to enhance cooperation with international trade stakeholders and trade representatives with a view to addressing all challenges stemming from the implementation of the UCC, including different and divergent national rules, reporting methods and means and the concerns of SMEs involved in trade with third countries;

25.  Recalls that certain fraudulent firms based in third countries are using e-commerce to offer counterfeit goods to European consumers, and that some goods may be billed under the minimum price level to avoid being checked by authorities or may be entering taking advantages of differences in invoicing arrangements, customs rules and penalties; asks the Commission to further investigate these problems and to reflect on how best to address risk related to e-commerce and to work closely with all concerned actors, including transport and courier companies, in order to support Member States in curbing this practice without creating barriers to the growth of e-commerce or hindering legitimate trade;

26.  Urges the Commission to ensure, jointly with Member States, that the EU implements to a maximum extent the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and continues to promote its implementation by the other WTO members for the benefit of the EU exporters, including by contributing to the efforts of developing countries, in order to enhance trade facilitation worldwide;

27.  Invites the Commission to reinforce international cooperation to further develop the implementation of the EU Strategy and Action Plan for customs risk management of the supply chain;

28.  Invites the Commission to reinforce its cooperation in customs matters with its main trading partners and their customs authorities, as well as to engage in a dialogue with the main originating countries of counterfeit goods, with a view to collaborating in the fight against illicit financial flows, money laundering, trade-based corruption, tax fraud and tax evasion, organised crime and terrorism, all of which undermine the health and safety of consumers, posing risks to society and the market while harming economies, and to further facilitate bilateral trade beyond strict TFA commitments; points out that this can be achieved by including subjects of trade facilitation such as standardised rules on methods, transparency, integrity and accountability of customs procedures, and the inclusion of anti-fraud and anti-counterfeiting chapters in all negotiations for free trade agreements (FTAs), or through specific customs agreements;

29.  Invites the Commission to continue and deepen customs cooperation in the field of IPRs with third countries and free trade zones that are most frequently the source of illicit trade; in this regard, believes it is necessary to foster both administrative cooperation between customs authorities at international level and the development of partnerships with private businesses, in order to counter customs violations and circumvention of tax obligations;

30.  Invites the Commission to strengthen cooperation with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and, in particular, the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights, in order to support initiatives on IPR enforcement such as facilitation procedures for rightholders through electronic exchange of data, which would also benefit SMEs, and to make the fight against counterfeiting and fraud one of its priorities in the WTO, involving the OECD and the WCO in its work on the matter; therefore stresses that the current Regulation on Customs Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights plays an important role in the fight against counterfeiting (trademark infringements), piracy (copyright infringements) and smuggling of sensitive products, as well as in the areas of geographical indications, marking of origin and illegal trade; believes it vital that the above Regulation, along with the directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, is duly implemented throughout the Union and that necessary enforcement by customs authorities is conducted in a way that does not prevent legitimate traders from operating in good faith;

31.  Requests the Commission to coordinate in a better way the defence of geographical indication on agri-food products, within the Commission itself and also with the EUIPO, as a genuine value added on external markets; reminds the Commission of the importance of developing an equally ambitious policy on non agri-food geographical indications; points out that the introduction of a system for the protection of non-agricultural products by means of geographical indications which is coherent, simple, transparent and does not impose an administrative and financial burden represents an opportunity for SMEs and would strengthen the EU’s position in international trade negotiations;

32.  Notes that customs services are facing new kinds of challenges, related both to new ways of trading and to the security and protection of goods under import procedures or in international transit with a destination in Europe;

33.  Notes that the efficiency of customs procedures is crucial not only for trade facilitation, but also for effective and expedient law enforcement with regard to the counterfeiting and smuggling of excisable goods entering the EU; considers that customs services are at the crossroads between the secured movement of goods protecting consumers within the EU and the implementation of the provisions of trade agreements;

34.  Is of the opinion that the quality and performance of customs controls on the transit of goods, particularly for shipment and transport operations at ports and borders, is of the first importance and must be improved; regrets that there is currently a factual gap in terms of type of controls within the Union that favours some access routes, in particular ports, to the detriment of others, where the checks carried out are more stringent; considers it necessary to ensure that there are homogeneous and standardised control techniques among Member States for filtering at ports and borders, by promoting modern, technologically advanced and risk management-based control strategies;

35.  Considers that Member States should concentrate customs controls, and, to the extent possible, other relevant border controls, on high-risk consignments that are selected on a random basis using common selectivity criteria, including those relating to the nature and description of the goods, country of origin, country from which the goods were shipped, value of the goods, regulatory compliance record of traders, and means of transport;

36.  Supports all efforts to promote integrity in international trade with the move towards achieving fully electronic EU customs procedures by 2020, as foreseen in the new Union Customs Code, which will enhance the transparency of the control sampling of goods and containers;

37.  Feels that better coordination is needed between the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), customs authorities and market surveillance authorities in order not only to combat counterfeiting, but also to curb the trade in illegal products that infringe intellectual property laws in the EU;

38.  Stresses OLAF’s role in investigating the evasion of import duties (including conventional, anti-dumping and countervailing duties) on all types of commodities and goods, especially where involving false declarations of origin (in both preferential and non-preferential regimes) and undervaluation and wrong description of goods; calls on OLAF to play a more active role in the coordination of related investigations by national customs services of EU Member States and other partners both inside and outside the EU;

39.  Points out that regular Joint Customs Operations play a vital role in safeguarding EU public finances, by identifying where the risks lie on specific trade routes and protecting the citizens and legitimate businesses by preventing illegal products from entering the EU; calls on OLAF to step up its support for the customs authorities of EU Member States as well as some third countries in carrying out more joint customs operations, by means of its technical infrastructure, IT and communications tools, strategic analysis and administrative and financial support, in order to improve the effectiveness of customs services in conducting targeted checks at European level;

40.  Believes that the Commission should better monitor, on a standardised risk basis, countries benefiting from preferential treatment, notably in order to verify the implementation of rules of origin and cumulation; considers, in this context, that the checking of the originating status of imported products and the adequacy of the documents granting preferential treatment is a key component of control strategies and traceability;

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

(1) OJ C 80, 19.3.2013, p. 1.
(2) OJ C 407, 4.11.2016, p. 18.
(3) OJ L 269, 10.10.2013, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 343, 29.12.2015, p. 1.
(5) OJ L 343, 29.12.2015, p. 558.
(6) OJ L 69, 15.3.2016, p. 1.
(7) OJ L 99, 15.4.2016, p. 6.
(8) OJ L 181, 29.6.2013, p. 15.
(9) See report A8-0239/2016.
(10) OJ L 83, 27.3.2015, p. 16.
(11) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0011.

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