Index 
Texts adopted
Thursday, 16 November 2017 - StrasbourgFinal edition
Freedom of expression in Sudan, notably the case of Mohamed Zine al -Abidine
 Terrorist attacks in Somalia
 Madagascar
 EU-New Zealand Partnership Agreement on Relations and Cooperation (Consent)***
 EU-New Zealand Partnership Agreement on Relations and Cooperation (Resolution)
 The EU-Africa Strategy: a boost for development
 Activities of the European Ombudsman in 2016
 Environmental Implementation Review (EIR)
 Combating inequalities as a lever to boost job creation and growth

Freedom of expression in Sudan, notably the case of Mohamed Zine al -Abidine
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European Parliament resolution of 16 November 2017 on freedom of expression in Sudan, notably the case of Mohamed Zine al -Abidine (2017/2961(RSP))
P8_TA(2017)0443RC-B8-0634/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the situation in Sudan, in particular those of 13 June 2012(1), 10 October 2013(2), 18 December 2014(3) and 6 October 2016(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 March 2017 on EU priorities for the UN Human Rights Council sessions in 2017(5),

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

–  having regard to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

–  having regard to the Cotonou Agreement,

–  having regard to the Sudanese Press and Publications Act of 2009,

–  having regard to the Sudanese Freedom of Information Law of 2015,

–  having regard to the Kampala declaration of the Pan-African Conference on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information of 26 March 2017,

–  having regard to the joint statement of the EU, Norway, the US and Canada on political detentions and newspapers’ censorship in Sudan of 7 December 2016,

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline,

–  having regard to the statement of the United Nations Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, following his mission to Sudan of 11-21 May 2017,

–  having regard to the visit by Commissioner Stylianides to Sudan of 22-23 October 2017,

–  having regard to the declaration by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) on behalf of the EU on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (2 November 2017),

–  having regard to Reporters Without Borders’ 2017 World Press Freedom Index,

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

A.  whereas an article by Mohamed Zine al-Abidine published on 23 February 2012 in the Al-Tayar newspaper criticised the alleged corruption in the family of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir;

B.  whereas the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) filed charges against Mohamed Zine al-Abidine and his editor-in-chief, Osman Mirgani;

C.  whereas on 23 October 2017 a Sudanese court sentenced Mohamed Zine al-Abidine to a suspended jail term with a five-year probation period on charges of having violated the journalism code of ethics;

D.  whereas the editor-in-chief of Al-Tayar, Osman Mirgani, was sentenced to pay a fine of 10 000 Sudanese pounds or serve a six-month prison sentence on the same charges, and was released after the fine was paid by the Sudanese Journalists Union;

E.  whereas the lawyer representing both Mohamed Zine al-Abidine and Osman Mirgani has stated his intention to appeal the verdict against them;

F.  whereas it has been reported that the NISS questions and detains journalists and has filed multiple lawsuits against Sudanese journalists and arbitrarily confiscated entire issues of newspapers, such as Al-Tayar, Al-Jareeda Al-Watan, Al-Youm Al-Tali, Al-Ayam and Akhir Lahza, containing articles critical of the government;

G.  whereas in 2016 there were at least 44 cases of confiscated publications affecting 12 newspapers, including five issues of Al-Jareeda in a single week; whereas on 14 August 2016 the National Council for Press and Publications indefinitely suspended the publication of the Elaf, Al-Mustagilla, Al-Watan and Awal Al-Nahar newspapers;

H.  whereas the existence of free, independent and impartial media constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society;

I.  whereas on 8 January 2017 Sudan signed the Declaration on Media Freedom in the Arab World, becoming its fourth signatory after Palestine, Tunisia and Jordan; whereas the state minister for media affairs noted the government’s commitment to respect press freedom in Sudan;

J.  whereas Reporters Without Borders ranks Sudan among the least free countries, 174th of 180, in its 2017 World Press Freedom Index, owing to ‘harassment of the media, censorship, confiscation of newspaper issues, media closures, and Internet cuts’;

K.  whereas the UN report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan noted in July 2017 that the censorship by the NISS of the Al-Jareeda newspaper contravened the Interim National Constitution of Sudan;

L.  whereas Sudan has signed but not ratified the 2005 revised version of the Cotonou Agreement;

M.  whereas VP/HR Federica Mogherini issued a statement on the 14 November 2017 on the visit of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to Uganda, in which she reminded all parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to abide by and implement their obligations under international law;

N.  whereas human, civil and political rights continue to be repressed in Sudan;

1.  Expresses its deep concern at the sentencing of Mohamed Zine al-Abidine by the Press Court in Khartoum on 23 October 2017 to a suspended jail term with a five-year probation period, and calls on the Sudanese authorities to immediately review all charges against him;

2.  Is deeply worried about freedom of expression in Sudan, the ongoing censorship and seizures of newspapers, and the increased restrictions on journalists from freely expressing their opinion in Sudan; notes that holding government policies and politicians to account in the public domain should not result in repression of the free press; further notes with concern the long-term financial restrictions placed on newspapers as a result of routine seizures and suspensions of operations;

3.  Deplores the fact that numerous reports have emerged regarding repeated violations of media freedom and continued harassment of journalists by the NISS, and urges the Sudanese authorities to bring the powers and methods of the NISS into line with international standards;

4.  Believes that free, independent and impartial media constitute one of the essential foundations of a democratic society, where open debates play a crucial role; calls for the EU to intensify its efforts to promote freedom of expression through its external policies and instruments;

5.  Urges the Sudanese authorities to put an immediate end to all forms of harassment, intimidation and attacks against journalists and defenders of freedom of online and offline expression, and to undertake democratic reforms as a means to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights in the country, including freedom of expression, in accordance with its obligations under the Interim National Constitution of Sudan and its international commitments, including the Cotonou Agreement;

6.  Emphasises that the state, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has the primary responsibility for the promotion and protection of all human rights; calls on the Sudanese authorities to restore and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms under international law, including freedom of expression;

7.  Recognises the importance of Commissioner Stylianides’ recent mission and of conveying the EU’s widely-known concerns to the Sudanese authorities, including as regards respect for fundamental freedoms;

8.  Calls for the EU and its Member States to provide support to civil society organisations by means of technical assistance and capacity-building programmes, so as to improve their human rights advocacy and rule-of-law capabilities and enable them to contribute more effectively to the improvement of human rights in Sudan;

9.  Notes with concern the proposed Press and Printing Act of 2017, which includes further controversial restrictions on online publications and provisions for lengthier suspensions of newspapers and journalists; encourages the Government of Sudan to amend the Press and Publication Act of 2009 in order to provide more protection to journalists and newspaper publishers;

10.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Co-Presidents of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, the African Union Commission, the Pan-African Parliament and the Sudanese Government.

(1) OJ C 332 E, 15.11.2013, p. 49.
(2) OJ C 181, 19.5.2016, p. 87.
(3) OJ C 294, 12.8.2016, p. 28.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0379.
(5) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0089.


Terrorist attacks in Somalia
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European Parliament resolution of 16 November 2017 on terrorist attacks in Somalia (2017/2962(RSP))
P8_TA(2017)0444RC-B8-0600/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Somalia,

–  having regard to its resolution of 18 May 2017 on the situation in the Dadaab refugee camp(1),

–  having regard to the statement by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) of 15 October 2017 on the attacks in Mogadishu, Somalia, and the statement of the Spokesperson of the VP/HR of 30 October 2017 on the attack in Somalia,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 3 April 2017 on Somalia,

–  having regard to the EU intervention of 27 September 2017 on the 36th Session of the Human Rights Council on the Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Somalia,

–  having regard to UN Security Council resolutions 2372 (2017), adopted on 30 August 2017, and 2383 (2017), adopted on 7 November 2017,

–  having regard to the UN Secretary General reports to the UN Security Council of 9 May and 5 September 2017 on Somalia,

–  having regard to the UN Security Council statement of 15 October 2017 on the terrorist attack in Mogadishu,

–  having regard to the statement of the African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson on 15 October 2017 on the attack in Mogadishu,

–  having regard to statements by the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) condemning the terrorist attacks on 14 and 28 October 2017,

–  having regard to the final communiqué of the international conference on Somalia, held in London on 11 May 2017,

–  having regard to the EU-African Union Joint Communiqué on the Implementation of the Paris Agreement of 1 June 2017,

–  having regard to the AMISOM statement of 8 November 2017 announcing its intention to initiate a phased withdrawal of troops from Somalia starting in December 2017, with the intention of a full withdrawal by 2020,

–  having regard to the Cotonou Partnership Agreement between the ACP and the EU,

–  having regard to the mandate of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to promote and protect human and peoples’ rights under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict,

–  having regard to the Organisation of African Unity Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism, adopted in 1999,

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

A.  whereas on 14 October 2017 a massive truck bomb rocked the centre of Mogadishu, killing at least 358 people, injuring 228 others and a further 56 are still missing; whereas the attack in the heart of Mogadishu was one of the most lethal terrorist operations anywhere in the world in recent years; whereas over 30 people were killed on 28 October 2017, when two bombs detonated outside a hotel near the presidential palace in Mogadishu;

B.  whereas, although no group has claimed responsibility for these cowardly attacks, they bear the hallmarks of Al-Shabaab, which now appears not to want to undermine any popular support by associating itself with such huge losses of civilian life; whereas Somali citizens have repeatedly denounced the violence of Al-Shabaab, and have united in response to the October 2017 bombings, marching in their thousands through Mogadishu in defiance of Al-Shabaab;

C.  whereas there has been a series of deadly terrorist attacks in Mogadishu and throughout the country in recent months, including car bombings, random shootings, targeted executions and abductions, highlighting the continued threat of violent extremism facing the country;

D.  whereas a majority of the attacks have mainly been attributed to the terrorist actions of Al-Shabaab, although Daesh is also known to be active in the country;

E.  whereas the president of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, after taking power in February 2017 in an election seen as a key milestone marking the battered East African country’s gradual return to stability and prosperity, has pledged to rid Somalia of Al-Shabaab;

F.  whereas in light of the spate of attacks throughout 2017, not least the horrific bombing of 14 October 2017, it is not at all clear that Somali security forces, following AMISOM’s intended departure in 2018, will be sufficiently capable of combatting terrorism without external aid;

G.  whereas AMISOM forces have on several occasions been accused of severe human rights abuses, including indiscriminate killings and some cases of sexual exploitation and abuse; whereas the redeployment of foreign troops in Somalian territory outside UN/AU mandates represents a significant cause for concern given previous allegations of human rights abuses by AMISOM forces;

H.  whereas, in addition to violent extremism, drought, clan conflict and forced evictions have resulted in hundreds of thousands of people being displaced in the past year alone, many into government-controlled urban centres; whereas many live in unsafe settlements, where women and girls in particular face abuse and sexual violence;

I.  whereas the threat of famine still looms large in Somalia, with approximately 400 000 Somali children suffering from acute malnutrition and with 3 million people living in crisis or emergency food security conditions; whereas there are some 1,1 million internally displaced persons in Somalia, with over 900 000 Somali refugees in the region;

J.  whereas there are 420 000 Somali refugees in camps in Kenya, with 350 000 in the Dadaab camp, and whereas the governments of Somalia and Kenya, and the UNHCR, have agreed to facilitate the voluntary return of 10 000 refugees to areas in Somalia that are not under Al-Shabaab control; whereas returnees face problems of re-integration and have little prospect of finding work; whereas many Dadaab refugees are of Somali descent, but have never known life outside the camp and are effectively stateless, meaning that they cannot be sent to Somalia;

K.  whereas the EU has since 2016 progressively increased its annual humanitarian support to Somalia, in particular in response to the severe drought affecting the country, allocating EUR 120 million to humanitarian partners in 2017 and releasing emergency aid of EUR 100 000 to help efforts to respond rapidly to medical needs in Mogadishu following the attack on 14 October 2017; whereas the EU also initially mobilised two ships of the EU Naval Operation ATALANTA, along with emergency aid flights, to deliver emergency medical supplies to Mogadishu hospitals;

L.  whereas the EU has provided EUR 486 million through the European Development Fund (2014-2020), focusing on the implementation of the ‘Compact’ and, in particular, on state- and peacebuilding, food security, resilience and education; whereas the EU is also committed to supporting AMISOM through the African Peace Facility;

M.  whereas in December 2016 the World Bank pledged to step up the fight against extreme poverty, announcing that developed countries had pledged a record USD 75 billion for grants and soft loans to the International Development Association (IDA); whereas, however, Somalia is not eligible for IDA funding as it owes the bank and the IMF over USD 300 million as part of a USD 5 billion debt mountain owed to multilateral and bilateral creditors;

N.  whereas while children continue to be killed, arbitrarily detained and recruited by Al-Shabaab, they are also being recruited into the Somali armed forces, despite the fact that Somalia ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in January 2015 and endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration in November 2015, committing itself to taking concrete steps to protect students and educational institutions;

O.  whereas, in the absence of a functioning civilian judiciary, the Somali Government relies on military courts to try and convict civilians, which does not guarantee the rights of civilian defendants; whereas broad powers of investigation are granted to the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA), which currently does not have a law enforcement mandate, resulting in significant violations of the due process rights of detainees held by NISA;

P.  whereas, according to Transparency International, Somalia is the most corrupt country in the world for the 10th year running; whereas the Somali Government still faces numerous challenges, such as corruption and lack of widespread support from civilians, which has inevitably led to a lack of trust in state institutions and to subsequent support drifting to radical Islamist and terrorist groups;

1.  Expresses its deepest sympathy with the victims of the recent terrorist attacks in Somalia, and with their families, and deeply regrets the loss of lives; at the same time, strongly condemns the perpetrators of these attacks, which have been attributed to the Al-Shabaab insurgent group;

2.  Recalls that lasting stability and peace can only be achieved through social inclusion, sustainable development and good governance, based on democratic principles and the rule of law, in which peoples’ dignity and rights are fully respected;

3.  Welcomes the Commission’s rapid emergency response following the 14 October 2017 terrorist attack; calls for the EU and its international partners to fulfil their commitments to Somalia, in the first instance through measures to establish food security, with a view to avoiding the structural problems that lead to famine, to fostering security and the reconciliation of communal grievances, to improving the management of public finances and to assisting in the completion of the constitutional review needed to achieve long-term stability;

4.  Deplores the fact that, despite repeated warnings from humanitarian groups, aid agencies and the European Parliament, Somalia continues to teeter on the brink of famine; recalls that the death toll in the 2011 famine was exacerbated by insecurity and the actions of extremist militants from Al-Shabaab to hinder food aid deliveries to areas of south-central Somalia that at the time were under its control; calls on all parties to work with humanitarian agencies, fully respecting humanitarian principles to allow full and unhindered access to those who continue to suffer and who are in need, in particular those in rural areas;

5.  Welcomes the electoral process organised in February 2017, which led to the election of a new president, and expresses its hope that the election will foster political stability, encourage the adoption of necessary reforms and move the federal project forward in close coordination and collaboration with the Federal Member States (FMS); stresses the importance of fighting the endemic corruption in the country and of providing options for the country’s youth in order to reduce the risk of their recruitment by Al-Shabaab;

6.  Welcomes the decision of the Somali National Leadership Forum to promote the establishment and registration of political parties, in advance of the 2020 elections and on the basis of the principle of one-person, one-vote, as well as the attempt to rebuild the state institutions and the adoption of important new laws on political parties and on the creation of an independent National Human Rights Commission; points out that efforts must be undertaken to increase women’s representation;

7.  Underlines the importance of the contribution made by the country’s diaspora and civil society to re-establishing not only governance, but also social and economic development, highlighting the importance of the representation and participation of women in decision making; welcomes, in this context, the increase in the number of women members of the Somali Parliament (to 24 %) and Cabinet, keeping in mind the need for greater efforts to improve gender balance, both in the EU and in Somalia;

8.  Takes note of the Nairobi Declaration of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on durable solutions for Somali refugees and the reintegration of returnees in Somalia; welcomes the commitment to achieve a comprehensive regional approach, while at the same time maintaining protection and promoting self-reliance in the countries of asylum, which is to be undertaken with the support of the international community and to be consistent with international responsibility-sharing as outlined in the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) of the New York Declaration;

9.  Calls for the Commission to step up consultation efforts with actors in the region, including the local populations, regional government and NGOs, with a view to focusing on locally identified problems and needs, fostering a conducive climate and increasing the capacity for the return of refugees to their home countries;

10.  Expresses concern about NISA’s broad remit and its use of military courts to prosecute alleged terrorism-related crimes, whereby it has repeatedly flouted due process and imposed the death penalty without accountability;

11.  Calls on the Somali Government and the EU, as part of its rule-of-law activities in Somalia, to ensure that NISA is regulated with effective oversight mechanisms, and to strengthen the technical expertise of Somalia’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) so that it can carry out thorough and effective investigations respectful of citizens’ rights;

12.  Welcomes, in particular, the political agreement that Somalia’s leaders reached on 16 April 2017 to integrate regional and federal forces in a coherent National Security Architecture capable of gradually taking on lead responsibility for providing security, and the swift establishment of the National Security Council and National Security Office;

13.  Acknowledges AMISOM’s role in enabling security and stability, allowing Somalia to establish political institutions and extend state authority, in anticipation of a transfer of security responsibility to Somali institutions and forces; welcomes the African Union’s investigation into allegations of sexual violence by AMISOM troops; calls for full implementation of the recommendations of the UN Secretary General reports on Somalia, and, in line with UN Security Council resolution 2272 (2016), urges the AU and troop-contributing countries to ensure that allegations are properly and thoroughly investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice; underlines the importance of the possibility of extending AMISOM’s mandate beyond May 2018, warning that a premature transfer of responsibilities to Somali troops could be detrimental to long-term stability;

14.  Underlines the need to fight impunity and to ensure accountability for crimes against humanity and war crimes carried out in Somalia; takes note of the Somali President’s offer of amnesty for certain crimes to those who renounce terrorism and violence and want to leave Al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups, and encourages the development of amnesty legislation;

15.  Deplores the recruitment of child soldiers by Al-Shabaab militants and the use of children by security forces as soldiers and as informants, including the use of captured or deserting child soldiers; recalls that the Government of Somalia has committed to rehabilitate former child soldiers and bring those responsible for their recruitment to justice; calls on international donors, including the EU, to prioritise the provision of rehabilitation services, education and safe schooling as a key element to breaking the deadly cycle of violence; urges the authorities to treat children suspected of association with Al-Shabaab primarily as victims and to consider the best interests of the child, following international protection standards as guiding principles;

16.  Raises serious concern that natural resources, in particular charcoal, remain a significant source of financing for terrorists and a cause of serious environmental degradation in Somalia; calls on the Commission to examine how traceability and due diligence schemes can be widened to include all natural resources used to fuel terrorist activity and violence; calls, in this context, on all parties to ensure compliance with the UN Security Council resolution banning the export of Somali charcoal;

17.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the African Union, the President, the Prime Minister and the Parliament of Somalia, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the United Nations Security Council, the United Nations Human Rights Council, and the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0229.


Madagascar
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European Parliament resolution of 16 November 2017 on Madagascar (2017/2963(RSP))
P8_TA(2017)0445RC-B8-0641/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Madagascar, particularly those of 7 May 2009(1), of 11 February 2010(2) and of 9 June 2011(3), and to the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly fact-finding mission to Madagascar of 10-11 July 2010,

–  having regard to the information provided by the WHO on 2 November 2017 on the recent plague outbreak,

–  having regard to the Concluding Observations of 22 August 2017 of the UN Human Rights Committee on the fourth periodic report of Madagascar,

–  having regard to the statement by United Nations Special Rapporteur John H. Knox of October 2016 on the conclusion of his mission to Madagascar,

–  having regard to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Extraordinary Summit on Madagascar of 20 May 2011 and the roadmap proposed by the SADC mediation team after the lifting of sanctions on Madagascar by the EU, the African Union and the SADC,

–  having regard to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment of 26 April 2017 on his visit to Madagascar,

–  having regard to Articles 8 and 9 of the revised Cotonou Agreement,

–  having regard to the Constitution of Madagascar,

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders and the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) signed by Madagascar in 1969 and ratified in 1971,

–  having regard to the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG),

–  having regard to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

–  having regard to the 120th session of the Human Rights Committee, which took place in Geneva and reviewed the fourth periodic report of Madagascar on its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on 10 and 11 July 2017,

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

A.  whereas after a five-year period of political turmoil in the course of which donors suspended development aid programmes, Madagascar held credible and democratic parliamentary elections in October 2013 and presidential elections in December 2013, leading to the election of Hery Rajaonarimampianina as President; whereas the political situation has remained volatile, although the resumption of relations with donor countries has removed all restrictions on cooperating with the new government;

B.  whereas a new code of communication has emerged, which has been strongly criticised by Malagasy journalists insofar as it refers to the penal code regarding rulings on press offences, potentially leading to criminalisation of the profession; whereas the situation has calmed down but does not seem to be moving in the right direction;

C.  whereas, in principle, a presidential election is due to be held next year, although no firm date has yet been set; whereas the Malagasy President has declared himself in favour of a constitutional reform to permit him to stay in power during the electoral period and shown willingness to distort proposed amendments to the electoral law drafted by the national independent electoral commission, experts, civil society and the opposition; whereas these declarations have been contested by his political opponents and parts of civil society, who are concerned that this may be an attempt to delay the election and remain in power beyond his constitutional mandate; whereas this is likely to increase tensions in an already fragile political context;

D.  whereas Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa stated on 10 July 2017 that Madagascar’s human rights record is in sharp decline as a result of the blatant disregard for the rule of law; whereas more than 50 % of all prisoners are held in preventive imprisonment without trial, and violations such as extrajudicial executions by the police and the imprisonment of human rights defenders are occurring because of the lack of free and fair access to justice;

E.  whereas Amnesty International has also documented reports of law enforcement officials seeking revenge after incidents of mob justice; whereas in February 2017 police officers allegedly burnt down five villages in Antsakabary after two of their colleagues were allegedly killed by villagers, and an elderly woman died from burns during the attack as she was unable to escape; whereas the police are now investigating the fire attack, despite being implicated in it;

F.  whereas journalists and human rights defenders face intimidation and harassment from the authorities in an attempt to silence them and obstruct their investigative or human rights work; whereas since the 2013 elections, many media outlets have been closed down and censored in ‘respect for the rule of law’ and the imperative ‘sanitation of the audiovisual landscape’ advanced by the Ministry of Communication;

G.  whereas in 2013, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) adopted an action plan for Madagascar which required that the country strengthen its enforcement efforts and place an embargo on the export of any stockpiles of wood; whereas since then, the CITES Secretariat and the CITES Standing Committee have repeatedly stated that Madagascar has failed to comply with the action plan; whereas, according to the CITES Secretariat, widespread impunity prevails for illegal logging and infractions of environmental laws; whereas, on the other hand, individuals opposing illegal logging have been convicted by the courts, which are at serious risk of corruption;

H.  whereas Madagascar is one of the most environmentally exceptional locations on earth, but the poorest non-conflict country in the world, with 92 % of people living on less than USD 2 per day, and is ranked 154th out of 188 in the Human Development Index;

I.  whereas the illegal trafficking of timber and animal species poses a significant threat to Madagascar’s environment and biodiversity, as well as to the environmental rights of its people; whereas the environmental impact of, and lack of transparency in the management of, extractive industries often harms local communities and their sustainable development; whereas trafficking networks have alleged links to organised crime, which threatens democratic governance in the country; whereas according to the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, illegal logging and trafficking of precious woods, and mining concessions, are closely linked to violence against the local population;

J.  whereas the environmental activist Clovis Razafimalala, who has denounced the illegal trafficking and exploitation of rosewood and other timber, has been detained since 16 September 2016 on trumped-up charges of rebellion, destruction of public documents and goods, and arson, in spite of a blatant absence of proof; whereas the environmental and human rights defender Raleva was arrested on 27 September 2017 for ‘use of a false title’ while questioning the operations of a gold-mining company, after mining had been banned due to environmental degradation; whereas Raleva received a two-year suspended sentence on 26 October 2017; whereas Augustin Sarovy, director of an NGO combating rosewood trafficking, was forced to flee to Europe after receiving death threats;

K.  whereas Fernand Cello, a radio director known for his inquiries into sensitive subjects such as illegal sapphire mining, was prosecuted on 6 May 2017 for ‘forgery and use of forgeries’; whereas Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF – Reporters Without Borders) denounced the harsh treatment of the director of Radio Jupiter by the authorities in the region based on false allegations by people who had been implicated in his investigations;

L.  whereas Claudine Razaimamonjy’s arrest on the initiative of the Bianco (Bureau Indépendant Anti-Corruption – Independent Anti-Corruption Bureau) for misappropriation of public funds in several communes became an affair of state, as she is a close ally and advisor to the Head of State Hery Rajaonarimampianina; whereas before her arrest the gendarmerie made a request to bring in Ms Jacqueline Raharimanantsoa Saholiniaina, Ms Sylvie Randriantsara Linah and Ms Claudine Razaimamonjy for questioning; whereas it turns out, in fact, that these three women are one and the same person, Claudine Razaimamonjy, who never answered the summons to come in for questioning;

M.  whereas the ‘Claudine case’ provoked an open conflict between the government and the judiciary, the Minister of Justice having personally called publicly for the release of Claudine Razaimamonjy to avoid an extension of her police custody; whereas the magistrates’ union declared that it was offended by the position taken and the direct involvement of the government in the case, pleading the separation of powers and stressing that this affair had no connection with politics; whereas this year, magistrates have gone on strike three times to condemn the repeated intimidations and governmental interferences with their activities and to reaffirm their independence;

N.  whereas Madagascar has been subject to epidemic plagues every year since the 1980s, but the latest outbreak, which started in August 2017, has been particularly violent, affecting major cities and non-endemic areas; whereas more than 1 800 cases and 127 deaths have been reported; whereas according to the WHO, the unusual nature and fast spread this year is due to a deterioration in the health system linked to the socio-political crisis that has hit the country in recent years; whereas the WHO estimates that the risk of potential further spread of the plague outbreak at national level remains high;

O.  whereas the predominance of customary laws in the country has favoured harmful traditional practices, including arranged, forced and early marriages; whereas women and girls continue to suffer sexual or other physical violence, while reporting rates are low and prosecutions rare; whereas abortion is still forbidden in the country by a law which dates back to 1920; whereas about ten women a day die in childbirth; whereas the ban on abortion may lead to clandestine and hazardous termination of pregnancies by people who are not medically qualified;

1.  Welcomes the re-establishment of the rule of law with the elections of October and December 2013; reminds the authorities of Madagascar, and first and foremost its President, of their responsibility to uphold and protect the rights of their citizens throughout the country, including the prevention of all abuses and crimes, and to exercise their mission to govern in strict respect of the rule of law; urges them to take all necessary measures to guarantee the exercise of their citizens’ fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression;

2.  Hopes that the upcoming elections will take place in a peaceful and serene climate so that they are democratic and transparent; insists that constitutional order and political stability must be preserved and that only dialogue and consensus building among all political actors can guarantee timely and credible elections in 2018; calls on the international community to take all possible steps to ensure a fair and free electoral process for the 2018 presidential elections;

3.  Expresses its concern about the prevalence of mob justice and the involvement of law enforcement officers in cases of extrajudicial killing; calls for an independent and impartial investigation into the burning down of five villages in Antsakabary, which guarantees the safety of the victims from any reprisal attacks should they submit evidence on this matter; calls on the Malagasy authorities to systematically conduct impartial investigations into extrajudicial executions, to prosecute the perpetrators, and to ensure that the families of victims receive adequate compensation;

4.  Calls on the Malagasy authorities to respect their obligations stemming from CITES, including by greatly strengthening the effective enforcement of the laws against illegal logging and trafficking;

5.  Welcomes the ongoing revision of the mining code and calls on the government to ensure that the revised code meets international requirements, such as prior assessment and consultation with most people affected, access to remedies and minimisation of environmental harm; calls on the government to review the mining permits issued by the transitional government and to suspend those permits not in accordance with the MECIE decree;

6.  Denounces the arbitrary detention of journalists, human rights defenders and environmental activists on the basis of fabricated charges; calls for a definitive end to harassment and intimidation against them, disapproves of the measures taken against the media prior to the last elections and calls for the full restoration of all individual and collective liberties; calls on the Malagasy Government to repeal the restrictive elements in the Communication Code;

7.  Calls on the Government of Madagascar to let justice follow its normal and independent course in the ‘Claudine case’ and in all cases of active and passive corruption; insists that politics should not interfere with the judiciary and that the Bianco be allowed to freely conduct its corruption investigations; insists on the strict respect of the principle of separation of powers and stresses that the independence and impartiality of the judiciary must be guaranteed in all circumstances; requests that the Madagascar authorities redouble their efforts to tackle corruption and impunity in the country and ensure that all cases of corruption are brought to justice;

8.  Expresses its concern about the rise of activities of foreign preachers who force pupils to convert to an extremist form of Islam;

9.  Stresses that the EU and its Member States must invest in providing support and protection to human rights defenders, as key actors in sustainable development, including by means of urgent grants under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) emergency fund for human rights defenders at risk;

10.  Urges transnational companies to respect human rights and the principle of due diligence as set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights;

11.  Calls on the EU to pay attention to ensuring that the preparations for the forthcoming presidential elections are inclusive, transparent and accepted by all, including by means of a two-year package of support for election arrangements;

12.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Commission, the Council, the ACP-EU Council of Ministers, the Government of Madagascar, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Southern African Development Community and the Commission of the African Union.

(1) OJ C 212 E, 5.8.2010, p. 111.
(2) OJ C 341 E, 16.12.2010, p. 72.
(3) OJ C 380 E, 11.12.2012, p. 129.


EU-New Zealand Partnership Agreement on Relations and Cooperation (Consent)***
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European Parliament legislative resolution of 16 November 2017 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion on behalf of the Union of the Partnership Agreement on Relations and Cooperation between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and New Zealand, of the other part (15470/2016 – C8-0027/2017 – 2016/0366(NLE))
P8_TA(2017)0446A8-0327/2017

(Consent)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (15470/2016),

–  having regard to the draft Partnership Agreement on relations and cooperation between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and New Zealand, of the other part (09787/2016),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 37 of the Treaty on European Union and Article 207, Article 212(1) , Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a), and Article 218(8), second subparagraph, of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8-0027/2017),

–  having regard to its non-legislative resolution of 16 November 2017 on the draft decision(1),

–  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 (A8-0327/2017),

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 and of New Zealand.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0447.


EU-New Zealand Partnership Agreement on Relations and Cooperation (Resolution)
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European Parliament non-legislative resolution of 16 November 2017 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion on behalf of the Union of the Partnership Agreement on Relations and Cooperation between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and New Zealand, of the other part (15470/2016 – C8-0027/2017 – 2016/0366(NLE)2017/2050(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0447A8-0333/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (15470/2016),

–  having regard to the draft Partnership Agreement on Relations and Cooperation between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and New Zealand, of the other part(1) (09787/2016),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 37 of the Treaty on European Union and Article 207, Article 212(1) , Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a), and Article 218(8), second subparagraph, of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8-0027/2017),

–  having regard to the Joint Declaration on Relations and Cooperation between the European Union and New Zealand(2), adopted in Lisbon in 2007,

–  having regard to its resolution on New Zealand of 25 February 2016 on the opening of FTA negotiations with Australia and New Zealand(3),

–  having regard to the Agreement between the European Union and New Zealand establishing a framework for the participation of New Zealand in European Union crisis management operations, signed in 2012(4),

–  having regard to the Agreement on scientific and technological cooperation between the European Community and the Government of New Zealand(5), which came into force in 2009,

–  having regard to the 22nd EU-New Zealand interparliamentary meeting (IPM), held in Brussels on 23 March 2017,

–  having regard to its legislative resolution of 16 November 2017 on the draft decision(6),

–  having regard to Rule 99(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A8-0333/2017),

A.  whereas New Zealand enjoys a close and historic partnership with the European Union and its Member States;

B.  whereas the European Union shares common values and principles with New Zealand, including respect for democratic principles, human rights, fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, including international law, and peace and security;

C.  whereas the European Union remains New Zealand’s third largest trading partner and both sides maintain a wide range of economic and commercial interests;

D.  whereas the first resident EU Ambassador to New Zealand took office in September 2016, marking the full transition to an autonomous European Union Delegation in New Zealand;

E.  whereas New Zealand enjoys good relations with a number of the EU’s closest partners, particularly with Australia and the United States; in this regard, notes the 2010 Wellington Declaration establishing a strategic partnership framework between New Zealand and the United States, as well as the Closer Economic Relations (CER) Agreement signed with Australia in 1983;

F.  whereas New Zealand, a member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC), is a valued development partner and a key aid provider in terms of official development assistance (ODA) as a percentage of GNI, contributing to sustainable development and poverty reduction in developing countries for a fairer, more secure and more prosperous planet;

G.  whereas New Zealand is a member of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence alliance with the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia; whereas other EU Member States (France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark and Spain) are part of the looser arrangement known as the ‘Fourteen Eyes’;

H.  whereas New Zealand has a special focus on developing relations in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly with China, Southeast Asia and Japan, and contributes to the regional stability of Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific;

I.  whereas an integrated Asia-Pacific region where New Zealand plays a prominent role contributes to a global value- and rule-based system and thus to the Union’s own security;

J.  whereas New Zealand is a founding member of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and has a strategic partnership with ASEAN;

K.  whereas New Zealand has concluded bilateral free trade agreements with Australia, Singapore, Thailand, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and South Korea, as well as the multilateral trade agreements of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement with Singapore, Chile and Brunei, the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement and the New Zealand Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Free Trade Agreement; whereas China and New Zealand are seeking to upgrade their trade agreements;

L.  whereas New Zealand is also a party to, and has ratified, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal and is an active party in the negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP);

M.  whereas New Zealand was a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for a two-year term from 2015 to 2016, during which time, with strong leadership and vision, it held the UNSC presidency on two occasions;

N.  whereas New Zealand is a long-standing member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and is a member of the newly established Shanghai-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB);

O.  whereas New Zealand has contributed to UN peacekeeping operations, including in Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan; whereas in Afghanistan it led a reconstruction team in Bamyan Province, as well as training missions to help develop the Afghan National Army, in addition to contributing to the EUPOL Mission until 2012 to assist in the restoration of law and order;

P.  whereas New Zealand has been conducting a non-combat training mission in Iraq since 2015 with the aim of training Iraqi security forces personnel, as part of the fight against IS/Daesh;

Q.  whereas New Zealand was the first country in the world to adopt universal suffrage in 1893;

R.  whereas New Zealand is a proponent of green production, particularly food, and has been promoting comprehensive global climate agreements within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the implementation of the COP21 Paris agreement and effective mitigation action by all developed countries and major emitting developing countries, including through pioneering the establishment of a national emissions trading scheme;

S.  whereas New Zealand and the European Union cooperate in the promotion of sustainable development, resilience and mitigation to address the impact of climate change in the Asia-Pacific region, in particular by fostering the systematic use of renewable energy;

T.  whereas the European Union and New Zealand work together to promote sustainable development and to mitigate the impacts of climate change in the Pacific region, with a particular focus on the role played by renewable energy sources;

U.  whereas New Zealand contributes to the International Fund for Ireland, an organisation which works to promote economic and social advancement and to encourage and facilitate community dialogue and reconciliation;

1.  Welcomes the conclusion of the Partnership Agreement on Relations and Cooperation (PARC), which will provide a forward-looking political framework within which EU-New Zealand relations and cooperation on sustainable development and a comprehensive range of issues will be developed even further for years to come in order to match new ambitions and aspirations;

2.  Supports the launch of the EU-New Zealand free trade agreement negotiations, which must be conducted in a spirit of reciprocity and mutual benefit, taking into account the sensitivity of certain agricultural and other products; stresses that this is important to strengthen the political dialogue and improve cooperation on economic growth, job creation, trade and investment;

3.  Appreciates Prime Minister Bill English’s gesture of highlighting and reaffirming the commitment to special relations with Europe by making his first official foreign visit to the European Union, the European Parliament, London and Berlin in January 2017, only one month after his appointment as Prime Minister;

4.  Recognises the strong and historic bilateral relationships between New Zealand and EU Member States, including cultural, economic and people-to-people ties;

5.  Underlines the European Union’s cooperation with New Zealand on peace, security, regional stability in the Asia-Pacific region, agriculture, sustainable development, fisheries and maritime affairs, transport, humanitarian aid, sanitary measures, energy, the environment and climate change;

6.  Underlines the European Union’s cooperation with New Zealand on strengthening environmental and ocean governance, which is necessary to achieve the conservation and sustainable use of resources;

7.  Takes note of the EU-New Zealand science and technology cooperation roadmap on research and innovation; encourages further investment and new opportunities in scientific, academic and technology cooperation;

8.  Welcomes the PARC agreement’s articles on counterterrorism cooperation, particularly the commitments on exchanging information on terrorist groups and networks and exchanging views on preventing, countering and fighting terrorism and its propaganda, radicalisation and cybercrime, while ensuring the protection of human rights and respecting the rule of law;

9.  Highlights New Zealand’s participation in EU crisis management operations to promote international peace and security and its contribution to EUNAVFOR Atalanta anti-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa, to EUPOL Afghanistan, and to EUFOR Althea in Bosnia and Herzegovina;

10.  Commends New Zealand’s long-standing commitment in the international coalition against terrorism; recalls that New Zealand can play a significant role in the fight against international terrorism in the Asia-Pacific region; is pleased that the country is already providing support to governments and NGOs in Southeast Asian countries against violent extremism and radicalisation;

11.  Recognises New Zealand’s role in co-sponsoring the UNSC Syria and Middle East Peace Process resolutions at the end of 2016 while it was a member of the UNSC;

12.  Welcomes New Zealand’s long-standing commitment to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and commends its efforts in favour of, and constructive contribution to, the development and effectiveness of the ICC as a means to strengthen peace and international justice;

13.  Welcomes New Zealand’s ratification of the COP21 climate agreement and positively notes that more than 80 % of its electricity comes from renewable energy sources;

14.  Takes note of the EU-New Zealand Pacific Energy Partnership; calls on both parties to increase cooperation on sustainable energy in line with the UN initiative ‘Sustainable Energy for All’;

15.  Recognises New Zealand’s contribution to the protection, conservation and sustainable use of marine resources and to marine research;

16.  Believes New Zealand is an important partner in the cooperation on and protection of the environment in the Pacific region and in Antarctica;

17.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the European External Action Service, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the Government and Parliament of New Zealand.

(1) OJ L 321, 29.11.2016, p. 3.
(2) OJ C 32, 6.2.2008, p. 1.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0064.
(4) OJ L 160, 21.6.2012, p. 2.
(5) OJ L 171, 1.7.2009, p. 28.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0446.


The EU-Africa Strategy: a boost for development
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European Parliament resolution of 16 November 2017 on the EU-Africa Strategy: a boost for development (2017/2083(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0448A8-0334/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and Article 208 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to the ‘Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy – Shared Vision, Common Action: a stronger Europe’ presented to the European Council at its meeting of 28 and 29 June 2016,

–  having regard to the joint statement of 7 June 2017 by Parliament, the Council and the representatives of the governments of the Member States meeting within the Council, and the Commission on the New European Consensus on Development – Our World, Our Dignity, Our Future,

–  having regard to the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development and the outcome document adopted by the UN General Assembly on 25 September 2015, entitled ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),

–  having regard to the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems that were developed in the Committee on World Food Security (CFS-RAI) in order to contribute to the attainment of SDGs one and two,

–  having regard to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development of 2015,

–  having regard to the Paris Agreement on climate change of 2015,

–  having regard to the Africa Action Summit which took place on 16 November 2016, consolidating the African dimension of COP 22,

–  having regard to the Commission Communication of 26 February 2016 on the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking (COM(2016)0087),

–  having regard to the Partnership agreement between the members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States, of the other part, signed in Cotonou on 23 June 2000(1) (the Cotonou Agreement), and to its revisions of 2005 and 2010,

–  having regard to the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) adopted by African and European Heads of State and of Government at the Lisbon Summit of 9 December 2007, and the two action plans adopted in Accra in October 2007 (for the period 2008-2010) and Tripoli in November 2010 (for the period 2011-2013),

–  having regard to the conclusions of the 4th EU-Africa Summit held in Brussels on 2 and 3 April 2014, the roadmap for the format of the meetings (Cairo format) and the areas of cooperation between the two continents for the period 2014-2017 and the EU-Africa declaration on migration and mobility,

–  having regard to the Agenda 2063 of the African Union (AU) adopted in May 2014,

–  having regard to the report on the draft recommendations on the institutional reform of the African Union, prepared by H.E. Paul Kagamé, with the title ‘The Imperative to Strengthen our Union’,

–  having regard to the 3rd Civil Society Intercontinental Forum which took place in Tunis from 11 to 13 July 2017, calling for greater engagement of civil society organisations and for individuals from civil society to be placed at the centre of the EU-Africa strategy,

–  having regard to the joint communication from the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of 7 June 2017 entitled ‘A Strategic Approach to Resilience in the EU’s external action’ (JOIN(2017)0021),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2017/1601 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 September 2017 establishing the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD), the EFSD Guarantee and the EFSD Guarantee Fund(2),

–  having regard to the Commission’s proposal of 5 July 2016 for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) No 230/2014 establishing an instrument contributing to stability and peace (COM(2016)0447),

–  having regard to the joint communication from the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of 22 November 2016 entitled ‘A renewed partnership with the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP)’ (JOIN(2016)0052),

–  having regard to the various communications from the Commission on relations between the EU and Africa, particularly that of 27 June 2007 entitled ‘From Cairo to Lisbon – The EU-Africa Strategic Partnership’ (COM(2007)0357), that of 17 October 2008 entitled ‘One year after Lisbon: The Africa-EU partnership at work’ (COM(2008)0617) and that of 10 November 2010 on the consolidation of EU Africa relations: 1,5 billion inhabitants, 80 countries, two continents, one future (COM(2010)0634),

–  having regard to the joint communication to the European Parliament and the Council from the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of 4 May 2017 entitled ‘For a renewed impetus of the Africa-EU partnership’ (JOIN(2017)0017), and the Council conclusions of 19 June 2017 on the subject,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on relations between the Union and Africa and the ACP countries, and particularly that of 4 October 2016 on the future of ACP-EU relations beyond 2020(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 September 2016 on the EU Trust Fund for Africa: the implications for development and humanitarian aid(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 7 June 2016 on the EU 2015 Report on policy coherence for development(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 22 November 2016 on increasing the effectiveness of development cooperation(6),

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Development and the opinions of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on International Trade and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0334/2017),

A.  whereas the ties between the European Union and African countries are historic and their destinies are intimately linked; whereas the EU is Africa’s main partner in the fields of economic activity and trade as well as development, humanitarian aid and security;

B.  whereas there is a need to provide the Africa-EU partnership with a new vision that reflects the evolution of the political, economic, environmental and social situations of both continents; whereas there is a need to adapt to new players on the international scene – including China – and to move towards an enhanced, modernised and more political partnership, with a focus on defending our key common interests;

C.  whereas relations between the EU and Africa must be guided by the principles of mutual interest and understanding and by shared common values within the framework of a reciprocal partnership;

D.  whereas relations between the EU and the continent of Africa are based on various legal instruments and political strategies and whereas it is important to step up synergies and coherence between them in order to make the partnership more effective and sustainable;

E.  whereas the Cotonou Agreement with the EU, to which 79 ACP States are parties, including 48 in sub-Saharan Africa, governs the main partnership between the EU and Africa; whereas the EU has also established relations with African countries that are not parties to the Cotonou Agreement; whereas the EU-ACP partnership was established at a time when ACP countries had not yet formed their current regional or continental cooperation structures; whereas the emergence of the AU in 2003 and of the JAES in 2007 makes it essential to streamline the various policy frameworks between the EU and Africa; whereas the objective to ‘treat Africa as one’ is clearly stated in the preamble of the JAES;

F.  whereas the EU is engaged with the African countries in a political and institutional dialogue advanced through the EU-Africa summits, the intergovernmental organisation the ‘Union for the Mediterranean’ (UfM) and the ACP-EU cooperation bodies, including at parliamentary level via the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, the EU Delegation to the UfM Parliamentary Assembly and with the Pan-African Parliament;

G.  whereas the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) has a budget of EUR 30,5 billion, of which EUR 900 million are reserved for the African Peace Facility, and whereas EUR 1,4 billion of the EDF will be used for the EU Trust Fund for Africa; whereas more than EUR 5 billion have been spent on the needs of African countries in the context of the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), and whereas EUR 845 million have been allocated to the Pan-African Programme under the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) to implement the JAES;

H.  whereas the next AU-EU Summit, which will take place in Abidjan on 29 and 30 November 2017 on the topic of ‘Investing in Youth’, is an opportunity to create, support and develop economic conditions of true equality between partners wishing to defend key common interests;

I.  whereas the new JAES must be included in the future post-Cotonou agreement;

J.  whereas the EU is a long‑standing partner and a major guarantor of the security of the continent of Africa, which is a subject of the utmost importance; whereas the security and sustainable growth of the European continent closely and immediately depend on the stability and development of the African continent and vice versa;

K.  whereas constant support for the effective implementation of the African Peace and Security Architecture and the commitment of the EU, the AU and other international players present in Africa are essential for the development and stability of the African continent;

L.  whereas migration features prominently in the EU global strategy on foreign and security policy and constitutes a priority topic in the EU’s external relations, including its relations with Africa; whereas Africa and Europe have a shared interest and responsibility when it comes to migration and mobility, including in the fight against human trafficking and smuggling, and whereas managing migration calls for global solutions based on solidarity, the sharing of responsibility, respect for migrant rights and international law, as well as the effective use of development cooperation instruments;

M.  whereas more than 218 million people live in extreme poverty in Africa; whereas the share of the population living in extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa has fallen from 56 % in 1990 to 43 % in 2012; whereas 33 of the 47 least developed countries are in Africa, which makes the EU-Africa partnership a vital tool for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the attainment of the sustainable development goals, particularly the eradication of poverty;

N.  whereas, in Africa, infrastructure requirements are estimated at EUR 75 billion annually, the value of the consumer market is likely to reach USD 1 000 billion in 2020, foreign direct investment is set to increase steadily to an estimated USD 144 billion in 2020, and the population is currently 1 billion;

O.  whereas exports from Africa are still dominated by unprocessed products, and whereas a high proportion of these exports are covered by trade preference arrangements; whereas free market access for most African products increases the capacities of African countries and enhances their competitiveness and participation in global markets when accompanied, among other things, by policies aimed at lasting sustainable industrialisation and rural productivity as key paths for development;

P.  whereas demographic trends will have to be taken into account, bearing in mind that by 2050, according to some estimates, Africa could have a population of 2,5 billion, most of them young people, while Europe is expected to have a significantly older population; whereas it is therefore crucial to generate millions of jobs and to help with and support the empowerment of women and young people, particularly by means of education, access to healthcare and training on the African continent;

Intensifying the political dialogue between the EU and Africa: a precondition for a renewed strategic partnership

1.  Takes note of the new communication entitled ‘For a Renewed Impetus of the Africa-EU Partnership’ which aims to lend fresh impetus to the Africa-EU partnership in order to broaden and intensify it, gearing it to prosperity and stability on the two continents in accordance with the commitments undertaken by subscribing to the SDGs, the New European Consensus for Development, which serves as a set of guidelines for European development policy, the EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy and Agenda 2063;

2.  Recalls that Africa is a key strategic partner for the EU and considers it vital to intensify relations between the EU and the AU via a revised and broadened dialogue, which includes the principles of transparency and good governance, in order to establish a ‘win-win’ situation, and equal and sustainable cooperation to respond to shared challenges and secure common benefits, while ensuring the principle of ownership and taking into account the specific circumstances and level of development of each partner country;

3.  Invites the future partnership to focus on the priority areas identified by both the AU and the EU, such as:

   economic development (via trade, Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), enhanced regional integration, economic diversification, sustainable industrialisation and the creation of quality jobs),
   good governance, including human rights,
   human development via public services covering basic needs, such as education, health, access to water and sanitation, gender equality, science, technology and innovation,
   security and the fight against terrorism,
   migration and mobility,
   environment – including climate change;

4.  Recalls that budget support is the best way to carry out appropriation, providing governments with the means to determine their needs and priorities; recalls that general or sector-specific budget support enables development policies to be supported and ensures maximised take-up;

5.  Welcomes the fact that the main topic of the 5th AU-EU Summit, which will take place in Côte d’Ivoire in November 2017, is youth, given its importance for the future of both continents;

6.  Recalls the importance and effectiveness of ACP-EU cooperation and the results achieved in the field of development; stresses that this legally binding framework must be maintained after 2020; stresses the need to step up this cooperation, while developing its regional dimension, including by means of increased cooperation with the AU, the regional economic communities and other regional organisations; calls for a more strategic, pragmatic, comprehensive and structured approach to political dialogue within the framework of negotiations for the post-Cotonou agreement;

7.  Calls for the parliamentary dimension of the ACP-EU to be stepped up; stresses that the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly is a unique platform for interaction and plays a key role in strengthening democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights;

8.  Stresses that the European neighbourhood policy (ENP) review provides opportunities for improving the coordination of neighbourhood policy and policy on other African states through the creation of extended cooperation frameworks on regional issues such as security, energy, and even migration;

9.  Reaffirms the need to adopt, within the Africa-EU partnership, an approach coordinated among the EU Member States themselves, and between the EU and its Member States, as provided for by Article 210 TFEU; recalls, likewise, that respect for the EU principle of policy coherence for development is necessary in European and African policies and initiatives alike in order to attain the SDGs;

10.  Calls for the principle of policy coherence for development to be fully incorporated into the EU’s trade relationship with Africa, which entails the inclusion of enforceable Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) clauses in all EU trade agreements with African countries, in line with the commitment undertaken by the Commission in the ‘Trade for All’ strategy;

11.  Reiterates the importance of the Member States fulfilling their commitment to directing 0,7 % of their GDP to official development assistance to strengthen cooperation with Africa;

12.  Endorses the stated desire to intensify alliances between the EU and Africa to tackle global governance issues; stresses, in this context, the need to step up the dialogue with the AU and the importance of ensuring its financial autonomy, in accordance with the Kigali Decision on Financing, by reducing its dependence on external financing; takes note of the proposals put forward in the report drawn up by Paul Kagamé which aims at strengthening the AU in order to give impetus to the process of political African integration;

13.  Stresses the role played by civil society – including NGOs, faith‑based organisations, youth and women’s rights organisations, the private sector, trade unions, parliamentary assemblies, local authorities and the diaspora, each one of them with its own specific features – in consolidating the political dialogue between the EU and Africa to ensure a people-focused partnership;

14.  Stresses the need to increase the participation of civil society in the Africa-EU Partnership, promoting the reinforcement of its capacities, especially by transferring expertise and ensuring its involvement in the design and implementation of relevant reforms and policies; considers that the engagement of civil society organisations (CSOs) is essential for public accountability; supports the various platforms established to make civil society a key actor in the partnership, particularly the Joint Annual Forum (JAF), whose aim is to implement the EU-Africa roadmap; regrets, nonetheless, the fact that the JAF has never been held and calls for the EU and the AU to immediately put in place the financial and political means needed to ensure the meaningful participation of all stakeholders in the partnership, including in the framework of this 5th AU-EU Summit;

Building more resilient states and societies for the benefit of all people, particularly young people, in order to attain the SDGs

15.  Considers it necessary to make resilience – in all its five dimensions – a major component of the new EU-Africa strategy;

Political resilience

16.  Emphasises the need to promote good governance, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, but also to undertake efforts to combat corruption on both continents, as they are indispensable elements of sustainable development;

17.  Calls, therefore, for a frank and inclusive dialogue, based on mutual respect, making these values and principles a major component of cooperation, particularly by extending the conditionality of development aid to their strict respect;

18.  Stresses that addressing governance challenges in both continents with greater determination is of paramount importance for building fairer, more stable and more secure societies; underlines the need to continue to uphold and promote human rights and governance on the basis of existing international legal instruments, laws, principles and mechanisms, including those of African regional governance bodies such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and its protocols, the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, so as to strengthen ownership;

19.  Recalls the importance of the role of the International Criminal Court in tackling impunity and in upholding the values of peace, security, equality, fairness, justice and compensation that it serves as a vehicle for; calls for the European Union and African states to continue supporting the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court; urges all signatories of the Rome Statute to ratify it as soon as possible;

20.  Supports the organisation of a joint high-level AU-EU conference on electoral processes, democracy and governance in Africa and Europe, and calls for the European Parliament, the Pan African Parliament, the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly (PA-UfM) to be fully involved in it; calls for the links between the different assemblies to be strengthened with a view to fostering synergies and the consistency of joint measures;

Security resilience

21.  Reiterates the close interlinkage between security and development; points out the need to better integrate security concerns and development aims to address the specific problems of fragile states and to foster more resilient states and societies; notes that this should be done through specific instruments and additional funding;

22.  Calls for stronger cooperation between the EU and Africa in the field of security and justice in respect of the international legal framework in order to take a holistic approach to tackling problems and to better combat organised crime, human trafficking and smuggling particularly in relation to children, and terrorism; considers that EU action should be in synergy with the strategies adopted by African countries, particularly those related to peace and security expressed in Agenda 2063;

23.  Stresses the need for cooperation between the EU, AU, regional organisations and other relevant political players in Africa in the field of security in order to increase the capacities of developing countries, to reform their security sectors, to support activities in the field of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants;

24.  Recalls that terrorism is a global threat affecting regional peace and stability, sustainable development and internal security, which needs to be tackled in a coordinated effort by national governments, regional and international organisations, and European Agencies; calls for enhanced cooperation within the EU-Africa Strategy aimed at preventing impunity, promoting the rule of law and the expansion of police and judicial capacities in order to facilitate the exchange of information and best practices, and preventing, countering, and combating the financing of terrorism as well as prosecuting it; notes that anti-terrorism strategy should also include measures for promoting interfaith dialogue and preventing radicalisation in Africa and Europe, especially among young people, which leads to violent extremism;

25.  Reiterates the importance of the various EU missions and operations deployed in Africa; welcomes the creation of the Group of Five Sahel joint force; calls for European peace and security actions to be stepped up in cooperation with African and international partners and for support for the full operationalisation of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA); calls for an initial EU contribution to the AU Peace Fund for activities under the ‘mediation and diplomacy’ window;

Environmental resilience

26.  Recalls that Africa is particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change; considers it essential for the EU to develop a strategic approach to building climate resilience and to support African countries, in particular the least developed countries (LDCs), in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt; stresses the importance of climate change as a risk multiplier for conflict, drought, famine and migration, as exemplified in the recent outbreak of famine in South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia; recalls, in this context, that it is vital to promote and respect the commitment given in Paris in 2015 to allocate USD 100 billion to developing countries by 2020; calls for new kinds of EU-Africa collaboration to lower the barriers to funding and technology transfer;

27.  Stresses that Africa has a rich and diverse natural environment; calls for the protection of biodiversity to be put at the core of the AU-EU political agenda; calls for the EU-Africa strategy to work in conjunction with the priorities of the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking and to protect natural heritage and, in particular, nature parks;

28.  Encourages greater investment in the fields of renewable energy and the circular economy in order to further stimulate actions which contribute to respect for the environment and create job opportunities; recalls that ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all is crucial for the satisfaction of basic human needs, is essential for virtually all kinds of economic activity and is a key driver of development; calls for continued EU support for the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) and welcomes the Commission’s proposal to launch a new EU-Africa Research and Innovation Partnership on climate change and sustainable energy;

29.  Calls on the Africa-EU partnership to focus on agriculture and food security in a long‑term perspective and to promote synergies between food security and climate measures; urges the EU, in this context, to scale up its assistance to sustainable agriculture, agro-forestry and agro-ecological practices respecting traditional land use, and ensuring access to land, water and open source seeds; calls, in addition, on the EU to support small-scale producers/farmers and pastoralists to attain food security through building up and investing in infrastructure in line with the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems of the CFS, and to support the establishment of cooperatives; underlines also the capacity and experience that CSOs have gained at community level in relation to sustainable agriculture;

30.  Welcomes the EU initiatives demanding better management of, and more transparent trade in, natural resources; believes that the sustainable management of and trade in natural resources, such as minerals, timber and wildlife, would allow resource-rich countries and their populations to further benefit from them; recalls the need, under EU legislation on conflict minerals, to introduce accompanying measures following an integrated approach that encourages the application of international standards on due diligence, as defined by the OECD Guidance; calls for a joint EU-Africa charter on sustainable management of natural resources to be drawn up;

Economic resilience

31.  Considers that a stable regulatory and institutional environment and a healthy economy are essential elements for ensuring competitiveness, investments, job creation, a higher standard of living and sustainable growth; stresses, in this context, the need to increase the online accessibility of corporate law information; recalls that economic growth without an impartial state does not systematically guarantee social development or progress and insists on the need to assure the redistribution of wealth, the provision of services for citizens and to improve equal opportunities;

32.  Calls for increased cooperation between the European and African private sectors and for the concentration of investment, particularly by means of public-private partnerships, based on a strict ethical code and on the principles of social responsibility, in key sectors such as:

   sustainable energy including electricity access for all,
   basic infrastructure, notably in the transport sector, including maritime transport,
   sustainable use of natural resources,
   sustainable agriculture,
   the ‘blue economy’ – including the maritime industry,
   research, science, technology and innovation, both around subjects of common interest and around those which particularly affect one of the continents, such as poverty-related and neglected diseases,
   digitalisation as a key factor in ensuring the development of the African economy, but also in connecting people;

33.  Stresses the fact that regional integration drives economic development and is a necessity in a globalised world; calls for support for South-South Cooperation which reflects the gradual transformation of the African continent; supports the establishment of a continental free trade area in Africa as well as the goal of increasing intra-African trade to 50 % by 2050; recalls also the development prospects offered by Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and trade agreements between the EU and African countries, which allow the promotion of sustainable development, human rights and fair and ethical trade; stresses the need to provide for development-supportive rules of origin, effective safeguard clauses, asymmetrical liberalisation schedules, protection for infant industries, and the simplification and transparency of customs procedures; recalls that EPAs are intended to help the ACP countries to expand their markets, to encourage trade in goods and to boost investment and that they anticipate a slow, gradual and asymmetric opening up of trade in goods between the EU and the ACP countries;

34.  Calls for transparency in trade agreements and for the full participation of all relevant stakeholders, including the civil societies of the countries concerned, through formal consultations, in future negotiations and in the implementation of agreements currently under negotiation;

35.  Calls for the EU and its Member States to better coordinate their aid for trade programmes and to boost synergies with their Africa investment policies; calls, furthermore, for an increase in their financial commitments to Aid For Trade as well as technical assistance and capacity‑building initiatives, which are essential for African countries, in particular in LDCs;

36.  Considers that the private sector, from micro to small and medium‑sized enterprises (SMEs), to cooperatives and multinational companies, plays a decisive role in job creation and the development process, and that it helps to finance the latter; stresses the specific role of SMEs and small family-run establishments, and calls for support for individual initiative; welcomes in this regard the establishment of the European Fund for Sustainable Development, which should aim to support the private sector in African countries, particularly local business and SMEs in fragile countries, and thus promote investment and the creation of sustainable jobs, particularly for women and young people;

37.  Recalls the obligations that the private sector is required to fulfil under the United Nations and OECD Guidelines, and reiterates its call on EU and AU Member States to constructively participate in the UN intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights to work towards the setting-up of an international binding treaty, based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, on the way corporations comply with human rights obligations and obligations with respect to social, labour and environmental standards;

38.  Underlines the necessity of creating decent jobs and of linking them to investment, both of which should be done within the framework of the Africa-EU partnership; calls for compliance with ILO standards in this regard; stresses the importance of interaction between social, economic and institutional persons and calls for the role of social partners to be strengthened by boosting the effectiveness of social dialogue at all relevant levels, which is conducive to collective bargaining;

39.  Deplores the fact that, each year, some USD 50 billion is drained out of Africa in the form of illicit financial flows, which exceeds the total annual amount of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and undermines efforts in the field of domestic revenue mobilisation; calls, therefore, on both parties to:

   create effective tools to combat tax evasion, tax fraud and corruption, including public transparency on ultimate beneficial ownership of legal entities, trusts and similar arrangements,
   promote the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI),
   support initiatives to increase the efficiency and transparency of public financial management systems;

40.  Calls, moreover, for the effective implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Debt and Human Rights and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Principles on Promoting Responsible Sovereign Lending and Borrowing; welcomes the UN’s work towards an international sovereign debt workout mechanism;

41.  Calls for greater financial inclusion in Africa, including that of women, through the development of electronic banking in order to fight against the polarisation of African society; recalls that remittances make up a larger flow of money to developing countries than the total of ODA and can significantly contribute to achieving the 2030 Agenda; calls, therefore, on the EU to further support the AU’s efforts in improving remittance mechanisms;

Social resilience

42.  Recognises the importance of demographic dynamics in Africa, which necessitate a long-term strategic vision for developing sustainable, inclusive and participatory societies; stresses, equally, the need to ensure non-discrimination against vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples; recognises that the increasing population in Africa is both a challenge for the local economy and an opportunity for the continent; calls, therefore, on the EU to show commitment in promoting appropriate public policies and investments in education and health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), to ensure that young people are equipped to make informed decisions about their SRH, gender equality and children’s rights without which social, economic and environmental resilience cannot be reached;

43.  Emphasises that the urbanisation rate in Africa is on the rise and poses social, economic and environmental challenges; calls for solutions to relieve this urban pressure and to alleviate the problems of uncontrolled urbanisation;

44.  Calls for the EU and the AU to strengthen African national education systems, including the capacity of its administrative structure, by investing at least 20 % of their national budgets in education and by scaling up the EU’s support for the global partnership for education (GPE) and the Education Cannot Wait (ECW) fund;

45.  Stresses the need for universal, inclusive, equitable and long-term access to high-quality education at all levels, from early childhood onwards and for all, with a special focus on girls, and including in emergency and crisis situations;

46.  Stresses the need to invest in human capital and for young people to be connected to global realities and to have skills which meet the current and future needs of the job market by strengthening educational and vocational learning systems – both formal and informal – self-employment and entrepreneurship;

47.  Considers it important to support African countries in establishing effective public health systems and ensuring affordable access to quality health services for all, while, in particular, breaking down the barriers faced by women and other vulnerable groups, including children, people with disabilities and LGBTI people;

48.  Calls for the introduction of minimum universal coverage by setting up horizontal national health systems; underlines the need to train an additional one million skilled health professionals than originally planned on the basis of current trends to meet the minimum WHO standard by 2030;

49.  Stresses that infectious diseases pose a significant threat to social resilience; calls on the Commission to step up scientific and medical cooperation efforts between the two continents, such as the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership, EDCTP2, and to invest in science, technology and innovation (STI) to tackle the still huge burden of poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs) through its development cooperation;

50.  Recalls the need for greater investment in access to maternal healthcare and sexual and reproductive health in order to reduce maternal and infant mortality and to tackle traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation and forced and/or child marriage;

51.  Emphasises the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment in EU-Africa cooperation; stresses the positive role and participation of women in the political and economic spheres, as well as in conflict prevention and building sustainable peace;

52.  Notes that culture is both an enabler and an important component of development and may facilitate social inclusion, freedom of expression, identity building, civil empowerment and conflict prevention while strengthening economic growth; calls, therefore, on the EU and the AU to promote intercultural political dialogue and cultural diversity and to support strategies protecting culture and heritage; stresses that democracy is a universal value which can be part of any culture; acknowledges, equally, the role of sport as a source and driver of social inclusion and gender equality;

Establishing a strategy for mobility and migration which contribute to the development of the two continents

53.  Recalls that migration and mobility between and within Europe and Africa have an economic, social, environmental and political impact, and that this challenge must be tackled in a coordinated and holistic manner between the two continents and in cooperation with countries of origin, transit and destination, maximising synergies and making use of the relevant EU policies, instruments and tools, based on solidarity, responsibility sharing, respect and human dignity; recalls, in this context, that it is desirable to step up the Africa-EU dialogue in advance of the negotiations on the two global compacts on migration and refugees, respectively, to be drawn up by 2018 under the auspices of the United Nations in order to identify shared priorities, where possible;

54.  Recalls the need to enhance the positive impact of migration and mobility so that these phenomena are seen as reciprocal development tools for the two continents; stresses that this requires a carefully designed, balanced, evidence-based and sustainable policy response with a long-term strategy which takes into account demographic perspectives and the root causes of migration;

55.  Recognises that violent conflicts, persecution, inequality, infringements of human rights, weak governance, corruption, terrorism, repressive regimes, natural disasters, climate change, unemployment and chronic poverty have led to population movements and an increase in migration to Europe in recent years; recalls, nevertheless, that more than 85 % of African people leaving their country remain within the continent itself;

56.  Supports the various initiatives adopted at European level to tackle the underlying causes of irregular migration: migration partnerships, trust funds for Africa and the European Fund for Sustainable Development; calls for their implementation to be ensured and continued in a flexible, efficient, coherent and transparent manner while enhancing possible synergies among different instruments, programmes and activities, both in internal and external action; highlights the need for increased cooperation in the field of border management;

57.  Reiterates its call for the promotion of legal migration, in line with the recommendations of the Valletta Action Plan; stresses, further, that development aid should not be made conditional on cooperation in migration matters;

58.  Calls on the Member States to offer their resettlement places to a significant number of refugees; calls, in this context, for the establishment of a European resettlement framework which can easily be acted upon by Member States; calls, in addition, for the EU and its Member States to cooperate with and provide assistance to African countries that are faced with movements of refugees or prolonged crises, with a view to increasing their asylum capacities and protection systems;

59.  Urges Member States to step up their financial contribution to trust funds and other instruments aiming to foster inclusive and sustainable growth and stimulate job creation thus contributing to addressing the root causes of migration; also asks for a stronger scrutiny role of the European Parliament to ensure that migration partnerships and funding tools are compatible with EU legal basis, principles and commitments;

60.  Calls for the EU and the AU to promote exchanges between students, teachers, entrepreneurs and researchers between the two continents; welcomes the Commission’s proposal to launch an African Youth Facility, expanding the scope of Erasmus+, and an EU vocational education and training facility; calls for a discussion on the recognition by the EU of certificates and diplomas issued by African schools and universities; notes that ensuring circular migration is essential for sustainable development; and for preventing a brain drain from Africa;

61.  Recognises the special position of the diaspora in both the receiving countries and the countries of origin in sending considerable funds and as a development partner at national and regional levels; expresses its wish that the diaspora might act as a source of information tailored to respond to the real needs of the people, addressing the dangers linked to irregular migration, as well as the challenges linked to integration in host countries;

o
o   o

62.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Commission of the African Union, the ACP Council, the Pan-African Parliament and the Bureau of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly.

(1) OJ L 317, 15.12.2000, p. 3.
(2) OJ L 249, 27.9.2017, p. 1.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0371.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0337.
(5) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0246.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0437.


Activities of the European Ombudsman in 2016
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European Parliament resolution of 16 November 2017 on the annual report on the activities of the European Ombudsman in 2016 (2017/2126(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0449A8-0328/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the annual report on the European Ombudsman’s activities in 2016,

–  having regard to Article 15 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to Articles 24 and 228 of the TFEU,

–  having regard to Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 41 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 42 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 43 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,

–  having regard to Decision 94/262/ECSC, EC, Euratom of the European Parliament of 9 March 1994 on the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the Ombudsman’s duties(1),

–  having regard to the European Code of Good Administrative Behaviour(2), as adopted by the European Parliament on 6 September 2001,

–  having regard to the Framework Agreement on Cooperation concluded between the European Parliament and the European Ombudsman on 15 March 2006, which entered into force on 1 April 2006,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the European Ombudsman’s activities,

–  having regard to Rule 220(1) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Petitions (A8-0328/2017),

A.  whereas the annual report on the activities of the European Ombudsman 2016 was formally submitted to the President of Parliament on 17 May 2017 and the Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, presented the report to the Committee on Petitions in Brussels on 30 May 2017;

B.  whereas Articles 24 and 228 of the TFEU empower the European Ombudsman to receive complaints concerning instances of maladministration in the activities of the Union institutions, bodies, offices or agencies, with the exception of the Court of Justice of the European Union acting in its judicial role;

C.  whereas Article 15 of the TFEU states that ‘in order to promote good governance and ensure the participation of civil society, the Union’s institutions, bodies, offices and agencies shall conduct their work as openly as possible’ and that ‘any citizen of the Union, and any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State, shall have a right of access to documents of the Union’s institutions, bodies, offices and agencies’; whereas ensuring that high-quality services are provided to EU citizens and that the EU administration is responsive to their needs and concerns is crucial in protecting citizens’ rights and fundamental freedoms;

D.  whereas Article 41(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights states that ‘every person has the right to have his or her affairs handled impartially, fairly and within a reasonable time by the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union’;

E.  whereas Article 43 of the Charter states that ‘any citizen of the Union and any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State has the right to refer to the European Ombudsman cases of maladministration in the activities of the institutions, bodies, offices or agencies of the Union, with the exception of the Court of Justice of the European Union acting in its judicial role’;

F.  whereas the main priority of the European Ombudsman is to ensure that citizens’ rights are fully respected and the right to good administration of EU institutions, bodies, offices or agencies reflects the highest standards;

G.  whereas in 2016 15 797 citizens called on the Ombudsman’s services for help, of whom 12 646 were given advice through the Interactive Guide on the Ombudsman’s website, while of the remaining requests 1 271 were forwarded elsewhere for information and 1 880 were handled by the Ombudsman as complaints;

H.  whereas of the total number of 1 880 complaints processed by the Ombudsman in 2016, 711 fell within and 1 169 fell outside the scope of the Ombudsman’s mandate;

I.  whereas in 2016 the Ombudsman opened 245 inquiries, of which 235 were complaint-based and 10 were own-initiative inquiries, while closing 291 inquiries (278 complaint-based and 13 own-initiative inquiries); whereas most of the inquiries concerned the Commission (58,8 %), followed by the EU agencies (12,3 %), Parliament (6,5 %), the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) (5,7 %), the European External Action Service (EEAS) (4,5 %), the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) (0,8 %) and other institutions (11,4 %);

J.  whereas the Ombudsman receives a large number of complaints from individuals and organisations about the EU administration every year, and whereas the top three concerns in the inquiries closed by the Ombudsman in 2016 were: transparency and public access to information and documents (29,6 %); good management of EU personnel issues (28,2 %); and culture of service (25,1 %); whereas other concerns include proper use of discretion including in infringement procedures, sound financial management of EU grants and contracts, and respect for procedural and fundamental rights; whereas the relevance of these issues highlights the pivotal role of the Ombudsman in ensuring that decision-making processes and administration at EU level are fully transparent and impartial, with a view to protecting citizens’ rights and strengthening their confidence and public trust;

K.  whereas in its strategic work in 2016, the Ombudsman’s office closed 5 strategic inquires and opened 4 new ones on, among other subjects, possible conflicts of interest of special advisors and delays in chemical testing, and in addition it opened 10 new strategic initiatives;

L.  whereas the Ombudsman launched a wide strategic inquiry into how the Commission appoints and carries out conflict of interest assessments for its special advisers, who often work for private sector clients and the EU concurrently;

M.  whereas the Ombudsman inquired about the Code of Conduct for Board Members of the European Investment Bank (EIB), noting that it does not provide for the obligation to file a declaration of interests or a financial interest disclosure;

N.  whereas the financial crisis has brought about an economic and social crisis, thus undermining the credibility of the EU institutions;

O.  whereas the Ombudsman has found that the failure of the 2009-2014 Commission to deal with a former Commissioner’s breach of the Code of Conduct for Commissioners and to properly investigate the compatibility of the Commissioner’s private sector work contract with the EU Treaty obligations constitutes maladministration; whereas cases of maladministration concerning the post-mandate activities of Commissioners, including the Commission’s President, increase citizens’ mistrust towards the Commission;

P.  whereas the Ombudsman also cooperates with other international organisations, such as the UN, and is part of the EU framework under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD) tasked with protecting, promoting and monitoring the implementation of the Convention at the level of the EU institutions;

Q.  whereas according to the Flash Eurobarometer on European Union Citizenship of March 2016, 9 out of 10 EU citizens (87 %) are familiar with their status as citizens of the Union and their right to make a complaint to Parliament, to the Commission or to the Ombudsman;

1.  Approves the annual report for 2016 presented by the European Ombudsman, and commends its clear and easy-to-read presentation setting out the most important facts and figures concerning the Ombudsman’s work in 2016;

2.  Congratulates Emily O’Reilly for her excellent work in improving the quality and accessibility of the Ombudsman’s services and for her collaborative cooperation and positive engagement with Parliament, in particular the Committee on Petitions, and with other EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies;

3.  Acknowledges the role of strategic inquiries and initiatives, and supports those conducted by the Ombudsman pursuing strategically important topics on her own initiative that are in the public interest of the European citizens; commends the Ombudsman’s efforts to make better use of her strategic work in allowing complaint-based cases with similar content to be dealt with collectively;

4.  Welcomes the Ombudsman’s determination to respond promptly and efficiently to the needs and concerns of EU citizens, and supports the new working methods and streamlined case handling procedure introduced in 2016, which enable greater flexibility and efficiency and greater impact on a larger number of citizens;

5.  Agrees that the current and unprecedented challenges facing the EU, such as unemployment, economic and social inequalities, the migration crisis and Brexit, compel all institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union, including the Ombudsman, to work harder and with more determination in order to ensure the highest levels of social justice, accountability and transparency at EU level;

6.  Stresses the need to improve social dialogue;

7.  Stresses that trust between citizens and the institutions is of paramount importance in the current economic climate;

8.  Notes that the Ombudsman’s office has achieved the second highest rate of compliance with its decisions and/or recommendations so far; recommends that the Ombudsman stay alert, identify reasons for non-compliance with its recommendations and inform Parliament of any recurrent cases of non-compliance on the part of the EU administration;

9.  Notes the decreasing number of inquiries concerning the EU institutions conducted by the Ombudsman in 2016 (245 in 2016, 261 in 2015); urges the EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies to respond and react within a reasonable timeframe to the critical remarks of the Ombudsman and to improve their rate of compliance with the Ombudsman’s recommendations and/or decisions;

10.  Notes that in 2016, most of the cases handled by the Ombudsman were closed within 12 months and that the average time needed to close an inquiry was 10 months, with only 30 % of cases being closed after 12 or more months; urges the Ombudsman to further improve her working methods and to reduce the time taken to handle complaints, especially in cases still open after 12 months, without compromising her work efficiency;

11.  Notes that transparency-related inquiries, in particular concerning issues related to the transparency of decision-making processes, lobbying transparency, and access to EU documents, again account for the greatest proportion of the cases handled by the Ombudsman, followed by other problems related to a range of issues, from the violation of fundamental rights and ethical issues, to EU contracts and grants;

12.  Emphasises the essential role of transparency, good administration and institutional checks and balances in the work of the EU institutions; regrets that inquiries related to transparency and access to information and documents consistently constitute more than 20 % of all inquiries submitted to the Ombudsman and have remained an important concern among EU citizens over the years; calls on the EU institutions to publish information and documents proactively so as to increase transparency and reduce maladministration;

13.  Believes that maximum transparency of and access to documents held by the EU institutions must be the rule; recalls the case-law of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) which stipulates that citizens of the Union have a right of public access to documents of the Union’s institutions, bodies and other agencies and that possible derogations from and exceptions to this right should always be weighed against the principles of transparency and democracy, as a pre-condition of the exercise of their democratic rights; considers that a revision of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 is needed in order to facilitate the Ombudsman’s work in scrutinising the granting of access to documents by Parliament, the Council and the Commission;

14.  Invites the Commission to improve transparency and access to documents and information with regard to the EU Pilot procedures in relation to petitions received and to the EU Pilot and infringement procedures that have already been closed; underlines the importance of regular follow-up with Parliament by the Commission; encourages the continuation of the Ombudsman’s strategic inquiry into the Commission’s transparency in handling infringement complaints under the EU Pilot procedures, and urges the Ombudsman to be determined and vigilant in continuing to investigate the matter in 2017; considers that unreasonable delays in the handling of initiated infringement and EU Pilot procedures could also fall into the domain of maladministration;

15.  Commends the Ombudsman’s determination to achieve the highest level of transparency in the EU decision-making process; stresses the need to monitor the implementation of the Ombudsman’s recommendations for transparency in trilogues; calls on the Council and the Commission to publish relevant information regarding the decisions made in trilogues; reiterates, further, the need for full and enhanced transparency in trade agreements and negotiations, and calls on the Ombudsman to make continued efforts to monitor transparency in the negotiations for all EU trade agreements with third countries, while keeping in mind that this should not undermine the negotiating position of the EU;

16.  Reiterates the importance of transparency on the part of all EU institutions in the negotiations between the EU and the UK on the latter’s withdrawal from the Union without jeopardising the negotiating position of the parties; calls on the Ombudsman to monitor adherence to transparency throughout the withdrawal negotiations;

17.  Calls for greater transparency in the EU’s economic and financial decision-making process, in particular in the area of the banking supervision performed by the European Central Bank; supports, furthermore, the Ombudsman’s recommendations to increase the transparency of the EIB and the Eurogroup and to strengthen their internal ethics rules, while recognising her recent efforts in this regard and the fact that Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 does not apply to the Eurogroup as it is not an institution or body within the meaning of the Treaties; calls for compliance with the Ombudsman’s recommendations on the EIB Complaints Mechanism Review (EIB-CM) and underlines the importance of an independent complaints mechanism; invites the Ombudsman to play a more active role in ensuring that the new EIB-CM remains credible and efficient while respecting the principles of operational independence, transparency, accessibility, timeliness and adequate resources;

18.  Expresses its full support for the Ombudsman’s ultimate goal, which is to help strengthen the structures and institutions of accountability and transparency at EU level and to improve the quality of democracy in Europe;

19.  Notes the Ombudsman’s findings of maladministration with regard to the Code of Conduct for Commissioners; stresses the importance of high moral and ethical standards within the EU administration, and takes note of the Commission’s decision to extend the cooling-off period to two years for former Commissioners and three years for former Commission Presidents, but strongly believes that stricter rules on ethics need to apply in all the EU institutions, including to both EU politicians and staff, with the aim of securing respect for the duty to behave with integrity and discretion and full independence from the private sector; calls on the Commission to guarantee proactive publication and full transparency with regard to the post-term-of-office occupation of former Commissioners; supports the Ombudsman’s recommendations for further revision of the Code in accordance with the Treaty obligations, by making the rules more explicit and easy to implement so as to ensure credibility, impartiality and a lack of conflict of interest on a case-by-case basis; encourages the Ombudsman to continue to oversee and assess the level of independence of the Commission’s Ad Hoc Ethical Committee;

20.  Takes note of the Commission’s steps in response to the Ombudsman’s recommendations on how the EU staff rules governing the so-called ‘revolving door’ phenomenon have been implemented, and looks forward to the Ombudsman’s follow-up inquiry assessing how the new rules work in practice;

21.  Calls on the Ombudsman to continue her work to ensure the timely publication of the names of all EU officials involved in ‘revolving door’ cases and to guarantee full transparency with regard to all related information;

22.  Supports the Ombudsman’s commitment to improve EU lobbying transparency, and calls on the Commission to fully comply with the Ombudsman’s suggestions for improving the EU Transparency Register by making it a mandatory central transparency hub for all EU institutions and agencies; underlines that clear action should be taken and coherent and effective work schedules developed to this end; stresses the importance of greater transparency, including with regard to information on funding, interest groups and financial interests;

23.  Welcomes the Ombudsman’s strategic inquiry into how the Commission carries out conflict of interest assessments for its special advisers; calls on the Commission to fully implement the Ombudsman’s recommendations on the procedure for appointing special advisers, assessing any potential conflict of interest before and after their appointment and providing public access and information with regard to documents and meetings;

24.  Supports the Ombudsman’s strategic inquiry on the Commission’s expert groups; urges the Ombudsman to ensure that conflict of interest management and a balanced and equal representation of all stakeholders, including societal stakeholders, are improved in the new Commission rules, including the listing of all experts in the EU Transparency register;

25.  Notes the Commission’s position regarding transparency of its meetings with tobacco lobbyists and the transparency measures implemented by its Directorate-General for Health; reiterates its call on the Commission to change its practice and make its work fully transparent by publishing data online concerning all meetings with lobbyists or with their legal representatives, as well as the minutes of those meetings, in line with its obligations under the UN Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC);

26.  Welcomes the Ombudsman’s practical recommendations for public officials’ interaction with lobbyists; urges the Ombudsman to increase awareness of these recommendations among staff members in all the EU institutions through educational training, seminars and related support measures and calls on all the EU institutions to implement the Ombudsman’s Code of Good Administrative Behaviour and the transparency measures under the UN Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC); reiterates its call for an effective upgrade of the Code of Good Administrative Behaviour through adoption of a binding regulation on the matter during the current legislative term;

27.  Commends the Ombudsman’s strategic inquiry on access to documents relating to Council preparatory bodies, including its Committees, working parties and the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER), when discussing draft EU legislative acts; encourages the Ombudsman to call on the Council to improve transparency with regard to its meetings with stakeholders and the decisions adopted, comply with access to document requirements, and provide this access in a timely manner and without delays;

28.  Commends the Ombudsman’s work in dealing with issues of general public interest, such as fundamental rights, the safety and efficiency of medicine, the protection of the environment and health, and safeguarding against environmental risks; calls on the Ombudsman to follow up on her proposals to the European Chemicals Agency on disincentives relating to animal testing when new cosmetic products are registered on the market, and to the EPSO on the application of the principle of force majeure and the transparency of EPSO competitions;

29.  Acknowledges the Ombudsman’s experience in dealing with cases of maladministration in the EU institutions linked to sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace, as was the case in relation to complaint 1283/2012/AN; invites the Ombudsman, in light of its resolution of 26 October 2017 on combating sexual harassment and abuse and of its decision to create a task force of independent experts to examine the situation of sexual harassment and abuse in Parliament, also to examine the situation of sexual harassment and abuse in the EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies, and to provide recommendations and best practices for preventing new cases in the EU institutions;

30.  Supports the Ombudsman’s role in shaping a proactive and transparent policy on the clinical trials carried out by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and in particular the Ombudsman’s recommendations on the approval of Humira, one of the world’s best-selling drugs, which is used to treat Crohn’s disease; urges the Ombudsman to continue monitoring the EMA to ensure that it meets the highest standards of transparency and access to information on clinical trials, namely standards that are in the public interest and of value to doctors, patients and researchers;

31.  Invites the Ombudsman to further inquire into the practices within EU agencies, with a particular focus on the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency with regard to the Monsanto Papers and the possible implications in terms of secrecy and conflict of interest;

32.  Welcomes the Ombudsman’s inquiries following complaints by persons with disabilities, and encourages her work as an active participant in the EU Framework for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and her contribution to the implementation of the European Disability Strategy; reaffirms its full support for the full implementation of the Convention at EU level;

33.  Calls on the Ombudsman to ensure that the Commission takes into account the Ombudsman’s proposals and recommendations on the future revision of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) instrument with a view to ensuring that the procedures and conditions required for the ECI are genuinely clear, simple, easily applicable and proportionate;

34.  Calls on the Ombudsman to ensure that the Commission will help to create an infrastructure providing legal advice on European citizens’ initiatives and a legal framework that protects ECI members;

35.  Recalls that whistle-blowers are crucial figures in unveiling cases of maladministration, and supports measures to encourage whistle-blowing effectively and improve the protection of whistle-blowers against retaliation, and calls on the Ombudsman to further assess the implementation of the new internal whistle-blowing rules in the EU institutions; encourages follow-up of the Ombudsman’s 2015 inquiries relating to the EU institutions’ internal whistle-blowing rules; welcomes the Ombudsman’s own rules in this field and encourages other EU institutions to use them as guidance; reiterates its call for horizontal EU legislation on the protection of whistle-blowers which sets out appropriate channels and procedures for reporting all forms of maladministration, as well as adequate guarantees and legal safeguards at all levels for the individuals involved;

36.  Proposes a review of the European Ombudsman’s Statute to empower her to investigate alleged non-compliance with Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding public access to documents from EU institutions and bodies and to take decisions on the release of the relevant documents;

37.  Welcomes the Ombudsman’s initiative to identify best practices in the EU administration and bring them to greater public attention with the Ombudsman’s Award for Good Administration;

38.  Encourages the Ombudsman to continue collaboration with national ombudsmen through the European Network of Ombudsmen; supports the idea of holding the annual conference of the European Network of Ombudsmen in Brussels for the first time in 2016 and the Commission’s commitment to work more effectively with the Network;

39.  Is open to the idea of holding future annual conferences of the European Network of Ombudsmen on Parliament premises, given the direct links between the Committee on Petitions and the Ombudsman;

40.  Recalls that the European Network of Ombudsmen could play an important role in defending EU citizens’ rights in the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU;

41.  Commends the Ombudsman for holding meetings with individual national ombudsmen and with civil society and business organisations; urges the Ombudsman to replicate those meetings in all Member States and further raise awareness of what the Ombudsman’s Office can do for European citizens and businesses;

42.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution and the report of the Committee on Petitions to the Council, the Commission, the European Ombudsman, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, and the Member States’ ombudsmen or similar competent bodies.-

(1) OJ L 113, 4.5.1994, p. 15.
(2) OJ C 72 E, 21.3.2002, p. 331.


Environmental Implementation Review (EIR)
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European Parliament resolution of 16 November 2017 on the EU Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) (2017/2705(RSP))
P8_TA(2017)0450B8-0590/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 3 February 2017 entitled ‘The EU Environmental Implementation Review: Common challenges and how to combine efforts to deliver better results’ (COM(2017)0063), and the accompanying 28 Country reports,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 27 May 2016 entitled ‘Delivering the benefits of EU environmental policies through a regular Environmental Implementation Review’ (COM(2016)0316),

–  having regard to Decision No 1386/2013/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 November 2013 on a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020, ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’(1) (‘7th EAP’),

–  having regard to the resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on 25 September 2015 entitled ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ (A/RES/70/1),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 22 November 2016 entitled ‘Next steps for a sustainable European future – European action for sustainability’ (COM(2016)0739),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 22 May 2017 entitled ‘2017 European Semester: Country-specific recommendations’ (COM(2017)0500),

–  having regard to the Commission report of 2 December 2015 entitled ‘Closing the loop – An EU action plan for the Circular Economy’ (COM(2015)0614),

–  having regard to the Commission report of 26 January 2017 on the implementation of the Circular Economy Action Plan (COM(2017)0033),

–  having regard to the questions to the Council (O-000065/2017 – B8-0606/2017) and to the Commission (O-000066/2017 – B8-0607/2017) on the EU Environmental Implementation Review (EIR),

–  having regard to the motion for a resolution of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety,

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

A.  whereas the EU has strong environmental legislation, but the weak and defective implementation thereof is a long-standing problem; whereas these implementation gaps threaten sustainable development, have adverse trans-boundary impacts on the environment and human health and entail important socio-economic costs; whereas, moreover, the implementation gaps undermine the EU’s credibility;

B.  whereas 70 % of EU environmental law is implemented by regional and local authorities;

C.  whereas the EU Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) and the 28 Country reports have shown once again that implementation of environmental law in the EU is not homogeneous, but varies dramatically between Member States as well as between the different environmental areas; notes, however, that there are common problem areas in which implementation is poor throughout the EU and that these often concern the greatest environmental health threats;

D.  whereas the biennial reporting exercise is very important in showing the real situation as regards implementation in the Member States, but regular monitoring would also be important;

E.  whereas the EIR addresses important components of EU environmental legislation, but needs to be further expanded to enable the provision of more systematic solutions to the challenges posed by sustainable environmental development;

F.  whereas the EIR should be a cross-sectoral instrument, able to evaluate environmental impacts in other areas such as agriculture, fisheries, industry, transport, forestry, and regional policies in general;

G.  whereas the Commission should aim to achieve better comparability of the data used in assessing Member States’ performances; whereas the differences between the data collected in different Member States represent an important obstacle to their comparability and, ultimately, to the assessment itself;

H.  whereas it is important to involve all competent authorities in the EIR, in a manner consistent with the institutional reality of the Member States; whereas, in particular, it is important to emphasise that in some Member States regions have full competence in the field of environmental legislation;

I.  whereas the EIR is a tool fully complementary to other instruments focusing on better implementation such as IMPEL (the European Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law) and the ‘Make it Work’ project;

J.  whereas the EIR should be seen as an instrument for political discussion, particularly at ministerial level, and not only as a technical tool;

Importance and context of EIR

1.  Welcomes the Commission’s initiative to introduce an EIR and recognises its enormous potential, if the correct political importance is given to it and it is fully transparent; points out that the EIR has the potential to put implementation problems high on the political agenda, to serve as an early warning mechanism for decision-makers and, ultimately, to improve the implementation of EU environmental legislation and policy;

2.  Recalls that Parliament has, on several occasions, called for a more proactive role to be played by the Commission in monitoring, guiding and supporting the implementation of environmental legislation and policy, e.g. with reference to the Nature Directives; considers that the Commission should act decisively in cases of breach, actively making use of all legislative measures at its disposal;

3.  Supports the cross-sectoral, multi-stakeholder, holistic approach taken by the Commission, which is key to making changes on the ground; welcomes the fact that the EIR identifies the root causes of poor implementation and suggests measures to tackle these challenges in a constructive manner;

4.  Considers that the EIR should be one of the tools used to create greater coherence with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to evaluate the progress made by Member States and the Union towards the achievement of the environmentally relevant SDGs; calls, in this regard, on the Commission to further identify how the implementation of EU environmental legislation also furthers that of the relevant SDGs and the meeting of specific SDG indicators and targets by Member States;

5.  Recognises that the EIR can also serve as a prevention tool and could thus lower the number of infringement procedures; stresses, however, that the EIR should not replace or delay necessary action on infringement by the Commission;

How to improve the EIR and deliver better results

6.  Welcomes the fact that the EIR covers the majority of the thematic objectives of the 7th Environmental Action Programme (7th EAP); regrets, however, that important areas such as climate change, energy efficiency measures and energy savings and chemicals and industrial emissions, as well as certain systemic and environmental challenges linked to energy, transport, product and regional policies have not been covered, and calls on the Commission to ensure that they are included in future versions; points out that existing data already published by the European Environment Agency could have allowed at least a preliminary analysis of the implementation of climate change legislation, energy efficiency measures and energy savings at both EU and Member State level;

7.  Regrets, furthermore, the failure to address key issues such as hormone and medicine residues in waste water, surface water and groundwater and their effects on drinking water, human health, biodiversity and the (aquatic) environment, and calls on the Commission to ensure that they are included in future versions;

8.  Highlights the fact that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, at global level, and the 7th EAP, at EU level, create a framework for progressive environmental policies;

9.  Considers that a stronger link between the EIR and the European Semester would be beneficial to the coherence of the Union action;

10.  Underlines that the limited availability of data can result in implementation gaps and difficulties for the review of implementation;

11.  Stresses the importance of harmonising data and reporting cycles in order to streamline future review processes; calls on the Commission to increase data comparability and to include in future EIRs a specific section assessing the quality of reporting and the data provided by Member States under the different directives; underlines the importance of safe electronic data sharing in order to facilitate reporting by the Member States;

12.  Stresses the importance of supporting qualitative assessment with quantitative targets; considers, in this context, that better cooperation with the European Environment Agency would help to develop appropriate indicators;

13.  Stresses that the EIR should take into account and assess any serious problems and possible conflicting goals between environmental policies and other sectoral policies, highlighting any misalignments where they are found, and drawing up proposals to correct them;

14.  Believes that there should be less margin for discretion on the part of Member States in order to find solutions for better implementation;

How to improve implementation of environmental legislation

15.  Underlines that the lack of integration of environmental concerns into other policy areas is one of the root causes of implementation gaps in environmental legislation and policy;

16.  Underlines that the implementation of environmental law could be improved by better integration of environmental legislation into other policy areas and by the full application of the precautionary principle;

17.  Believes that lack of administrative capacity and lack of governance, which are two of the main causes of defective implementation, derive partly from a lack of adequate funding and partly from an inefficient use of the available funds by Member States, and calls on the Member States to make improvements in these areas;

18.  Believes that, for the sake of good and robust governance and improved effectiveness, partnership between and transparency of public authorities at all levels, a clear division of responsibilities, the provision of adequate resources, capacity building and better coordination mechanisms are imperative;

19.  Takes the view that the use of market instruments by Member States, such as a fiscal policy based on the ‘polluter pays’ principle, represents an effective and efficient tool for achieving the goal of full implementation of environmental policy;

20.  Strongly supports the emphasis given in the EIR to the exchange of best practices and peer-to-peer review, and considers that this could help Member States facing difficulties in implementing environmental legislation to find innovative solutions; is convinced, in this context, that guidelines from the Commission would be helpful;

21.  Considers that the EIR should include clear and strict timeframes set by the Commission to ensure implementation of environmental law in the Member States;

22.  Believes that the EIR can also be used as a tool for providing information to the public, raising awareness, increasing the involvement of civil society and enhancing public engagement and education on environment policy, with benefits for Member States and citizens; calls on the Commission, in this context, to develop a toolbox of measures to assess the progress made in terms of environmental performance by Member States, including best practice benchmarking and scoreboard reports, which should be regularly updated and published to ensure that they are publicly available;

23.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to bolster compliance assurance, including by means of improving and stepping up efforts in implementing the Environmental Liability Directive;

24.  Stresses that NGOs and the wider public can also play an important role in promoting better implementation, thereby upholding the rule of law if effective access to justice is available;

25.  Calls on the Commission to put forward a legislative proposal on environmental inspections in order to accelerate the implementation of environmental laws and standards;

26.  Calls on the Commission, in the context of good governance and compliance assurance, to put forward a new legislative proposal on minimum standards for access to judicial review, and to propose the revision of the Aarhus Regulation implementing the Convention in relation to Union action in order to take account of the recent recommendation by the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee;

Role of the Member States and EU institutions in EIR follow-up

27.  Calls on the Commission, the competent authorities in the Member States and relevant stakeholders to fully engage in the EIR without delay; stresses the important role of regional and local authorities; calls on the Member States to fully involve local and regional authorities and to encourage them to further engage in the IMPEL network and promote involvement of local and regional experts in order to improve the sharing of data, knowledge and best practices as a matter of urgency;

28.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to improve data collection and the availability of information, the dissemination of good practices and the involvement of citizens, and to consider involving local authorities to a greater extent in the process of defining environmental policy;

29.  Calls on the competent authorities at the relevant level in the Member States to ensure the organisation of open and inclusive dialogues on implementation, with adequate provision of information to and the engagement of the public and civil society actors, and calls on the Commission to engage in these dialogues and to keep Parliament informed;

30.  Welcomes the Commission’s policy proposals on the dedicated framework for the structured implementation dialogue, but considers it imperative to ensure that this process is transparent and involves relevant NGOs and key stakeholders;

31.  Welcomes the discussion between the Commission, the Member States and stakeholders in the Expert Group ‘Greening the European Semester’, but considers that the involvement of a specific environmental implementation Expert Group could facilitate a structured dialogue on implementation in addition to the bilateral country dialogues;

32.  Urges that the issue of implementation should feature as a recurring item in trio-presidency priorities and programmes, that it be discussed at the Environment Council at least once a year, perhaps through a dedicated Implementation Council, and that this be complemented by another forum in which Parliament and the Committee of the Regions would also be involved; calls for joint Council meetings to address the implementation of cross-sectoral, horizontal issues and common challenges, as well as emerging issues with possible cross-border impacts;

o
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33.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

(1) OJ L 354, 28.12.2013, p. 171.


Combating inequalities as a lever to boost job creation and growth
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European Parliament resolution of 16 November 2017 on combating inequalities as a lever to boost job creation and growth (2016/2269(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0451A8-0340/2017

The European Parliament,

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

–  having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), in particular Article 9 thereof,

–  having regard to the revised European Social Charter,

–  having regard to the Commission publication of 2015 entitled ‘EU Employment and Social Situation – Quarterly Review September 2015’,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 5 March 2014 entitled ‘Taking stock of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ (COM(2014)0130),

–  having regard to the Commission publication of 2012 entitled ‘Employment and Social Developments in Europe 2012’,

–  having regard to the Commission’s Social Investment Package of 20 February 2013, including recommendation 2013/112/EU entitled ‘Investing in Children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage’,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 16 December 2010 entitled ‘The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion: A European framework for social and territorial cohesion’ (COM(2010)0758),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 3 March 2010 entitled ‘Europe 2020 – A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ (COM(2010)2020), and to its resolution of 16 June 2010 on EU 2020(1),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 June 2017 on the need for an EU strategy to end and prevent the gender pension gap(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 March 2017 on equality between women and men in the European Union in 2014-2015(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 19 January 2017 on a European Pillar of Social Rights(4),

–  having regard to its recommendation to the Council of 7 July 2016 on the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 April 2016 on meeting the antipoverty target in the light of increasing household costs(6),

–  having regard to its resolution of 24 November 2015 on reducing inequalities with a special focus on child poverty(7),

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 January 2014 on an EU homelessness strategy(8),

–  having regard to its resolution of 4 July 2013 on the impact of the crisis on access to care for vulnerable groups(9),

–  having regard to its resolution of 12 June 2013 on the Commission communication ‘Towards Social Investment for Growth and Cohesion – including implementing the European Social Fund 2014-2020’(10),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 November 2011 on the European Platform against poverty and social exclusion(11),

–  having regard to its resolution of 8 March 2011 on the face of female poverty in the European Union(12),

–  having regard to its resolution of 8 March 2011 on reducing health inequalities in the EU(13),

–  having regard to its resolution of 20 October 2010 on the role of minimum income in combating poverty and promoting an inclusive society in Europe(14),

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 October 2008 on promoting social inclusion and combating poverty, including child poverty, in the EU(15),

–  having regard to the question for oral answer O-000047/2016 – B8-0369/2016 on tackling inequalities in order to boost inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the EU,

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 10 December 2013 on ‘European minimum income and poverty indicators’(16),

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 15 June 2011 on the ‘European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion: a European framework for Social and Territorial Cohesion’(17),

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 30 September 2009 entitled ‘Work and poverty: towards the necessary holistic approach’(18),

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 31 March 2011 on the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion(19),

–  having regard to the annual report of 10 March 2015 by the Social Protection Committee entitled ‘Social situation in the European Union (2014)’(20),

–  having regard to the opinion of the Social Protection Committee of 15 February 2011 entitled ‘The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion: Flagship Initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy’(21),

–  having regard to the Eurofound report ‘Third European Quality of Life Survey – Quality of life in Europe: Impacts of the crisis’,

–  having regard to the Eurofound report ‘Third European Quality of Life Survey – Quality of life in Europe: Social inequalities’,

–  having regard to the Eurofound report ‘Income inequalities and employment – patterns in Europe before and after the Great Recession’,

–  having regard to the Eurofound overview report ‘Sixth European Working Conditions Survey’,

–  having regard to the Eurofound report ‘Social mobility in the EU’,

–  having regard to the Eurofound report ‘New forms of employment’,

–  having regard to Eurofound’s topical update, ‘Pay inequalities experienced by posted workers: Challenges to the “equal treatment” principle’, which provides a detailed overview of governments’ and social partners’ positions across Europe as regards the principle of equal remuneration for equal work,

–  having regard to the Eurofound report ‘Developments in working life in Europe: EurWORK annual review 2016’, and specifically to its chapter ‘Pay inequalities – Evidence, debate and policies’,

–  having regard to the Eurofound report ‘Occupational change and wage inequality: European Jobs Monitor 2017’,

–  having regard to the Eurofound report ‘Women, men and working conditions in Europe’,

–  having regard to the Commission publication ‘European Economic Forecast Spring 2016’(22),

–  having regard to the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and specifically to its Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No 10, ‘Reduce inequalities within and among countries’,

–  having regard to the UN report ‘World Social Situation 2007: The Employment Imperative’,

–  having regard to the OECD report of 21 May 2015 entitled ‘In It Together: Why Less Inequality Benefits All’,

–  having regard to the OECD report of 19 December 2011 entitled ‘Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising’,

–  having regard to the OECD report of October 2008 entitled ‘Growing Unequal?: Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD countries’,

–  having regard to the IMF staff discussion note of 17 February 2014 entitled ‘Redistribution, Inequality and Growth’(23),

–  having regard to the IMF staff discussion note of 8 April 2011 entitled ‘Inequality and Unsustainable Growth: Two Sides of the Same Coin?’(24),

–  having regard to the ILO publication of 3 June 2013 ‘World of Work Report 2013: Repairing the economic and social fabric’ and its chapter ‘Snapshot of the United States’,

–  having regard to the report published in September 2014 by University College, London as part of the ‘DRIVERS For Health Equity project’, entitled ‘Final Scientific Report: Social Inequalities in early childhood health and development: a European-wide systematic review’,

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and the position in the form of amendments of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (A8-0340/2017),

A.  whereas equality and fairness are an integral part of European values and a cornerstone for the European social model, the EU and its Member States; whereas the objectives of both the Member States and the EU include the promotion of employment, with a view to lasting high employment and combating exclusion;

B.  whereas inequality can undermine social trust and erode support for democratic institutions; whereas measures to combat inequality must be enhanced in economic, social and regional terms in order to promote harmonious development across the Union;

C.  whereas inequality refers both to the income gap between individuals and to individuals’ loss of opportunities impeding the potential improvement of their abilities and skills and curbing their development and, consequently, their potential contribution to society;

D.  whereas the root cause of shrinking demand is the economic and financial crisis that has been rampant in the euro area for over a decade;

E.  whereas inequality and unemployment curtail effective demand, frustrate innovation, and can lead to increased financial fragility; whereas high and rising inequality hinders not only progress towards eradicating poverty, but also efforts to enhance social inclusion and social cohesion;

F.  whereas combating inequalities can be a lever to boost job creation and growth and at the same time reduce poverty; whereas 47,5 % of all unemployed persons in the EU were at risk of poverty in 2015(25);

G.  whereas inequality undermines growth and quality job creation(26), according to international institutions such as the IMF(27) or the OECD(28), which have also stated that excessively high and rising inequality have direct social costs, hamper social mobility and can also inhibit sustainable growth, today and in the future;

H.  whereas one of the five Europe 2020 targets aims to reduce by at least 20 million the number of people in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion, from 115,9 million in 2008 to no more than 95,9 million by 2020; whereas in 2015 there were 117,6 million people at risk of poverty and social exclusion, exceeding the 2008 figure by 1,7 million; whereas 32,2 million persons with disabilities were at risk of poverty and social exclusion in the EU in 2012; whereas in 2013 26,5 million children in the EU-28 were at risk of falling into poverty or social exclusion; whereas the proportion of the population at risk of poverty or exclusion is still unacceptably high at 23,7 %, with figures remaining very high in some Member States; whereas, moreover, energy poverty remains so high that for the 11 % of the EU population affected it leads to a cycle of economic disadvantage(29);

I.  whereas the increase in inequality arising from the crisis has affected women in particular, exacerbating poverty among women and increasingly excluding them from the labour market; whereas women’s participation in the labour market should be increased through the efficient implementation of the existing and complementary legislation on equality between women and men and the improvement of the current policy framework with a view to enhancing work-life balance;

J.  whereas there is a positive correlation between enhanced equality between women and men and stronger economic growth, inclusiveness, job creation and business prosperity; whereas reducing occupational inequality is a means not only to achieve equal treatment but also to ensure labour market efficiency and competitiveness;

K.  whereas the OECD has highlighted that ‘lowering inequality by 1 Gini point would translate into an increase in cumulative growth of 0,8 % in the following five years’(30).

L.  whereas according to Eurofound, ‘atypical work’ refers to employment relationships not conforming to the standard or typical model of full-time, regular, open-ended employment with a single employer over a long time-span; whereas according to the ILO, ‘non-standard forms of employment’ is an umbrella term for different employment arrangements that deviate from standard employment, including temporary employment, part-time and on-call work, temporary agency work and other multi-party employment relationships, as well as disguised employment and dependent self-employment;

M.  whereas increased inequality is associated with decreased social mobility, reduced human capabilities and limits on fundamental rights and freedoms; whereas the Eurofound report of 2017 on social mobility in the EU(31) provides evidence that social background continues to determine life chances in many of the Member States;

N.  whereas growth in the Member State economies depends on multiple factors; whereas increasing inequality could have a negative impact on growth; whereas the IMF has identified at global level an inverse relationship between the income share accruing to the top 20 % and economic growth, whereby if the income share of the top 20 % increases by one percentage point, GDP growth is actually 0,08 percentage points lower in the following five years; whereas, conversely, a similar increase in the income share of the bottom 20 % is associated with higher growth of 0,38 percentage points;

O.  whereas inequality is a multifaceted phenomenon which is not restricted to monetary issues but also concerns differences in the opportunities available to people depending on, for example, their gender, ethnic origin, disability, sexual preferences, geographical location or age; whereas multiple inequalities in access to work and within work create a risk for individuals’ health and wellbeing, and financial opportunities and might therefore lead to low productivity;

P.  whereas unequal coverage in the area of social protection is analysed in Eurofound’s report on ‘New Forms of Employment’(32), which includes a focus on the most problematic of these forms from a social protection perspective, namely casual work, providing examples of legislation that specifically excludes casual workers, and of other legislation which aims to include them, typically by compensating on the basis of income thresholds; whereas voucher work and strategic employee sharing are examples of non-standard work that aim to address the inadequacies of social protection in occasional or part-time work;

Q.  whereas societies with greater income inequalities have higher rates of poor health and violence, lower maths and literacy scores, higher obesity rates, and higher imprisonment and homicide rates(33); whereas more equal societies incur less welfare expenditure for the state;

R.  whereas inequalities throughout the life cycle are reflected in inequalities in old age such as lower healthy life expectancy, old-age poverty, and a gender pension gap of almost 40 %; whereas European strategies for the eradication of poverty are necessary for achieving sustainable development for all;

S.  whereas economic security is an important factor for human fulfilment;

T.  whereas on 5 October 2015 the Council adopted conclusions on ‘the 2015 Pension Adequacy Report: current and future income adequacy in old age in the EU’, considering it ‘essential that public pension or other social protection schemes contain appropriate safeguards for women and men whose employment opportunities do or did not allow them to build up sufficient pension entitlements’ and further stating that ‘such safeguards notably include minimum pensions or other minimum income provisions for older people’(34);

U.  whereas the lack of sufficient funding for public education is a major cause of future social disparities and increasing inequality;

V.  whereas between 2005 and 2015 the Gini coefficient for the EU increased from 30,6 to 31 and the income inequality between the top and bottom 20 % of the population increased from 4,7 to 5,2; whereas the proportion of people at risk of monetary poverty is closely linked to income inequality and monetary poverty has increased steadily since 2005; whereas between 2008 and 2014 several Member States witnessed rising inequality in terms of household disposable income(35);

W.  whereas disparities between and within Member States’ economic growth are leading to economic imbalances within the Union; whereas these highly unequal economic trends have generated excessive unemployment and poverty pockets;

X.  whereas the global evolution of inequalities is consistent with a steady increase in inequality in developed countries since the 1980s, with inequality rising, according to the OECD(36), regardless of the economic cycle (with specific exceptions), thus increasing the Gini coefficient by three points, from 0,29 to 0,32, between 1980 and 2013, signifying a 10 % increase in the last decades;

Y.  whereas although the level of inequality can be determined by many factors, it is institutions and authors of political interventions that are responsible for addressing them specially at structural level; whereas there is an investment gap in the EU and public and private investment are key elements in reducing inequality by boosting employment; whereas structural deficiencies need to be properly addressed; whereas the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) is expected to be updated in order to help address the investment gap;

Z.  whereas trends in inequality do not necessarily coincide with trends in absolute and extreme forms of poverty such as homelessness;

AA.  whereas providing adequate support and funding around sustainable and permanent housing is essential for access to employment, education and health and for strengthening integration and local acceptance; whereas safeguarding the liveability of neighbourhoods and fighting segregation are an important part of supporting integration and reducing inequalities;

AB.  whereas according to Eurostat the proportion of the population at risk of poverty in the EU in 2015 was 24,4 %, rising to 26,9 % for children;

AC.  whereas women are disproportionately affected by the crisis, and whereas green jobs have proven to be more crisis-resistant than others;

AD.  whereas women are at higher risk of poverty and precariousness;

Establishing European policy coordination for combating inequality

1.  Affirms that inequalities threaten the future of the European project, erode its legitimacy and can damage trust in the EU as an engine of social progress, a dimension of the Union which needs to be developed; recalls that current inequalities have negative effects undermining political and social stability; emphasises that fostering upward convergence and improving the life of all European citizens needs to continue to be the driver for further integration;

2.  Believes firmly that the reduction of inequalities must be one of the main priorities at the European level, not only in order to tackle poverty or promote convergence, but also as the precondition for economic recovery, decent job creation, social cohesion and shared prosperity;

3.  Highlights that reducing inequalities is essential for promoting fairer and more stable democracies, guaranteeing equal treatment without double standards, marginalising populism, extremism and xenophobia, and ensuring that the European Union is a project embraced by its citizens;

4.  Reminds the Commission and the Member States that the European Union must fulfil its commitments under the Treaties in terms of promoting the wellbeing of its peoples, full employment and social progress, social justice and protection, equality between women and men, equality between citizens from different socio-economic backgrounds, solidarity between generations, protection of the rights of the child and social inclusion of all people who are in vulnerable situation or suffer from marginalisation;

5.  Asks the Commission and the Member States, in accordance with their respective competences, to evaluate the performance and outcomes of economic policy coordination, taking into account the evolution of social progress and social justice in the EU; observes that the European Semester has not prioritised the achievement of these aims and the reduction of inequalities; urges the Commission to improve the process of policy coordination in order to better monitor, prevent and correct negative trends that could increase inequalities and weaken social progress or negatively affect social justice, putting in place preventive and corrective measures when necessary; believes that specific policies aimed at fighting economic inequalities should be considered and included, where appropriate, in the European Semester;

6.  Believes that social measures can be regarded in some cases as alleviating measures and should be complemented with economic policies and socially responsible structural reforms in order to achieve positive, long-lasting and sustainable economic growth and structurally reduce the trend to inequality in the medium and long term;

7.  Urges the Commission, within the scope of the European Semester, and without prejudice to national competences, to better assess imbalances in terms of income and wealth distribution, also through individual in-depth review (IDR) reports if these imbalances are detected, as a way to link economic coordination with employment and social performance; calls on the Commission to establish an accurate and up-to-date picture of the differences in income and wealth, social cohesion and social inclusion between and within countries, and to justify its proposals and recommendations for political decisions with solid and detailed data; calls on the Commission to study which should be the most accurate indicators of economic inequality (from among the Gini index, Palma indexes, Theil index, wage share, ratio of minimum wage to GDP per capita or to average wage, etc.), and to monitor the evolution of inequalities, also taking into account the overall competitiveness and productivity of all factors;

8.  Notes that regions which suffer from severe and permanent natural or demographic handicaps, such as the northernmost regions with their very low population density, the island, cross-border and mountain regions referred to in Article 174 TFEU, and remote and depopulated regions, have greater difficulty in providing access to public services such as healthcare and education and that, as a result, those services are frequently a greater burden on public finances and recipients need to travel further to obtain them;

9.  Reiterates the need to channel investment towards improved territorial cohesion, so as to enhance the industrial fabric of regions with severe and permanent natural or demographic disadvantages, especially regarding broadband access;

10.  Urges the Commission to promote ambitious investment in social protection, services and infrastructures by Member States through a more targeted and strategic use of the European Structural and Investment Funds and the European Fund for Strategic Investments, in order to respond to the social and economic needs of Member States and regions;

11.  Reiterates its call for the establishment of an authentic European Pillar of Social Rights which promotes upwards convergence, taking into consideration the share of competences laid down in the Treaties and the building of a deeper and fairer social dimension of the EMU;

12.  Calls on the Commission to strengthen its efforts to work with Member States to achieve all the Europe 2020 strategy targets, including the reduction of poverty and social exclusion by 20 million, and to align the scope of the Europe 2020 strategy with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, therefore also including the fight against inequality and extreme poverty among its goals; asks the Commission to continue paying close attention to the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy targets and to take into consideration the Eurostat scoreboard on Europe 2020 headline indicators, also in the European Semester procedure and the Country-Specific Recommendations;

13.  Calls on the Commission and on the Member States, recalling that the latter are primarily responsible for their social policies, which must be supported and complemented by European action, to strengthen their efforts for the reduction of inequality between income groups, and to encourage an adequate framework of measures which ensures, among other things, decent working conditions for all, public education, health, pensions, adequate public infrastructure and social services, and encourages equal opportunities; stresses that such a framework should enable a well-functioning ‘social lift’;

14.  Underlines that the Union budget should establish the implementation of appropriate policies for reducing inequalities and increased social cohesion;

15.  Stresses the primacy of fundamental rights; emphasises that labour law and high social standards have a crucial role to play in rebalancing economies, supporting incomes and encouraging investment capacity; recalls the importance of respecting social rights as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, including trade union rights and freedoms and collective bargaining rights, and upholding equal treatment of workers;

16.  Points out that we cannot ignore the future importance of sectorial policies for reducing inequalities and that, in particular, the need for further development of the internal market and for an investment policy at European and national level (e.g. in major infrastructures, healthcare, education) and the formulation of all aspects of energy policy must take account of the opportunities such policies offer in terms of economic, social and territorial factors, in order to guarantee equal opportunities; calls on the Commission to work with Member States to develop comprehensive strategies for job creation, entrepreneurship and innovation, aiming for strategic investment in green jobs, in the social, health and care sectors, and in the social economy, whose employment potential is untapped;

Measures to boost decent job creation and quality employment

17.  Expresses its concern regarding the evolution of inequality in the EU after the crisis, which was largely driven by growing unemployment; is of the opinion that unemployment is a source of inequalities and that policies for the creation of decent jobs and quality employment targeted on the main unemployment pockets could help improve household incomes in the bottom quintile;

18.  Calls on the Commission to include in the upcoming revision of the Written Statement Directive provisions that eliminate discrimination based on contractual status and that ensure for every worker the right to fair terms and conditions of employment in line with ILO Decent Work standards;

19.  Underlines the fact, moreover, that high levels of unemployment exert downward pressure on wages and can, in some cases, also have a detrimental effect on working and societal conditions; stresses that the fight against unemployment per se is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for reducing inequalities;

20.  Calls on the Commission to propose a higher funding level for the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) for the period 2017-2020, including better reaching young people under 30; calls on the Commission to contribute to better implementation of the Youth Guarantee, by focusing more on the most vulnerable young people who often have to cope with complex needs, taking into account the latest findings of the European Court of Auditors’ report on use of the YEI and ensuring an accurate and transparent implementation and assessment;

21.  Stresses the importance of following more closely young people leaving the Youth Guarantee/Youth Employment Initiative with a view to their lasting and efficient integration into the labour market; calls on the Commission to study the possibility of further flexibility of the YEI, also for well-performing countries in terms of youth policies, integrating schemes for the protection of young people in transition from education or higher education to work, in order to compensate for the exclusion of young people from contributory schemes of social protection in Europe;

22.  Stresses that programmes such as the Youth Guarantee and the YEI must not be a substitute for Member States’ own efforts to fight youth unemployment and promote sustainable integration into the labour market; acknowledges that quality and accessible education is the decisive factor for overcoming inequalities; calls, therefore, for increased investment in public education and lifelong learning;

23.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to emphasise the need to promote green jobs and boost employment in rural and declining areas and make such areas more attractive to women;

24.  Calls on the Commission, through the ESF and the European Semester procedure, and the Member States, through their National Reform Programmes, to ensure full implementation of the measures at national level outlined in the Council recommendation on the labour market integration of the long-term unemployed;

25.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to complement the Economic and Monetary Union with a fully-fledged European labour market combined with wide social protection coverage; believes that well-functioning labour markets and coordinated and robust welfare systems are vital to the success of the European monetary union and are part of a broader upward convergence process towards economic, social and territorial cohesion; calls on the Commission, in this sense, to present a study on how the EU can support and promote Guaranteed Public Employment Programmes at national level;

26.  Calls on the Member States to ensure better alignment of education and training with labour market needs across the EU, creating more opportunities for mobility and improving recruitment and training strategies – particularly by means of ‘on-the-job’ training and targeted investment that will boost job creation and increase demand for employment; recalls that reskilling is an important element which makes it possible to reintegrate people back into the labour market and helps in tackling long-term unemployment and achieving a better match of skills with available jobs; stresses that skills validation and recognition of formal and informal learning are important tools to enable acquired skills to be valued in labour markets; insists that lifelong learning opportunities should be promoted along the whole of the life cycle, including old age, so that they can play out their full potential in fighting inequalities;

27.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to work together on addressing discrimination in recruitment and discriminatory recruitment procedures which prevent people from entering the labour market for reasons of (among others) gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, sex characteristics, ethnicity, disability or age;

Improving working and living conditions

28.  Expresses its concern over the amount of undeclared work, atypical work contracts and other forms of non-standard employment, which can give rise to precarious working conditions, lower wages, exploitation and poorer social security contributions, as well as rising inequality in some Member States; recalls that adequate social security and social protection need to be provided to protect all workers; calls on the Commission and the Member States to step up their efforts to fight the shadow economy and undeclared work;

29.  Considers that the quality of jobs throughout the EU should be improved, especially regarding living wages, job security, access to education and lifelong learning and occupational health and safety; calls on the Commission to support further research in relation to monitoring and improving quality job creation and overall competitiveness in the EU, based on Eurofound’s research;

30.  Considers that certain forms of employment, such as zero-hours contracts and unpaid internships, do not permit a decent standard of living; considers it crucial to ensure proper learning and training opportunities and decent working conditions, where applicable, for internships, traineeships and apprenticeships, to establish limits on non-standard forms of work, and to prevent the use of zero-hours contracts, the use of temporary agency workers to replace workers on strike, and the use of fixed-term contracts for permanent tasks;

31.  Observes that voluntary part-time work may encourage certain categories of persons to participate in the labour market that are currently under-represented and be useful for work-life balance arrangements;

32.  Believes strongly that an accurate common employment classification at the European level could be explored in order to reduce precariousness on the basis of scientifically established facts and data; is convinced that applying the principle of equal pay for equal work done in the same place will help reduce inequalities between workers;

33.  Highlights the importance of properly studying the different effects and aspects of increasing automation and the impact of the delay in adapting legislation, which could threaten to exert downward pressure on social protection systems and wages, especially affecting low-skilled and medium-skilled workers; emphasises, in that connection, the importance of keeping social protection and wages at adequate levels;

34.  Considers that the New Skills Agenda must provide affordable access for all workers to lifelong learning and ensure adaptation to digitalisation and permanent technological change;

35.  Takes due note of the European Economic and Social Committee’s Opinion on a framework directive on adequate minimum income in the European Union, which should lay down common rules and indicators and provide methods for monitoring its implementation; stresses that the tool of reference budgets, which indicate the cost of living in dignity for different housing arrangements, household compositions and ages, could be used to assess the adequacy of minimum income schemes introduced by Member States;

36.  Is concerned about the high levels of non-takeup of minimum income schemes where they exist, which point up the many barriers existing, including intrusive procedures and stigma linked to applying under those schemes; believes that income support programmes are vital to avoid unequal economic trends, by supporting individuals before they reach the stage of poverty and social exclusion;

37.  Stresses the importance of social dialogue and collective bargaining for determining wages, and the need for these mechanisms to remain in the hands of the social partners in line with their autonomy as enshrined in the Treaties; calls on the Commission to carry out a study on a living wage index in order to estimate the cost of living and the approximate income needed to meet a family’s basic needs for each Member State and region; highlights that for all households, an adequate income level is essential to enable the working poor to achieve financial independence while maintaining housing and food security;

38.  Stresses that regarding the long-term financing of the construction of new dwellings, besides the ESI Funds and EFSI, other forms of both private and public funding should be mobilised as a way to step up the activities of national public banks or other agencies in the field of affordable and social housing;

39.  Calls on the Commission to improve workers’ occupational health and safety, including by proper enforcement of the Working Time Directive;

40.  Recalls that the right of collective bargaining and action is a fundamental right in the EU and that the European institutions must respect it, observe its prin ciples and promote its application(37); believes that the declining bargaining power of workers and trade unions has not contributed to those objectives and could be a cause of low wage growth and the proliferation of insecure work;

41.  Notes the importance of protecting workers’ rights and fostering the bargaining power of employees through structural reforms of labour markets that promote sustainable growth, decent jobs, shared prosperity and social cohesion; stresses the role of dialogue between social partners in addressing inequalities in the labour market; calls on the Member States and the EU to ensure the right to unionise as well as the strength and autonomy of both trade unions and employers’ associations when engaging in negotiations at any level;

42.  Highlights, in addition, the importance of civil dialogue with representatives of different groups of society, especially of those at higher risk of poverty and social exclusion, when discussing matters relating to inequalities;

43.  Calls for the implementation of an anti-discrimination policy that plays a key role in ensuring equal employment opportunities and promoting social inclusion; calls on the Member States to unblock the anti-discrimination directive;

44.  Calls on the Member States to take action to ensure that discrimination, harassment and violence based on gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation and sex characteristics (among others) is addressed in the workplace, and that clear reporting and support mechanisms for victims and procedures against perpetrators are in place;

Strengthening the welfare state and social protection

45.  Highlights that in many countries welfare and social protection systems have come under pressure, being impacted by financial consolidation with repercussions in terms of income inequalities; believes that welfare systems should act as a safety net and also facilitate inclusion in the labour market; emphasises the need for a multidimensional approach to the achievement of greater equality and social cohesion, as reflected in the horizontal social clause (Article 9 TFEU), focusing on the social dimension of union policies and the commitment to apply the principle of social mainstreaming to all Union policies;

46.  States that social progress, as defined in the European social progress index, is the capacity of a society to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, to establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives, and to create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential;

47.  Encourages the Member States to improve their welfare systems (education, health, housing, pensions and transfers) on a basis of high-level social safeguards, in order to achieve comprehensive protection of people, taking into account the new social risks and vulnerable groups that have appeared as a result of the financial, economic and then social crises with which the Member States have had to cope;

48.  Calls on the Member States to boost investment in quality and affordable early childhood education and care services, stressing that such investment appears to pay off, particularly for children from disadvantaged families; calls on the Member States, with the support of the Commission and in line with the Barcelona targets, to take the appropriate measures to ensure universal and affordable access to quality public education from an early age (0-3), since this is key for combating inequalities in the long term;

49.  Calls for universal access to affordable housing, protecting vulnerable households against eviction and over-indebtedness, and promoting an effective second chance framework for individuals and families at the European level;

50.  Urges Member States to act swiftly on the current migration and refugee crisis and to guarantee that refugees have access to rapid language and culture learning processes, training, quality housing, healthcare, education, labour market and social protection and recognition of formal and non-formal skills and capabilities, and to ensure their inclusion in society;

51.  Affirms that universal access to public, solidarity-based and adequate retirement and old age pensions must be granted to all; calls on the Commission to support Member States in strengthening public and occupational pension systems to provide an adequate retirement income above the poverty threshold, and to allow pensioners to maintain their standard of living and to live in dignity and independence; reiterates its call for care credits in pension systems to compensate for lost contributions of women and men due to childcare and long-term care responsibilities, as a tool to reduce the gender pension gap; highlights that while personal pension schemes can be important tools to improve pension adequacy, statutory solidarity-based pension systems remain the most efficient tool for combating old-age poverty and social exclusion;

52.  Highlights that the fundamental rights of people with disabilities should be guaranteed, including the right to decent and barrier-free work, services and basic income security adapted to specific individual needs, decent standards of living and social inclusion, and specific provisions on protection from exploitation and forced labour;

53.  Considers that international trade has been an engine for growth but that the benefits are not always well distributed and this can be perceived as a source of inequalities; calls on the Commission and the Member States to promote fairer international trade agreements that respect European labour market regulations and ILO core conventions, while also protecting quality employment and workers’ rights and ensuring European and national mechanisms for the compensation of workers and sectors negatively affected by major changes in world trade patterns due to globalisation, including the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund;

54.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that EU competition policies enable fair competition and help fight cartels or incompatible state aid, which distort prices and disrupt the functioning of the internal market, with a view to ensuring that consumers are protected;

Combating poverty and social exclusion

55.  Considers that the right to equal opportunities should be ensured in the European Union; is concerned that the current inequality of outcomes that affects everyone living in the EU, but especially children and young people, is often aggravated by the non-egalitarian design of education systems and has damaging consequences for young people’s wellbeing and development as individuals, thereby contributing to a low sense of self-worth or inclusion in society of European youth, especially those lacking resources and opportunities;

56.  Stresses that education has a key role to play in reducing inequalities, and, in that connection, calls on the Member States to step up their efforts and earmark sufficient investment in order to guarantee equal opportunities; affirms the importance of universal access to education and access to student support for young people in higher education; calls on the Commission to support Member States in creating adequate, decent and accessible housing for young people in order to sustain their transitions;

57.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to step up the fight against poverty, especially among children, by setting targets to reduce child poverty, by exploring the coordinated implementation of the Recommendation on Investing in Children, and through the creation of a child guarantee scheme;

58.  Stresses, further, that many cultural and sporting activities are powerful tools for cohesion and social integration, and points out that these activities can improve the employment prospects of the least-favoured members of society by teaching them soft skills;

59.  Calls on the Member States to achieve the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy as regards reducing poverty and the risk of social exclusion;

60.  Considers the rapid increase of homelessness in most EU Member States to be an issue of urgent concern; believes that, in line with the principles outlined in the Social Rights Pillar, the Commission should support Member States in their efforts to curb the rising trend of homelessness with a view to its gradual elimination;

Achieving a real gender balance

61.  Notes that the Commission has responded to its call for a better work-life balance for women and men living and working in the EU, through the proposal for a directive on work-life balance for parents and carers to meet the challenges of the next decades; recalls its call for adequate remuneration and social protection, and stresses that the proposals put forward by the Commission are a good basis on which to increase women’s participation in the labour market and boost work-life balance and flexible working arrangements for both women and men, as a means of reducing inequalities in paid and unpaid work;

62.  Stresses that further inclusion of women in the labour market, by improving support for female entrepreneurship as well as by closing the gap between women’s educational attainment and their position in the labour market and safeguarding equal opportunities between men and women in terms of pay, career advancement and opportunities for working full-time, are all essential factors for the achievement of inclusive and long-term economic growth, eliminating the gender pension gap, combating inequalities and fostering women’s financial independence;

63.  Calls on the Commission to put forward initiatives, if necessary, to remove any kind of gender pay gap, setting penalties for Work Centres that violate the right to equality by establishing different wages for identical job categories, depending on whether they are occupied mainly by men or by women.

64.  Regrets the fact that, despite existing legislation enshrining the principle of equal pay for work of equal value by male and female workers, there is still a gender pay gap and an even greater gender pension gap; calls on the Commission and the Member States and social partners to address the gender gap challenge in pay and pensions;

65.  Is concerned at the increase in the poverty rate, particularly among women and the fact that it is single mothers, young women and older women in particular who are affected by poverty; points out that the reduction of poverty levels by 20 million people by 2020 can be achieved through anti-poverty and active labour market policies that are grounded in gender mainstreaming focused primarily on increasing and supporting women’s participation in the labour market; notes that poverty continues to be measured on accumulated household income, which assumes that all members of the household earn the same and distribute resources equally; calls for individualised rights and calculations based on individual incomes in order to reveal the true extent of women’s poverty;

66.  Recalls the important role of quality public services in achieving gender equality as well as tax and benefit systems free from disincentives for second earners to work or work more, as this might improve women’s labour market participation;

67.  Reiterates its call on the Council to ensure the swift adoption of the directive on gender balance among non-executive directors of listed companies, as an important first step towards equal representation in both public and private sectors;

Modernising tax systems

68.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to correct excessive interpersonal inequalities by supporting and encouraging the most productive forms of investment; recalls that to that end, objective taxation policies are crucial and that many Member States need a deep tax reform; calls on the Commission to monitor, advice, promote and prepare benchmarks in the light of the European Semester;

69.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to undertake real actions against tax avoidance and tax fraud, as an important means of reducing economic inequalities and improving the collection of tax revenues in Member States;

70.  Calls on the Commission to encourage reforms of Member States’ taxation policies so as to ensure adequate public budgets for health, housing, social, employment, and education services; believes this should also involve tackling corruption in public administration and tackling wealth inequality, including by redistributing the excessive concentration of wealth, since this is vital if inequality is not to be exacerbated in many Member States; highlights additionally that measures are needed in areas such as financialisation of the economy and further coordination, approximation and harmonisation, where applicable, of tax policy, as well as measures against tax havens, tax fraud and evasion, measures to tackle undeclared work, and measures to optimise the mix of taxes and the respective weight as a share of Member State tax revenue of labour-based and wealth-based tax revenues;

o
o   o

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

(1) OJ C 236 E, 12.8.2011, p. 57.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0260.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0073.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0010.
(5) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0317.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0136.
(7) OJ C 366, 27.10.2017, p. 19.
(8) OJ C 482, 23.12.2016, p. 141.
(9) OJ C 75, 26.2.2016, p. 130.
(10) OJ C 65, 19.2.2016, p. 68.
(11) OJ C 153 E, 31.5.2013, p. 57.
(12) OJ C 199 E, 7.7.2012, p. 77.
(13) OJ C 199 E, 7.7.2012, p. 25.
(14) OJ C 70 E, 8.3.2012, p. 8.
(15) OJ C 9 E, 15.1.2010, p. 11.
(16) OJ C 170, 5.6.2014, p. 23.
(17) OJ C 248, 25.8.2011, p. 130.
(18) OJ C 318, 23.12.2009, p. 52.
(19) OJ C 166, 7.6.2011, p. 18.
(20) http://ec.europa.eu/social/BlobServlet?docId=13608&langId=en
(21) Opinion of the Social Protection Committee addressed to the Council, Council of the European Union, 649/11, SOC 124, 15 February 2011.
(22) European Commission, Institutional Paper 025, May 2016.
(23) Authors: Jonathan D. Ostry, Andrew Berg and Charalambos G. Tsangarides.
(24) Authors: Andrew Berg and Jonathan D. Ostry.
(25) Eurostat: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Income_distribution_statistics
(26) IMF (2017), ‘IMF Working Paper WP 17/76: Inequality Overhang’. Authors: Francesco Grigoli and Adrian Robles, Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund.
(27) IMF (2015), Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality: A Global Perspective. Staff Discussion Note SDN/15/13 Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/sdn/2015/sdn1513.pdf
(28) OECD (2015), ‘In It Together. Why Less Inequality Benefits All’, Paris: OECD Publishing.
(29) Eurostat: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/images/f/f8/People_at_risk_of_poverty_or_social_exclusion%2C_EU-27_and_EU-28%2C_2005-2015.JPG
(30) OECD (2015), ‘In It Together. Why Less Inequality Benefits All’, p. 67.
(31) Eurofound (2017), ‘Social mobility in the EU’, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.
(32) https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/sites/default/files/ef_publication/field_ef_document/ef1461en.pdf
(33) ‘Inequality and mental illness’, R. Wilkinson and K. Pickett, Department of Health Sciences, University of York, UK; published on-line 25 May 2017; S2215-0366(17)30206-7.
(34) COREPER I, ‘Adequate retirement incomes in the context of ageing societies – Draft Council Conclusions’, 12352/15: http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-12352-2015-INIT/en/pdf
(35) Eurofound (2017), ‘Income inequalities and employment patterns in Europe before and after the Great Recession’.
(36) OECD (2015), ‘In It Together. Why Less Inequality Benefits All’, Paris: OECD Publishing.
(37) In line with Article 51 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

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