Texts adopted
Thursday, 14 December 2017 - Strasbourg
Freedom of expression in Vietnam, notably the case of Nguyen Van Hoa
 Cambodia: the banning of the opposition
 El Salvador: the cases of women prosecuted for miscarriage
 Situation in Afghanistan
 Situation of the Rohingya people
 Implementation of the directive on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography
 Deliberations of the Committee on Petitions 2016
 A European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility

Freedom of expression in Vietnam, notably the case of Nguyen Van Hoa
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European Parliament resolution of 14 December 2017 on freedom of expression in Vietnam, notably the case of Nguyen Van Hoa (2017/3001(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Vietnam,

–  having regard to the 7th EU-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue of 1 December 2017,

–  having regard to the EU-Vietnam Partnership and Cooperation Agreement signed on 27 June 2012,

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders of 2008,

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

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam acceded in 1982,

–  having regard to the decision of the European Ombudsman of 26 February 2016 in case 1409/2014/MHZ on the European Commission’s failure to carry out a prior human rights impact assessment of the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement,

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

A.  whereas the EU considers Vietnam to be an important partner in Asia; whereas 2015 marked the 25th anniversary of EU-Vietnam relations; whereas the scope of these relations has broadened rapidly, from trade and aid to a more comprehensive partnership;

B.  whereas 22-year-old videographer and blogger Nguyen Van Hoa was reported missing by his family on 11 January 2017 and was later discovered to have been detained by the police without an official warrant;

C.  whereas Nguyen Van Hoa was initially arrested under Article 258 of the Vietnamese Penal Code and charged with ‘abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state’; whereas in April 2017, these charges were upgraded to a violation of Article 88; whereas Article 88 of the Penal Code has been widely used against human rights defenders (HRDs) who have highlighted abuses in Vietnam;

D.  whereas on 27 November 2017, Nguyen Van Hoa was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for having disseminated online information, including videos, on the environmental disaster in Ha Tinh Province that took place in April 2016, when Formosa Ha Tinh, a Taiwanese steel company, caused an illegal discharge of toxic industrial waste into the ocean, which had devastating environmental effects along 200 km of coastline, killing marine life and making people ill;

E.  whereas this disaster provoked widespread indignation among the Vietnamese population, a vast mobilisation of social networks and massive peaceful demonstrations in all large cities in Vietnam; whereas Nguyen Van Hoa’s arrest was one of a series of arrests by the Vietnamese authorities in the days leading up to the Tet holiday;

F.  whereas the People’s Court of Ha Tinh Province found Nguyen Van Hoa guilty of producing propaganda against the state under Article 88 of the Penal Code, following a two and a half hour trial; whereas Nguyen Van Hoa was not permitted access to a lawyer to represent him at the hearing;

G.  whereas on 30 November 2017, a Vietnamese court upheld the 10-year sentence of another blogger, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, for anti-state propaganda after she wrote critical posts on environmental degradation, politics and deaths in police custody;

H.  whereas the UN Human Rights Office and its special procedures and mechanisms have repeatedly denounced Article 88 of the Penal Code, along with several of its other provisions, as being in breach of international human rights law;

I.  whereas most media outlets are owned and controlled by the state; whereas press freedom is severely restricted; whereas Vietnam ranks 175th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders 2017 World Press Freedom Index; whereas in response to widespread indignation among the Vietnamese population after the disaster in Ha Tinh Province, the authorities momentarily blocked access to social networks, violently repressing demonstrations and arresting protesters;

J.  whereas in April 2016, Vietnam adopted a Law on Access to Information and an amended Press Law, which restricts freedom of expression and reinforces censorship, as well as regulations banning demonstrations outside courts during trials;

K.  whereas freedom of religion or belief is repressed in Vietnam and the Catholic Church and non-recognised religions, such as the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, several Protestant churches and others, including ethnic minority Montagnards, continue to suffer severe religious persecution;

L.  whereas during the 7th EU-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue, freedom of expression, association, assembly, religion and belief, and access to information were discussed; whereas the EU underlined the deterioration of civil and political rights in Vietnam; whereas it encouraged Vietnam to issue standing invitations to UN Special Procedures;

1.  Condemns the sentencing of Nguyen Van Hoa to seven years in prison; underlines that Nguyen Van Hoa has exercised his right to freedom of expression; urges the Vietnamese authorities to release Nguyen Van Hoa immediately and unconditionally;

2.  Expresses its concern about the rise in the number of detentions, arrests and convictions of Vietnamese citizens related to the expression of their opinions;

3.  Expresses its concern at the increasingly restrictive approach of the authorities with regard to freedom of expression and other freedoms; condemns, in this regard, the use by the authorities of physical and psychological harassment, extra-judicial house arrest, pressure on lawyers, employers, landlords and family members of activists, and intrusive surveillance; expresses concern, furthermore, at the restrictions placed on freedom of movement to prevent bloggers and activists from participating in public events such as human rights discussions and attending trials of fellow activists;

4.  Calls on the Vietnamese authorities to release all citizens detained for peacefully exercising their freedom of expression;

5.  Calls on the Vietnamese authorities to end all restrictions on and acts of harassment against HDRs and to guarantee in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment;

6.  Expresses serious concerns about the extensive application of the national security provisions in Vietnam’s Penal Code;

7.  Denounces Vietnam’s use of the death penalty for certain national security crimes, as prescribed in its amended Penal Code, and the fact that it continues to hand out death sentences; reiterates the EU’s strong opposition to the death penalty, in all cases and without exception; reiterates its call on the Vietnamese authorities to establish a moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards the abolition of capital punishment for all crimes;

8.  Urges the Government of Vietnam to amend certain articles in its Penal Code, including Article 88 on propaganda and Article 79 on activities aimed at overthrowing the administration, which have been denounced by the OHCHR as being in breach of international human rights law, and to ensure that national security concerns are not used as a pretext for the suppression of human rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of religion and belief; expresses its concern about the new Law on Associations and the Law on Belief and Religion, which are incompatible with international norms;

9.  Urges Vietnam to issue a standing invitation to UN Special Procedures, in particular to the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and to give them free and unfettered access to all parties they wish to consult;

10.  Welcomes Vietnam’s ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture and urges it to engage with it meaningfully, including by providing regular and detailed submissions under its provisions; insists that no statement extracted under torture or other ill-treatment are relied upon as evidence to convict individuals accused of propaganda or other politically motivated charges;

11.  Welcomes the strengthened partnership and Human Rights Dialogue between the EU and Vietnam and recalls the importance of the Dialogue as a key instrument to be used in an efficient manner to accompany and encourage Vietnam in the implementation of the necessary reforms;

12.  Welcomes the fact that the EU raised the issues of freedom of expression and association and the increasing number of detentions, arrests and convictions during the 7th EU-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue; strongly encourages the Commission to monitor progress under the Dialogue through the introduction of benchmarks and monitoring mechanisms; urges the Commission and the VP/HR to continue to raise the issue of freedom of expression in its regular dialogue with Vietnam, including during the next Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit in Brussels in 2018;

13.  Calls on the Vietnamese authorities to address the environmental disaster in the Ha Tinh Province, which caused mass fish deaths in the region and affected the lives of thousands of people, through legislative measures aimed at restoring and rehabilitating the local economy;

14.  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 Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the Government and National Assembly of Vietnam.

Cambodia: the banning of the opposition
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European Parliament resolution of 14 December 2017 on Cambodia: notably the dissolution of CNRP Party (2017/3002(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Cambodia, in particular that of 14 September 2017(1),

–  having regard to the visit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) delegation to the European Parliament from 30 to 31 October 2017,

–  having regard to the 2008 EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders,

–  having regard to the statement by the spokesperson of the European External Action Service (EEAS) of 16 November 2017 on the dissolution of the Cambodian National Rescue Party,

–  having regard to the 1997 Cooperation Agreement between the European Community and the Kingdom of Cambodia,

–  having regard to the local EU statement of 22 February 2017 on the political situation in Cambodia, and the statements by the spokesperson of the EU Delegation of 3 September 2017 and 25 August 2017 on restrictions of political space in Cambodia,

–  having regard to Resolution (A/RES/53/144) adopted by the UN General Assembly on 8 March 1999 on the right and responsibility of individuals, groups and organs of society to promote and protect universally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms,

–  having regard to the 1991 Paris Peace Accords, in which a commitment to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cambodia, including on the part of international signatories, is enshrined in Article 15,

–  having regard to the International Labour Organisation Convention on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise,

–  having regard to the Cambodian Constitution, in particular Article 41 thereof, in which the rights and freedoms of expression and assembly are enshrined, Article 35 on the right to political participation and Article 80 on parliamentary immunity,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966,

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

A.  whereas in 2017 the human rights situation in Cambodia further deteriorated, with an increasing number of arrests of political opposition members, human rights activists and civil society representatives being carried out in Cambodia;

B.  whereas the Cambodian parliament passed two sets of repressive amendments to the ‘Law on Political Parties’ in 2017, which contain numerous restrictions tailored to create obstacles for opposition parties;

C.  whereas, on 6 October 2017, the Ministry of the Interior filed a request with the Supreme Court to dissolve the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) under the ‘Law on Political Parties’;

D.  whereas, on 16 November 2017, the Supreme Court announced the dissolution of the CNRP, at the end of a one-day hearing; whereas the Supreme Court has also banned 118 CNRP politicians from being politically active for five years; whereas this decision, which was based on two rounds of controversial amendments to the ‘Law on Political Parties’, leaves the government with no opposition ahead of next year’s general elections scheduled for July 2018;

E.  whereas opposition party members have been prosecuted and harassed by the Cambodian authorities for years; whereas fewer than 40 % of CNRP members of Parliament remain in Cambodia after other members were forced to flee the country, having been threatened with arrests;

F.  whereas the Ministry of the Interior holds sweeping powers to suspend political parties based on vaguely-defined criteria; whereas, on 2 October 2017, the Ministry of the Interior dissolved 20 political parties pursuant to Articles 19 and 20 of the ‘Law on Political Parties’;

G.  whereas, on 3 September 2017, Kem Sokha, the president of the CNRP, was arrested and charged with treason under Article 443 of the Cambodian Criminal Code, despite having parliamentary immunity; whereas Kem Sokha’s request for bail was rejected on 26 September 2017, when he was unable to attend the hearing, after the prisons department said they could not ensure his safety; whereas according to human rights organisations he was interrogated on 24 November 2017, even though he has not had adequate access to legal counsel or private medical care; whereas his legal status has to be clarified; whereas the bail request is now pending with the Supreme Court; whereas he faces up to 30 years in prison if found guilty; whereas the President of the Court, Dith Munty, is a member of the standing committee of the ruling party;

H.  whereas the issue of land grabbing remains a major concern in Cambodia; whereas there has been a steady increase in arrests and detention of members of the political opposition, political commentators, trade unionists, human rights activists and representatives of civil society in Cambodia, including the ADHOC 5; whereas human rights defender Tep Vanny from the Boeung Kak community remains in prison serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence in connection with a peaceful protest in 2013; whereas on 8 December 2017 the Supreme Court upheld the verdict against Tep Vanny;

I.  whereas the previous president of the CNRP, Sam Rainsy, was forced to resign following legal threats; whereas he was convicted in his absence of criminal defamation and now lives in exile; whereas since the dissolution of the opposition, an increasing number of CNRP members of parliament have fled Cambodia; whereas human rights organisations report that some are seeking asylum;

J.  whereas the influence of China is playing an important role in political life in Cambodia and on its government;

K.  whereas Cambodia benefits from the most favourable regime available under the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP), namely the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme; whereas the EU has allocated up to EUR 410 million to Cambodia for the financial period 2014-2020, of which EUR 10 million is to support the electoral reform process in Cambodia;

L.  whereas the right of political participation is enshrined in Article 41 of the Cambodian Constitution; whereas the decision to dissolve the CNRP is a significant step away from the path of pluralism and democracy enshrined in Cambodia’s constitution;

M.  whereas 55 NGOs released a call for a new Paris Conference on Cambodia with all relevant stakeholders to discuss the rule of law and democracy in Cambodia in order to encourage the Cambodian Government to reconsider its policies on opposition parties;

1.  Expresses its serious concerns at the dissolution of the CNRP; deeply regrets the prohibition of the party, which is evidence of further autocratic action by Prime Minister Hun Sen; urges the government to reverse the decision to dissolve the CNRP, to restore the elected members of the national parliament and commune council to their positions, to allow the full participation of opposition parties in public life and to ensure free space for action for media and civil society organisations and to put an end to the climate of fear and intimidation, as these are all preconditions for free, inclusive and transparent elections;

2.  Reiterates its strong concerns expressed in the previous resolutions about the further worsening climate for opposition politicians, human rights activists and members of civil society in Cambodia;

3.  Supports the view of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that the accusations against the CNRP and its members were vague, as were the legal provisions supporting the complaint to dissolve it;

4.  Considers that the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh is unacceptably interfering with the rights of Cambodian people to freely choose their political representatives and vote for them in the 2018 national elections; regrets the absence of an independent and impartial judiciary in the country;

5.  Calls on the Government of Cambodia to repeal all recent amendments to the ‘Law on Political Parties’ and electoral laws limiting freedom of speech and political freedoms;

6.  Strongly condemns the arrest of Kem Sokha and other political activists; urges the Cambodian authorities to immediately revoke the arrest warrant for, and drop all charges against, opposition leader Sam Rainsy and to immediately and unconditionally release Kem Sokha from prison and to drop all charges against him and other opposition parliamentarians;

7.  Expresses grave concerns about the conduct of credible and transparent elections in Cambodia in 2018 following the decision by the Supreme Court to dissolve the CNRP; stresses that an electoral process from which the main opposition party has been arbitrarily excluded is not legitimate, and that a transparent and competitive election is a key instrument in guaranteeing peace and stability in the country and the entire region;

8.  Welcomes the EU decision to withdraw all electoral assistance until Cambodia engages in reforms in line with international electoral standards in order to advance democracy and protect civil society space;

9.  Calls on the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR), Federica Mogherini, and the EU Special Representative for Human Rights to use all means available to protect the fundamental rights of the Cambodian people to elect and be elected, to guarantee pluralism and democratic principles strictly in line with Cambodia’s constitution;

10.  Reminds the Cambodian Government that it has to fulfil its obligations and commitments regarding democratic principles and fundamental human rights, which are an essential element of the Cooperation Agreement;

11.  Stresses that respect for fundamental human rights is a prerequisite for Cambodia to continue to benefit from the EU’s preferential EBA scheme; calls on the VP/HR and Commissioner Malmström to immediately review Cambodia’s obligations under the conventions in Article 19 of the EBA regulation; Emphasises that if Cambodia is acting in violation of its obligation under the EBA regulation, the tariff preferences it currently enjoys must be temporarily withdrawn;

12.  Calls on the EEAS and the Commission to prepare a list of individuals responsible for the dissolution of the opposition and other serious human rights violations in Cambodia with a view to imposing possible visa restrictions and asset freezes on them;

13.  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 European External Action Service, the Secretary-General of ASEAN, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the Government and National Assembly of Cambodia.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0348.

El Salvador: the cases of women prosecuted for miscarriage
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European Parliament resolution of 14 December 2017 on El Salvador: the cases of women prosecuted for miscarriage (2017/3003(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 2 and 3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),

–  having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), in particular Articles 8, 19, 157, 216 and 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a) thereof,

–  having regard to Chapter 7 of the EU-CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) Action Plan 2015-2017 on Gender,

–  having regard to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women on 15 September 1995, and to the subsequent outcome documents adopted at the United Nations Beijing +5 (2000), Beijing +10 (2005), Beijing +15 (2010) and Beijing +20 (2015) special sessions,

–  having regard to the EU Trio Presidency Declaration of 19 July 2017 by Estonia, Bulgaria and Austria on equality between women and men,

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 December 2016 on the Annual Report on human rights and democracy in the world and the European Union’s policy on the matter 2015(1),

–  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 1567/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 July 2003 on aid for policies and actions on reproductive and sexual health and rights in developing countries(2),

–  having regard to the fifth UN Millennium Development Goal – improving maternal health,

–  having regard to the 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,

–  having regard to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women February 2017 review of women’s rights in El Salvador and its concluding observations,

–  having regard to Articles 6, 24 and 39 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,

–  having regard to the Convention against Torture, to which El Salvador has been a party since 1996,

–  having regard to Article 144 of the Constitution of the Republic of El Salvador, which states that international treaties concluded with other states or international organisations constitute laws of the republic, and that, in cases where there is a conflict between the treaty and the law, the treaty prevails,

–  having regard to the Framework for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Transforming the Lives of Girls Through EU External Actions 2016-2020,

–  having regard to the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention),

–  having regard to the statement of 11 May 2015 by the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice,

–  having regard to the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (‘Convention of Belem do Para’),

–  having regard to Salvadorean Legislative Decree N° 520 (‘Special Comprehensive Law for a Violence-free Life for Women’),

–  having regard to Articles 133, 135 and 136 of the Salvadorean Penal Code,

–  having regard to the statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, at the end of his mission to El Salvador on 17 November 2017,

–  having regard to Article 1 of the Constitution of the Republic of El Salvador,

–  having regard to the Salvadorean Law on Equality, Equity and Elimination of Discrimination against Women adopted in 2016, the Law on a Violence-free Life for Women adopted in 2012, and the Law on the Comprehensive Protection of Children and Adolescents (LEPINA) adopted in April 2009, which mandates the Ministry of Education to provide education on gender and reproductive health and to tackle discrimination against women in the education system,

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

A.  whereas gender equality is a core value of the EU; whereas the right to equal treatment and non-discrimination is a fundamental right enshrined in the Treaties and in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and should be fully respected, promoted and applied in legislation, practice, case law and daily life;

B.  whereas in Articles 36 and 37 of its concluding observations of its review on El Salvador’s record on women’s rights, the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women calls for El Salvador’s punitive abortion laws to be repealed;

C.  whereas since 2000, at least 120 women in El Salvador have been prosecuted for abortion or homicide when foetal death occurred in the last months of pregnancy, with 26 of these convicted of homicide and 23 convicted of abortion, and all those convicted serving extremely long sentences, despite not being criminals according to international standards; whereas most of these women were young, poor, with limited education, and from remote communities; whereas there are currently two cases pending under prosecution; whereas after spending the last ten years in prison, Teodora del Carmen Vásquez’s case was reviewed by the Second Sentencing Tribunal on 13 December 2017 and her appeal was rejected, and Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez Cruz’s sentence was confirmed in October 2017;

D.  whereas ‘Las 17’ were the women most severely punished, having been sentenced to decades in prison between 2000 and 2011; whereas a handful of them have also been released after courts overturned previous decisions;

E.  whereas gender-based violence is a major problem in El Salvador, with data showing that one woman is sexually assaulted every three hours, instances of rape often resulting in undesired pregnancies, and an appalling numbers of feminicides, only 5 % of which have been the subject of judicial proceedings;

F.  whereas public employees of any authority, including hospitals and clinics, are under the obligation to report patients who undergo obstetric emergencies, which is a violation of the right to patient confidentiality and creates an environment in which women suffer stigmatisation; whereas the obligation to report patients means that women who suffer serious complications during pregnancy opt not to seek healthcare assistance for fear of prosecution and imprisonment; whereas it is considered a blanket offence to fail to report;

G.  whereas the rate of gender-based killings of women and girls in El Salvador is appallingly high; whereas 1 097 women were murdered in 2015 and 2016 and 201 women were murdered between January and June 2017; whereas last year, the National Civil Police of El Salvador registered 3 947 complaints of sexual assault, of which 1 049 were cases of rape, including within families, and 1 873 of the victims were minors or classified as ‘incapacitated’, according to the Salvadoran Women’s Organisation for Peace (ORMUSA);

H.  whereas El Salvador has a high adolescent pregnancy rate, which is also driven by the lack of sexual education in schools; whereas sexual abuse and rape are the main factors of early pregnancy; whereas according to the Ministry of Health, in 2015 there were 1 445 cases of pregnant girls aged between 10 and 14 years old;

I.  whereas in 1998, El Salvador criminalised abortion under all circumstances, including cases in which pregnancy has life-threatening complications for the woman or girl, and in cases of rape, incest or an unviable foetus; whereas, moreover, in 1999 a constitutional amendment was passed recognising an embryo as a human being from ‘the moment of conception’; whereas any person who performs or self-induces an abortion, even before the foetal stage, is therefore liable to be prosecuted with a sentence of between two and eight years, but in many cases prosecutors have increased the charge to ‘aggravated homicide’, which carries up to 50 years’ imprisonment; whereas legislation that potentially allows abortion under these circumstances has remained frozen in the National Assembly since October 2016, but debates are currently taking place to make further progress;

J.  whereas El Salvador continues, on religious, cultural and other grounds, to deny women and girls access to safe and legal abortion, thereby violating their right to health, life and physical and psychological integrity;

K.  whereas the Ministry of Education recently prepared materials to integrate sexual and reproductive health into the national school curriculum, but owing to resistance from various forces, the final edited materials focus instead on sexual abstinence instead, despite the fact that 42 % have been pregnant by the age of 20;

L.  whereas in Latin America the risk of maternal death is four times higher among adolescents under the age of 16; whereas 65 % of cases of obstetric fistula occur in the pregnancies of adolescents, with serious consequences for their lives, including severe health problems and social exclusion; whereas early pregnancies are also dangerous for the baby, with mortality rates 50 % higher than average; whereas up to 40 % of women in the region have been victims of sexual violence; whereas 95 % of abortions carried out in Latin America are unsafe;

M.  whereas the Ministry of Health reports that between 2011 and 2015, 14 women died of complications related to abortion, 13 women died of ectopic pregnancy and 63 women died under current abortion legislation; whereas suicide is the cause of 57 % of deaths of pregnant women aged between 10 and 19 years old; whereas many women are afraid to ask for medical assistance when they suffer complications related to pregnancy, which causes more deaths that could be prevented; whereas this particularly affects women with the least economic resources who cannot access sexual and reproductive health and rights services;

N.  whereas Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International note that women who have miscarriages or stillbirths in El Salvador are often prosecuted on suspicion of having undergone an abortion; whereas in such cases women are often reported by medical personnel and subsequently arrested while in hospital;

O.  whereas UN experts have warned that the Salvadorean authorities’ decision is resulting in grave violations of women and girls’ right to life, health and to their physical and mental integrity, thereby jeopardising their economic and social opportunities;

P.  whereas in March 2015, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights asked El Salvador to revise and amend its abortion legislation to ensure its compatibility with other rights, such as the rights to health and life; whereas physical, sexual and psychological violence against women constitutes a violation of human rights;

Q.  whereas El Salvador participated actively in the 61th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women; whereas all parties should continue to promote the UN Beijing Platform for Action as regards, among other elements, access to education and health as basic human rights, and sexual and reproductive rights;

R.  whereas UN treaty monitoring bodies, including the Human Rights Committee (HRC) and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, have called on various Latin American states to establish exceptions to restrictive abortion laws in instances where pregnancy poses a risk to a woman’s life or health, where there is severe foetal impairment, and where pregnancy is the result of rape or incest;

S.  whereas the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, expressed his concerns about the situation of women and girls in El Salvador after his visit to the country in November 2017; whereas he called upon El Salvador to introduce a moratorium on the application of Article 133 of the Penal Code and to review the cases of women in detention for abortion-related offences;

T.  whereas the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) have explicitly recognised the connection between unsafe illegal abortion and high maternal mortality rates; whereas the Convention against Torture stipulates that states that have an absolute prohibition on abortion under any circumstances expose women and girls to circumstances in which they are being humiliated and treated with cruelty;

U.  whereas the UN Universal Periodic Review made 10 recommendations to the Salvadoran State to bring its abortion law in line with international human rights standards, all of which were rejected by the Government;

V.  whereas, according to the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules), women who have childcare responsibilities and pregnant women should, wherever possible and appropriate, receive non-custodial sentences;

W.  whereas the prevention of unplanned pregnancies and the reduction in the number of cases of adolescent motherhood through universal access to sexual and reproductive health services is one of the goals included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);

1.  Expresses its deep concern over the situation of girls’ and women’s human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, in El Salvador and condemns all forms of violence against women; recalls that they constitute a serious violation of the human rights and dignity of women and girls; emphasises that Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (which El Salvador ratified on 3 March 2016), defines forced pregnancy as a crime against humanity and a form of gender-based violence against women, which constitutes a serious violation of the human rights and dignity of women and girls;

2.  Strongly rejects the sentencing and imprisonment of women and girls suffering stillbirths or miscarriages and calls for their immediate and unconditional release; considers that no one should be imprisoned on the basis of these convictions;

3.  Condemns the prosecution of women for abortion, long periods in pre-trial detention and disproportionate criminal penalties applied to women seeking abortion, as well as the incarceration of women just after they have gone to hospital in need of care as a result of health personnel reporting them to authorities out of fear of being penalised themselves;

4.  Condemns the absolute criminalisation of abortion according to Articles 133, 135 and 136 of the Penal Code, and its severe and discriminatory effects on women who are forced to resort to unsafe methods of abortion, thus facing serious risks to health and life; calls on the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador to follow the recommendations of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and the Committee on the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women’s recommendation to place a moratorium on its application;

5.  Calls on El Salvador to ensure that women and girls have access to safe and legal abortion; calls on the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador, in this context, to support the draft bill introducing a reform of Articles 133, 135 and 136 of the Penal Code in order to decriminalise abortion at minimum in cases where pregnancy poses a risk to the life or the physical or mental health of a pregnant woman or girl, where there is severe and fatal impairment of the foetus, or where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest;

6.  Calls on the authorities of El Salvador to introduce a moratorium on the enforcement of the current law and to review the detention of women accused of miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion-related offences, with the aim of ensuring their release, to ensure due process in abortion-related proceedings, to allow the accused women to await trial outside prison and to guarantee professional secrecy for all health personnel and confidentiality for patients; condemns all punitive measures against women and girls seeking an abortion, as well as for health care professionals and others who help obtain and carry out the procedure, and calls for the elimination of such measures;

7.  Recalls the duty of the Salvadoran government to protect the rights of its citizens and to uphold the rule of law in respect to the principle of presumption of innocence, namely that individuals on trial should be treated as innocent until proven guilty, and that the burden of proof should be incumbent upon the prosecuting authorities and not the individual defendant, in keeping with the Rome Statute to which El Salvador is a ratifying party; calls on the authorities of El Salvador to give gender training to public officials, including members of the judiciary; calls on the EEAS and the Commission to fund and support such endeavours;

8.  Condemns inhumane conditions in prisons such as torture, putting inmates in lockdown and suspending family visits; calls on the Salvadoran Government to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture as a measure to prevent torture and inhuman and degrading treatment in all prisons and places of detention; calls for international independent organisations to be granted access to the detention centres; urges the Salvadorean authorities to improve the conditions of imprisoned women, including by granting them access to hygiene products and thereby respecting their basic human rights;

9.  Reminds the Government and the judiciary that they are bound to uphold international standards of equal access to justice and the principles guaranteeing a fair trial for all individuals, and that guilt can only be determined upon viewing concrete and sufficient evidence; requests that the Government make available sufficient public funds to support the legal representation of those who cannot afford it themselves;

10.  Calls on the judicial system to ensure a fair trial with all guarantees for Teodora del Carmen Vásquez and Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez Cruz and to set aside their judgments; expresses solidarity with the campaign ‘Las 17’, women who have been unjustly imprisoned for up to 40 years for what amount to miscarriages, stillbirths, and other obstetric complications; extends its solidarity to each and every Salvadoran woman being prosecuted under similar grounds, or being convicted of ‘aggravated homicide’; asks the competent authorities to review all cases with the view of granting them a pardon;

11.  Expresses its grave concern about the high number of child pregnancies in El Salvador; urges the Salvadorean authorities to meet their international obligations and to protect human rights by ensuring that all girls have access to all possible information and medical services for the management of high-risk pregnancies resulting from rape;

12.  Deplores that women’s and girls’ bodies, specifically with respect to their sexual health and reproductive rights, still remain an ideological battleground, and calls on El Salvador to recognise the inalienable rights of women and girls to bodily integrity and autonomous decision-making as regards, inter alia, the right to access to voluntary family planning and safe and legal abortion; believes that the general prohibition on therapeutic abortion and the abortion of pregnancies resulting from rape and incest, and the refusal to provide free health cover in cases of rape, amounts to torture;

13.  Commends the adoption of the ‘Special Comprehensive law for a Violence-free Life for Women’, following a united cross-party vote by female members of the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly, and reminds Salvadorean authorities of the need to fully implement it, particularly with regard to the commitment to protect women and girls from violence;

14.  Welcomes the recent establishment of El Salvador’s policy on sexual and reproductive health and the new programme ‘Ciudad Mujer’, which has developed services for 1,5 million women across the country, in particular through raising awareness and providing information on sexual and reproductive health and rights, supports its endeavour and urges the government of El Salvador to ensure access to modern contraceptive information and services, and to make efforts to provide comprehensive sex education in public schools;

15.  Urges the Council to speed up its work to enable the EU to ratify and implement the Istanbul Convention, so as to ensure coherence between the EU’s internal and external action on violence against children, women and girls;

16.  Calls on the Council to include the issue of safe and legal abortion in the EU Guidelines on rape and violence against women and girls; underscores the fact that universal access to health, in particular sexual and reproductive health and the associated rights, is a fundamental human right;

17.  Calls on the EU-CELAC Heads of State or Government, at their summit, to enhance the chapter on gender-based violence in the EU-CELAC Action Plan with a view to establishing a clear calendar of action and implementing measures intended to guarantee due diligence in relation to the prevention and investigation of, and sanctions for, all acts of violence against women and to offer adequate compensation to victims;

18.  Welcomes the efforts of the EU Delegation in El Salvador to engage with the national authorities on women’s rights, including on the criminalisation of abortion; insists that this matter be considered a high priority, and calls on the EEAS to regularly report back to Parliament on its action in this field; insists that the EU Delegation provide all appropriate support to the women currently in jail for abortion-related offences, including through regular visits, support for their relatives and offering legal assistance;

19.  Reminds the EU of its commitments under the Framework for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment through EU External Relations 2016-2020; asks the EEAS to closely follow the revision cases in loco and asks the Commission to ensure that European development cooperation follows an approach that is based on human rights, with a particular emphasis on gender equality and combating all forms of sexual violence against women and girls; calls on the EU Member States and institutions to increase their support for local human rights defenders and NGOs campaigning for the rights of women and girls, especially sexual and reproductive health and rights and family planning in El Salvador, including funding;

20.  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 authorities of El Salvador, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Central American Parliament, the Latin American Parliament, the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly and the Secretary-General of the Organisation of American States.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0502.
(2) OJ L 224, 6.9.2003, p. 1.

Situation in Afghanistan
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European Parliament resolution of 14 December 2017 on the situation in Afghanistan (2017/2932(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the results of the Brussels International Conference on Afghanistan of 5 October 2016 co-chaired by the European Union,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Afghanistan, in particular those of 26 November 2015 on the situation in Afghanistan, in particular the killings in the province of Zabul(1) and of 13 June 2013 on the negotiations on an EU-Afghanistan cooperation agreement on partnership and development(2),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions on Afghanistan of 16 October 2017,

–  having regard to the statement made by the UN Security Council President on 14 September 2016 on the situation in Afghanistan,

–  having regard to UN Security Council Resolution 2210 (2015), UN Security Council Resolution 2344 (2017) and to the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA),

–  having regard to the joint communication of 24 July 2017 from the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to the European Parliament and the Council on ‘Elements for an EU Strategy on Afghanistan’ (JOIN(2017)0031),

–  having regard to the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report of 13 February 2017 entitled ‘Pakistan Coercion, UN Complicity: The Mass Forced Return of Afghan Refugees’,

–  having regard to the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) Quarterly Report to the United States Congress of 30 January 2017,

–  having regard to the EU‐Afghanistan Joint Way Forward (JWF) on migration issues signed on 3 October 2016,

–  having regard to the EU-Afghanistan Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development signed on 18 February 2017,

–  having regard to the UN report on the Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees in Afghanistan of April 2017,

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

A.  whereas the European Union and its Member States have been working with Afghanistan and the wider international community since 2001 to combat terrorism and extremism, while also striving to achieve sustainable peace and development; whereas, on account of increasing insurgent and terrorist pressure, a struggling economy and instability in the political sphere, these goals and the substantial progress which has been achieved are at risk;

B.  whereas the EU and its Member States have contributed billions of euros in humanitarian and developmental aid and assistance to Afghanistan since 2002; whereas the EU is Afghanistan’s largest development cooperation partner and is expected to provide up to EUR 5 billion of the total EUR 13,6 billion pledged to Afghanistan for the period 2017-2020 during the Brussels International Conference on Afghanistan in October 2016;

C.  whereas ensuring democracy, human rights, the rule of law and good governance throughout the transition in Afghanistan and into its decade of transformation (2015-2024) are essential to establishing a stable and prosperous state;

D.  whereas major increases in the standard of living have occurred over the past 15 years since 2001, as access to basic healthcare and education and the empowerment of women have increased GDP per capita fivefold and average life expectancy by 15 years; whereas, according to the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), since the collapse of the Taliban in 2001, attendance at general schools had risen from one million students, most of whom were boys, to almost nine million by 2015, with female students accounting for an estimated 39 % of the total;

E.  whereas on 24 July 2017 the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy published a Joint Communication on an EU Strategy on Afghanistan; whereas the EU’s four priority areas critical to achieving progress in Afghanistan concern: (a) promoting peace, stability and regional security; (b) reinforcing democracy, the rule of law and human rights and promoting good governance and women’s empowerment; (c) supporting economic and human development; (d) addressing challenges related to migration;

F.  whereas, following the 2014 presidential election crisis, the National Unity Government (NUG) has experienced stalled progress on its reform agenda, resulting in an increasingly unstable political situation; whereas the unemployment rate in Afghanistan is 39 % and over 39 % of the population live in poverty;

G.  whereas widespread corruption, entrenched patronage systems and the inability of the politically fractured Afghan Government to move forward on reforms threaten to reduce progress or reverse past achievements;

H.  whereas the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which was established in 2002, supports the Afghan Government in its efforts to achieve peace, the protection of human rights and good governance; whereas its mandate is renewed annually by the UN Security Council and was most recently unanimously extended to 2018;

I.  whereas, although some socio-economic and political gains have been made in recent years, a resurgent Taliban, Al-Qaeda and a newly emerged Islamic State (IS) presence in Afghanistan, such as the emerging local franchise in Afghanistan (Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP)), all threaten to turn instability into larger-scale conflict; whereas the recent report by the UNAMA has documented the highest number of casualties since 2009, with 11 318 civilian casualties in 2016, while from January 2017 to September 2017 casualties already amounted to 8 019; whereas this has also led to increased migration to Europe;

J.  whereas, under the new US strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia, an additional 4 000 soldiers will join the existing US contingent of 8 400 soldiers; whereas the new US strategy demands that Pakistan stop harbouring and supporting terrorists and calls for greater involvement by the Republic of India in helping to stabilise the region; whereas the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission will increase its current troop level from 13 000 to 16 000; whereas the new US strategy will be developed favouring a conditions-based approach according to which diplomatic and economic agreements will be integrated within the framework of the military effort;

K.  whereas Afghanistan is facing an unprecedented increase in returns of documented and undocumented Afghan nationals, mainly from Pakistan; whereas around two million undocumented Afghans and one million Afghans with refugee status are living in Iran and returning to Afghanistan; whereas according to the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), there are more than 1,8 million IDPs in Afghanistan as a result of the conflict, with a record 650 000 people fleeing to other areas of the country in search of safety in 2016, representing an average of 1 500 per day; whereas in the second half of 2016 there was a 10-year high surge in the number of Afghan refugees returning from Pakistan, rising to 370 000 from 55 000 in 2015;

L.  whereas the Republic of India is the largest regional donor to Afghanistan, providing some USD 3 billion in assistance since the Taliban Government was ousted in 2001; whereas this assistance has funded, among other things, the building of more than 200 schools in Afghanistan, over 1 000 scholarships for Afghan students, and the possibility for roughly 16 000 Afghans to study in India; whereas India has also provided assistance in the construction of critical infrastructure, such as around 4 000 km of roadways in Afghanistan, most notably the Zaranj-Dilaram highway, the Salma dam and electricity transmission lines, and the Afghan parliament building;

M.  whereas instability in Afghanistan has negative economic and security repercussions for Iran and the wider region as a whole; whereas Afghanistan’s economy is highly dependent on poppy production, which has increased significantly in recent years, resulting in a spike in drug use in neighbouring Iran; whereas this illicit drug trade is used by the Taliban to fund its operations; whereas limiting this trade and finding economic alternatives to it would be mutually advantageous for Iran and Afghanistan; whereas opium from Afghanistan is the main source of heroin in the EU; whereas working with Iran and other border countries such as Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan is necessary to further limit the flow of opiates to Russian and European markets;

N.  whereas a new infrastructure dimension is pivotal for the future of Afghanistan in order to enable an entirely new reality of economic and social opportunities for one of the poorest countries in the world; whereas a new national infrastructure development programme will attract positive and growing regional investment within the framework of the new Silk Road;

O.  whereas reports indicate that Afghanistan has between one and three trillion dollars of undeveloped mineral reserves; whereas illicit mining is a major problem that threatens to turn a potential driver of Afghan development into a source of conflict and instability; whereas mining is the Taliban’s second largest source of revenue;

1.  Recognises that, despite substantial international efforts over a long period of time, Afghanistan is still facing a serious conflict which is hampering its economic and social development substantially; recalls that Afghanistan has been torn apart by nearly 40 years of conflict and war; reiterates the European Union’s goals of promoting peace, stability and regional security, strengthening democracy, the rule of law and human rights, promoting good governance and women’s empowerment, supporting economic and human development, and addressing challenges related to migration;

2.  Recalls that Afghanistan in the last decade and a half has achieved progress in the political, security, economic and development spheres; highlights that the GDP per capita has increased fivefold, life expectancy has increased by almost 15 years, and there has been a significant increase in the number of girls attending schools in comparison to 2001, the figure today being some 40 % of the total of 8 to 9 million children; stresses that none of the above would have been possible but for the dedication of the Afghan population and the commitment of the international community, and the provision of funds, know-how and personnel on the ground; underlines that the progress achieved is very fragile and reversible; emphasises that advancing it will require further reforms to take place, stable relations with neighbours and the continued provision of a necessary level of security and stability;

3.  Recognises the efforts and pays tribute to the sacrifices of the international community which provided security to Afghanistan for over a decade through Operation Enduring Freedom and the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, during which nearly 3 500 servicemen and women died; welcomes the 39-nation NATO-led Resolute Support Mission operating since 1 January 2015, which is mandated to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces and institutions; commends the great sacrifice of the ANSF, which endure heavy losses on an annual basis in their fight against insurgents; recalls the international community’s annual contribution of approximately USD 1 billion to sustain the ANSF’s financing until 2020;

4.  Welcomes the commitment of the Afghan Government to pursuing a national strategy focused on a political, social, economic and safe environment that will allow for a peaceful, secure and sustainable Afghanistan, as outlined in the conclusions of the Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan in Brussels on 5 October 2016; calls for the post of Prime Minister to be enshrined in the Afghan Constitution in order to enable greater political stability in Afghanistan; calls on the Afghan Government to ensure a transparent electoral process in 2018; calls on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to match his strong public commitments to the protection of rights and freedoms with swift and robust implementation of legislation to protect them;

5.  Stresses that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process is the only way forward, unreservedly integrating the whole of civil society and all parties to the conflict; reminds the Afghan Government that in order to permit development and promote peace and stability, political infighting must cease; calls for the EU to actively support an Afghan-led disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme for former insurgents;

6.  Underscores the importance of Afghanistan for regional stability; emphasises that a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan is vital for peace and stability in the region as a whole; reiterates, in this context, the importance of regional partners, such as the countries of Central Asia, Iran, China, India and Pakistan; encourages them to cooperate constructively to promote a genuine and results-oriented negotiation process without preconditions; takes note of the activities of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) on Afghanistan comprising the US, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as established in December 2015;

7.  Expresses extreme concern that, despite the political agreement following the 2014 presidential elections, the security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and the number of terrorist attacks has multiplied; is alarmed by the Taliban’s ongoing territorial expansion and the recent strengthening of IS and Al-Qaeda terrorist groups; points out that, according to the US SIGAR, 6 785 members of the Afghan forces were killed and another 11 777 wounded from January to November 2016, and that the UNAMA also reported a 3 % increase in civilian casualties (3 498 killed, 7 920 wounded) in 2016 compared with the previous year; regrets the deteriorating security situation that is allowing criminal groups to kidnap both Afghan nationals and foreign citizens, including humanitarian and aid workers;

8.  Expresses strong concern about the emergence of the Islamic State as the latest element to contribute to the increasing fragility of the security landscape in Afghanistan; underlines that in addition to its stronghold in the east of the country (Nangarhar) it is attempting to assert its presence in the north of the country with the assistance of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU); highlights that, should this be successful, an environment conducive to the harbouring of foreign fighters and militants will be created, as they are pushed out of Iraq and Syria on account of IS military setbacks in those two countries;

9.  Underscores the importance of a genuine internal reconciliation process; underscores the need to fight radicalisation, extremism and recruitment for terrorist organisations; underlines that combating terrorism and its financing is a key ingredient of creating an environment conducive to security in Afghanistan;

10.  Warns that the poor capabilities of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) and National Police Force remain one of the most critical issues compromising Afghanistan’s security and reconstruction; welcomes the continued EU focus on the enhancement of the role and rights of Afghan women and recognises the need to train female police officers; welcomes the Republic of India’s commitment to assisting Afghanistan with the provision of defence hardware to the Afghan military in December 2015 and the military training of thousands of Afghan security personnel, which significantly helped to enhance its military capability, in accordance with the objective of NATO-led mission ‘Resolute Support’ to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces and institutions, launched in January 2015; is encouraged by the work carried out and cooperation by the Republic of India and Afghanistan on infrastructure projects and humanitarian support;

11.  Believes that the fight against corruption within the Afghan governmental institutions must be a permanent core priority on account of all the negative direct impacts of corruption on the quality of governance in the country; calls on the Government of Afghanistan to increase political inclusiveness, strengthen accountability and actively combat the culture of corruption and nepotism; welcomes notably, in this respect, the establishment of the Anti-corruption Justice Centre in June 2016; notes, in addition, the UNAMA’s call for continued support and assistance from the international community for the Afghan Government’s anti-corruption efforts;

12.  Calls on the Government of Afghanistan and its regional partners, in particular Iran, to fight against illicit drug trafficking and illicit mining and coordinate with one another to eliminate these illegal practices, which are detrimental to the stability of the region; reminds all parties that these are the main sources of funding for terrorist organisations in the region; recognises that any further mining development must be sustainable and beneficial to the general population, in accordance with international standards; condemns the repression, illicit drug trafficking, land grabbing, unlawful confiscation and extortion carried out by warlords; recalls that the production and trafficking of opium in Afghanistan has devastating consequences on the local population and the overall security of the country;

13.  Welcomes Afghan membership of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative; urges the Afghan Government to increase transparency in the mining sector and to establish robust requirements for licences and monitoring in order to ensure a sustainable extractive industry; urges the Government to step up efforts to protect vital public resources such as land and minerals from exploitation by criminal and insurgent networks;

14.  Stands with the people of Afghanistan and insists that all parties involved in the conflict adhere to international humanitarian law and respect the rights of all members of society, in particular minorities, women and children, who are disproportionately affected by the situation; urges the Afghan authorities to fully enforce the UN-Afghan action plan signed in Kabul on 30 January 2011 regarding the practice of ‘bacha bazi’ and enabling the rehabilitation of child victims of sexual abuse; condemns the attacks on hospitals and health clinics, schools and humanitarian operations; condemns in the strongest terms the continued disregard for human rights and the barbaric violence carried out by the Taliban, IS and Al-Qaeda against the people of Afghanistan; draws attention to the risk associated with the return of former war criminals, notably Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the founder of Hizb-e-Islami, who was designated a terrorist by the US in 2003 and has been associated with the increased presence of IS in Afghanistan;

15.  Is alarmed by the increasing resurgence of violence against women and the obliteration of women’s rights and living conditions within areas controlled by the Taliban in Afghanistan; repeats its call on the Afghan Parliament and the Afghan Government to revoke all laws that contain elements of discrimination against women, which are in breach of the international treaties signed by Afghanistan; welcomes the focus on women’s empowerment and gender mainstreaming in EU assistance to Afghanistan, in particular the fact that 53 % of EU programmes have gender equality as a significant objective; fully supports full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, and other domestic measures to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in Afghanistan, as well as to tackle violence against women;

16.  Calls on the governments of regional partners such as the countries of Central Asia, Iran, India, Russia and Pakistan to work together to pursue a peace settlement in Afghanistan, continuous socio-economic development and increased domestic stability, as well as cooperation on security and terror issues, and encourages intelligence sharing and cooperation to fight terrorists and extremists on both sides of the border; urges all Afghan regional actors to commit unreservedly to pursuing transparent engagement in the fight against terrorism;

17.  Reiterates the need for the international community to continue its engagement in Afghanistan and to contribute to rebuilding the country, developing the economy and resisting terrorism; welcomes the financial engagements confirmed by the EU and the Member States at the Brussels Conference; calls notably for support for initiatives that address the priority needs of internally displaced and returning refugees;

18.  Recognises the responsibilities of the EU and its Member States to respect the right to seek international protection and to participate in UNHCR resettlement programmes; stresses the right and ability to seek refuge in safe and legal ways as critical for preventing deaths among asylum seekers;

19.  Notes the conclusion of the Joint Way Forward informal readmission agreement between the EU and Afghanistan; regrets the lack of parliamentary oversight and democratic control on the conclusion of this agreement; calls on governments in the region to refrain from the repatriation of Afghans; points out that this is a direct violation of international humanitarian law and that the increasing number of refugees being treated this way only lends strength to terrorist groups and creates more instability in the region; underlines that repatriations to Afghanistan put the lives of returnees at grave risk, in particular those of single persons without a network of family or friends in Afghanistan who stand little chance of survival; underlines that EU assistance and cooperation must be tailored to achieving development and growth in third countries and to reducing and eventually eradicating poverty, and not to incentivising third countries to cooperate on readmission of irregular migrants, to forcibly deterring people from moving, or to stopping flows to Europe (Parliament’s resolution of 5 April 2017 on addressing refugee and migrant movements: the role of EU External Action(3));

20.  Takes note of the decision of the ICC Prosecutor to commence an investigation into possible crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan since 2003;

21.  Calls on the Afghan authorities to commute all death sentences and to reintroduce a moratorium on executions with a view to achieving the permanent abolition of the death penalty; urges the Government of Afghanistan to implement in full its National Plan on the Elimination of Torture and deplores the reported use of torture and ill-treatment of conflict-related detainees by all sides in Afghanistan;

22.  Expresses its deepest concern over the massive increase in the number of internally displaced people in 2016, with over 600 000 new displacements, which could lead to a massive humanitarian crisis; encourages all parties involved to provide for these vulnerable Afghans, and calls on the Afghan Government to help reintegrate them into Afghan society; stresses that, according to estimates by the Afghan authorities, UN agencies and other humanitarian agencies, over 9,3 million people will have required humanitarian assistance by the end of 2017;

23.  Welcomes the provisional entry into force of the Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development between the European Union and Afghanistan on 1 December 2017, representing the first legally binding framework for relations between the two sides; further encourages the swift ratification of the agreement by EU Member States in order for it to enter into force in full;

24.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the Governments and Parliaments of the Member States, and the Government and Parliament of Afghanistan.

(1) OJ C 366, 27.10.2017, p. 129.
(2) OJ C 65, 19.2.2016, p. 133.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0124.

Situation of the Rohingya people
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European Parliament resolution of 14 December 2017 on the situation of the Rohingya people (2017/2973(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Myanmar and on the situation of Rohingya Muslims, in particular those of 14 September 2017(1), 7 July 2016(2) and 15 December 2016(3), and of 13 June 2017 on statelessness in South and South East Asia(4),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions on Myanmar/Burma of 16 October 2017,

–  having regard to the remarks by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR), Federica Mogherini, in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh on 19 November 2017,

–  having regard to the statement of 6 September 2017 by the VP/HR on the situation in Rakhine State, to the statement of 11 September 2017 by the VP/HR on the latest developments in Rakhine State, Myanmar and the border region in Bangladesh, to the declaration of 20 November 2017 by the VP/HR on behalf of the European Union on Myanmar/Burma, and to the statement of 23 November 2017 by the VP/HR on the signing of a bilateral repatriation agreement between the Governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh,

–  having regard to the visit of the EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, to northern Rakhine State in May 2017,

–  having regard to the joint communication of 1 June 2016 by the Commission and the VP/HR to the European Parliament and the Council entitled ‘Elements for an EU strategy vis-à-vis Myanmar/Burma: A Special Partnership for Democracy, Peace and Prosperity’ (JOIN(2016)0024),

–  having regard to the joint press release on the third EU-Myanmar Human Rights Dialogue of 25 November 2016,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions on statelessness of 4 December 2015,

–  having regard to the Memorandum of Understanding between Myanmar and Bangladesh on the repatriation of Rohingya people from Bangladesh to Myanmar, signed on 23 November 2017,

–  having regard to the Presidential Statement of the UN Security Council on violence in Rakhine State of 6 November 2017,

–  having regard to the draft resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar approved by the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly on 16 November 2017,

–  having regard to the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights entitled ‘Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar’ of 20 June 2016, and to the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar of 18 March 2016,

–  having regard to the 27th special session of the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights situation of the minority Rohingya Muslim population and other minorities in Rakhine State, Myanmar,

–  having regard to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol thereto,

–  having regard to the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness,

–  having regard to the UNHCR Global Action Plan to End Statelessness 2014-2024,

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

–  having regard to the Final Report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966,

–  having regard to the ASEAN Charter,

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

A.  whereas Rakhine State in Myanmar is home to approximately one million Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim minority group facing repression and continued serious human rights violations, including threats to life and security, denial of the right to health and education, malnutrition and food insecurity, forced labour, sexual violence and limitations on their political rights;

B.  whereas the Rohingya are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, and whereas they are denied full citizenship rights and rendered stateless under Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law; whereas the Rohingya are largely confined to camps with severe restrictions placed on free movement within and outside Rakhine State;

C.  whereas the most recent attacks on security posts in August 2017 provoked an overwhelmingly disproportionate response from the Myanmar military, which committed severe human rights violations against the Rohingya people;

D.  whereas since August 2017 more than 646 000 Rohingya have fled for safety in neighbouring Bangladesh, facing harrowing conditions; whereas the total number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is expected to exceed 1 million by the end of 2017; whereas dozens of people, including women and children, have died en route and more than 400 000 people are in need of healthcare and food assistance; whereas the murder, rape and torture of Rohingya and the burning down of their villages are used as a tool to permanently damage the social structure of the Rohingya and to traumatise the population;

E.  whereas the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh has been militarised and landmines have been laid to prevent people from crossing it;

F.  whereas, according to UN agencies, access for humanitarian organisations remains highly restrictive, including for the delivery of food, water and medicine to the Rohingya;

G.  whereas the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, announced on 10 September 2017 that the situation in Myanmar ‘seems like a textbook example of ethnic cleansing’ and on 5 December 2017 that an act of genocide against Rohingya Muslims by state forces in Myanmar cannot be ruled out; whereas Amnesty International has described the situation for minorities in Rakhine State as one of ‘apartheid’ and whereas the UN Human Rights Council has condemned ‘the very likely commission of crimes against humanity’ in Myanmar;

H.  whereas on 23 October 2017 the pledging conference held in Geneva between the UNHCR, OCHA, IOM, the European Union and the Government of Kuwait secured pledges for aid totalling USD 344 million, more than half of which came from the EU;

I.  whereas the Governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh have signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding which should guarantee the safe return of the Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh; whereas the VP/HR has called the signing of the memorandum of understanding an important step towards addressing one of the worst humanitarian and human rights crises of our time; whereas it is unclear how many potential Rohingya repatriates will be housed in camps and temporary holding areas; whereas there is no clear timeline for a return to adequate security and safe housing or for the recognition of their citizenship rights;

1.  Strongly condemns the ongoing violence and killings, the systematic use of force, and the loss of lives, livelihoods and shelter in Rakhine State; expresses grave concern at the humanitarian and human rights situation and expresses its deepest sympathy with and full support to the Rohingya people; recalls that the Myanmar authorities have a duty to protect from abuse all civilians, without discrimination, to investigate grievous human rights violations and to prosecute those responsible, in accordance with human rights standards and obligations;

2.  Calls for an immediate end to the violence, to the killing, harassment and rape of Rohingya people and to the destruction of their homes by the Myanmar security forces;

3.  Urges the Myanmar authorities to work in conjunction with international aid agencies, the EU and the UN to allow immediate, unhindered humanitarian access to Rakhine State and the surrounding areas, including dedicated support for vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly and victims of sexual violence; urges the government to implement measures in line with UN Security Council resolution 2106 (2013) to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual violence;

4.  Calls on the authorities of Myanmar to grant access to independent monitors, in particular the UN Fact-Finding Mission established by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017, to ensure independent and impartial investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by all parties; urges all parties to ensure there is no impunity for human rights violations; recalls that where there is evidence of human rights abuses, individuals must be prosecuted in fair proceedings before independent civilian courts and without the imposition of the death penalty; presses for continued UN Security Council action, including a referral to the International Criminal Court, if Myanmar is unable or unwilling to prosecute or self-refer;

5.  Calls on the Government of Myanmar to grant domestic and international media organisations full, unhindered access to Rakhine State and to ensure the safety and security of media personnel;

6.  Reiterates its call for the Government of Myanmar to immediately cease its use of landmines and to remove all mines it has already laid, including those laid recently along the border with Bangladesh; urges the international community to provide technical assistance in this regard; commends the efforts made by Bangladesh in the face of a humanitarian crisis in one of its neighbouring countries; welcomes the protection Bangladesh has provided for Rohingya people fleeing Myanmar and encourages it to continue offering support in cooperation with the UNHCR; calls on Bangladesh to further facilitate humanitarian operations by international NGOs by simplifying the bureaucratic burden, the registration process and restrictions on movement;

7.  Notes the memorandum of understanding agreed between Myanmar and Bangladesh on repatriation; urges the parties to fully respect the voluntary, safe and dignified return of the Rohingya to their places of origin without discrimination of any kind, and with full UN oversight; insists that the Myanmar authorities offer credible assurances that returnees will not be persecuted or forced into segregated camps on ethnic or religious grounds and guarantee independent and impartial monitoring by human rights bodies; reaffirms the principle of non-refoulement and echoes the UNHCR assessment of 24 November 2017 that ‘at present, conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State are not in place to enable safe and sustainable returns’; calls for the EU to lead international efforts by means of an intergovernmental summit together with the UN; proposes that this summit review progress on the Rohingya repatriation process and the restoration of citizenship rights and that the procedure for an independent investigation of crimes against humanity be initiated;

8.  Calls for the EU and its Member States to increase financial and material support for the accommodation of refugees, while making sure that the assistance does not go towards unacceptable solutions for refugees and returnees; calls on international actors to establish financial support that delivers a sustainable response to the needs of displaced Rohingya and host communities through access to appropriate and improved services; draws particular attention to the urgent need for funding, amounting to an estimated USD 10 million, to deliver specialist medical and mental health services for survivors of rape and gender-based violence; calls on the Commission to support a full investigation into the extent of sexual violence and other crimes against the Rohingya;

9.  Expresses deep concern at reports of trafficking in Rohingya women and girls in Myanmar and Bangladesh, and urges the authorities of both countries to work with the UNHCR and human rights organisations to end the trafficking and provide the women and girls affected with protection and support;

10.  Urges the Government of Myanmar to address the long-standing and systematic discrimination; stresses that without tackling the root causes it is impossible to put a stop to their plight; notes in this regard that the denial of rights to minorities in Myanmar extends beyond the Rohingya and also affects other ethnic groups, including in Kachin and Shan States;

11.  Welcomes the final report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, which was established at the request of the State Counsellor; strongly encourages the Myanmar authorities to appoint an implementation body as soon as possible to fully enact the Annan recommendations; encourages the EU, UN and other international actors to support the process;

12.  Underlines the recommendation of the Advisory Commission on the need to align legal provisions on citizenship with international standards and treaties to which Myanmar is a state party; urges the Government of Myanmar to amend the Citizenship Law and provide legally recognised citizenship documentation to Rohingya residents so that they are accepted as an ethnic minority and their right to self-identification is respected; urges the government to issue ID cards which do not list religions affiliation;

13.  Insists that the segregation of the Rohingya population in Myanmar must be brought to an end; calls for the curfew for the Rohingya to be lifted and all but the necessary checkpoints to be dismantled; urges the Government of Myanmar to ensure that Rohingya residents are able to travel freely throughout Rakhine State and the rest of the country, and in particular that the rights of access to healthcare, food, education and employment are upheld;

14.  Calls on all parties to support the building of effective democratic institutions and a strong civil society, respect for basic rights and freedoms, and the promotion of good governance, the rule of law and an independent and impartial judiciary;

15.  Calls for the EU and its Member States, as a matter of urgency, to adopt targeted punitive sanctions against individuals in the military and security services responsible for perpetuating widespread human rights abuses in Myanmar;

16.  Deplores the failure of the UN Security Council to agree on decisive measures and calls for the EU and its Member States to step up pressure on those blocking meaningful action, including China and Russia;

17.  Calls for the EU and its Member States to extend the scope of the existing arms embargo against Myanmar; further calls on the UN Security Council to impose a global comprehensive arms embargo on Myanmar, suspending all direct and indirect supply, sale or transfer, including transit and transshipment of all weapons, munitions and other military and security equipment, as well as the provision of training or other military and security assistance;

18.  Calls on the Government of Myanmar, including the State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, to condemn unequivocally all incitement to racial or religious hatred and to combat social discrimination and hostilities against the Rohingya minority, and to uphold the universal right to freedom of religion or belief;

19.  Calls on ASEAN and regional governments to continue to take action and to increase pressure on the Government of Myanmar and the country’s military to halt rights abuses and protect all civilians in Rakhine State and throughout Myanmar;

20.  Recalls that the Sakharov Prize is awarded to those that defend human rights, safeguard the rights of minorities and respect international law, among other criteria; draws attention to the consideration of whether the Sakharov Prize could be revoked should laureates violate those criteria after the prize has been awarded;

21.  Encourages the main international and regional actors, in particular China, to use all bilateral, multilateral, and regional platforms at their disposal to demand an end to the atrocities and bring about a peaceful resolution;

22.  Calls on the VP/HR and the Member States to significantly increase pressure on the Myanmar authorities and security services to end the violence and discrimination perpetrated against the Rohingya people, and engage with the UN, ASEAN and regional governments to put a stop to the segregation within Myanmar;

23.  Requests that the VP/HR inform Parliament about action taken by the EU delegation at the ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Nay Pyi Taw on 21 November 2017; urges a reinvigoration of the EU-Myanmar Human Rights Dialogue to specifically address issues relating to the Rohingya community;

24.  Calls on the Commission to consider consequences in the context of the trade preferences Myanmar enjoys, including considering launching an investigation under the mechanisms provided for in the Everything But Arms provision;

25.  Calls for the EU and its Member States to support the UNHCR Global Action Plan to End Statelessness 2014-2024;

26.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Government and Parliament of Myanmar, the Government and Parliament of Bangladesh, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Secretary-General of ASEAN, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the UN Human Rights Council.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0351.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0316.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0506.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0247.

Implementation of the directive on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography
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European Parliament resolution of 14 December 2017 on the implementation of Directive 2011/93/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography (2015/2129(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 3 and 6 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and Articles 82(2) and 83(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to Articles 7, 8, 24, 47, 48 and 52 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child of 20 November 1989, and the protocols thereto,

–  having regard to the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse of 25 October 2007,

–  having regard to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime of 23 November 2001,

–  having regard to the adoption by the Council of Europe of its Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2016-2021),

–  having regard to Directive 2011/93/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2004/68/JHA(1),

–  having regard to Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 27 November 2014 on the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 March 2015 on child sexual abuse online(4),

–  having regard to the Commission Communication of 2 May 2012 on a European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children (COM(2012)0196), and having regard to the report from the Commission of 6 June 2016 entitled ‘Final evaluation of the multi-annual EU programme on protecting children using the Internet and other communication technologies (Safer Internet)’ (COM(2016)0364),

–  having regard to the report from the Commission of 16 December 2016 assessing the extent to which the Member States have taken the necessary measures to comply with Directive 2011/93/EU (COM(2016)0871), and the report from the Commission of 16 December 2016 assessing the implementation of the measures referred to in Article 25 of Directive 2011/93/EU (COM(2016)0872),

–  having regard to the Europol report of 2016 on the Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (iOACTA),

–  having regard to the report from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights of 27 February 2017 entitled ‘Child-friendly justice: Perspectives and experiences of children involved in judicial proceedings as victims, witnesses or parties in nine EU Member States’,

–  having regard to the Commission Communication of 12 April 2017 entitled ‘The protection of children in migration’ (COM(2017)0211),

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure, as well as Article 1(1)(e) of, and Annex 3 to, the decision of the Conference of Presidents of 12 December 2002 on the procedure for granting authorisation to draw up own-initiative reports,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Culture and Education and the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (A8-0368/2017),

A.  whereas the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children constitute serious violations of fundamental rights, in particular of the right of children to the protection and care necessary for their well-being, as provided for by the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union;

B.  whereas the child’s best interests must be a primary consideration when implementing any measures to combat these offences, in accordance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;

C.  whereas Directive 2011/93/EU is a comprehensive legal instrument containing provisions on substantive criminal law and on criminal procedures, measures for assistance and protection of victims and for prevention, including administrative measures, and its implementation requires the close involvement of actors from different sectors such as the law-enforcement authorities, the judiciary, parents’ and family associations playing an active role in the protection of minors, non-governmental organisations, internet service providers and others;

D.  whereas the Commission’s implementation report does not provide any statistics on the take‑down and blocking of websites containing or disseminating images of child sexual abuse, especially statistics on the speed of removal of content, the frequency with which reports are followed up by law enforcement authorities, the delays in take‑downs due to the need to avoid interference with ongoing investigations, or the frequency with which any such stored data is actually used by judicial or law enforcement authorities;

E.  whereas one of the main challenges in investigating child sexual abuse and prosecuting perpetrators is the lack of reporting by victims; whereas boys are less likely to report abuse;

F.  whereas children, who are victims of sexual abuse or exploitation, suffer from multiple and long-lasting physical and/or psychological traumas that can follow them well into adulthood;

G.  whereas child sexual abuse and exploitation online is an evolving phenomenon and new forms of crime, such as ‘revenge pornography’ and sex-extortion, have come into being on the Internet and need to be addressed with concrete measures by the Member States;

H.  whereas law enforcement authorities face challenges posed by peer-to-peer and private networks exchanging child sexual abuse material; whereas there is a need to raise awareness at an early stage among girls and boys about the risks and the importance of respecting the dignity and privacy of others in the digital era;

I.  whereas migrant children – especially girls, but also a significant percentage of boys(5) – are particularly exposed to child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation at the hands of traffickers, smugglers, drug dealers, prostitution rings, as well as other individuals or rings, who exploit their vulnerability, along the way and once they reach Europe;

J.  whereas the sex tourism industry affects significant numbers of children, especially girls, but also a significant percentage of boys;

K.  whereas, to comply with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, measures taken under recital 47 of Directive 2011/93/EU concerning the blocking and removal of websites online must respect the safeguards listed in Article 25 of the Directive;

L.  whereas systematic review and meta-analysis has found that, compared to their non-disabled peers, children with disabilities were around three times more likely to suffer from physical or sexual violence;

M.  whereas the use of the term ‘child pornography’ is not appropriate to define the offences in Articles 5 and 2(c) of Directive 2011/93/EU and may be detrimental to the child victims;

Main conclusions and recommendations

1.  Condemns unequivocally all forms of sexual abuse or exploitation of children, as well as violent and abusive victimisation of children at all levels; welcomes the adoption by the Council of Europe of its Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2016-2021); calls on the all EU institutions and Member States to take appropriate measures to prevent all forms of physical and psychological violence, including physical and sexual abuse and sexual exploitation, and to protect children from them; calls on all EU institutions and Member States to take united, effective action to eradicate sexual abuse and exploitation and, more generally, all sexual crimes against children; calls for the EU institutions and Member States to explicitly consider the protection of children as a priority when programming and implementing policies, which may have a negative impact on them;

2.  Takes the view that Directive 2011/93/EU constitutes a sound and comprehensive legal framework for combating sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children; deplores the fact that the Member States have faced significant challenges in transposing and implementing the Directive, in particular as regards the provisions on prevention, investigation and prosecution as well as protection and assistance to victims and that the full potential of the Directive has not yet been exploited; urges the Member States to step up their efforts to transpose it fully and correctly; calls on the Member States to ensure that legal transposition is translated into effective implementation so as to ensure the protection and assistance of child victims and zero tolerance for child sexual abuse;

3.  Deplores that the Commission was not able to present its implementation reports within the deadline set out in Article 28 of Directive 2011/93/EU and that the two evaluation reports presented by the Commission merely documented transposition into national law by Member States and did not fully assess their compliance with the Directive; requests the Member States to cooperate and forward to the Commission all of the relevant information on the implementation of the Directive, including statistics;

4.  Stresses that the term ‘child sexual abuse material’ is more appropriate than ‘child pornography’ for such crimes against children; calls on the Commission and the Member States to adopt the use of the term ‘child sexual abuse material’ instead of the term ‘child pornography’; stresses, however, that the new terminology shall not in any way restrict the offences listed as ‘child pornography’ in Article 5 of Directive 2011/93/EU in relation to Article 2(c);

5.  Considers it regrettable that the Commission’s implementation report fails to mention whether it assessed the efficiency of the INHOPE system when it transfers reports to counterparts in third countries;

6.  Considers it regrettable that the Commission has failed to collect data on the types of blocking that have been used; considers it regrettable that data has not been published on the number of websites on blocking lists in each country; considers it regrettable that there is no assessment of the use of security methods, such as encryption, to ensure that blocking lists are not leaked and thereby become seriously counterproductive; welcomes the fact that, having promoted mandatory blocking in 2011, the Commission has explicitly abandoned this position;

Substantive Criminal Law (Articles 3, 4 and 5 of the Directive)

7.  Takes note of the fact that the substantive criminal law provisions of Directive 2011/93/EU have been transposed by the Member States; is concerned nevertheless that some Member States have not fully transposed the provisions on offences concerning sexual exploitation (Article 4), offences concerning sexual abuse when abuse is made of a recognised position of trust, authority or influence (Article 3(5)(i)) or abuse is made of a particularly vulnerable situation of the child (Article 3(5)(ii)), and concerning the liability of legal persons (Article 12);

8.  Considers, in particular, that the Member States should make every possible effort to combat the impunity of perpetrators of child sexual abuse, as well as of individuals or legal persons, who are involved in aiding, assisting or abetting any child sexual exploitation and sexual abuse offences; considers it to be of the utmost importance that the Member States ensure the liability of both natural and legal persons, where the lack of monitoring or supervision of a person who is a member of that legal entity, has permitted or facilitated the commission of crimes;

9.  Is particularly concerned about the threats and risks which the online dimension poses to children, in particular as regards the online recruitment of children, as well as grooming and other forms of incitement; considers that ways must therefore be found to identify, report and investigate such dangerous practices; stresses the necessity of increasing the level of protection of children online, while at the same time launching awareness‑raising and information programmes about the dangers that exist online;

10.  Reminds the Commission that restrictions on online contents should be grounded in the law, well defined, proportionate, legitimate and pursue a clear aim;

11.  Is concerned at the increase in live streaming of child sexual abuse, the perpetrators of which are highly skilled and innovative in the use of advanced technology; considers that all Member States should therefore seek to develop innovative technical applications to detect and block access to such content, while at the same time placing restrictions on payments for services of this nature;

12.  Underlines the need to address new forms of crime online, such as revenge porn and sexual-extortion, that affect many youngsters, in particular teenage girls; calls on the Member States’ law enforcement authorities and the judiciary to adopt concrete measures to combat this new form of crime and on the internet industry, hotlines, NGOs and all relevant bodies, to take their shared responsibility while seeking to provide solutions to tackle these crimes, including better use of available technologies and developing new technologies to facilitate the identification of persons committing crimes online;

13.  Reiterates the right of each individual to decide on the fate of his or her personal data, in particular the exclusive right to control the use and disclosure of personal information, and the right to be forgotten, defined as the possibility to obtain a prompt removal of content that might be prejudicial to his or her own dignity;

14.  Emphasises the need for Member States which have not yet done so to criminalise not only online grooming, but also cyberstalking and luring children online; recalls that the term cyberstalking refers to a situation in which adults communicate online with a minor or a person they believe to be a minor for the purpose of subsequently committing a crime against that person;

15.  Considers it regrettable that no statistics have been provided on the use of criminal law procedures to seize equipment in relevant cases;

Investigation and prosecution

16.  Notes that several Member States have not implemented the requirement to prosecute offences within a sufficient time after the victim has reached the age of majority; encourages, therefore, the Member States to ensure that the statutory limits within which these crimes may be reported and prosecuted are of sufficient length and that, at the very least, they start from the age of majority of the child victim, in order to ensure the possibility of prosecuting the crime;

17.  Underlines the importance of implementing Article 17 in order to ensure that the Member States have jurisdiction over offences committed by means of information and communication technology (ICT) accessed from their territory whether or not it is based on their territory; emphasises the need to develop the practical foundation for a common EU approach to the issue of jurisdiction in cyberspace, as pointed out at the informal meeting of justice and home affairs ministers held on 26 January 2016;

18.  Deplores that not all offences listed in Directive 2011/93/EU are included in Member States’ national legislation when it comes to extraterritorial jurisdiction; considers it regrettable that some Member States guarantee that sexual abuse offences committed abroad will be prosecuted without a complaint by the victim; calls on the Member States to tackle these shortcomings effectively;

19.  Calls on all Member States to allocate adequate financial and human resources to law enforcement and judicial authorities to combat child sexual abuse and exploitation, including specific training for police and investigators; calls on the Commission and the Member States to increase the resources earmarked for the identification of victims, and urges the nine Member States which have not yet transposed Article 15(4) of Directive 2011/93/EU on the identification of victims to do so without delay and implement this provision by setting up special investigative teams equipped with appropriate tools and resources;

20.  Considers it regrettable that precise statistics and data on the number of crimes committed in the area of child sexual abuse and exploitation in particular, is still lacking due to the high percentage of unreported cases, the novelty of the offences, and the differences in the definitions and methodologies used in various Member States;

21.  Stresses that some of the main challenges faced by the law enforcement and judicial authorities in the investigation and prosecution of child sexual abuse offences online stem, in particular, from the cross-border nature of the investigations and from the dependence on electronic evidence; notes, in particular, the need to upgrade digital investigative techniques in order to keep up with the fast pace of technological development;

22.  Calls on the Member States to strengthen cooperation between their law enforcement authorities, including through the increased use of joint investigation teams; urges authorities to recognise that over‑reliance on hotlines and the industry can be counterproductive and only outsources the fight against child sexual abuse material;

23.  Calls on the Member States to apply the provisions of Directive 2011/93/EU in a future‑proof manner; urges the industry and internet service providers to apply up‑to‑date technology and to invest in innovative solutions to increase the possibilities to identify and prosecute perpetrators, to dismantle criminal networks online, as well as to protect victims;

24.  Expresses concern at the use by internet service providers of carrier-grade network address translation technologies (NAT CGN) which make it possible for several users to share a single IP address at the same time, thereby jeopardising online security and the ability to establish liability; calls on the Member States to encourage internet service providers and network operators to take the steps needed to limit the number of users per IP address, to phase out the use of CGN technologies and to make the investment required to introduce, as a matter of urgency, the next generation of internet protocol addresses (version 6 – IPv6);

25.  Calls on the Member States to step up their police and judicial cooperation as well as to make full use of the existing EU cooperation tools provided by Europol – in particular in the context of Analysis Project (AP) Twins and the European Cybercrime Centre – and Eurojust to ensure the successful investigation and prosecution of perpetrators and possible accomplices; stresses that Europol and Eurojust should be given the appropriate resources to fulfil their task in this respect and encourages the Member States to share best practices;

26.  Calls on the Member States to step up their police and judicial cooperation to combat the trafficking and smuggling of migrant children, who are particularly vulnerable to abuse, trafficking and sexual exploitation, mainly girls, but also boys; calls for enhanced cooperation and the rapid exchange of information among authorities to trace missing children and for the interoperability of data bases; calls on the Member States to adopt a holistic approach involving all actors concerned and to increase cooperation with law enforcement authorities, social services and civil society; recognises the important role of civil society in identifying vulnerable children, given the lack of trust migrant children have shown in law enforcement authorities;

27.  Encourages the Member States to intensify their efforts to combat child sex tourism and prosecute perpetrators and accomplices, taking into account the responsibility of all actors involved;

28.  Considers that the Member States should be encouraged to develop a specialised international network to combat sex tourism, accompanied by government-led policies such as the introduction of funding programmes to assist families and children living in danger zones;

Prevention (Articles 22, 23 and 24 of the Directive)

29.  Calls on the Member States to put in place effective preventive and intervention programmes, including regular training programmes, for all officials, educators, parents’ associations and stakeholders who are in contact with children to better assess the risk of committing crimes;

30.  Urges all Member States to implement appropriate measures such as public awareness raising, prevention campaigns, training and dedicated education programmes for the authorities, parents, teachers, children and minors – also in cooperation with parents’ associations playing an active role in the protection of children and minors, as well as with relevant civil society organisations – in order to promote media literacy, online safety and the importance of family values (e.g. mutual responsibility, respect and care), human dignity, self-esteem, non-violence, and, more generally, of children’s right to be protected against all forms of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation;

31.  Calls for the EU institutions and the Member States to establish a multi-stage system of child protection based on the best interests of the child and the full respect of his or her fundamental rights, in order to send a clear message that all forms of the physical, sexual and emotional abuse of children are unacceptable, and punishable by law;

32.  Encourages the Member States to share best practices on educational materials and training programmes for all the actors involved, such as teachers, parents, educators and law enforcement authorities, to raise awareness of grooming and other risks to the safety of children online; encourages the Member States to set up ambitious educational programmes targeted at both parents and youngsters with a view to empowering them, by making them aware of the dangers of the internet and encouraging them to report incidents which they have witnessed or of which they have been the victims, in particular via the hotlines set up specifically for children; considers it very important to give parents guidelines to assess the risks their children might face and to detect the early signs of potential online sexual abuse; calls on the service providers to step up their efforts to raise awareness of the risks inherent in going online, in particular for children, by developing interactive tools and information materials;

33.  Urges the Member States to introduce into their legislation mandatory criminal background checks for persons applying or volunteering for activities or jobs with access to, or authority over children, and to systematically exchange information on individuals posing a risk to children;

34.  Calls on the Member States to exchange information about child sex offenders in order to prevent them from moving unnoticed from one Member State to another for work or for the purpose of volunteering with children or children’s institutions; encourages Member States to step up information sharing on criminal convictions and disqualifications, as well as to ensure systematic and coherent data collection in national registers of perpetrators; urges the Member States to fulfil their obligations under Article 22 of Directive 2011/93/EU and to provide effective academically reviewed intervention programmes and measures for persons who fear that they might commit child sexual abuse offences and other offences referred to in Articles 3 to 7 of the Directive;

35.  Notes that some Member States have developed dedicated operational systems and forensic capabilities aimed at investigating child sexual abuse; notes, however, that most Member States neither have specialised investigative services, nor the financial means to acquire forensic materials, such as specific software for enabling online investigations to be carried out; recommends, therefore, that the EU support these services by providing the relevant funds, where needed;

36.  Notes that most cases involving the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children are not reported to the authorities responsible for law enforcement; calls on the Commission and the Member States to take appropriate steps to improve and enhance children’s reporting of abuse and to consider setting up systematic direct reporting mechanisms;

37.  Calls on the Member States to develop or reinforce child helplines that provide help and support for children who are victims of sexual abuse or exploitation and that deliver on children’s fundamental right to be heard; asks the Member States to ensure the round the clock availability of these helplines, their accessibility via different means of communication, their confidentiality, that they are free of charge for the children, but also for the helplines, their clear position within national child protection systems and for guarantees of structural and long‑term funding for these helplines;

Assistance and protection to victims (Articles 18, 19 and 20 of the Directive)

38.  Calls on the Member States to fully implement Directive 2012/29/EU on the rights of the victims of crime, to adopt specific measures to protect child victims and to share best practices to ensure that children receive proper assistance and support throughout the entirety of criminal proceedings and thereafter;

39.  Welcomes the best practices adopted in some Member States for the protection of children, such as the Barnhuset in Sweden, among others; calls on the Member States to focus on ensuring the provision of legal aid, psychological support and assistance and to avoid the secondary victimisation of children; encourages Member States to launch awareness campaigns both at regional and national level to promote support for child victims and to foster a cultural change in public opinion to avoid any victim-blaming attitudes, which may result in additional trauma for child victims of abuse;

Removal and blocking (Article 25)

40.  Welcomes the fact that the Member States have put in place legislation and administrative measures to remove webpages containing child sexual abuse material hosted on their territory; calls on the Member States to fully implement Article 25 of Directive 2011/93/EU and give priority to the swift removal-at-source of child sexual abuse material, and with the relevant safeguards in place; regrets the fact that only half of the Member States have incorporated provisions into their legislation making it possible to block access to such webpages for users within their territory; recalls that in the fight against the dissemination of child sexual abuse material, removal measures are more effective than blocking, since the latter does not delete the content;

41.  Regrets and expresses concern that, although the Commission has mentioned that some Member States do not have functional ‘notice and take-down’ procedures, 16 years after the entry into force of Directive 2000/31/EC (the E-Commerce Directive), it has not indicated that any action will be taken to require those Member States to comply with EU law;

42.  Calls on the Commission to take further efforts to gather the information necessary to ascertain what procedures are used in Member States where no functional notice and take‑down procedures and no criminal penalties are in place and to launch infringement proceedings against Member States should they be found not to comply with the obligations laid down in Directive 2000/31/EC on this matter;

43.  Regrets the fact that the Commission has neither assessed the security of blocking lists, the technologies used for blocking in those countries that have implemented the measures, the implementation of security measures, such as encryption, for the storage and communication of blocking lists, nor carried out any meaningful analysis of the effectiveness of this measure;

44.  Notes that Directive 2011/93/EU does not require mandatory blocking; recognises that blocking is neither a single technology nor a reliable one; recommends the removal of child abuse, child exploitation and child sexual abuse material at source in the context of efficient judicial and law enforcement actions;

45.  Urges the Member States to speed up, in cooperation with the Internet industry, the notice and take-down procedures, which are still too long, and to establish partnerships with the online industry, Europol and Eurojust to prevent networks and systems from being hacked and misused to distribute child sexual abuse material;

46.  Calls on the Member States, in cases where the content is made available from third countries, to step up their cooperation with the third countries concerned and with Interpol in order to secure the prompt removal of the content in question;

47.  Recommends that blacklists of websites containing child sexual abuse material be updated regularly by the relevant authorities and communicated to internet service providers to avoid, for instance, over-blocking and to ensure proportionality; recommends the sharing of such blacklists of websites among the Member States, with Europol and its European Cybercrime Centre, and with Interpol; considers, in this regard, that newly developed hashing technology involving automatic image detection and recognition, could be applied; stresses that any technology implemented should be rigorously tested to eliminate, or at least minimise the possibility of hacking, abuse or counterproductive effects;

48.  Encourages the INHOPE Network to work with its members to create a secure anonymous reporting mechanism on Deep Web networks, such as the Dark Net networks found on the TOR network, which provides the same high standard of anonymity as that given by press organisations to whistleblowers in order to create the opportunity for those using such networks to come forward with information or reports about child sexual abuse material;

49.  Urges the Member States to make it mandatory for internet service providers (ISP) to report child sexual abuse material detected in their infrastructure proactively to law enforcement authorities, as well as to national hotlines; calls on the Commission to continue its funding under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) in order to provide the hotlines with adequate resources to fulfil their mandate to tackle illegal content online;

50.  Recognises the active and supportive role in combating child sexual abuse material on the Internet played by civil society organisations, such as the INHOPE Network of Hotlines, including the Internet Watch Foundation in the UK; urges the Commission, in cooperation with INHOPE to identify and implement best practices, particularly with regard to statistical reporting and efficient interaction with law enforcement; urges the Member States which have not yet done so to set up such hotlines and takes the view that they should be allowed to search for child sexual abuse material online proactively;

51.  Urges the Member States which have not yet done so to put in place, without delay, safe and child-sensitive reporting and counselling mechanisms, such as telephone or computer hotlines with email addresses, or tablet or smartphone applications to which Internet users can report – even anonymously – child sexual abuse material they find online and that are capable of assessing this reported content rapidly with a view to implementing prompt notice and take-down procedures and removing content hosted outside their territory; asks for the clear recognition and strengthening of the hotlines and encourages Member States to equip them properly with resources, including appropriate budgets and trained professionals with expertise; takes the view that these hotlines should be allowed to search proactively for child sexual abuse material online alongside receiving reports from the public;

52.  Stresses the need to promote and support EU information programmes enabling members of the public to bring to the attention of the authorities online content that is illegal or harmful to children;

53.  Calls on the Commission to continue keeping Parliament regularly informed on the state of play in relation to compliance with the Directive by the Member States, by providing disaggregated and comparable data on the Member States’ performance in preventing and combating child sexual abuse and exploitation offline and online; calls on the Commission to present a more comprehensive report on the implementation of the Directive, which should include additional information and statistics on take‑down and blocking of websites containing child sexual abuse material, statistics on the speed of removal of illegal content beyond a period of 72 hours and on the follow-up by the law enforcement authorities to the reported offences, delays in take‑downs as a result of the need to avoid interference with ongoing investigations, information on the use of the stored data by judicial and law enforcement authorities and on the actions undertaken by hotlines after informing the law enforcement authorities to contact the hosting providers; instructs its relevant committee to hold a hearing on the state of play in relation to implementation and possibly consider adopting an additional report on the follow up given to the implementation of the Directive;

o   o

54.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission as well as to the parliaments and the governments of the Member States.

(1) OJ L 335, 17.12.2011, p. 1.
(2) OJ L 315, 14.11.2012, p. 57.
(3) OJ C 289, 9.8.2016, p. 57.
(4) OJ C 316, 30.8.2016, p. 109.
(5) Studies demonstrate that boys may feel especially inhibited when it comes to disclosing sexual abuse, including for reasons related to societal assumptions towards males. See, for example, the study by the Ex-Post Impact Assessment Unit of the European Parliamentary Research Service, PE 598.614, p. 16, and Schaefer, G.A., Mundt, I.A, Ahlers, C.J., and Bahls, C, ‘Child sexual abuse and psychological impairment in victims: results of an online study initiated by victims’, Journal of Child Sex Abuse, Vol. 21, No 3, 2012, pp. 343-360.

Deliberations of the Committee on Petitions 2016
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European Parliament resolution of 14 December 2017 on the deliberations of the Committee on Petitions during the year 2016 (2017/2222(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the outcome of the Committee on Petitions’ deliberations,

–  having regard to the annual report of the European Ombudsman for the year 2016,

–  having regard to Articles 10 and 11 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),

–  having regard to Articles 24 and 227 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to Article 228 of the TFEU,

–  having regard to Article 44 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union concerning the right to petition the European Parliament,

–  having regard to the provisions of the TFEU relating to the infringement procedure and, in particular, Articles 258 and 260 thereof,

–   having regard to Rules 52 and 216(7) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Petitions (A8-0387/2017),

A.  whereas 1 569 petitions were received in 2016 – compared to 1 431 in 2015 – of which 1 110 petitions (70,8 %) were considered admissible;

B.  whereas there were 6 132 users of Parliament’s Petitions Web Portal who supported one or several petitions in 2016, as compared to 902 in 2015, and whereas the number of supports per petitions and per user was 18 810 in 2016, as compared to 1 329 in 2015;

C.  whereas the number of petitions received is modest compared to the EU’s total population; whereas the number indicates that a portion of EU citizens are aware, and make use, of the right to petition, and expect to draw the attention of the EU institutions to matters which they are concerned about and that fall within the scope of EU competences, through the petition procedure; whereas, however, greater efforts are needed to increase awareness of and to promote the right to petition the European Parliament;

D.  whereas the right to address a petition to the European Parliament offers EU citizens and residents the means to submit an official request directly to their representatives and this right should therefore be suitably protected and promoted; whereas this right is essential for ensuring the active participation of EU citizens and residents in the European Union’s fields of activity;

E.  whereas the European Parliament has long been at the forefront of the development of the petitions process internationally and it still has the most open and transparent system in Europe, which allows, in particular, the full participation of petitioners in its activities;

F.  whereas the role of the committee in empowering European citizens is one of the essential characteristics that contributes to a reinforcement of the image and authority of Parliament in the eyes of the electorate, by allowing the institution to bring to account and better scrutinise the way in which EU law is implemented by the Member States and the other EU institutions;

G.  whereas active participation is only possible on the basis of a democratic and transparent process of all EU institutions allowing Parliament and the Committee on Petitions to render its work citizen-friendly and meaningful;

H.  whereas those who submit and support petitions are engaged citizens, who in turn expect the EU institutions to bring added value in the resolution of their concerns; whereas failure to act adequately on the petitions is likely to result in frustration and consequently disaffection towards the Union;

I.  whereas it is noted that citizens often turn to the Committee on Petitions as a last resort when other bodies and institutions at regional and national levels are unable to resolve their concerns;

J.  whereas petitions enable Parliament to listen to and help solve problems affecting its citizens, and whereas the impact of EU legislation on the daily lives of people living in the EU should be assessed through said petitions;

K.  whereas an increase in citizens’ direct participation in, and an improvement of the quality of, decision-making at EU level are possible only if they are underpinned by a democratic governance able to guaranteetransparency, effective protection of fundamental rights and the inclusion of EU citizens’ requests on the EU political agenda;

L.  whereas petitions are a useful source of information, among other things, with regard to detecting breaches of EU law and the shortcomings and inconsistencies of EU law in respect of the goal of ensuring that the fundamental rights of all citizens are fully protected;

M.  whereas petitions provide a vast range of important information in various areas of use to other parliamentary committees, also in relation to their legislative activities; whereas fulfilling the fundamental right to petition through an adequate treatment of petitions is a responsibility incumbent on Parliament as a whole;

N.  whereas each petition should be carefully assessed and dealt with, and whereas each petitioner has the right to receive a first reply from the Committee on Petitions that fully addresses the issues raised in full accordance with the right to good administration enshrined in Article 41 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union; whereas subsequent exchanges and replies are often needed as a result of the initial examination of petitions or the interaction with the Commission and national authorities as further follow-up to seek for solutions;

O.  whereas the criteria for the admissibility of petitions pursuant to Article 227 TFEU and Rule 215 of the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure state that petitions shall satisfy the formal conditions governing admissibility, namely that a petitioner, who is a EU citizen or residing in the EU, is affected by a matter which comes within the European Union’s fields of activity; whereas it is understood that these fields of activity go far beyond the mere aggregation of the EU’s exclusive competences; whereas 459 petitions were declared inadmissible because they do not comply with the formal conditions;

P.  whereas, to ensure the efficient work of the Committee on Petitions, unfounded or inadmissible petitions should be closed and a justification given to the petitioner; whereas the procedure for dealing with petitions should always be based on the best interests of the petitioners;

Q.  whereas the specific interactive nature of the petition process itself and the core role citizens play therein renders each case unique and excludes a predetermined time frame; whereas such procedures require particular flexibility and public relations skills on the part of the administration;

R.  whereas a considerable number of petitions are discussed publicly in meetings of the Committee on Petitions; whereas petitioners have the right to present their petitions, and frequently fully take part in the discussion, thereby contributing actively to the work of the committee; whereas in 2016, 201 petitioners were present at the committee’s deliberations, while 61 petitioners participated actively by taking the floor;

S.  whereas the information provided by citizens in petitions and during committee meetings – complemented by expertise provided by the Commission, the Member States or other bodies – is pivotal to the work of the committee;

T.  whereas the main subjects of concern raised in petitions in 2016 pertained to the internal market (in particular the provision of services and the free movement of people), fundamental rights (especially the rights of the child and of persons with disabilities), social affairs (working conditions), environmental issues (waste management, pollution and environmental protection) and the specific issue of Brexit (loss of acquired rights and the mandate of the referendum);

U.  whereas Parliament’s Petitions Web Portal website, launched at the end of 2014, is operational; whereas 1 067 petitions (68 % of those received) were submitted via the web portal in 2016, as compared to 992 in 2015; whereas technical improvements have been made, including improvements to the search function, benefiting both users and portal administrators; whereas petition summaries are uploaded shortly after adoption; whereas the confidentiality settings and privacy statements have been revised, and a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) have been introduced; whereas petition summaries from 2015 and 2016 were uploaded with the help of a new migration tool; whereas a search engine optimisation (SEO) process has been conducted; whereas a high number of individual support requests by users has been handled successfully; whereas further stages of the project are underway, enabling features such as the automatic electronic notification of the inclusion of each petition concerned in committee agendas together with its upcoming web-streaming link and also of the subsequent uploading of related minutes and videos of the relevant debates, for the benefit of both the petitioners and the supporters concerned;

V.  whereas the European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI) is an important tool for strengthening citizens’ participation in the EU political decision-making process that should be exploited fully in order to increase citizens’ trust in the EU institutions and contribute to the construction of a genuine and inclusive European Union; whereas the legislative proposal put forward by the Commission on 13 September 2017 to review the current Regulation (EU) No 211/2011 on the ECI (COM(2017)0482) represents the launch of a very necessary process of revision in order to render this tool more accessible to and useful for EU citizens;

W.  whereas four fact-finding visits pursuant to Rule 216a of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure were planned; whereas fact-finding visits represent a core tool for the Committee on Petitions, both in terms of providing a unique opportunity to gather information from different stakeholders on complex issues, and at the same time to help give tangible visibility to the work of Parliament among citizens in different corners of Europe; whereas two fact-finding visits took place, one to Spain following the reception of several petitions from EU citizens regarding possible infringements of the Water Framework Directive, and one to Slovakia on the use of EU structural funds in long-term residential centres for persons with disabilities; whereas two other planned fact-finding visits, one to Ireland and one to Italy, were cancelled;

X.  whereas the Committee on Petitions has responsibilities for relations with regard to the office of the European Ombudsman, which is responsible for investigating complaints from EU citizens about possible maladministration within EU institutions and bodies;

Y.  whereas Emily O’Reilly, the European Ombudsman, presented her Annual Report for 2015 to the Committee on Petitions at its meeting on 20 June 2016, and whereas the annual report of the Committee of Petitions, in turn, is partly based on the Ombudsman’s annual report;

Z.  whereas the Committee on Petitions is a member of the European Network of Ombudsmen, which also includes the European Ombudsman, national and regional ombudsmen and similar bodies of the Member States, the candidate countries, and other European Economic Area countries, and which aims to promote the exchange of information about EU law and policy, and to share best practices;

AA.  whereas 147 petitions received (whereof 120 in 2016) pertain to various issues – mainly the protection of citizen’s rights – raised by the referendum in the United Kingdom on withdrawal from the European Union;

AB.  whereas the guidelines of the Committee on Petitions, adopted in January 2016 and implemented since, have brought clarity and structure to the work of the committee and to the processing of petitions;

AC.  whereas the overhaul of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure (adopted in Plenary in December 2016) also entails changes to, and the clarification of, the petition procedure;

AD.  whereas a purely formalistic approach to the treatment of petitions in relation to environmental assessments jeopardises the proper implementation of EU environmental law in the Member States and the credibility of the Commission, which should carry out effective supervision to ensure that the fundamental rights of citizens are fully protected;

1.  Highlights the vital role that the Committee on Petitions has to play as a contact point where EU citizens and residents can submit their complaints concerning infringements and shortcomings in the application of EU law in the Member States, and any gaps and inconsistencies in EU legislation; stresses the need to guarantee in full that the issues raised will be treated promptly, exhaustively, impartially and fairly by the institutions;

2.  Acknowledges that petitions are an important source of first-hand information, not just about violations and deficiencies in the application of EU law in the Member States, but also about potential loopholes in EU legislation as well as citizens’ suggestions about new legislation that could be adopted, or possible improvements to the legislative texts in force;

3.  Recalls that petitions allow Parliament and other EU institutions to reconnect with EU citizens affected by the application of EU law at different administrative levels; considers that the ability to ensure transparency, direct citizen involvement, full protection of fundamental rights, a clear improvement in the response from the EU institutions in terms of addressing and resolving the problems brought to their attention by citizens, in addition to enhanced cooperation of EU institutions and other EU bodies with national, regional and local authorities, are a vital means of strengthening the democratic legitimacy and accountability of the Union’s decision-making process;

4.  Confirms that the effective treatment of petitions challenges and, ultimately, enhances the capacity of both Commission and Parliament to react to and resolve problems related to the transposition and incorrect application of legislation; notes that the Commission considers the implementation of EU law as a priority, so that citizens can benefit from it in their everyday lives;

5.  Calls for the definition of a clear distinction between the status and rights of the petitioners and of their supporters in compliance with transparency principles;

6.  Continues to consider it a particular obligation to ensure that, where petitions are inadmissible or unfounded, no disproportionately long delay occurs before they are declared inadmissible or are closed; emphasises, in this context, the requirement that the inadmissibility or closure of petitions on account of being unfounded must be carefully justified vis-à-vis the petitioner;

7.  Acknowledges the impact of the effective application of EU law in strengthening the credibility of the EU institutions; recalls that the right to petition, enshrined in the Treaty of Lisbon, is an important element of European citizenship and a real litmus test for monitoring the application of EU law and identifying possible loopholes; calls on the Committee on Petitions to set up a regular meeting with its counterparts in the respective national contexts on important petitions in order to raise awareness of European citizens’ concerns in the EU and in the Member States and to strengthen their rights further through better European law making and implementation; calls, therefore, for a strong commitment from all the authorities involved at national and European levels in handling and resolving petitions as a matter of priority;

8.  Reminds the Commission that petitions offer a unique means of referring situations where EU law is not respected and to investigate them with the help of the political scrutiny of the European Parliament; reminds the Commission that requests for assistance from the Committee on Petitions should be followed up properly, and reiterates its call on the Commission to improve the quality of its replies, including during committee meetings, in substance as well as depth, to ensure that the concerns of European citizens are addressed properly and in a transparent fashion; points out that the manner in which the problems highlighted in petitions are addressed has a vital impact on citizens, on whether respect for their right to petition enshrined in EU law is effective, and on their opinions of the EU institutions; insists that the Commission identify the means of enhancing cooperation with Member States’ authorities when it comes to responding to inquiries regarding the implementation of, and compliance with, EU law;

9.  Considers the fact that national courts have primary responsibility for ensuring the proper implementation of EU legislation in the Member States should by no means preclude a more proactive role by the Commission, in its capacity as guardian of the Treaties, when it comes to ensuring compliance with EU law, particularly in cases related to protection of the environment and public health where the precautionary principle should prevail;

10.  Highlights the need for Council and Commission representatives of the highest possible rank to be present at meetings and hearings of the Committee on Petitions where the content of the issues discussed requires the involvement of the aforementioned institutions;

11.  Calls on the Commission officials who are present at the meetings of the Committee on Petitions to be ready to engage in a proper dialogue with the petitioners and not limit themselves to reading the answer already established and sent out prior to the meeting;

12.  Calls for inquiries to be made as to the possibility of the use of teleconferencing services; encourages the use of new audiovisual technologies to enable the petitioners to play a greater role in the work of the Committee by participating in real time in the consideration of their petition;

13.  Disagrees with the Commission’s recurrent interpretation of the 27th annual report on monitoring the application of European Union law (2009), on the basis of which it is allegedly entitled to close files on which no formal step towards infringement proceedings has yet been taken, or to suspend active infringement proceedings in cases in progress before a national court; recalls that in paragraph 11 of its annual resolution of 15 December 2016(1) on the activities of the Committee on Petitions, Parliament reaffirmed its disagreement with the Commission’s original approach in the aforementioned report, as already expressed in its resolution of 14 September 2011(2), where, particularly in paragraphs 1, 23 and 32, the Commission was requested to step up its efforts to ensure consistent implementation of EU legislation, within its capacities, and to make use of infringement mechanisms independently of the existence of judicial proceedings at national level;

14.  Notes with concern, referring to the Commission’s annual report of 6 July 2017 on monitoring the application of European Union law in 2016 (COM(2017)0370), the considerable increase – by 21 % – in open infringement cases compared to the previous year; calls on the Commission to follow up on Parliament’s calls to share information on the state of play of ongoing infringement procedures; highlights the important role of petitions in identifying poor implementation or late transposition of European law; reminds the Commission that the Committee on Petitions is committed to respond to citizens’ expectations in a timely and responsible manner, while ensuring the democratic scrutiny and proper application of EU law;

15.  Asks the Commission to provide precise statistics concerning the number of petitions that led to the initiation of an EU Pilot or infringement proceedings; asks, furthermore, to receive reports on cases relating to proceedings and/or procedures under way and the documents exchanged in the course of the EU Pilot and infringement procedures once these have been closed by way of applying the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, in order to facilitate structured dialogue and reduce the timeframe for settling disputes; calls on the Commission to discuss these reports with the Committee on Petitions proactively, involving the Vice-President responsible for the application of law and simplification;

16.  Urges the Commission to use its powers stemming from its role as guardian of the Treaties properly, as such a role is of the utmost importance to the functioning of the EU with regard to the citizens and the European legislators; calls for a timely handling of the infringement proceedings in order to put an end to situations where EU law is not respected without delay;

17.  Considers cooperation with other parliamentary committees essential; refers, in this regard, to the adoption of the Committee on Petitions guidelines, which spell out the principle of establishing a petitions network with the other committees; welcomes the fact that the guidelines for such a network have been adopted; draws attention to the questionnaire submitted to all committees with a view to understanding better their procedures for dealing with petitions submitted for opinion or information; notes with satisfaction that the first network meeting at staff level took place in 2016 and at Members’ level twice in 2017; takes positive note of the progress made in the coordination between the Committee on Petitions and other committees and the thematic breakdown of policy areas in each committee concerned that will allow for a better follow-up on the petitions sent to other committees; calls for the reinforcement of the PETI network with the objective of streamlining petitions in ongoing legislative work; recommends that staff of the Members of the European Parliament should be offered specific guidance on the right to petition to enable them to better assist constituents interested in pursuing the process;

18.  Deplores the fact that the Charter of Fundamental Rights only applies in Member States when implementing EU law; reiterates the fact that many citizens have found its implementation to be unclear and unsatisfactory; regrets that the Court of Justice of the European Union has interpreted Article 51 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in a cautious way, yet allowing for the scope of application of the Charter to be expanded to include national provisions that implement EU law, as well as those that ensure effective application of EU provisions; considers that the expectations of most of EU citizens in relation to the rights conferred by the Charter go far beyond their current scope of application; stresses that a too narrow or incoherent interpretation of Article 51 alienates citizens from the EU; urges the Commission to take steps to ensure that the interpretation of the scope of Article 51 is as coherent and wide as possible; welcomes the introduction by the Fundamental Rights Agency of an interactive tool providing easy access to information on which authority to address in each of the Member States with inquiries regarding fundamental rights;

19.  Notes the anxiety of petitioners concerned about their future rights following the referendum in the United Kingdom on withdrawal from the European Union which was evident in a large number of petitions concerning the United Kingdom; recalls its resolution of 5 April 2017(3) by which Parliament underlines that the withdrawal agreement can only be concluded with its consent and its requirement for the fair treatment of EU-27 citizens living or having lived in the United Kingdom and of United Kingdom citizens living or having lived in the EU-27, and is of the opinion that their respective rights and interests must be given full priority in the negotiations; notes the unresolved concerns about voting rights and the disenfranchisement of UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU for over 15 years; recalls that the Committee on Petitions has been playing an active role in defending the rights of EU and British citizens by contributing to Parliament’s resolutions of 5 April 2017 and of 3 October 2017(4) on the state of play of the negotiations with the United Kingdom following its notification to withdraw from the EU as well as by commissioning a study on the impact of Brexit in relation to the right to petition and on the competences, responsibilities and activities of the Committee on Petitions and by examining the petitions dealing with Brexit and the rights of citizens in its meeting on 21 June 2017; supports the Commission’s commitment to fully guarantee the rights of European citizens residing in the United Kingdom during the Brexit negotiations and following its exit from the EU, and calls on the Commission to guarantee the full acquired rights for UK citizens residing in the rest of the European Union to ensure that citizens are not used as bargaining chips or see their rights eroded as a result of the negotiations;

20.  Points to the important ongoing work carried out by the Committee on Petitions in connection with petitions pertaining to issues on disabilities, and underlines the willingness of the committee to continue its support for efforts to strengthen the rights of persons with disabilities; calls for the European institutions to lead by example on this subject and to ensure that implementation measures by the national authorities comply fully and consistently with EU legislation and with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD); emphasises that a fact-finding visit to Slovakia took place on 22 and 23 September 2016 to gather information on the issue of the use of investments in institutions for persons with disabilities and recommended that the Commission look into the current situation; emphasises the need to improve the political participation of persons with disabilities, in particular in preparation for the next European elections, as well as to recognise the right to vote of all persons with disabilities in accordance with Articles 12 and 29 of the CRPD;

21.  Reiterates the committee’s work to support the ratification and swift implementation of the 2013 Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled; stresses the relevance, in this regard, of its short resolution of 3 February 2016(5) on the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty, which called for a swift reaction from all parties concerned in order to unblock the long-standing situation with a view to facilitating ratification at EU level; notes that Parliament and the Council have reached an agreement on the Commission’s legislative proposals on the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty (COM(2016)0595 and COM(2016)0596), which have become binding(6);

22.  Draws attention to two annual reports, the Annual Report on all the committee’s activities in 2015(7) and the Annual Report on the European Ombudsman’s work in 2015(8), and to several opinions by the committee, such as on cross-border recognition of adoptions(9), on EU options for improving access to medicines(10), on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities with special regard to the concluding observations of the UN CRPD Committee(11), on monitoring the application of Union Law: 2014 Annual Report(12) and on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union in 2015(13);

23.  Points to the committee’s support of the European Citizens’ Initiative; notes the Commission’s proposal for a revision of the regulation with a view to increasing its importance as a tool for democratic participation; regrets that the Commission failed to duly take into account the recent work on a non‑legislative resolution on the ECI, in particular the opinion of the Committee on Petitions, thereby also failing to fully respect the interinstitutional agreement; urges the Commission to take account of the opinion of the Committee on Petitions during the upcoming legislative procedure in order to achieve the full and effective involvement of EU citizens in the EU decision-making process through the ECI;

24.  Regrets that the Commission has not exercised its powers of control in a resolute manner in order to prevent the placing on the single market of pollutant, diesel-powered cars that contribute significantly to the release of NO2 into the atmosphere over the limit values, and that do not comply with EU rules on the type-approval and emissions of passenger and light commercial vehicles; points out that this aspect forms an integral part of the concerns of citizens, who have exercised their right to petition to call for effective protection of human health, the environment and consumer rights;

25.  Stresses that transparency and public access to the documents of the EU institutions should be the rule in order to ensure the highest levels of protection of the democratic rights of citizens; takes the view that a proposal to amend Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 in this regard should promptly be put forward;

26.  Emphasises Parliament’s strong collaboration with the European Ombudsman, as well as its involvement in the European Network of Ombudsmen; underlines the excellent relations within the institutional framework between the Ombudsman and the Committee on Petitions; appreciates in particular the Ombudsman’s regular contributions to the work of the committee throughout the year; underlines the Ombudsman’s crucial role in helping to improve decision-making processes and administration at EU level, which should, as soon as possible, be made fully transparent, impartial and fit for protecting citizens’ rights effectively and efficiently; supports the current Ombudsman’s work in the different fields of her competence, including her own-initiative and strategic inquiries which are of benefit not only in terms of good administration, but also in terms of the better democratic functioning of the Union; welcomes the initiatives taken by the European Ombudsman to better benefit from the network’s potential and to strengthen its visibility;

27.  Welcomes the Award for Good Administration launched by the office of the European Ombudsman in 2016 as a way to recognise staff members, agencies and bodies of EU institutions engaged in promoting good administration while performing their everyday duties; calls for the current Code of Good Administrative Behaviour to be upgraded into a binding regulation, including, among other aspects, concrete provisions to prevent conflicts of interest at all levels within EU institutions, agencies and bodies;

28.  Stresses the wide range of subjects raised in the petitions filed, from the internal market, justice, energy and transport to fundamental rights, health, environmental law, disability and animal welfare, and on the various implications of Brexit on citizens; underlines the increase by 10 % in the number of petitions received in 2016 (1 569) and calls for the European institutions to adequately staff the services in charge of handling petitions, notably the secretariat of the Committee on Petitions;

29.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that comprehensive analyses are conducted of the compliance with EU law of environmental assessments carried out by Member States, with regard to permission granted for infrastructure projects in relation to which citizens, through their petitions, have highlighted serious risks to human health and the environment; insists on the importance of these analyses and possible derived actions by the Commission being performed on a proactive ex ante basis in order to prevent irreversible environmental degradation, in line with the precautionary principle;

30.  Draws attention to numerous petitions on the practices of child welfare authorities and the protection of children’s rights, particularly with cross-border implications; acknowledges the work done by the committee’s working group on child welfare; draws attention to the short motion for resolution on ‘Protecting the best interest of the child (across borders) in Europe’ adopted in March 2016; takes note of the proposal to recast the Brussels IIa Regulation on jurisdiction, the recognition and enforcement of decisions in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, and on international child abduction, and notes that a large number of issues raised in petitions, such as those related to the procedures and practices specifically followed by the relevant authorities in the Member States in child-related decisions with cross-border implications, and the efficacy of return proceedings following international parental child abduction, need to be examined thoroughly with a view to resolving the existing difficulties;

31.  Highlights the consistently high number of petitions concerning animal welfare and reiterates its regret over the delay which has built up in the implementation of the European Union Strategy for the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2012-2015; considers it vital to launch a new strategy at EU level to bridge all the existing gaps and ensure full and effective protection of animal welfare through a clear and comprehensive legislative framework that fully meets the requirements of Article 13 TFEU;

32.  Regrets that no significant progress has been made in the case concerning the electoral rights of non-citizens in Estonia and Latvia, following petition No 0747/2016; stresses that any unnecessary delays may cause distrust in the European institutions;

33.  Stresses the important role of the SOLVIT network, which provides a means for citizens and enterprises to address concerns about possible breaches of EU law by public authorities in other Member States; calls on the Commission, and on the Member States themselves, to promote SOLVIT in order to make it more helpful and visible to citizens; welcomes, in this regard, the Action Plan to reinforce the SOLVIT network published by the Commission in May 2017; calls on the Commission to ensure the swift implementation of this Action Plan and to report back to Parliament on its results;

34.  Points to the improvements made to the Petitions Web Portal; underlines the need for further technical improvements to the web portal to ensure that the Committee on Petitions is fully prepared to deal with unexpected situations, such as a sudden increase in the number of petitions submitted; considers the ongoing technical development, and enhanced technical capacity, of the portal as essential for a smooth petition process; underlines the importance of the portal as an easily accessible communication gateway for citizens and petitioners, also for users of mobile devices and for persons with disabilities; looks forward to the prompt implementation of the remaining phases of the project, which will allow for an enhanced interactive experience and increased real-time information for petitioners and those supporting petitions;

35.  Calls for a more focused and active press and communications service and a more active social media presence, making the work of the committee more responsive to public concerns;

36.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution and the report of the Committee on Petitions to the Council, the Commission, the European Ombudsman and the governments and parliaments of the Member States, their committees on petitions and their national ombudsmen or similar competent bodies.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0512.
(2) OJ C 51 E, 22.2.2013, p. 66.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0102.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0361.
(5) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0037.
(6) OJ L 242, 20.9.2017, p. 1 and p. 6.
(7) Opinion adopted on 30 November 2016.
(8) Opinion adopted on 11 November 2016.
(9) Opinion adopted on 21 April 2016.
(10) Opinion adopted on 15 November 2016.
(11) Opinion adopted on 27 April 2016.
(12) Opinion adopted on 22 April 2016
(13) Opinion adopted on 12 October 2016.

A European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility
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European Parliament resolution of 14 December 2017 on a European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility (2016/2327(INI))

The European Parliament,

—  having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

—  having regard to the Commission communication of 20 July 2016 entitled ‘A European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility’ (COM(2016)0501),

—  having regard to the Commission white paper of 28 March 2011 entitled ‘Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system’ (COM(2011)0144),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 31 March 1998 entitled ‘Transport and CO2 – developing a Community Approach’ (COM(1998)0204), which was published following the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol but was not translated into sufficient measures,

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 September 2015 on the implementation of the 2011 White Paper on transport: taking stock and the way forward towards sustainable mobility(1),

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 23 February 2017 on the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 20 July 2016 entitled ‘A European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility’,

—  having regard to Directive 2009/33/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the promotion of clean and energy-efficient road transport vehicles(2),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1315/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on Union guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network and repealing Decision No 661/2010/EU(3),

—  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 443/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the Community’s integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light‑duty vehicles(4) and to Regulation (EU) No 510/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2011 setting emission performance standards for new light commercial vehicles as part of the Union’s integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light‑duty vehicles(5),

—  having regard to Directive 1999/94/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 1999 relating to the availability of consumer information on fuel economy and CO2 emissions in respect of the marketing of new passenger cars(6),

—  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 595/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 June 2009 on type-approval of motor vehicles and engines with respect to emissions from heavy duty vehicles (EURO VI) and on access to vehicle repair and maintenance information and amending Regulation (EC) No 715/2007 and Directive 2007/46/EC and repealing Directives 80/1269/EEC, 2005/55/EC and 2005/78/EC(7),

—  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2015/757 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2015 on the monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon dioxide emissions from maritime transport, and amending Directive 2009/16/EC(8),

—  having regard to Directive 2003/87/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 October 2003 establishing a scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community and amending Council Directive 96/61/EC(9),

—  having regard to Directive 2009/28/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources and amending and subsequently repealing Directives 2001/77/EC and 2003/30/EC(10),

—  having regard to Directive 98/70/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 October 1998 relating to the quality of petrol and diesel fuels and amending Council Directive 93/12/EEC(11),

—  having regard to Directive (EU) 2015/1513 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 September 2015 amending Directive 98/70/EC relating to the quality of petrol and diesel fuels and amending Directive 2009/28/EC on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources(12),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 30 November 2016 entitled ‘A European strategy on Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems, a milestone towards cooperative, connected and automated mobility’ (COM(2016)0766),

—  having regard to the Master Plan for the deployment of Interoperable Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems in the EU,

—  having regard to Commission Directive 1999/52/EC of 26 May 1999 adapting to technical progress Council Directive 96/96/EC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to roadworthiness tests for motor vehicles and their trailers(13),

—  having regard to Directive 2004/52/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the interoperability of electronic road toll systems in the Community(14) and to Commission Decision 2009/750/EC of 6 October 2009 on the definition of the European Electronic Toll Service and its technical elements(15),

—  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 913/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 September 2010 concerning a European rail network for competitive freight(16),

—  having regard to Council Directive 92/106/EEC of 7 December 1992 on the establishment of common rules for certain types of combined transport of goods between Member States(17),

—  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 1073/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009 on common rules for access to the international market for coach and bus services and amending Regulation (EC) No 561/2006(18),

—  having regard to Directive 2014/94/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2014 on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure(19),

—  having regard to Directive 2000/59/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 November 2000 on port reception facilities for ship-generated waste and cargo residues(20),

–  having regard to the results of the 39th session of the Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), held in 2016 in Montreal,

—  having regard to Directive 2005/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 on ship-source pollution and on the introduction of penalties for infringements(21), amended by Directive 2009/123/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009(22),

–  having regard to the report of Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry into Emission Measurements in the Automotive Sector on the results of the committee’s work (A8-0049/2017),

–  having regard to its resolution of 2 December 2015 on sustainable urban mobility(23),

–  having regard to its resolution of 23 June 2016 on the renewable energy progress report(24),

–  having regard to Directive (EU) 2016/2284 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 December 2016 on the reduction of national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants, amending Directive 2003/35/EC and repealing Directive 2001/81/EC(25),

–  having regard to its recommendation of 4 April 2017 to the Council and the Commission following the inquiry into emission measurements in the automotive sector(26),

–  having regard to its mandate for interinstitutional negotiations on the revision of type approval and market surveillance, as adopted on 4 April 2017(27),

–  having regard to the Circular Economy Package adopted by the Commission on 2 December 2015,

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

—  having regard to the report of the Committee on Transport and Tourism and the opinion of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (A8-0356/2017),

A.  whereas all 151 parties to the Paris Agreement, which was ratified by the EU on 4 November 2016 and which entered into force on the same date, have committed to keeping the global temperature increase to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1,5 °C above pre-industrial levels;

B.  whereas given that road transport is responsible for over 70 % of transport greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and much of air pollution, action should be focused predominantly in this area, while efforts to reduce emissions should be intensified in all transport sectors;

C.  whereas natural gas (such as compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG)), and in particular biomethane, synthetic methane and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), could assist in the decarbonisation of the transport sector, in particular with regard to shipping and heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs);

D.  whereas in its 2011 White Paper the Commission states that it aims to reduce transport GHG emissions by at least 60 % by 2050 compared with 1990; whereas in order to comply with the Paris Agreement it will be necessary to drastically reduce GHG emissions from transport by mid-century;

E.  whereas a reliable long-term emissions reduction trajectory can provide vehicle manufacturers with the necessary planning security for investments in new technologies;

F.  whereas the long-term decarbonisation of the transport sector requires the wide use of renewable energy sources, diversified according to the different modes of transport;

G.  whereas electric transport systems, whether private or public, can help tackle major problems related to urban mobility by reducing CO2 emissions and eliminating pollutants and noise altogether in a sustainable way; whereas the degree of sustainability of electric vehicles also depends on the use of renewable electricity;

H.  whereas transport is responsible for over 25 % of GHG emissions in the EU, of which road transport accounts for over 70 %; whereas transport is the main cause of air pollution in urban areas; whereas such air pollution causes over 400 000 premature deaths(28) per year in the EU and generates health costs of between EUR 330 billion and EUR 940 billion(29), amounting to between 3 % and 9 % of EU GDP; whereas particulate matter and nitrogen oxides have an especially adverse impact on public health;

I.  whereas the transport sector is the least decarbonised and still relies on fossil fuels for over 94 % of its energy needs; whereas its GHG emissions already account for almost a quarter of total CO2 emissions in the EU and are continuing to rise;

J.  whereas the development of passenger and freight transport is largely dependent on the effective use of a variety of modes of transport, and European transport policy should be based on efficient co-modality, under which the use of the most energy-efficient and sustainable transport modes should be prioritised where possible;

K.  whereas modal shift will lead to an optimal rebalancing between different transport modes, and will provide for interoperability within and between modes, promote more sustainable transport and logistics chains, and enhance seamless traffic flows across modes and nodes;

L.  whereas according to Special Eurobarometer 406, published in 2013, some 50 % of EU citizens use their private cars every day, while only 16 % use public transport and only 12 % use bicycles;

M.  whereas bunker fuel used for maritime transport is among the most polluting types of fuel, meaning that this sector has an ample margin for reducing its emissions by promoting and integrating alternative propelling systems;

N.  whereas the protection of public health and the environment should be a shared societal concern and responsibility, in which all stakeholders have an important role to play;

O.  whereas the Seventh Community Environment Action Programme clearly recognises the role of transport in achieving the Union’s 2050 vision of ‘living well, within the limits of our planet’;

P.  whereas since the adoption of the Biofuels Directive in 2003 the legislative framework has been changed repeatedly; whereas the legislative approach must have a certain degree of stability in order to attract investments in advanced biofuels;

Q.  whereas the transition to a circular economy also means that consumers will increasingly become service users, and this shift to new business models could have a significant impact on resource efficiency in the transport sector;

R.  whereas over 100 million Europeans are exposed to noise levels above the EU threshold of 55 decibels (dB), including some 32 million who are exposed to ‘very loud’ levels, i.e. in excess of 65 dB;

S.  whereas according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), noise from road traffic alone is the second most harmful environmental stressor in Europe, just behind air pollution, and whereas at least 9 000 premature deaths per year can be attributed to heart disease caused by traffic noise;

T.  whereas applying WHO guidelines on human exposure to PM2.5 would increase citizens’ average life expectancy by roughly 22 months and would generate annual savings of some EUR 31 billion;

1.  Welcomes the Commission’s communication ‘A European Strategy for Low‑Emission Mobility’, and concurs that a shift to low-emission mobility is essential for the broader shift to a sustainable, low-carbon and circular economy; calls on the Commission and the competent authorities in the Member States to fully engage with the strategy;

2.  Underlines the fact that to abide by the Paris Agreement GHG emissions from transport will need to be near zero by mid-century, and that air pollutant emissions from transport will need to be drastically reduced if the WHO public health guidelines, at the very least, are to be met without delay;

3.  Notes that the shift towards low emission mobility is not only beneficial for public health and the environment, but also offers major challenges and opportunities for vehicle, railway, maritime and aeronautics manufacturers and suppliers as well as for innovative energy, transport and logistics and service providers, particularly SMEs; stresses that adequate support for fostering, on the basis of a cost-effective approach, new technologies and business models encouraging innovative partnerships between large companies, SMEs and start-ups is needed in order to achieve an effective reduction of GHG emissions within the transport sector;

4.  Recognises the need for significant changes in transport demand management and spatial planning in order to make the necessary shift to a multimodal approach; reiterates that transport should be seen as an important service and not as a goal in itself; supports, to this end, the implementation of the Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T); reiterates that the transition to a sustainable, circular and low-carbon transport sector entails increased awareness of service users with regard to resource efficiency; considers that one of the most important factors in terms of behavioural change involving switching to more sustainable modes of transport is an affordable, well-developed and multimodal public transport system that covers urban nodes and connects with rural areas;

5.  Recalls that regarding the 2011 White Paper on Transport, Parliament stressed that a European sustainable mobility policy needs to build on a broad range of policy tools in order to effect a shift towards the least polluting and most energy-efficient modes of transport in a cost-efficient manner; points out that a shift in the balance between modes of transport is necessary in order to disconnect mobility from the adverse effects of the present transport system such as congestion, air pollution, noise, accidents and climate change; acknowledges in this regard that the modal shift policy has not so far delivered satisfactory results;

6.  Encourage the Commission to act as the leading actor for global and harmonised measures with regard to more sustainable and efficient transport;

7.  Invites the Commission to ensure full implementation of the existing legislation and, if needed, to propose additional concrete measures in the transport sector in order to achieve the agreed EU climate objectives, covering all modes, including urban mobility, in a manner which does not jeopardise the competitiveness of the transport sector; also invites the Commission to promote the market uptake of technologies that contribute to low-emission mobility by increasing the efficiency of vehicles while preserving safety; asks the Commission, in the context of compliance with the Paris Agreement, to present an update of its 2011 White Paper on Transport;

8.  Is convinced that when sustainability is assessed the entire footprint, from manufacture through use to the disposal of vehicles and the requisite infrastructure, should be taken into account, and emphasises for that reason that only a technology-neutral energy mix can offer realistic and genuinely sustainable solutions;

9.  Notes that a sustainable transition in transport requires systemic multi-stakeholder action from civil society, consumers, social partners, SMEs, innovative start-ups, major corporations that are global players, and politicians and official bodies at all levels of government;

10.  Calls on the Commission to recognise the increasing importance of embedded emissions by incorporating incentives for life-cycle emissions accounting;

11.  Calls on the Commission to recognise the growing importance of measuring life-cycle emissions, from energy supply emissions through to manufacturing and end-of-life emissions, by putting forward holistic proposals that guide manufacturers towards optimal solutions, in order to ensure that upstream and downstream emissions do not erode the benefits related to the improved operational energy use of vehicles;

12.  Calls on the Commission to urgently introduce and improve CO2 standards for all road transport, as cost-effective vehicle standards in all probability represent the most effective measure for improving energy efficiency in the EU in the period up to 2030;

13.  Recalls that energy efficiency should be considered as the best energy alternative, and that, therefore, all measures to improve energy efficiency in a cost-effective way and to reduce energy demand should be prioritised, promoted, and duly integrated into transport policy and European climate action;

Optimising the transport system

Enhancing efficiency

14.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to review connectivity between different regions of the EU, also as regards remote, disadvantaged and border regions of the Union; calls on the Commission, in this respect, to review the EU approach to aviation connectivity and explore the possibility of developing a connectivity index, also taking into account the interplay with other transport modes; underscores that this should be combined with investments in and promotion of sustainable alternatives;

15.  Strongly encourages the Member States to accelerate the implementation of the Single European Sky, as the current fragmentation leads to longer flight times, delays, additional fuel burn and increased CO2 emissions; points out that this would contribute to achieving a 10 % reduction in emissions;

16.  Calls on the Commission to maintain high innovation ambitions by encouraging research into the use of photovoltaic energy in the aviation sector (for example, Solar Impulse 2) and alternative renewable liquid fuels;

Fair and efficient pricing

17.  Considers that clearer price signals across all transport modes which better reflect the polluter-pays and user-pays principles are essential in ensuring fairness and a level playing field for different transport modes in Europe; points out that existing policies should be reassessed from that perspective;

18.  Considers that each transport mode should cover its marginal costs, both for infrastructure wear and tear (‘user pays’) and for external costs, e.g. for air pollution and noise pollution (‘polluter pays’); believes that applying those two principles EU-wide will help address the current charging discrepancy between transport modes;

19.  Underlines that transport pricing legislation should not create unfair competition to the disadvantage of more sustainable modes such as rail, and urges the Commission to come up with proposals to guarantee fair competition in this regard;

20.  Welcomes the Commission’s efforts at developing standards for interoperable electronic tolling systems in the EU, as well as the forthcoming revision of the Eurovignette directive, which should include distance-based charging and differentiation on the basis of CO2 emissions, as well as the possibility of differentiation of charging on the basis of updated Euro standards; believes that the extension of distance-based charging should cover all passenger cars and vans, while allowing for some form of flexibility for remote and sparsely populated areas;

21.  Emphasises that a modal shift in transport requires promotion of and investment in multimodality and public transport;

22.  Asks the Commission to update its ‘manual on external costs from transport’ as a matter of urgency, taking into account real driving emissions data;

23.  Stresses that aviation represents the mode furthest away from internalising its external costs, and therefore calls on the Commission to live up to the Paris Agreement and explore the possibilities for harmonised international measures for kerosene taxation for aviation and the removal of the VAT exemption on air passenger tickets;

Logistics and digitalisation

24.  Recognises that logistics can play a crucial role in reducing transport´s carbon impact through environmentally-friendly collaborative strategies addressing supply chain integration, multimodal transport, consolidation of deliveries and reverse logistics; considers that digital technologies are critical to these objectives;

25.  Considers that intelligent transport systems, platooning and autonomous and connected vehicles can constitute an important asset in improving the efficiency of both individual and commercial transport in the road, rail, maritime and air sectors;

26.  Acknowledges that connected car technology will not only improve road safety but also has significant environmental implications, and notes the dense network infrastructure required to guarantee high capacity and low latency needs for a 5G network to make best use of the opportunities for connected and autonomous vehicles to improve mobility in the urban environment; recognises that, in line with the wider process of digitisation across European industry, many companies will have to underpin their transformation strategy with mobility, thus affording significant opportunities for SMEs and start-ups in the transport sector, and believes this should be supported;

27.  Stresses that public transport, as part of the concept of mobility as service, has a vast potential to reduce traffic volumes and the related emissions, and calls on the Commission to foster digitisation and connectivity of public transport systems in order to remove barriers between transport modes and systems and incentivise their use; considers, at the same time, that the measures taken should be tailored according to the specificities of the areas concerned, be they urban or rural, as in rural areas economic viability is more difficult to achieve; calls, therefore, on the Commission and the Member States to develop specific initiatives for more efficient transport in rural environments and areas that are hard to access, also taking into account public service obligations;

28.  Supports initiatives for mobility management aimed at achieving more efficient and environment-friendly intermodal transport services and smart mobility, which can be key to promoting the concepts of mobility as a service and synchronised intermodality (‘synchromodality’); believes that in order to further enhance mobility as a service, suitable attention should be paid in the future regulation to the contribution of Intelligent Transport Management Systems (ITS), the development of ICT capabilities, interoperability of systems, sharing services and integrated multimodal ticketing;

29.  Notes that urban freight vehicles contribute disproportionately to air and noise pollution and have a negative impact on congestion; calls, therefore, for better optimisation of the supply chain in urban areas; calls on the Commission to encourage the use of zero-emissions light-duty commercial vehicles, zero-emissions buses, waste trucks, taxis and freight bicycles in last mile logistics;

30.  Stresses the potential benefits of lightweighting and of a more efficient use of the current infrastructure, including better distribution of traffic and enhanced intermodal solutions;

31.  Calls on the Commission to emphasise, in the framework of the Digital Single Market legislation, the potential of safer, smarter and greener means of transport for road traffic, and to promote projects for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-road devices, as part of boosting the economy for innovation and opening up new business opportunities for European ICT companies;

32.  Stresses the importance of investing in optimal hinterland connections in order to decrease the ecological footprint of hinterland transport by encouraging the use of multimodal connections, sustainable rail transport, inland shipping, real time transport data and IT applications along the corridors of the Trans-European Transport Networks;

33.  Is convinced that promoting mobility management initiatives in regions and cities, institutions and industry has a considerable potential for reducing the need for citizens to travel both in terms of distance and speed;

34.  Calls on the Member States to support pilot projects that will encourage greater use of electric vehicles and alternative advanced biofuel vehicles;

35.  Stresses that there is a need for a holistic EU approach to enable a swift digitalisation of transport, which, together with better transport planning and the change towards “mobility as a service” will highly contribute to improving efficiency and will have profound effects on society;

36.  Considers that better transport planning, better use of digitalisation and logistics are fields where the potential for emissions reduction is huge, and that numerous cheap and easy measures could be in place very fast with a measurable effect, such as flow and load optimisation, as well as e-Freight; calls therefore on the Commission to list and identify such measures, in order to promote them in a near future; calls for a coherent legislative framework and standards that will allow innovative logistical and transport solutions to be deployed throughout Europe;

37.  Supports the Commission and the transport operators to elaborate projects that contain consistent information on a comparative CO2 footprint from different transport modes through publications, information, booking and ticketing;

38.  Stresses the imperative need of adapting ICT standardization policy to market and policy developments in order to achieve interoperability for e-Freight and Intelligent Transport Systems;

39.  Stresses the importance of interoperability for reducing emissions from HGVs, in both urban and extra-urban transport;

Low-emission alternative energy

40.  Underlines the fact that electric mobility solutions based on sustainable energy sources afford great potential for decarbonising transport; considers, however, that optimisation of the technology involved and large-scale provision of infrastructure facilities are unlikely before 2030; reiterates its call for technological innovations;

41.  Welcomes efforts to deploy and ensure comprehensive and interoperable infrastructure for supplying renewable energy and/or sustainable alternative fuels to alternatively powered vehicles; calls on the Commission, in this regard, to coordinate with the Member States to ensure the full transposition of the relevant provisions of Directive 2014/94/EU on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure as well as of Article 8 of Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings as amended by Directive (EU) .../... (procedure 2016/0381(COD));

42.  Calls on the Commission to adopt an ambitious action plan for the market uptake of electric vehicles and to issue Member States with guiding recommendations to encourage them to implement fiscal incentives for zero- and low-emission vehicles; stresses that the availability and accessibility of charging and refuelling infrastructure, including in private and public buildings in accordance with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (Directive 2010/31/EU, EPBD), and the competitiveness of electric vehicles, are essential for increasing consumer acceptance; highlights the importance of ensuring that electricity generated for electric vehicles comes from sustainable energy sources; calls in this connection for a long-term European initiative on next-generation batteries as well as for the development of the necessary infrastructure to encourage sustainable production standards of low-emission energy and vehicles;

43.  Calls on the Commission to swiftly present its evaluation on the implementation of the Clean Power for Transport Directive (Directive 2014/94/EU) by Member States, and to take action on those Member States which have not yet presented a national strategy;

44.  Considers that an obligation for fuel suppliers to reduce the GHG emissions of energy supplied through renewable electricity, hydrogen, sustainable and advanced biofuels, synthetic fuels or other low-carbon fuels (e.g. CNG, LNG) would be one of the most effective approaches for reducing the climate impact of road transport;

45.  Reminds the Commission how urgent it is, with a view to taking tangible action geared to the sustainable energy transition of the whole of society, to transfer the financial incentives which fossil fuels continue to enjoy to alternative and sustainable forms of energy;

46.  Calls for a more ambitious approach for renewables in transport than that proposed in the recast of the Renewable Energy Directive, in order to achieve the long-term decarbonisation of the transport sector;

47.  Urges that specific incentives be put in place for the deployment of sustainable alternative fuels for those transport modes that currently have no alternatives to liquid fuel; believes that such incentives should be reflected in the new Renewable Energy Directive as well as in the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plans, as foreseen in the proposed regulation on governance of the Energy Union;

48.  Recalls that 94 % of European transport relies on oil products, and believes that sustainable domestic biofuels reduce fossil fuel import dependence, thereby strengthening EU energy security;

49.  Calls on the Commission to propose the phasing-out of direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuels by 2020 at the latest;

50.  Calls on the Commission and Member States to support the potential of LNG to render mobility, the economy and employment sustainable(30);

51.  Underlines the role that natural gas (for example, CNG and LNG), and in particular biomethane, synthetic methane and LPG, could play in the transition towards the decarbonisation of the transport sector, especially with regard to shipping, HDVs and city buses;

52.  Takes note of the limits proposed in the recast of the Renewable Energy Directive with a view to phasing down first generation biofuels by 2030 and achieving long-term decarbonisation of the transport sector; calls on the Commission, in this connection, to distinguish between first-generation biofuels with high GHG efficiency and a low risk of indirect land use change and those which do not meet those criteria, and to take measures as soon as possible to phase out the use of feedstocks, including palm oil, that drive deforestation or the use of peat land, as a component of biofuels; stresses the importance of a stable and predictable legislative environment that takes due consideration of investment cycles to attract necessary investments in advanced biofuels; takes note of the potential climate benefits of EU agricultural production based on biofuels with high GHG efficiency and a low risk of indirect land use change, especially with regard to emissions from large-scale animal protein imports from non-EU countries;

53.  Encourages the Commission to develop objective criteria for the recognition of advanced biofuels in order to stimulate innovation and market uptake;

54.  Stresses the importance of achieving the long-term decarbonisation of the transport sector, and invites the Commission to encourage the greater market penetration of advanced biofuels with high GHG efficiency, which comply with the waste hierarchy as part of the circular economy and which respect strong environmental and social sustainability criteria, in order to further reduce fossil fuel use and GHG emissions; welcomes the Commission’s proposal to strengthen the GHG savings requirements for biofuels so as to ensure that they continue to deliver on the EU climate goals; stresses the importance of robust and credible accounting concerning emissions and removals deriving from bioenergy under the proposed Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) Regulation (COM(2016)0479);

55.  Stresses that only crop-based biofuels that comply with sustainability criteria should count towards Member States’ climate targets under the proposed Effort Sharing Regulation (COM(2016)0482);

56.  Calls on the Commission to follow closely the development of hydrogen technology from renewable energy sources and to commit to a feasibility study on the role and possibilities of hydrogen in the European transport system;

57.  Stresses that synthetic fuels (liquid and gaseous) derived from surplus renewable energies, in particular solar- and wind-energy at peak production that would otherwise be wasted, could contribute to reducing the GHG emissions of the existing fleets from a life-cycle perspective, while also increasing renewable energy yield;

58.  Calls on the Commission and Member States, in the context of the circular economy, emissions and climate policy, and the Union’s renewable energy targets, to increase and fully support the production of green biogas through manure processing;

59.  Welcomes the fact that EU businesses are currently world leaders in synthetic fuel technologies, and sees this as an opportunity to strengthen economic growth and high-quality employment in the EU; stresses, therefore, the importance of creating a framework that encourages the further development and roll-out of such technologies;

60.  Considers that the promotion of Guarantees of Origin could lead to an important increase in the share of renewable energy in the transport sector;

61.  Notes that the EU approach to sustainable energy should be technology-neutral and that the goals of EU sustainability policies should be focused on reducing climate- and health-damaging emissions;

62.  Asks the Commission to make full use of the potential of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) as regards conducting research into clean energy for transport;

63.  Welcomes the support existing under Horizon 2020 for research, development and innovation in the field of clean transport and sustainable energy, and asks for this support to be pursued in the next MFF (Multiannual Financial Framework);

64.  Underlines the importance of R&D for tackling technological challenges regarding low-emission mobility; urges the Commission to continue its strong support for research programmes such as Clean Sky and SESAR (the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research);

Transport infrastructure and investment

65.  Urges the Commission and the Member States to intensify EU cofinancing of transport projects that contribute to climate action and air quality and the minimisation of other external costs, in the framework of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and the TEN-T;

66.  Considers that Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) projects are key for the European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility, and regrets that the CEF budget was used to feed EFSI; asks, therefore, for the CEF budget to be restored, and reiterates that EFSI II should be financed from other sources; considers furthermore that the financing of CEF-eligible projects by EFSI should be avoided;

67.  Highlights the importance of a successful use of EFSI or of combining EFSI with the ESIFs; considers that Member States should invest more in their railway system and make efforts to increase the absorption rates of cohesion funding for rail projects;

68.  Points to the importance of maintaining the infrastructure network in good condition and with high levels of quality, since this facilitates traffic flow and also makes it possible to reduce congestion and hence levels of CO2 and other pollutant emissions;

69.  Urges the Commission to make more funds available for cities to bid jointly for infrastructure or technologies that would contribute to decarbonising urban transport and reducing air pollution from road vehicles: notes that this would include, but not be limited to, public recharging stations for electric vehicles, car and bicycle sharing systems, and the development of public transport;

70.  Stresses the importance of financial support measures for innovation in the sector and preservation of the environment during infrastructure work;

Empowering citizens and decision-makers towards behavioural change

71.  Encourages cities to include GHG reduction targets and clean air strategies in their mobility plans (e.g. the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs)), and calls on the Commission to prioritise EU cofinancing of urban mobility projects which contribute to achieving such targets, including through support of innovations that enable cities in this respect;

72.  Takes the view that one of the most efficient ways of reducing emissions and improving transport efficiency is to promote collective public transport; considers it important to boost the role of public transport services; calls further on the Commission and Member States to promote and incentivise the purchase of cleaner, less polluting vehicles by both public authorities and private fleets;

73.  Stresses the opportunities offered by Green Public Procurement for more sustainable transport, in particular for (sub)urban buses;

74.  Calls on the Commission to strengthen the networks of front-runners among cities which prioritise sustainable mobility, including walking, cycling, enhancing public transport, car-pooling and car-sharing, in their city planning, and to enable local, regional and national authorities to share best practices in terms of both GHG emission reductions and clean air strategies in this respect; calls on the Commission also to encourage local, regional and national authorities to fully integrate the needs and procedures of transport, housing and land-use planning in order to better achieve the climate policy goals;

75.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States, taking into account the failure of European standards for light-duty vehicles to reflect real-world emissions, to examine the benefits of introducing a label or standard for Ultra Low-Emission Vehicles (ULEVs) that would meet emission limit values in real driving conditions;

76.  Considers that more attention must be paid to increasing the integration and attractiveness of non-motorised forms of transport, since this would comprehensively reduce the attractiveness of private forms of transport;

77.  Calls on the Commission to include the transport needs of citizens in rural and remote areas in its strategies for low-emission mobility;

78.  Encourages all public entities to incorporate sustainability criteria into public procurement;

79.  Supports the Commission, the Member States and the regions in investing more in the combination and integration of the EuroVelo Cycling Network with the TEN-T rail networks;

80.  Stresses that a proposal for the revision of the General Safety Regulation is overdue, and calls on the Commission to publish such a proposal by the end of 2017; considers that the technology for 'intelligent speed adaption' is mature and can save many lives, and should therefore be introduced for all vehicles without further delay; underlines that 'direct vision' for lorries is a very effective solution for avoiding accidents with vulnerable road users, and that mandatory standards in this regard should be part of the proposal;

Sector‑specific demands

Motorcycles, cars and vans

81.  Calls on the Commission to come forward with a proposal for 2025 standards for cars and vans in line with the position expressed by Parliament in the procedures concerning two legislative acts in 2013(31), and confirmed in the associated Commission statements on the 2025 target(32); stresses that these average fleet standards should be calculated on the basis of the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP), and should reflect the long-term emissions reduction trajectory set out in the EU 2030 climate and energy framework and the long-term objectives of the Paris Agreement;

82.  Welcomes the introduction of the new WLTP; stresses, however, that in the light of the fact that research shows that the new WLTP laboratory test cycle will still diverge by around 20 % from real-world emissions and will remain open to test optimisation and manipulation, a targeted ex-post real driving emissions (RDE) methodology for CO2 emissions should be developed to complement the WLTP; notes that this methodology could be based on measuring devices already present in vehicles, for example fuel consumption meters (FCM); notes in addition that, to that end and with a view to obtaining reliable data, a standard approach to collecting, storing, using and communicating fuel consumption values should be developed, making maximum use of sensors already present in cars while fully respecting privacy rules; calls on the Commission to consider additional solutions to curb CO2 emissions from the transport sector, and in particular to take greater account of the contribution of lightweighting to directly reducing CO2 emissions from vehicles;

83.  Recalls that, in order for RDE tests to be effective in reducing discrepancies between the emissions measured in the laboratory and on the road, the specifications of the test and evaluation procedures should be set out very carefully and should cover a wide range of driving conditions, including the different temperatures, engine loads, vehicle speeds, altitudes, types of road and other parameters experienced when driving in the Union;

84.  Calls for the swift adoption of a harmonised, mandatory and transparent EU labelling system, which would provide consumers with accurate, robust and comparable data on the fuel consumption, life cycle, CO2 emissions and air pollutant emissions of cars placed on the market; calls for the revision of the Car Labelling Directive (Directive 1999/94/EC), which could be amended to include a mandatory requirement to provide information on other air pollutant emissions, such as NOx and particulate matter;

85.  Calls on the Commission to review the Clean Power for Transport Directive (Directive 2014/94/EU) and to come forward with a proposal for a regulation on CO2 standards for car fleets entering the market from 2025 onwards, with the aim of phasing out new CO2-emitting cars;

86.  Calls on the Commission to introduce a minimum target for the share of zero-emission cars for all manufacturers;

87.  Emphasises the benefits for the European economy of an early transition to those vehicles that the life cycle assessment (LCA) findings have found to have the lowest climate impact; stresses that such a transition will ensure that European carmakers remain competitive on the global stage while preserving existing jobs and creating new ones;

88.  Hopes that an increasing amount of funding will be allocated to technological research on the production, handling and disposal of the batteries of electric motors, to ensure that they are increasingly eco-friendly;

89.  Notes that the Commission has launched a number of infringement procedures against Member States that have breached Directive 2008/50/EC on air quality by continuously exceeding NO2 and PM10 limit values; urges the Commission to exercise its powers of control to prevent the placing on the market of polluting diesel-powered cars that contribute significantly to the release of NO2 and PM10 into the atmosphere and do not comply with the EU rules on the type approval and emissions of passenger and light-duty vehicles;

90.  Stresses the need to promote wide SME participation in the manufacture of vehicles and components so as to ensure a level playing field in the transport market and encourage research and innovation;

91.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that CO2 regulation post-2020 takes account as far as possible of all technological approaches to reducing CO2 emissions on the roads; notes that regulation should take particular account of the possibilities afforded by the latest alternative fuels (for example, electrofuels, synthetic fuels, power to gas and power to liquid);

Heavy-duty vehicles

92.  Notes that HDVs will be responsible for 40 % of total road transport CO2 emissions if no additional measures are taken by 2030; urges the Commission, therefore, to come up with a proposal on the certification, monitoring and reporting of HDVs by the end of 2017, as well as with ambitious 2025 CO2 standards by 2018, based on the best available data; welcomes the Vehicle Energy Consumption Calculation Tool (VECTO) freight efficiency simulator, and stresses the need to continue ensuring access to transparent, realistic and up-to-date monitoring data;

93.  Calls on the Commission to start developing a European Low Carbon Trucking Strategy on the basis of a comparative study, in order to facilitate the market uptake of energy-efficient and zero emission buses and trucks; points out that there are already Member State initiatives looking at zero emission road freight;

94.  Considers that the growing use of clean engines for heavy duty vehicles, for instance electric or LNG powered, should be supported, and that this requires important and strategic infrastructure investments;

95.  Calls on the Commission to establish, and allow Member States to introduce, incentives for the transit of low or zero emission vehicles and priority for their movement throughout the TEN-T networks;

96.  Underlines that low and zero emission city buses could help to significantly reduce pollutant emissions in urban areas; calls, therefore, for the introduction of zero emission city buses through the insertion of European green public procurement criteria in the Clean Vehicles Directive (Directive 2009/33/EC), currently under revision; calls on the Commission and the Member States to facilitate and promote the use of available EU funds, such as the ESIFs, to support the corresponding measures;

97.  Stresses that it is important to create the right conditions to stimulate low emission alternative energy for transport, and notes that this can be facilitated by ensuring that industry has a clear and long-term framework on which to base investment concerning the decarbonisation of fuels and other new technologies; calls on the Commission to consider undertaking a feasibility study on the potential solutions on offer, on which a low carbon strategy for road freight transport can be based;

98.  Supports the Commission’s plan for a Clean Bus Platform bringing together bus operators, local authorities, bus manufacturers and energy supplies in order to encourage the rapid take-up of cleaner vehicles, and calls on the Commission to promote the bus as an environmentally sustainable form of public transport;

99.  Notes that there are many new technologies, and innovations based on existing technologies, that can have significant environmental benefits, such as better tyres, improved lubricants, more efficient transmission and hybrid engines, and that Europe should look to be a technological leader in this regard; calls on the Commission to investigate the role of such technologies in improving both efficiency and environmental performance;

100.  Stresses the importance of improving air quality in the EU and adhering to the EU ambient air quality limits, as well as to the WHO recommended levels; calls on the Commission, in this connection, to review the emissions limits set out in Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 715/2007 on type approval of motor vehicles with respect to emissions from light passenger and commercial vehicles (Euro 5 and Euro 6) and on access to vehicle repair and maintenance information, and to come forward with proposals, as appropriate, for new technology-neutral Euro 7 emission limits applicable by 2025 for all light-duty vehicles covered by this Regulation;

101.  Underlines the fact that emission reduction and air-quality targets necessitate measures that concern older vehicles, too, and recalls, in this regard, that retrofitting is the fastest and most cost-effective way to reduce emissions and pollutants from older fleets, since the systematic implementation of advanced diesel exhaust after-treatment systems enables older heavy-duty vehicles, such as buses and trucks, to operate in an environment-friendly manner, meeting even the strictest emission requirements and achieving maximum NOx, NO2 and PM reductions; calls on the Commission, therefore, to come up with common EU guidelines to encourage the Member States to fully deploy possible retrofitting solutions, and also to ensure eligibility for funding in the context of EU financial instruments for the decarbonisation of the transport system;

Type approval and market surveillance

102.  Calls for a more comprehensive and coordinated type approval and market surveillance system at EU level, involving strong and reliable EU oversight and a system of controls, in order to address the failures and legal loopholes identified in the aftermath of ‘Dieselgate’; stresses the importance of the swift adoption of the Commission proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the approval and market surveillance of motor vehicles and their trailers (COM(2016)0031), and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles; recalls in this connection Parliament’s negotiating mandate adopted on 4 April 2017; confirms that the future adoption of the aforementioned regulation should ensure a consistent and more transparent level playing field for all stakeholders in the vehicle sectors, establish effective rules to protect consumers, and ensure the full implementation of the new type approval and market surveillance framework;

103.  Welcomes the guidance on the evaluation of auxiliary emission strategies and the presence of defeat devices, published by the Commission on 26 January 2017 with a view to supporting Member States and the competent authorities in detecting defeat devices;

104.  Regrets the adoption of high conformity factors for NOx emissions which act as a loophole enabling excessive emissions, including from cars post-2020; urges the Commission to review the conformity factor for real driving emissions (RDE) tests of NOx emissions in 2017, as set out in the second RDE package, and to continue to revise it annually in line with technological developments, so as to bring it down to 1 by 2021 at the latest;

105.  Calls for the swift adoption of the fourth RDE package to complete the regulatory framework for the new type approval procedure, and for the swift application of this framework;


106.  Supports strongly the new Commission calls for proposals on missing cross-border rail links at regional level, and welcomes the perspective of minimising or reducing the climate impact; calls on the Commission to continue taking these projects into account, and to issue calls for applications within the framework of the Connecting Europe Facility, as well as in the framework of amending Regulation (EU) No 913/2010 concerning a European rail network for competitive freight, so as to better take into account the real effectiveness of the different types of rail transport in terms of their impact on energy efficiency in the transport sector;

107.  Endorses the priority given by the Commission to investments in rail infrastructure, in particular regarding missing links and cross-border connections; recalls in this context that for freight transport in particular, rail is an efficient and sustainable mass transport system;

108.  Supports achieving the transition from road transport to rail transport (Shift2Rail) by increasing the interoperability of the various transport modes;

109.  Urges ambitious proposals for the Combined Transport Directive that better promote efficient freight transport and encourage a modal shift towards rail and inland waterways, in order to reach the 2030 and 2050 modal shift targets laid down in the ‘Ten goals for a competitive and resource-efficient transport system’ of the 2011 Transport White Paper;

110.  Calls on the Member States, the Commission and rail stakeholders to take all necessary actions for the implementation of the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking, in order to accelerate the integration of advanced technologies into innovative rail product solutions, increase the attractiveness of rail transport, and bolster the position of the European rail industry;

111.  Calls on the Member States, without delay, to thoroughly and effectively implement Directive 2012/34/EU, Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/909 and the 4th Railway Package, in order to ensure the competitive setting of Track Access Charges enabling fair cross-modal competition;

112.  Calls on the Commission to examine the disadvantages of passenger rail transport (e.g. those related to taxation, track charging and direct and indirect subsidies) compared to other modes of transport, and to establish a level playing field;

113.  Reiterates the importance of interoperability and coordination with the other transport modes, of improved reliability and noise reduction, and of seamless multimodal transport;

114.  Stresses the need for a full, effective and uniform implementation of Regulation (EU) No 913/2010 concerning a European rail network for competitive freight that will benefit both freight and the industry;


115.  Asks the Commission to improve aviation efficiency, inter alia by ensuring the speedy implementation by Member States of the Single European Sky, actively participating in the work of ICAO in order to secure ambitious international CO2 standards, and providing appropriate funding for the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR) Joint Undertaking and the Clean Sky Joint Technology Initiatives;

116.  Recalls that airspace is also part of the EU single market, and that any fragmentation resulting from its inefficient use or from diverging national practices (concerning, for instance, operational procedures, taxes, levies, etc.), causes longer flight times, delays, extra fuel burn, and higher levels of CO2 emissions, in addition to negatively impacting the rest of the market and hampering the EU's competitiveness;

117.  Stresses that the aviation sector should adequately, fairly and effectively contribute to the achievement of the 2030 climate targets and the objectives of the Paris Agreement, and therefore to the Climate Action Sustainable Development Goal (SDG);

118.  Notes the decision of the 39th Session of the ICAO Assembly to develop a global market-based measure (MBM) scheme for international aviation; calls on the Commission to assess the decision, including the voluntary commitments and reservations made by states, and to monitor progress towards the implementation, both international and domestic, of the decision in the 67 states that intend to voluntarily participate in the global MBM; calls on the Commission to carry out an assessment in a timely manner of the suitability of the provisions of the scheme, which provides for carbon-neutral growth, in order to curb the rise in emissions in the aviation sector in accordance with the Paris objectives; notes that a review of the ICAO scheme is envisaged every three years, which should allow scope for it to be made more ambitious and robust;

119.  Takes note of the Commission proposal of 3 February 2017 for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2003/87/EC to continue current limitations of scope for aviation activities and to prepare to implement a global marked-based measure from 2021 (COM(2017)0054), which proposes continuing with the limited geographical scope of the EU Emission Trading System (ETS) for aviation; calls on the Commission to carry out a further assessment and review of the EU ETS for the period post-2020 once there is more clarity as to the implementation of the global MBM;

120.  Stresses the importance of providing incentives to use the best and shortest flight routes in order to save on fuel and reduce harmful emissions, as compared to longer routes chosen to avoid airspaces, which involve higher costs;

121.  Stresses the importance of continuing to boost research in this area in order to step up investment in technologies for the development of sustainable aviation by promoting the design of lighter aircraft, the use of digital and satellite technology to support a more efficient management of flight routes, and the production and use of alternative new-generation fuels, especially given that in this sector there are not many alternatives to traditional liquid fuels, including through the development of public-private partnerships;

122.  Calls on the Commission to look for new ways of supporting the deployment of renewable aviation fuels in order to reduce GHG emissions in aviation;

123.  Invites the Member States and the aeronautic industry to encourage the development of further measures to promote smart initiatives aiming at reducing emissions in the aviation sector, from, to and within airports;

Maritime transport

124.  Notes that efforts are being made at the level of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to limit international maritime emissions, and therefore encourages the IMO to adopt clear GHG emission reduction targets and measures without delay; stresses, however, that in the absence of a comparable system operating under the IMO, CO2 emissions emitted at Union ports and during voyages to and from Union ports should be subject to the EU ETS as of 2023; urges the Commission to establish the conditions for the promotion of the use of alternative fuels such as natural gas, LPG and hydrogen, and to promote the integration of renewable technologies (for example, sails, batteries, solar panels and wind generators) in the maritime sector; stresses in this connection that financial instruments must be considered at Member State and EU level in order to speed up investment in green fleets;

125.  Stresses that, in order to ensure an effective global reduction of GHG emissions from international shipping in line with meeting the target of ‘well below 2 degrees’ of the COP21 Paris Climate Agreement, as well as addressing current market barriers to ship design and operational efficiency, the EU Monitoring, Reporting, Verification (MRV) system should be consistently amended so as to align its system with the IMO’s recently adopted Data Collection System (DCS), while preserving transparency, verification and real transport work data collection;

126.  Underlines the importance of fully transposing and implementing the deployment of the alternative fuels infrastructure Directive (Directive 2014/94/EU), including the establishment of LNG refuelling points across the TEN-T corridors and at maritime ports; believes that the wider use of LNG in freight transport could contribute to low-emission mobility, having regard to the international long-term climate and energy targets;

127.  Considers it necessary to create a European Black Sea macro-region, in order to ensure that the opportunities resulting from cross-border cooperation in this region can be fulfilled;

128.  Underlines that innovative financing solutions and the use of the EU investment support facilities available from the European Investment Bank (EIB) should provide useful tools to help shipowners shoulder and/or cover the initial cost of actions to reduce GHG;

129.  Welcomes the recent adoption by the IMO of a 0,5 % global sulphur limit, which is expected to prevent 250 000 premature deaths globally;

130.  Supports the introduction of more sulphur emission and NOx emission control areas across Europe;

131.  Recalls that reducing black carbon emissions from maritime transport, especially in the Arctic region, is essential to reducing global warming;

132.  Underscores the important role that combined transport can play in reducing emissions; notes the Commission’s proposals for the modernisation of the Combined Transport Directive (COM(2017)0648), which should incentivise a shift towards transporting freight by rail and inland waterways;

Inland waterways

133.  Believes that additional measures are necessary to guarantee a climate-friendly and efficient inland waterway transport sector; reiterates the importance of financial support measures for innovation in the sector to increase the energy efficiency of ships and preserve the environment during infrastructure works;

134.  Asks the Commission to come forward in 2018 with a review of the Directive on River Information Services (RIS)(33), with a view to promoting the use of RIS for reducing inland waterways emissions, and to set an EU-wide legal basis for cross-border data exchange, enabling the comprehensive implementation of cross-border RIS and digital integration with other modes of transport;

135.  Stresses that inland waterway transport in Europe should be encouraged and exploited, and calls on the Commission to allocate funding for the cleaning of sunken vessels, given the high cost of such operations, along with the prospect of regional development and the expansion of inland waterway shipping and transport operations in the internal market;

136.  Encourages the Commission and the Member States to come forward with measures on the use of wind and solar energy as well as on greening the engines and fuel of inland vessels, through, inter alia, pointing to good practice on the part of front-runners and supporting the financing of clean inland waterways via the existing scrapping fund and EFSI/EIB tools;

137.  Stresses that, looking at the actual market needs, strong support is needed at EU, national and regional levels in order to ensure that a sufficient number of inland ports of the TEN-T core network are equipped with alternative energy infrastructure and publicly accessible refuelling and storage points for inland waterway transport within adequate distances;

o   o

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

(1) OJ C 316, 22.9.2017, p. 155.
(2) OJ L 120, 15.5.2009, p. 5.
(3) OJ L 348, 20.12.2013, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 140, 5.6.2009, p. 1.
(5) OJ L 145, 31.5.2011, p. 1.
(6) OJ L 12, 18.1.2000, p. 16.
(7) OJ L 188, 18.7.2009, p. 1.
(8) OJ L 123, 19.5.2015, p. 55.
(9) OJ L 275, 25.10.2003, p. 32.
(10) OJ L 140, 5.6.2009, p. 16.
(11) OJ L 350, 28.12.1998, p. 58.
(12) OJ L 239, 15.9.2015, p. 1.
(13) OJ L 142, 5.6.1999, p. 26.
(14) OJ L 166, 30.4.2004, p. 124.
(15) OJ L 268, 13.10.2009, p. 11.
(16) OJ L 276, 20.10.2010, p. 22.
(17) OJ L 368, 17.12.1992, p. 38.
(18) OJ L 300, 14.11.2009, p. 88.
(19) OJ L 307, 28.10.2014, p. 1.
(20) OJ L 332, 28.12.2000, p. 81.
(21) OJ L 255, 30.9.2005, p. 11.
(22) OJ L 280, 27.10.2009, p. 52.
(23) OJ C 399, 24.11.2017, p. 10.
(24) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0292.
(25) OJ L 344, 17.12.2016, p. 1.
(26) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0100.
(27) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0097.
(30) European Parliament resolution of 25 October 2016 on EU strategy for liquefied natural gas and gas storage (Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0406).
(31) OJ L 103, 5.4.2014, p. 15; OJ L 84, 20.3.2014, p. 38.
(32) See Council documents 5584/14 and 6642/14.
(33) Directive 2005/44/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 on harmonised river information services (RIS) on inland waterways in the Community (OJ L 255, 30.9.2005, p. 152).

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