Index 
Texts adopted
Wednesday, 12 February 2020 - StrasbourgFinal edition
Conclusion of the EU-Viet Nam Free Trade Agreement ***
 Conclusion of the EU-Viet Nam Free Trade Agreement (Resolution)
 EU-Viet Nam Investment Protection Agreement ***
 EU-Viet Nam Investment Protection Agreement (Resolution)
 Objection to an implementing act: Lead and its compounds
 An EU strategy to put an end to female genital mutilation around the world
 Automated decision-making processes: Ensuring consumer protection, and free movement of goods and services
 Proposed mandate for negotiations for a new partnership with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
 European Central Bank - annual report 2018
 The illegal trade in companion animals in the EU

Conclusion of the EU-Viet Nam Free Trade Agreement ***
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European Parliament legislative resolution of 12 February 2020 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam (06050/2019 – C9-0023/2019 – 2018/0356(NLE))
P9_TA(2020)0026A9-0003/2020

(Consent)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (06050/2019),

–  having regard to the draft Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and the the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam (06051/2019),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Articles 91(1), 100(2), Article 207(4) first subparagraph, Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a)(v) and Article 218(7) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C9‑0023/2019),

–  having regard to its non-legislative resolution of 12 February 2020(1) on the draft decision,

–  having regard to Rule 105(1) and (4) and Rule 114(7) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the opinions of the Committee on Development and the Committee on Fisheries,

–  having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on International Trade (A9-0003/2020),

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

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

(1) Texts adopted of that date, P9_TA(2020)0027.


Conclusion of the EU-Viet Nam Free Trade Agreement (Resolution)
PDF 162kWORD 63k
European Parliament non-legislative resolution of 12 February 2020 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam (06050/2019 – C9-0023/2019 – 2018/0356M(NLE))
P9_TA(2020)0027A9-0017/2020

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (06050/2019),

–  having regard to the draft Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the European Union and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam (06051/2019),

–  having regard to the draft Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the Union, of the Investment Protection Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, of the other part (05931/2019),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Articles 91(1), 100(2), 207(4), first subparagraph, Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a)(v), and Article 218(7) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) (C9-0023/2019),

–  having regard to the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation (PCA) between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, of the other part, signed in Brussels on 27 June 2012, which entered into force in October 2016(1),

–  having regard to the Framework Participation Agreement, signed on 17 October 2019, which will facilitate Vietnam's participation in European Union-led civilian and military crisis management operations and show strong commitment from both sides to a rules-based multilateral approach to international peace and security,

–  having regard to the opinion of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 16 May 2017 in procedure 2/15(2), pursuant to Article 218(11) TFEU, requested on 10 July 2015 by the Commission,

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 July 2016 on a new forward-looking and innovative future strategy for trade and investment(3),

–  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Trade for all - towards a more responsible trade and investment policy’,

–  having regard to the Council decision of 22 December 2009 to pursue bilateral FTA negotiations with individual member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN),

–  having regard to the negotiating directives of 23 April 2007 for a region-to-region FTA with ASEAN member states,

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 June 2016 on Vietnam(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 December 2017 on freedom of expression in Vietnam, notably the case of Nguyen Van Hoa(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 November 2018 on Vietnam, notably the situation of political prisoners(6),

–  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(7),

–  having regard to the Treaty on European Union (TEU), and in particular Title V thereof on the Union’s external action,

–  having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), in particular its Articles 91, 100, 168 and 207 in conjunction with Article 218(6)(a)(v),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions on child labour of 20 June 2016,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions on business and human rights of 20 June 2016,

–  having regard to the economic impact of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement(8),

–  having regard to the 2019 Universal Periodic Review on Vietnam undertaken by the UN Human Rights Council,

–  having regard to the conclusions following its fact-finding mission to Vietnam (28 October to 1 November 2018) and the Commission’s evaluation of May 2018 on the country’s progress in tackling illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing following the notification by the Commission of a ‘yellow card’ on 23 October 2017,

–  having regard to its legislative resolution of 12 February 2020(9) on the draft decision,

–  having regard to Rule 105(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the opinions of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Development and the Committee on Fisheries,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on International Trade (A9-0017/2020),

A.  whereas Vietnam is a strategic partner for the European Union, and whereas the EU and Vietnam share a common agenda, namely to stimulate growth and employment, improve competitiveness, fight poverty and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as a strong commitment to open, rules-based trade and to the multilateral trading system;

B.  whereas this is the second bilateral trade agreement concluded between the EU and an ASEAN member state and is an important stepping-stone towards a region-to-region FTA; whereas this agreement, along with the FTA between the EU and the Republic of Singapore to which Parliament gave its consent on 13 February 2019, will also serve as a benchmark for the agreements the EU is currently negotiating with the other main ASEAN economies;

C.  whereas 90 % of future world economic growth is predicted to be generated outside Europe, with a significant part occurring in Asia;

D.  whereas Vietnam joined the WTO in 2007 and is now an open and pro-free trade economy, as shown by its 16 trade agreements with 56 countries;

E.  whereas Vietnam is a founding member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and a party to the recently concluded negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP);

F.  whereas Vietnam is a booming, competitive and connected economy with almost 100 million citizens, a growing middle class and a young and dynamic workforce, although it remains a lower-middle income economy faced with specific development challenges, as illustrated by its position on the UNDP human development index, which currently stands at 116 out of 189 countries;

G.  whereas Vietnam is also one of the fastest-growing countries in ASEAN, with average GDP growth of around 6,51 % in the period 2000-2018; whereas Vietnam is estimated to continue growing at similarly strong rates in the upcoming years;

H.  whereas the EU is currently Vietnam’s third largest trading partner after China and South Korea, and its second largest export market after the US; whereas EU exports to the country in the last ten years have been growing annually at an estimated average rate of 5 to 7 %; whereas the economic impact assessment carried out by the Commission predicted ‘export gains of EUR 8 billion by 2035 for EU firms’, with Vietnam’s exports to the EU being ‘expected to grow by EUR 15 billion’; whereas it is important to maximise the opportunities offered by this agreement in the most inclusive manner for businesses, in particular SMEs;

I.  whereas the Council has emphasised that it is in the EU's interest to continue to play a leading role in implementing the 2030 Agenda in a coherent, comprehensive, and effective manner, as an overarching priority of the EU, for the benefit of its citizens and for upholding its credibility within Europe and globally; whereas in the mission letter sent to all commissioners-designate President-elect von der Leyen insisted that all commissioners will ensure the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals within their policy area;

J.  whereas Vietnam still faces challenges in relation to sustainable development, human, political and civil rights, with particular reference to the situation of minorities, fundamental freedoms, freedom of religious belief and freedom of the press, and the exploitation of natural resources (e.g. sand, fisheries and timber), waste management and pollution; laments the fact that the EU and Vietnam continue to take differing stances on the recommendations of international human rights bodies concerning Vietnam and on the implementation of those recommendations, for instance those relating to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); whereas the forced labour of prisoners remains a concern in Vietnam;

K.  whereas despite the economic and political reforms initiated in 1986, Vietnam remains a one-party state which does not recognise fundamental freedoms such as freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of the press; whereas the repressive nature of the regime and the grave and systematic violation of human rights in Vietnam have been documented by the European External Action Service in the 2018 EU annual report on human rights and democracy in the world, highlighting in particular the growing number of political prisoners in the country;

L.  whereas in its resolution of 15 November 2018 Parliament called on the government of Vietnam to ‘repeal, review or amend all repressive laws, notably its Criminal Code’; whereas this call was not responded to by Vietnam; whereas none of the recommendations to amend or repeal abusive provisions in the penal legislation made in the framework of the latest Universal Periodic Review in March 2019 were accepted by Vietnam;

M.  whereas the EU-Vietnam FTA recognises the importance of ensuring the conservation and sustainable management of living marine resources and ecosystems, together with the promotion of sustainable aquaculture, and provides in its Article 13.9 for cooperation in the fight against IUU fishing;

N.  whereas some fish-based products, such as those with CN codes 1604 14 21 and 1604 14 26, are not included in the duty-free regime in the FTA owing to their sensitivity for the European Union;

O.  whereas it is acknowledged that IUU fishing constitutes an organised crime of the seas which has disastrous environmental and socio-economic impacts worldwide and creates unfair competition for the European fishing industry;

P.  whereas Vietnam is the world’s fourth biggest fish producer, followed by the European Union, and the fourth biggest producer of aquaculture products;

Q.  whereas the EU is the world’s largest trader in fisheries and aquaculture products in value terms, having generated a trade volume of more than EUR 2,3 billion in 2017; whereas the EU imports more than 65 % of the fish products it consumes and is one of the largest foreign investors in Vietnam;

R.  whereas Vietnam has so far secured protection for one geographical indication (GI) product – Phú Quốc, a variety of fish sauce – as a protected designation of origin (PDO) within the EU quality schemes; whereas the FTA provides for the protection of 169 EU GIs for wines, spirits and food products in Vietnam and reciprocal protection for 39 Vietnamese GIs in the EU;

S.  whereas Vietnam has a market of 95 million people with long-established traditions in the consumption of fish and aquaculture products, and is the EU’s second largest trading partner in the ASEAN region; whereas fisheries could herald, for European small and medium-sized enterprises, a strong potential for growth and significant benefits; whereas this sector is of vital interest for European prosperity and innovation;

1.  Stresses the fact that the EU-Vietnam FTA (EVFTA) is the most modern, comprehensive and ambitious agreement ever concluded between the EU and a developing country and should serve as a reference point for the EU’s engagement with developing countries and especially with the ASEAN region; recalls that Vietnam will remain a GSP beneficiary for a transitional period of two years once the FTA is in force;

2.  Notes that negotiations began in June 2012 and were concluded in December 2015 after 14 negotiating rounds, and regrets subsequent delays in bringing forward the agreement for signature and ratification - notably the delay of the Council in requesting the consent of the European Parliament in due time before the European elections;

3.  Stresses the economic and strategic importance of this agreement, as the EU and Vietnam share common goals – to stimulate growth and employment, boost competitiveness, fight poverty, bolster the rules-based multilateral trade system, achieve the SDGs, and support workers’ rights and fundamental freedoms; emphasises the geopolitical considerations that render EU partners in the Far East key players to engage with, in a complex local geo-economic environment;

4.  Notes that Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union stipulates that the actions of the Union on the international scene shall be guided by the principles of democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the UN Charter and international law; stresses the need to respect the principle of aligning policies with development cooperation objectives in accordance with Article 208 TFEU;

5.  Underlines the significance of the agreement in terms of competitiveness of EU businesses in the region; notes that European companies are facing increased competition from countries with which Vietnam already has free trade agreements, notably the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP);

6.  Hopes that the agreement, together with the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, will mark further strides towards setting high standards and rules in the ASEAN region, helping pave the way for a future region-to-region trade and investment agreement; stresses that the agreement also sends out a strong signal in favour of free, fair and reciprocal trade, in times of growing protectionist tendencies and serious challenges to multilateral rules-based trade; highlights that the agreement helps the EU strengthen its presence in the ASEAN region, taking into account the recent conclusions of the Regional Comprehensive, Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the entry into force of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP); also stresses that the agreement allows the EU to promote its standards and values in the region; recalls its full support for multilateralism and the importance of achieving a sustainable and ambitious reform of the WTO that can ensure rules-based international trade;

7.  Underlines that the agreement will eliminate over 99 % of tariffs(10); notes that Vietnam will liberalise 65 % of import duties on EU exports upon entry into force, with the remainder of the duties being gradually eliminated over a 10-year period; notes also that the EU will liberalise 71 % of its imports upon entry into force and that 99 % will be duty-free after a 7-year period; points out that the agreement will also contain specific provisions to address non-tariff barriers for EU exports, which frequently constitute a significant hurdle for SMEs; considers that the EVFTA can help in addressing the trade deficit of the EU with Vietnam, tapping into the growth potential of the ASEAN country in the upcoming years;

8.  Stresses the importance of ensuring effective and reliable controls, including through enhanced customs cooperation in Europe, to prevent the agreement becoming a gangway for the entry into Europe for goods from other countries;

9.  Notes the improved access under this agreement to Vietnamese public procurement in line with the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), as Vietnam is not yet a member of the GPA; underlines that the government procurement chapter of the EVFTA achieves a degree of transparency and procedural fairness comparable to other FTAs that the EU has signed with developed countries and more advanced developing countries; underlines that the agreement must not restrict domestic procurement rules or room for manoeuvre in procurements when it comes to setting requirements on what is to be procured and demands on areas such as the environment, labour and employment conditions;

10.  Welcomes the fact that the provisions on rules of origin included in the EVFTA follow the EU approach, and that their main features are identical to those laid down in the EU's GSP as well as in its trade agreement with Singapore; calls on the Commission to monitor the proper and faithful implementation of these rules, with special attention to national content, and to step up action against any kind of manipulation and abuse, such as repackaging products coming from third countries;

11.  Notes that Vietnam will no longer be able to use cumulation from other trading partners that are GSP beneficiaries in the region to be able to comply with the rules of origin; stresses that rules of origin in free trade agreements should not unnecessarily break existing value chains, especially with countries that currently benefit from the GSP, GSP+ or EBA schemes;

12.  Stresses the fact that around 169 EU geographical indications will benefit from recognition and protection on the Vietnamese market at a comparable level to that of EU legislation, in view of the fact that Vietnam is an important export market in Asia for EU food and drink exports; considers that this list should be enlarged in the near future; stresses furthermore that some EU agri-sectors, rice amongst others, could be negatively affected by the provisions of the FTA; in that respect calls on the Commission to constantly monitor the flow of imports of those sensitive products and make a full utilisation of the provisions of the safeguard clause regulation whenever the legal and economic requirements are met, in order to avoid any possible negative impact on the EU agri-sectors as a direct consequence of the implementation of the FTA;

13.  Welcomes the strong SPS chapter which will set up a single and transparent procedure for the approval of EU exports of food products to Vietnam, in order to accelerate the approval of EU export applications and avoid discriminatory treatment; commends Vietnam's commitment to applying the same import requirements to like products coming from all EU member states;

14.  Recalls that, in terms of services, Vietnam goes beyond its WTO commitments, provides for substantially better access in a number of business subsectors, and offers new market access to sectors such as packaging services, trade fair and exhibition services or rental/leasing; underlines that Vietnam has opened up cross-border higher education services for the first time; welcomes the use of a positive list in the services schedule;

15.  Recalls that that a swift ratification of the EVFTA can help Vietnam go further in improving IPR protection and can guarantee the highest standards of production and best quality for consumers; stresses that Vietnam will accede to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Internet Treaties, which set standards to prevent unauthorised online access to or use of creative work, protect the rights of owners, and address the challenges that new technologies and methods of communication pose to IPR; stresses the strategic importance of standard-setting capacity in a region that is witnessing tendencies of decoupling on the normative and standardisation fronts; reiterates that a lack of strong regulatory frameworks could trigger a race to the bottom and negative competition on important legal provisions; points out that promoting access to medicines remains an essential pillar of EU policy and that the IPR provisions in the agreement in relation to pharmaceutical products are specifically adapted to the level of development, the current regulatory framework and the public health concerns in Vietnam;

16.  Regrets that the agreement does not contain a specific chapter on SMEs, but notes that different provisions on SMEs are nonetheless included in several of its parts; stresses that the implementation phase will be crucial for introducing an action plan to help SMEs make use of the opportunities offered by the agreement, starting by increasing transparency and disseminating all relevant information, as this sector of the economy is of vital interest for prosperity and innovation in Europe; considers that in a potential revision of the agreement the Commission should explore the possibility of introducing an SME chapter;

17.  Welcomes the provisions for cooperation on animal welfare, including technical assistance and capacity-building for the development of high animal welfare standards, and encourages the Parties to make full use of them; urges the Parties to develop an action plan for cooperation on animal welfare as soon as possible, including a programme for training, capacity-building and assistance in the framework of the agreement, with a view to safeguarding animal welfare at the time of killing and better protecting animals on farms and during transport in Vietnam;

18.  Underlines that the agreement specifies the EU’s right to apply its own standards to all goods and services sold in the Union, recalling its precautionary principle; underlines that the EU’s high standards, including in national laws, regulations and collective agreements, should never be seen as trade barriers;

19.  Regrets that the agreement does not include a provision on cross-border data transfers; considers that in a future revision of the agreement such a provision, respecting EU on data protection law and the protection of privacy, should be included, and stresses that any future outcome must be subject to the consent of Parliament; notes in this regard that the General Data Protection Regulation is fully compatible with the general exceptions under the GATS;

20.  Underlines that the EVFTA includes a comprehensive and binding chapter on Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD), dealing with labour and environmental matters based on widely accepted multilateral conventions and norms; points out that the enforceability of the TSD chapter could be significantly improved, in the first place through consideration of, among various enforcement methods, a sanction-based mechanism as a last resort, and secondly through a reform of the Domestic Advisory Group (DAG) system, as repeatedly called for by Parliament and also mentioned in the mission letter for the new EU Trade Commissioner; stresses that the TSD chapter is designed to contribute to broader EU policy objectives, notably on inclusive growth, the fight against climate change, the promotion of human rights, including workers’ rights, and, more generally, the upholding of EU values; emphasises that the agreement is also an instrument for development and social progress in Vietnam, supporting the country in its efforts to improve labour rights and enhance protection at work and protection of the environment; calls for the swift establishment and operability of broad and independent DAGs, and calls on the Commission to cooperate intensively with the Vietnamese authorities and provide them with the necessary support; calls on the Joint Committee to immediately begin work on strengthening the enforcement of the TSD provisions;

21.  Calls for the establishment of a Joint Committee of the Vietnamese National Assembly and the European Parliament to improve coordination and review of the measures of the TSD chapter and the implementation of the agreement as a whole; welcomes the favourable position of the Chairperson of the National Assembly of Vietnam towards this call for action, and calls for a Memorandum of Understanding between both parliaments to be negotiated rapidly;

22.  Welcomes the concrete steps taken by the Vietnamese Government so far, including amending labour legislation and the legal framework on the minimum age at work, with the aim of abolishing child labour and making commitments on non-discrimination and gender equality at work; expects this new legislation to be completed by implementing decrees and fully enforced by the Vietnamese authorities as soon as possible;

23.  Acknowledges the decrease of child labour in Vietnam in recent years, recalling that Vietnam was the first country in Asia and the second in the world to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; further calls on the Vietnamese Government to present an ambitious roadmap for the eradication of child labour by 2025 and to eliminate forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking by 2030; looks forward to the ILO’s assessment in good time prior to ratification of the agreement; calls on the EU and Vietnam to cooperate to develop an action plan, accompanied by available EU programmes, to fight child labour, including the necessary due diligence framework for enterprises;

24.  Stresses, however, that despite this progress important challenges remain, and urges the Vietnamese authorities to engage more on a progressive workers’ rights agenda through concrete measures, welcoming in this regard the adoption of the reformed Labour Code on 20 November 2019; also welcomes the ratification of fundamental ILO Convention 98 (collective bargaining) on 14 June 2019 and the commitment by the Vietnamese Government to ratify two remaining fundamental conventions, namely 105 (abolition of forced labour) in 2020 and 87 (freedom of association) in 2023, and calls on the Vietnamese authorities to provide a credible roadmap for their ratification; stresses the central role of implementing decrees in the implementation of the revised Labour Code and ratified ILO conventions and therefore underlines the need for the implementing decrees to the reformed Labour Code to incorporate the principles of ILO conventions 105 and 87; stresses its willingness to engage in an active dialogue on this issue; calls on the Vietnamese Government to continuously inform the EU on the progress of ratification and implementation of these outstanding conventions; recalls the significance of such commitments that portray truly positive trends in a developing country, while stressing the vital role of effective implementation of the provisions on human rights, ILO conventions and environmental protection; stresses that specific criteria included in the implementing legislation, such as thresholds and registration formalities, should not result in effectively precluding independent organisations from competing with state-run organisations; also stresses that penal legislation should be brought into line with the relevant ILO conventions; stresses that Vietnam’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the newly reformed Labour Code should be applied in a manner that does not render practically impossible the exercise of freedoms, especially as regards the freedom of assembly of independent labour unions; commends the pre-ratification conditionality stance taken by the EU;

25.   Welcomes the envisaged cooperation on the trade-related aspects of the ILO Decent Work Agenda, in particular the interlinkage between trade and full and productive employment for all, including young people, women and people with disabilities; calls for a swift and meaningful start to this cooperation;

26.  Notes that Vietnam is one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, in particular extreme weather events such as storms and floods; urges the Vietnamese Government to introduce effective adaptation measures and to ensure the effective implementation of legislation relating to the protection of the environment and biodiversity;

27.  Welcomes the commitment to effectively implement multilateral environmental agreements such as the Paris Agreement on climate change, and to act in favour of the conservation and sustainable management of wildlife, biodiversity and forestry; recalls that Vietnam is one of the most active countries in the broader ASEAN region in showcasing its commitment to the agenda of the Paris Agreement; emphasises that a swift ratification of the EVFTA as well as full respect and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement will contribute to ensuring the highest possible standards for environmental protection in the region;

28.  Underlines the strategic importance of Vietnam as a crucial partner of the EU in South-East Asia and among the ASEAN countries, specifically, but not exclusively, in relation to climate change negotiations, good governance, sustainable development, economic and social progress and the fight against terrorism; stresses the need for Vietnam to become a partner in the advancement of human rights and democratic reform; notes that Vietnam is ASEAN chair for 2020; stresses the need for the EU and Vietnam to fully respect and implement the Paris Agreement;

29.  Welcomes the agreement between the EU and the Government of Vietnam establishing a framework for the participation of Vietnam in EU crisis management operations, which was signed on 17 October 2019; underlines that Vietnam has become the second partner country in Asia to sign a Framework Participation Agreement with the EU; stresses that the agreement constitutes a significant step forward in relations between the EU and Vietnam;

30.  Recalls that the Agreement provides for specific measures to fight against IUU fishing and to promote a sustainable and responsible fishery sector, including aquaculture; acknowledges in this regard Vietnam’s engagement to address IUU fishing by having applied for full membership of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), by having become an official member of the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), by adopting the revised Fisheries Law in 2017, which takes into consideration international and regional obligations, agreements and recommendations from the Commission, and by implementing a national action plan for combating IUU fishing;

31.  Recognises, however, the huge challenges still facing the Vietnamese authorities with regard to the overcapacity of the country’s highly fragmented fishing fleet and the overexploitation of marine resources, noting the yellow card Vietnam has been given as well as the measures already taken to improve the situation; calls for further action in line with the findings of the November 2019 review mission, and for continuous monitoring and scrupulous checks regarding Vietnam’s efforts to ensure that the country keeps making progress in combating IUU fishing and to guarantee full traceability of fishery products arriving on the Union market so as to exclude illegal imports; recalls that the revocation of the yellow card must be conditional on the full and effective implementation of all the recommendations made by the EU in 2017; calls on the Commission to provide for safeguard measures for fisheries products in future agreements, such as the possibility of suspending preferential tariffs, until the yellow card for IUU fishing has been lifted;

32.  Acknowledges Vietnam’s engagement to address illegal logging and deforestation through the conclusion of a Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (VPA/FLEGT) with the EU; notes that this agreement has been in force since 1 June 2019 and introduces mandatory due diligence obligations for importers; welcomes the open and constructive participation of all relevant stakeholders in Vietnam in this process;

33.  Underlines the crucial importance of effectively implementing all provisions and chapters of the agreement, from market access to sustainable development and enforcement of all commitments; considers that all of the TSD provisions should be read as providing legal obligations in international law and in the FTA; highlights in this context the new post of Chief Trade Enforcement Officer, who will work directly under the guidance of the Trade Commissioner, and the commitment of Parliament’s Committee on International Trade to assume an active role in the monitoring of the implementation of the EVFTA engagements; underlines furthermore that European companies, especially SMEs, should be encouraged to make full use of the benefits of the agreement and that any hurdle regarding implementation should be remediated immediately;

34.  Stresses that the entry into force of the agreement will create the conditions for a major and fruitful cooperation between the two parties with a view to the effective implementation of the provisions on sustainable development, which could bring about the improvement of the political and human rights situation in the country; underlines that the proper implementation of the EVFTA can advance Vietnam in complying with European standards on the environment, human rights, good governance and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); welcomes in this context the commitment of Vietnam to present its national implementation plan for complying with the provisions of the EVFTA;

35.  Recalls previous experience which shows that the correct implementation of FTAs and the presence of EU companies on the ground can lead to improvements in the human rights situation, CSR and environmental standards; asks EU companies to continue to play a major role in bridging standards and good practices with a view to the creation of the most suitable and sustainable business environment in Vietnam through the EVFTA;

36.  Calls for the detailed and rigorous monitoring of the agreement and for commitments to ensure that shortcomings are addressed rapidly with our trading partner; calls on the EU to support the necessary capacity-building measures and for specific technical assistance in order to help Vietnam implement its commitments via projects and expertise, notably where linked to environmental and labour provisions; reminds the Commission of its reporting obligations to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of the EVFTA;

37.  Stresses that the involvement of independent civil society and social partners in monitoring the implementation of the agreement is crucial, and calls for the preparation and swift establishment of DAGs following the entry into force of the agreement, as well as for a broad and balanced representation of independent, free and diverse civil society organisations within those groups, including independent Vietnamese organisations from the labour and environmental sectors as well as human rights defenders; supports the efforts of civil society organisations in Vietnam to develop proposals in this regard, and will support capacity-building efforts;

38.  Recalls that the EU-Vietnam relationship is grounded in the PCA, which covers non-economic areas, including political dialogue, human rights, education, science and technology, justice and asylum and migration;

39.  Acknowledges the institutional and legal link between the FTA and the PCA, which ensures that human rights are placed at the core of the EU-Vietnam relationship; stresses the significance of truly positive trends in terms of human rights for the swift ratification of this agreement, and calls on the Vietnamese authorities to take concrete measures to improve the situation as a signal of their commitment; recalls its demand of 15 November 2018, notably with respect to the reform of the penal legislation, the death penalty, political prisoners and fundamental freedoms; urges the Parties to make full use of the agreements in order to improve the urgent human rights situation in Vietnam, and underlines the importance of an ambitious human rights dialogue between the EU and Vietnam; points out that Article 1 of the PCA contains a standard human rights clause which can trigger appropriate measures, including, as a last resort, the suspension of the PCA, and implicitly of the EVFTA, or parts thereof, without delay;

40.  Regrets that the Commission has failed to undertake a comprehensive human rights impact assessment of the FTA; calls on the Commission to carry out such an assessment; asks it to systematically include human rights in its impact assessments as and when they are carried out, including for trade agreements that have significant economic, social and environmental impacts; points out that the Commission has also committed to carrying out an ex post economic, social and environmental impact assessment;

41.  Calls for the EU and Vietnam to set up an independent monitoring mechanism on human rights and an independent complaints mechanism, providing affected citizens and local stakeholders with effective recourse to remedy, and a tool to address potential negative impacts on human rights, notably through the application of the state-to-state dispute settlement mechanism to the TSD chapter;

42.  Expresses its concerns regarding the implementation of the new cybersecurity law, notably on localisation and disclosure requirements, online surveillance and control, and the protection of personal data measures, which are not compatible with the EU’s value-based and liberalisation trade agenda; welcomes the willingness to engage in an intensive dialogue, including the commitment of the Chairperson of the National Assembly of Vietnam to include both parliaments in the discussion and deliberation of the implementing decrees; calls furthermore on the Vietnamese authorities to take concrete measures and welcomes the EU’s assistance in this regard;

43.  Recalls that Article 8 of the TFEU states that ‘in all its activities, the Union shall aim to eliminate inequalities, and to promote equality, between men and women’; welcomes the fact that both Vietnam and the EU have signed the WTO Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade and calls on the Parties to strengthen the commitments to gender and trade in the agreement; calls for the conditions of women to be improved so that they may benefit from this agreement, including through capacity-building for women at work and in business, promoting women's representation in decision-making and positions of authority, and improving women's access to, and participation and leadership in, science, technology and innovation; recalls the Commission´s commitment to include Gender Chapters in future EU trade agreements, including those reached after conclusion of this agreement; calls on the EU and Vietnam to commit themselves to evaluate the agreement’s implementation and to include a specific chapter on Gender and Trade in its future review;

44.  Demands the immediate release of all political prisoners and members of civil society such as bloggers or independent labour unionists who are currently detained or convicted, notably those named in Parliament’s resolutions of 14 December 2017 and 15 November 2018;

45.  Calls on the Commission and the EEAS to formally report to Parliament on Vietnam’s commitment to making progress on a series of human rights issues, as referred to in Parliament’s resolution of 17 December 2015(11);

46.  Stresses that the agreement has already fostered changes in many areas through dialogue, and sees it as the basis for further improvements for the people through dialogue;

47.  Welcomes the agreement, which will create more free and fair trade opportunities between the EU and Vietnam; considers the European Parliament’s consent to be justified, given that Vietnam takes steps to improve the civil and labour rights situation so as to move in the direction of its commitments;

48.   Calls on the Council to swiftly adopt the Agreement. 

49.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EEAS, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the government and parliament of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.

(1) OJ L 329, 3.12.2016, p. 8.
(2) Opinion of the Court of Justice of 16 May 2017, 2/15, ECLI:EU:C: 2017:376.
(3) OJ C 101, 16.3.2018, p. 30.
(4) OJ C 86, 6.3.2018, p. 122.
(5) OJ C 369, 11.10.2018, p. 73.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0459.
(7) https://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/decision/en/64308
(8) See: https://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2019/february/tradoc_157686.pdf
(9) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0026.
(10) EU exports to Vietnam: 65 % of duties to disappear as soon as the FTA enters into force, and the remainder to be phased out over a period of up to 10 years (for example, in order to protect the Vietnamese motor sector from European competition, duties on cars will remain for the full 10 years); Vietnamese exports to the EU: 71 % of duties to disappear on entry into force, the remainder to be phased out over a period of up to seven years.
(11) European Parliament non-legislative resolution of 17 December 2015 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the Union, of the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, of the other part (OJ C 399, 24.11.2017, p. 141).


EU-Viet Nam Investment Protection Agreement ***
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European Parliament legislative resolution of 12 February 2020 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the Union, of the Investment Protection Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, of the other part (05931/2019 – C9-0020/2019 – 2018/0358(NLE))
P9_TA(2020)0028A9-0002/2020

(Consent)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (05931/2019),

–  having regard to draft Investment Protection Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, of the other part (05932/2019),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 207(4), first subparagraph, and Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a)(v) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C9-0020/2019),

–  having regard to its non-legislative resolution of 12 February 2020(1) on the draft decision,

–  having regard to Rule 105(1) and (4) and Rule 114(7) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee on Development,

–  having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on International Trade (A9-0002/2020),

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

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

(1) Texts adopted of that date, P9_TA(2020)0029.


EU-Viet Nam Investment Protection Agreement (Resolution)
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European Parliament non-legislative resolution of 12 February 2020 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the Union, of the Investment Protection Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, of the other part (05931/2019 – C9-0020/2019 – 2018/0358M(NLE))
P9_TA(2020)0029A9-0014/2020

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (05931/2019),

–  having regard to the draft Investment Protection Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, of the other part (05932/2019),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Articles 207(4) and 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a)(v), of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) (C9-0020/2019),

–  having regard to the negotiating directives of 23 April 2007 for a free trade agreement (FTA) with the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which were supplemented in October 2013 to include investment protection,

–  having regard to the decision of 22 December 2009 to pursue bilateral FTA negotiations with individual ASEAN member states,

–  having regard to the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation (PCA) between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, of the other part, signed in Brussels on 27 June 2012, which entered into force in October 2016(1),

–  having regard to its resolution of 6 April 2011 on the future European international investment policy(2),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1219/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2012 establishing transitional arrangements for bilateral investment agreements between Member States and third countries(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 July 2016 on a new, forward-looking and innovative future strategy for trade and investment(4),

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

–  having regard to the opinion of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 16 May 2017 in procedure 2/15(5), pursuant to Article 218(11) TFEU, requested on 10 July 2015 by the Commission,

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 June 2016 on Vietnam(6),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 December 2017 on freedom of expression in Vietnam, notably the case of Nguyen Van Hoa(7),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 November 2018 on Vietnam, notably the situation of political prisoners(8),

–  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 FTA(9),

–  having regard to its resolution of 4 October 2018 on the EU’s input to a UN binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with transnational characteristics with respect to human rights(10),

–  having regard to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Rules on Transparency in Treaty-based Investor-State Arbitration(11),

–  having regard to the Treaty on European Union (TEU), and in particular Title V thereof on the Union’s external action,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 20 June 2016 on child labour, which encouraged the Commission to continue exploring ways to use the trade instruments of the EU more effectively, including free trade agreements to combat child labour,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 20 June 2016 on business and human rights, which stipulated that ‘the EU recognises that corporate respect for human rights and its embedding in corporate operations and value and supply chains is indispensable to sustainable development and achieving the SDGs’ and that ‘all partnerships in implementing the SDGs should be built on respect for human rights and responsible business conduct’, and which encouraged EU companies ‘to establish operational-level grievance mechanisms, or create joint grievance initiatives between companies’,

–  having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), in particular Part Five, Titles I, II and V thereof, and specifically Article 207 in conjunction with Article 218(6)(a)(v),

–  having regard to its legislative resolution of 12 February 2020(12) on the proposal for a Council decision,

–  having regard to Rule 105(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the opinions of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Development,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on International Trade (A9-0014/2020),

A.  whereas the EU is the leading recipient and source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world;

B.  whereas the EU ranks fifth out of 80 foreign direct investors in Vietnam;

C.  whereas Vietnam is a vibrant economy with the fastest growing middle class in ASEAN and has a young and dynamic workforce, a high literacy rate, high education levels, comparatively low wages, good transport connections and a central location within ASEAN;

D.  whereas Vietnam’s infrastructure and investment needs massively exceed the amount of public funding currently available;

E.  whereas in 2017, Vietnam received FDI worth 8 % of its GDP – more than double the rate received by economies of a similar scale in the region;

F.  welcoming the fact that the trade, business and investment environment has improved significantly in Vietnam over the last few decades;

G.  whereas there are currently more than 3 000 international investment treaties in force, and EU Member States are party to some 1 400;

H.  whereas after the EU-Singapore Investment Protection Agreement, this represents the second ‘standalone investment protection agreement’ concluded between the EU and a third country following discussions by the European institutions on the new architecture of EU FTAs, on the basis of the opinion of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) 2/15 of 16 May 2017, which will serve as a reference point for future EU engagement with its trading partners;

I.  whereas the agreement will replace and supersede the existing bilateral investment treaties between 21 EU Member States and Vietnam, which did not include the EU’s new approach to investment protection and its enforcement mechanism, the public Investment Court System (ICS);

J.  whereas the ICS was integrated into the already finalised CETA agreement, which was ratified by Parliament on 15 February 2017 and is awaiting ratification by several Member States, thereby replacing the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system;

K.  whereas on 30 April 2019 the CJEU ruled that the mechanism for the resolution of disputes between investors and States provided for by CETA is compatible with EU law(13);

L.  whereas the Parties have stated their commitment to pursuing a Multilateral Investment Court (MIC) – an initiative strongly and continuously supported by Parliament;

M.  whereas on 20 March 2018 the Council adopted the negotiating directives, which authorised the Commission to negotiate, on behalf of the EU, a convention establishing an MIC; whereas these negotiating directives have been made public;

1.  Welcomes the EU’s new approach to investment protection and its enforcement mechanism (ICS), which has reformed the ISDS and enhances the quality of individual approaches of bilateral investment treaties concluded by EU Member States; underlines the fact that the ICS represents a modern, innovative and reformed investment resolution mechanism as regards the procedural shortcomings of the ISDS; notes, moreover, that it marks a significant change in the level of substantive protection afforded to investors and the manner in which investor-state disputes are resolved; expresses concern that the scope of application extends slightly beyond mere non-discrimination between foreign and domestic investors; recalls that the establishment of an independent multilateral investment court would give greater legal certainty to all parties; welcomes Vietnam’s strong commitment to the rules-based multilateral trading system;

2.  Notes that the agreement will ensure a high level of investment protection and legal certainty while safeguarding the Parties’ right to regulate and pursue legitimate public policy objectives, such as public health, public services, and environmental protection; emphasises that the agreement will also ensure transparency and accountability; asks the Commission to take further account of the fight against climate change and respect for the Paris Agreement in safeguarding the Parties’ right to regulate, as has been done with CETA; insists on regular monitoring and reporting back to the European Parliament on the use of this provision by European investors;

3.  Stresses that the agreement guarantees that EU investors in Vietnam will get fair and equitable treatment, which is a higher standard of protection than national treatment; notes that the agreement properly protects EU investors from illegitimate expropriation; considers that this should go hand-in-hand with responsibilities for investors to exercise due diligence with regard to sustainable business practices in compliance with human rights and international labour conventions as well as environmental standards;

4.  Underlines that economic development and multilateralism are important tools to improve people’s lives; points out that one of the objectives of the IPA is to strengthen the economic, trade and investment relationship between the EU and Vietnam in accordance with the objective of sustainable development, and to promote trade and investment in full compliance with internationally recognised human rights, environmental and labour standards and agreements;

5.  Recalls that Vietnam is a developing country; emphasises that in order to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG 1 on poverty eradication, SDG 8 on decent work and SDG 10 on reduced inequalities, investment must contribute to the creation of quality jobs, support the local economy and fully respect domestic regulations, including tax requirements;

6.  Recalls that the ICS plans to establish a Permanent Investment Tribunal of First Instance and an Appeal Tribunal, whose members will have to possess comparable qualifications to those held by judges of the International Court of Justice, and will have to demonstrate expertise in public international law and not just commercial law, in addition to satisfying strict rules of independence, impartiality, integrity and ethical behaviour through a binding code of conduct designed to prevent direct or indirect conflicts of interests; stresses that the European Court of Justice sees the ICS as being in full compliance with EU law, as expressed in its opinion 1/17;

7.  Welcomes the transparency rules applying to proceedings before the tribunals, which include provisions guaranteeing that case documents will be publicly available, hearings will be held in public, and interested parties will be allowed to make submissions; believes that increased transparency will help to instil public trust in the system, as well as ensuring that all human rights and sustainable development aspects are effectively heard by the investment tribunals; welcomes, furthermore, the clarity regarding the grounds on which an investor can issue a challenge, which ensures a more transparent and fairer process;

8.  Stresses that third parties such as labour and environmental organisations can contribute to ICS proceedings through amicus curiae briefs;

9.  Underlines that forum shopping will not be possible and that multiple and parallel proceedings will be avoided;

10.  Recalls that the agreement represents an improvement on the investment protection provisions in CETA, as it incorporates provisions on obligations for former judges, a code of conduct to prevent conflicts of interests, and a fully functioning Appeal Tribunal at the time of its conclusion;

11.  Believes that the establishment of an Appeal Tribunal could improve the quality and consistency of decisions as compared to the current situation;

12.  Notes that the EU-Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement (EVIPA) does not contain a separate trade and sustainable development (TSD) chapter, as the latter applies to investment market access under the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EUVFTA); stresses that the EVIPA also contains a provision establishing an institutional and legal link to the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation (PCA), as well as specific references in its preamble to the TSD values and principles, as enshrined in the EUVFTA, and to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, thereby ensuring that human rights are placed at the core of the EU-Vietnam relationship; underlines that the Parties and investors must respect all the relevant international human rights standards and obligations; stresses the responsibilities of investors as outlined in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; points out, in addition, that the provisions of the EVIPA and the EUVFTA must be implemented in a complementary manner, especially with regard to human, environmental and social rights and sustainable development when these are applied under the Parties’ right to regulate; stresses the need, moreover, to ensure consistency with development cooperation objectives under Article 208 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU);

13.  Stresses the significance of truly positive trends in terms of human rights for a swift ratification of this agreement and calls on the Vietnamese authorities to outline concrete measures to improve the situation as a signal of their commitment; recalls its demands concerning the reform of penal legislation, the use of the death penalty, political prisoners and fundamental freedoms; urges the Parties to make full use of the agreements in order to improve the human rights situation in Vietnam and underlines the importance of an ambitious human rights dialogue between the EU and Vietnam; points out that Article 1 of the PCA contains a standard human rights clause which can trigger appropriate measures including, as a last resort, the immediate suspension of the PCA and, by extension, the IPA or elements thereof;

14.  Reiterates that Article 35 of the PCA and Article 13 of the FTA, in conjunction with a system of periodic evaluation, provide tools to address human rights concerns related to the implementation of the IPA, but must be accompanied by scrutiny by the EU and its Member States, and by an independent monitoring and complaints mechanism, providing affected citizens and stakeholders with effective recourse to remedy and a tool to address potential negative impacts on human rights;

15.  Expresses its concerns regarding the implementation of the new cybersecurity law, notably on localisation and disclosure requirements, online surveillance and control, and the protection of personal data measures, which are not compatible with the EU’s values-based and liberalisation trade agenda; welcomes the willingness to engage in an intensive dialogue, including the commitment of the Chairperson of the National Assembly of Vietnam to include both parliaments in the discussion and deliberation of the implementing decrees; calls on the Vietnamese authorities to take concrete measures and welcomes the EU’s assistance in this regard;

16.  Recalls that Article 8 of the TFEU states that ‘in all its activities, the Union shall aim to eliminate inequalities, and to promote equality, between men and women’; welcomes the fact that both Vietnam and the EU have signed the WTO Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade and calls on the Parties to strengthen their commitments to gender and trade in this agreement; calls for the conditions of women to be improved so that they may benefit from this agreement, including through capacity-building for women at work and in business, promoting women’s representation in decision-making and positions of authority, and improving women’s access to, and participation and leadership in, science, technology and innovation;

17.  Calls for the EU and Vietnam to cooperate to develop an action plan to fight child labour, including the necessary framework for enterprises;

18.  Welcomes the Council’s decision to make public the negotiating directives of 20 March 2018 on the MIC, and calls on the Council to make public all previous trade and investment agreement negotiating directives;

19.  Highlights the fact that the agreement will replace the existing 21 bilateral investment treaties between EU Member States and Vietnam; considers that this constitutes an important step in increasing the legitimacy and acceptance of the international investment regime;

20.  Calls on the Commission to take accompanying measures for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in order to make the agreement transparent and accessible; encourages the Commission to continue its work on making the ICS more accessible to SMEs; underlines the potential for growth and the significant benefits that are hereby made available to European SMEs, which are of vital interest to European prosperity and innovation;

21.  Underscores the importance that the IPA could have in contributing to raising living standards, promoting prosperity and stability, and helping advance the rule of law, good governance, sustainable development and respect for human rights in Vietnam, while also enabling the EU to foster its objectives of peace and stability in the region; stresses that unequivocally upholding those universal values is a conditional part of any agreement between the EU and a third state;

22.  Considers that the approval of this agreement will robustly protect investors and their investments on both sides while safeguarding the governments’ rights to regulate, and will create more opportunities for free and fair trade between the EU and Vietnam; calls on the Member States to swiftly ratify the agreement in order to ensure that all stakeholders can reap its benefits as soon as possible, in the light of Vietnam’s endeavours to improve the situation of civil and labour rights in accordance with its commitments;

23.  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 governments and parliaments of the Member States and the government and parliament of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.

(1) OJ L 329, 3.12.2016, p. 8.
(2) OJ C 296 E, 2.10.2012, p. 34.
(3) OJ L 351, 20.12.2012, p. 40.
(4) OJ C 101, 16.3.2018, p. 30.
(5) Opinion of the Court of Justice of 16 May 2017, 2/15, ECLI:EU:C: 2017:376.
(6) OJ C 86, 6.3.2018, p. 122.
(7) OJ C 369, 11.10.2018, p. 73.
(8) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0459.
(9) https://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/decision/en/64308
(10) OJ C 11, 13.1.2020, p. 36.
(11) https://www.uncitral.org/pdf/english/texts/arbitration/rules-on-transparency/Rules-on-Transparency-E.pdf
(12) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0028.
(13) Opinion of the Court of Justice of 30 April 2019, 1/17.


Objection to an implementing act: Lead and its compounds
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European Parliament resolution of 12 February 2020 on the draft Commission regulation amending Annex XVII to Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) as regards lead and its compounds (D063675/03 – 2019/2949(RPS))
P9_TA(2020)0030B9-0089/2020

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Commission Regulation amending Annex XVII to Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) as regards lead and its compounds (D063675/03),

–  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), establishing a European Chemicals Agency, amending Directive 1999/45/EC and repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No 793/93 and Commission Regulation (EC) No 1488/94 as well as Council Directive 76/769/EEC and Commission Directives 91/155/EEC, 93/67/EEC, 93/105/EC and 2000/21/EC (‘the REACH Regulation’)(1), in particular Article 68(1) thereof,

–  having regard to Decision No 1386/2013/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 November 2013 on a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 3 April 2001 on the Commission Green Paper on environmental issues of PVC(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 July 2015 on resource efficiency: moving towards a circular economy(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 November 2015 on draft Commission Implementing Decision XXX granting an authorisation for uses of bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) under Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 September 2018 on implementation of the circular economy package: options to address the interface between chemical, product and waste legislation(6),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 January 2020 on the European Green Deal(7),

–  having regard to the judgment of the General Court of 7 March 2019 in Case T‑837/16(8),

–  having regard to Article 5a(3)(b) of Council Decision 1999/468/EC of 28 June 1999 laying down the procedures for the exercise of implementing powers conferred on the Commission(9),

–  having regard to Rule 112(2) and (3), and (4)(c) of its Rules of Procedure,

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

A.  whereas the draft Commission regulation seeks to limit the level of lead where used as a stabiliser in polymers or copolymers of vinyl chloride (PVC);

B.  whereas lead is a toxic substance that can cause serious health effects, including irreversible neurological damage, even at low doses(10); whereas there is no safe level for lead(11),(12); whereas lead is also harmful to the environment: it is very toxic to aquatic life(13) and persists in the environment(14);

C.  whereas the problem of the use of lead as a stabiliser for PVC was already raised by the Commission in its Green Paper of 26 July 2000 on the environmental issues of PVC(15);

D.  whereas the Commission stated in its Green Paper that it was in favour of a reduction of the use of lead as a stabiliser in PVC products, and envisaged a number of measures, including a legislative phase-out, but finally settled for a voluntary commitment of the PVC industry to stop using lead as a PVC stabiliser by 2015(16);

E.  whereas that approach was contrary to the position of Parliament, which in response to the Green Paper called on the Commission to ban all use of lead as a stabiliser in PVC(17);

F.  whereas the Commission’s course of action at the time, namely doing nothing, meant that during the period from 2000 to 2015, millions of tonnes of PVC were produced, having been stabilised with several hundred thousand tonnes of lead(18); whereas PVC articles made of such PVC containing lead gradually become waste;

G.  whereas upon fulfilment of the voluntary commitment of the PVC industry in 2015, the Commission realised that lead continued to be used in imported PVC articles; whereas the Commission therefore requested the European Chemicals Agency (‘the Agency’) to draft an Annex XV restriction report;

H.  whereas the primary relevance of the restriction for imported PVC articles was confirmed by the Agency, which found that ‘Since the European PVC industry has already initiated the phase-out of lead compounds as PVC stabilisers, around 90 % of the estimated lead emissions are attributable to PVC articles imported into the EU during 2016’(19);

I.  whereas the draft Commission regulation proposes to restrict the use and presence of lead and its compounds in articles produced from PVC, setting a maximum concentration limit of lead of 0,1 % by weight of the PVC material(20);

J.  whereas this in based on the conclusion that the risk to humans from lead stabilisers in PVC articles in the Union is not adequately controlled(21); whereas the environmental hazards were not used in the risk characterisation of lead in the context of the risk restriction proposal(22);

K.  whereas that limit was applied on the basis of the following reasoning: ‘Considering that lead compounds cannot stabilise PVC in an effective way at concentrations below approximately 0,5 % by weight, the concentration limit of 0,1 % proposed by the Agency should ensure that the intentional addition of lead compounds as stabilisers during PVC compounding can no longer occur in the Union’(23);

L.  whereas it is important to realise that the 0,1 % threshold does not represent a ‘safe level’, but rather an administrative level set to avoid lead being used as a stabiliser in PVC altogether;

M.  whereas, the draft Commission regulation provides for two derogations for recovered PVC materials for 15 years: one allowing a concentration of lead of up to 2 % by weight of rigid PVC(24), and another allowing a concentration of lead of up to 1 % by weight of flexible/soft PVC(25);

N.  whereas, concentrations of lead of 1 % or 2 % by weight certainly do not correspond to ‘safe levels’, but are limits set to allow the industry to continue to optimise their financial benefits from the recycling of waste PVC containing lead(26);

O.  whereas such derogations perpetuate the use of a legacy substance via articles made from recovered PVC, despite the availability of alternatives being recognised explicitly by the Commission(27);

P.  whereas such derogations go against a long-standing position of Parliament, reaffirmed in many resolutions, most recently on 15 January 2020; whereas Parliament already specifically stressed in 2001 that ‘recycling of PVC must not perpetuate the problem of heavy metals’(28); whereas, Parliament stressed in its resolution of 9 July 2015 on ‘resource efficiency: moving towards a circular economy’ that ‘recycling should not justify the perpetuation of the use of hazardous legacy substances’(29); whereas, in 2015, Parliament acted accordingly by objecting to the authorisation of DEHP, another legacy substance, for the recycling of PVC(30); whereas in 2018 again, Parliament reiterated ‘that, in accordance with the waste hierarchy, prevention takes priority over recycling and that, accordingly, recycling should not justify the perpetuation of the use of hazardous legacy substances’(31); whereas on 15 January 2020, in its resolution on the European Green Deal, Parliament explicitly stated that banned substances ‘should not be reintroduced on the EU market in consumer products through recycling activities’;

Q.  whereas the draft Commission regulation justifies the derogations for recovered PVC by stating that ‘the alternative to recycling such articles, i.e. disposal of PVC waste via landfilling and incineration would increase emissions to the environment and not reduce risk’(32);

R.  whereas the reasoning underlying the draft Commission regulation fails to take into account the fact that recycling is not in fact an alternative to landfilling or incineration, since recycling of PVC cannot go on forever and thus merely postpones the final disposal of PVC containing lead and the corresponding emissions, while creating additional emissions during recycling and the subsequent use phase;

S.  whereas, in fact, the draft Commission regulation would, on the one hand, restrict the import of approximately 1 000 to 4 000 tonnes of lead in imported PVC articles, while at the same time allowing approximately 2 500 to 10 000 tonnes of lead per year to be placed (again) on the market via recovered PVC(33);

T.  whereas, in other words, the draft Commission regulation would restrict the import of lead via PVC articles, only to undermine the effect of that restriction by the re-placing on the market of twice as much lead, via articles made with recovered PVC containing lead;

U.  whereas the derogations for recovered PVC in the draft Commission regulation thus run counter to the primary objective of the REACH Regulation to ensure a high level of protection of human health and the environment(34);

V.  whereas such derogations also break the commitments under the 7th Environment Action Programme adopted in 2013, which explicitly calls for the development of non-toxic material cycles so that recycled waste can be used as a major, reliable source of raw material for the Union(35);

W.  whereas such derogations would lead to a market with two levels of quality, namely products made from virgin PVC that are free of lead on the one hand and products made from recovered PVC which contain significant quantities of lead on the other; whereas such tolerance for lead in products made from recovered PVC discredits the recovery of products;

X.  whereas it is not appropriate to postpone the problems of environmentally sound management of PVC waste containing lead to the future, let alone by diluting lead into the next generation of articles;

Y.  whereas the draft Commission regulation limits the derogations for recovered PVC to certain applications and introduces a requirement of enclosing the lead within a layer of newly produced PVC for a subset of the articles concerned, with a five year delay for flexible PVC;

Z.  whereas the limitation of the derogations fails to address the emissions of lead during final waste disposal, which account for 95 % of the emissions;

AA.  whereas the draft Commission regulation furthermore requires that PVC articles that contain recovered PVC are marked ‘contains recovered PVC’; whereas the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) of the Agency stated that such a label is ‘not sufficient by itself to differentiate between lead-free recyclate and recyclate containing lead’(36);

AB.  whereas such a marking is indeed misleading, as the indication of recovered content has a positive connotation, while, in this case, it actually means that the recovered products contain significant amounts of lead, as compared to products made from virgin PVC with no lead;

AC.  whereas such misleading promotional labelling of recovered PVC articles containing lead goes against the objective of the REACH Regulation to achieve a high level of protection of human health and the environment;

AD.  whereas the draft Commission regulation furthermore provides for a certification scheme to substantiate the claims on the recovered origin of PVC to distinguish them from articles made from virgin PVC, for which a different limit value is to apply;

AE.  whereas the reliance on an extra layer of certificates casts doubts on the implementability of such provision and therefore goes against the provisions of Annex XV to the REACH Regulation requiring that a restriction be implementable, enforceable and manageable;

AF.  whereas the draft Commission regulation exempts two lead pigments from the scope of the restriction as these are subject to an authorisation under the REACH Regulation;

AG.  whereas RAC explicitly recognised that ‘the risks … would equally apply to lead compounds that were not used as stabilisers’(37);

AH.  whereas it is difficult to determine the specific identity and function of lead compounds in PVC, as explicitly acknowledged by RAC(38);

AI.  whereas such exemption therefore creates problems for enforcement, thereby going against the provisions of Annex XV to the REACH Regulation requiring that a restriction be implementable, enforceable and manageable;

AJ.  whereas such exemption also fails to take account of the judgment in Case T‑837/16, which has effectively annulled the authorisation for these lead pigments;

AK.  whereas the draft Commission regulation provides for a grace period of 24 months for economic operators to inter alia ‘dispose of their stocks’(39);

AL.  whereas allowing importers to sell PVC articles containing thousands of tonnes of lead for another 24 months while no such lead-containing PVC articles are produced anymore in the Union goes against the objective of the REACH Regulation to achieve a high level of protection of human health and the environment;

AM.  whereas Parliament in 2001 considered it ‘necessary to continue to develop technological research, primarily in the area of chemical recycling that can separate chlorine from heavy metals … with a view to increasing the percentage of PVC waste recycled’(40);

AN.  whereas both the Agency and the Commission have failed to assess the feasibility of chemical/feedstock recycling of PVC waste that would allow the separation and safe disposal of lead; whereas according to the PVC industry, such technologies are available(41),(42);

AO.  whereas the European Chemicals Industry Association is advocating chemical recycling as a means of taking care of substances of concern(43);

AP.  whereas, in summary, the draft Commission regulation comes 18 years too late and contains several elements that are not compatible with the aim or the content of the REACH Regulation, namely derogations for recovered PVC, positive marking of recovered PVC despite its lead content, exemption for lead pigments, and a long grace period;

AQ.  whereas the Commission submitted the draft Commission regulation more than one year after the deadline laid down in the REACH Regulation(44);

1.  Opposes adoption of the draft Commission regulation;

2.  Considers that the draft Commission regulation is not compatible with the aim and content of the REACH Regulation;

3.  Calls on the Commission to withdraw the draft regulation and submit a new one to the committee without delay;

4.  Considers that any recovery of waste PVC should not lead to the carry-over of lead compounds into a new generation of products;

5.  Calls on the Commission to modify the Annex to the draft regulation by deleting points (a) and (b) of paragraph 14 and paragraphs 15, 16, 17 and 19, as well as by reducing the grace period in paragraph 13 to a maximum of 6 months, so that the restriction can be effective even earlier than provided for in the draft regulation;

6.  Calls on the Commission to respect the deadlines laid down in the REACH Regulation;

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

(1) OJ L 396, 30.12.2006, p. 1.
(2) OJ L 354, 28.12.2013, p. 171.
(3) OJ C 21 E, 24.1.2002, p. 112.
(4) OJ C 265, 11.8.2017, p. 65.
(5) OJ C 366, 27.10.2017, p. 96.
(6) OJ C 433, 23.12.2019, p. 146.
(7) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0005.
(8) Judgment of the General Court of 7 March 2019, Sweden v Commission, T-837/16, ECLI:EU:T:2019:144, http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf;jsessionid=3DE9187FAF56F2A2616EA9541DE1D2B2?text=&docid=211428&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=5232553
(9) OJ L 184, 17.7.1999, p. 23.
(10) See European Chemicals Agency Annex XV Restriction Report of 16 December 2016 (‘Annex XV dossier’), p. 3: ‘It is well established that exposure to lead can result in severe neurobehavioral and neurodevelopmental effects, even at a low doses. Lead is considered a non-threshold neurotoxic substance associated with adverse impacts on the development of children’s central nervous systems […] EFSA indicated that house dust and soil can be important sources of children’s exposure to lead. They recommended that efforts should continue to reduce human exposure to lead from both dietary and non-dietary sources.’, https://echa.europa.eu/documents/10162/f639cc6f-7403-63de-9407-135544f33d86
(11) See quote above from the Annex XV dossier referring to lead as a ‘non-threshold substance’.
(12) According to the World Health Organization, ‘there is no level of exposure to lead that is known to be without harmful effects’, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/lead-poisoning-and-health
(13) Annex XV dossier, p. 11.
(14) https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/329953/WHO-CED-PHE-EPE-19.4.7-eng.pdf?ua=1
(15) COM(2000)0469.
(16) https://vinylplus.eu/uploads/Modules/Documents/vc2001_en.pdf
(17) European Parliament resolution of 3 April 2001 on the Commission Green Paper on environmental issues of PVC (OJ C 21 E, 24.1.2002, p. 112).
(18) According to the Green Paper, in 1998, the annual domestic production of PVC was at 5,5 million tonnes, while use of lead as a stabiliser was at 112 000 tonnes.
(19) Annex XV dossier, p. 4.
(20) Paragraphs 11 and 12 of the Annex to the draft Commission regulation.
(21) Annex XV dossier, p. 4, and recital 1 of the draft Commission regulation.
(22) Opinion of 5 December 2017 of the Committee for Risk Assessment and Opinion of 15 March 2018 of the Committee for Socio-economic Analysis on an Annex XV dossier proposing restrictions of the manufacture, placing on the market or use of a substance within the EU, p. 10, https://echa.europa.eu/documents/10162/bf4394ef-7b75-99ec-13c1-134ba7ed713d
(23) Recital 4 of the draft Commission regulation.
(24) Point (a) of paragraph 14 of the Annex to the draft Commission regulation.
(25) Point (b) of paragraph 14 of the Annex to the draft Commission regulation.
(26) As explained in the Annex XV dossier, p. 35: ‘Industry (ESPA, EuPC, ECVM) noted that a higher lead limit of 1 % w/w should be provided for recycled PVC (rather than the generic 0,1 % w/w) due to lead legacy currently present in the PVC waste. Overall, PVC recyclers/converters highlighted in order to comply with a limit of 0,1 %, only 10 % of an article could be made from (the cheaper) recycled PVC, therefore, PVC recycling would no longer be economically viable and would have to stop (because of the fixed and variable costs needed to co-process and operate the extruders).’
(27) Recital 6 of the draft Commission regulation.
(28) OJ C 21 E, 24.1.2002, p. 112.
(29) OJ C 265, 11.8.2017, p. 65.
(30) OJ C 366, 27.10.2017, p. 96.
(31) OJ C 433, 23.12.2019, p. 146.
(32) Recital 7 of the draft Commission regulation.
(33) Calculation based on 500 000 tonnes of PVC waste with a lead content of 0,5 – 2 %.
(34) Article 1 of the REACH Regulation, and Recital 1 of that Regulation.
(35) OJ L 354, 28.12.2013, p. 171.
(36) Opinion of 5 December 2017 of the Committee for Risk Assessment and Opinion of 15 March 2018 of the Committee for Socio-economic Analysis on an Annex XV dossier proposing restrictions of the manufacture, placing on the market or use of a substance within the EU, p. 48.
(37) Opinion of 5 December 2017 of the Committee for Risk Assessment and Opinion of 15 March 2018 of the Committee for Socio-economic Analysis on an Annex XV dossier proposing restrictions of the manufacture, placing on the market or use of a substance within the EU, p. 6.
(38) Opinion of 5 December 2017 of the Committee for Risk Assessment and Opinion of 15 March 2018 of the Committee for Socio-economic Analysis on an Annex XV dossier proposing restrictions of the manufacture, placing on the market or use of a substance within the EU, p. 9: ‘RAC notes that it is possible for lead to be present in PVC due to uses other than as stabilisers (e.g. use of two lead-chromate pigments have been granted a REACH authorisation). Restriction of any lead present in PVC (regardless of intended function) would contribute to addressing the risks identified in the proposal. In addition, it might not be readily apparent why lead is present in an article, so specifying a particular use might not be helpful from an enforcement perspective (the Forum for enforcement indicated in their advice that the restriction will be simpler to enforce if enforcement authorities do not have to demonstrate the function of any lead detected in PVC above the relevant concentration limit)’.
(39) See Recital 17 of the draft Commission regulation.
(40) OJ C 21 E, 24.1.2002, p. 112.
(41) https://vinylplus.eu/uploads/Modules/Documents/ok_brochure_pvc_14-03-2014.pdf
(42) https://vinylplus.eu/uploads/Modules/Documents/pe_recovery_options.pdf
(43) Cefic, ‘Molecule Managers’, 2019, p. 33: ‘Under the right prerequisites, industry will invest in chemical recycling across Europe that can absorb the many valuable materials that are currently wasted, including plastic and polymers. We can transform these materials back into hydrocarbon feedstock while taking care of substances of concern.’, https://cefic.org/app/uploads/2019/06/Cefic_Mid-Century-Vision-Molecule-Managers-Brochure.pdf
(44) In accordance with Article 73 of the REACH Regulation, if the conditions laid down in Article 68 are fulfilled, the Commission shall prepare a draft amendment to Annex XVII, within three months of receipt of the opinion of the Committee for Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC); SEAC adopted its opinion on 15 March 2018; the Commission only submitted the draft amendment to the REACH committee in September 2019.


An EU strategy to put an end to female genital mutilation around the world
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European Parliament resolution of 12 February 2020 on an EU strategy to put an end to female genital mutilation around the world (2019/2988(RSP))
P9_TA(2020)0031B9-0090/2020

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 8 and 9 of 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 (‘the Victims’ Rights Directive’)(1), the provisions of which also apply to victims of female genital mutilation (FGM),

–  having regard to Articles 11 and 21 of Directive 2013/33/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection (‘the Reception Conditions Directive’)(2), which specifically mentions victims of FGM among the categories of vulnerable persons who should receive appropriate healthcare during their asylum procedures,

–  having regard to Article 20 of Directive 2011/95/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection, and for the content of the protection granted (‘the Qualification Directive’)(3), in which FGM as a serious form of psychological, physical or sexual violence is included as a ground to be taken into consideration for granting international protection,

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 June 2012 on ending female genital mutilation(4), which called for an end to FGM worldwide through prevention, protection measures and legislation,

–  having regard to its resolution of 6 February 2014 on the Commission communication entitled ‘Towards the elimination of female genital mutilation’(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 7 February 2018 on zero tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)(6),

–  having regard to the EU Annual Reports on Human Rights and Democracy in the World, in particular its resolution of 15 January 2020(7),

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

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 8 March 2010 on the eradication of violence against women in the European Union,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 25 November 2013 entitled ‘Towards the elimination of female genital mutilation’ (COM(2013)0833),

–  having regard to the joint statement of 6 February 2013 on the International Day against Female Genital Mutilation, in which the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and five Commissioners reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to combating FGM in its external relations,

–  having regard to the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019, in particular Objective 14(b) which specifically mentions FGM, and taking into consideration the Action Plan’s current revision and the negotiations for its renewal,

–  having regard to the experience acquired through implementing the Commission’s Strategic Engagement for Gender Equality 2016-2019 and through pursuing the measures set out in the action plan forming part of the Commission’s communication of 25 November 2013,

–  having regard to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular Target 5.3 on eliminating all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation,

–  having regard to the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo and its Programme of Action, and to the outcomes of subsequent review conferences, in particular the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, and its commitment to zero FGM,

–  having regard to the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcomes of its subsequent review conferences,

–  having regard to the Gender Action Plan 2016-2020 (GAP II), in particular its Thematic Priority B which has a specific indicator on FGM, and taking into consideration its current revision and the negotiations for its renewal,

–  having regard to the commitment by the President of the Commission to adopting measures to tackle violence against women, as stated in her Political Guidelines,

–  having regard to the anticipated new EU Gender Equality Strategy,

–  having regard to the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) report of 2013 on ‘Female genital mutilation in the European Union and Croatia’, as well as the two subsequent reports entitled ‘Estimation of girls at risk of female genital mutilation in the European Union’ of 2015 on Ireland, Portugal and Sweden, and of 2018 on Belgium, Greece, France, Italy, Cyprus and Malta,

–  having regard to the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (‘the Istanbul Convention’) of 2014, Article 38 of which requires the criminalisation of FGM by all States Parties,

–  having regard to its resolution of 12 September 2017 on the proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion, by the European Union, of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (COM(2016)01092016/0062(NLE))(8),

–  having regard to its resolution of 28 November 2019 on the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention and other measures to combat gender-based violence(9),

–  having regard to the Declaration of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers of 13 September 2017 on the need to intensify the efforts to prevent and combat female genital mutilation and forced marriage in Europe,

–  having regard to the WHO guidelines on the management of health complications from female genital mutilation,

–  having regard to the UN Human Rights Council resolution of 5 July 2018 on the ‘Elimination of female genital mutilation’,

–  having regard to the United Nations Secretary General report of 27 July 2018 on ‘Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilation’,

–  having regard to the UN General Assembly resolution of 14 November 2018 on ‘Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilation’,

–  having regard to the Cotonou Agreement and its ongoing revision process,

–  having regard to the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative of September 2017 on eliminating violence against women and girls,

–  having regard to Rule 132(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas FGM is considered internationally to constitute a gross and systematic violation of human rights, a form of violence against women and girls and a manifestation of gender inequality, not connected to any one religion or culture, and is now recognised as a global issue affecting at least 200 million women and girls in 30 countries, according to statistical reports from UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the WHO; whereas, however, there is evidence of the occurrence of FGM in over 90 countries across all continents;

B.  whereas, according to 2018 UNFPA data, if population trends continue in the direction they are currently moving in, 68 million girls worldwide will be at risk of FGM by 2030, with the yearly increase expected to rise from an estimated 4.1 million in 2019 to 4.6 million per year by 2030;

C.  whereas, according to the most recent national data available across Europe, it is estimated that around 600 000 women and girls in Europe are living with the lifelong physical and psychological consequences of FGM, and a further 180 000 girls are at a high risk of FGM in 13 European countries alone;

D.  whereas FGM comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, such as clitoridectomy, excision, infibulation and other harmful procedures, and that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical purposes, producing physical, sexual, and psychological health complications that can lead to death;

E.  whereas FGM is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15; whereas, moreover, a girl or woman can be subjected to FGM on multiple occasions throughout her life, for example when she is imminently about to be married, or when she is about to depart on a trip abroad;

F.  whereas, a recent increase in the percentage of women and girls potentially already affected by FGM, according to 2018 data from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), means that the relevance of the issue is becoming even greater and the number of those affected or at risk is continuing to grow; whereas, according to the UNHCR, over 100 000 female asylum seekers potentially affected by FGM arrived in Europe in the last five years alone;

G.  whereas, according to UNICEF, progress has been achieved with the risk of FGM for girls being one third less today than it was 30 years ago; whereas, however, taking into account all the available data, and with 10 years to go until 2030, Sustainable Development Goal 5.3 on the elimination of FGM is far from being achieved; whereas the absolute numbers of women and girls affected appear, on the contrary, to be on the increase and continue to increase unless massively scaled-up efforts are urgently taken to prevent this from happening;

H.  whereas, in order to accelerate change and achieve the goal of ending FGM worldwide by 2030, there is an urgent need to scale up and coordinate existing efforts to end the practice at local, national, regional and international levels, to capitalise on these efforts and bring about increased and lasting change through effective and comprehensive strategies;

I.  whereas FGM is a form of gender-based violence and addressing the root causes of gender inequality at community level, including gender stereotypes and harmful social norms, is essential to put an end to FGM;

J.  whereas FGM is often indissociable from other gender inequality issues, and is but one of many violations of women’s rights, such as the lack of access to education for girls, including comprehensive sexual education, the lack of employment for women, the inability to own or inherit property, forced or early child marriage, sexual and physical violence, and the lack of quality healthcare, including sexual and reproductive health and rights services;

K.  whereas the ‘medicalisation’ of FGM is the practice of FGM carried out by a healthcare professional or in a hospital or medical facility; whereas the medicalisation of FGM is a dangerous attempt to legitimise the practice of FGM and even potentially to profit from it;

1.  Reiterates its commitment to help eliminate the practice of FGM worldwide, as a form of gender-based violence that has long-lasting psychological and physical consequences on women and girls, and in some instances causes death;

2.  Notes that the recognition of The Restorers on the shortlist for the Sakharov Prize marks an important step in this direction and in the fight against FGM; further recognises the important role of young people in empowering themselves and others by becoming role models within their own communities;

3.  Stresses that the primary goal of any action relating to FGM must be its prevention through sustainable societal change and the empowerment of communities, and specifically of the women and girls within them, through the provision of education and information and by creating the preconditions for the economic empowerment of women and girls; underlines that the protection and aftercare of survivors of FGM must be a priority to be achieved by providing adequate protection and information, and access to professional and adequate physical, psychological, medical and sexological care and support for survivors of this practice through increased investment;

4.  Underlines that the involvement of men and boys in the process of reshaping gender relations and changing behaviour, and in supporting the empowerment of women and girls is equally crucial to the elimination of this harmful practice; stresses, furthermore, the importance of involving community leaders in ending FGM, as it is transmitted through traditions and culture, using cutters and circumcisers, who often have influential roles within communities, and using diverse religions as legitimation for carrying out and passing on this practice;

5.  Stresses that FGM must be tackled through a holistic and intersectional approach, addressing the root causes of gender inequality that underlie all forms of gender-based violence against all women and girls, including violations of their human rights, physical integrity and sexual and reproductive health and rights, and, in particular, linking FGM to other harmful practices such as early and forced marriage, breast ironing, hymenoplasty and virginity testing;

6.  Is worried about the increasingly widespread phenomenon of the ‘medicalisation’ of FGM in some countries – even those in which FGM is illegal – and the growing involvement of health professionals in this practice; insists that this is an unacceptable response in addressing the root causes of FGM, as has already been established by the UN and the WHO; invites the countries concerned to explicitly outlaw the medicalisation of FGM while raising awareness among medical staff about this problem through the provision of information and training, as well as adequate supervision and enforcement;

7.  Underlines that, under Article 38 of the Istanbul Convention, the Member States are under an obligation to criminalise FGM, as well as the incitement, coercion or procurement of a girl to undergo it, and that the Convention protects not only girls and women at risk from FGM, but also girls and women who are suffering the lifelong consequences of this practice; is pleased to note that criminal law in all Member States protects girls and women from FGM, but is extremely concerned about its apparent ineffectiveness, with only a handful of cases reaching court in the EU;

8.  Notes that in many EU countries it is also possible to prosecute FGM performed abroad, in accordance with the principle of extra-territoriality, which therefore also prohibits the taking of children to third countries in order to undergo FGM; notes that criminalisation must be matched with prosecutions and investigations; stresses that the best interests of the child must always be a primary consideration, and that the process of prosecuting and convicting family members who carry out FGM practices must also ensure that the girls and children involved are not put at further risk as a consequence;

9.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that the future EU budget, both internally and externally, continues to support the sustainability of community engagement in projects and programmes, through adequate funding that takes into account the operational realities of community-based organisations and survivor- and youth-led organisations and initiatives; to this end, calls on the Commission and the Council to ensure the flexibility, accessibility and sustainability of funding on the basis of structural financial support in the longer term within the budgetary discussions on the next multiannual financial framework (MFF);

10.  Welcomes the work already accomplished through the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme and calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that the future EU budget takes the need for greater flexibility and for synergies between internal and external funding programmes into account, in order to promote budgets which address the complexity of the issue, as well as more comprehensive transnational and cross-border interventions to achieve the global eradication of FGM;

11.  Encourages the Commission and the Member States to strengthen their engagement with European and national networks of professionals, including those in the areas of health, social care, law enforcement and civil society, and to ensure that EU funding goes to projects aimed at training and awareness-raising campaigns for professionals on how to effectively prevent, detect and respond to cases of FGM and violence against women and girls;

12.  Urges the Commission to ensure that all Member States translate the ‘Victims’ Rights Directive’ into national legislation and fully implement it, in order to ensure that the survivors of FGM are able to access confidential specialist support services, including trauma support and counselling, as well as shelters, in emergency situations in the EU;

13.  Notes that access to specialist healthcare, including psychological care, for female asylum seekers and refugees who are survivors of FGM must be considered as a priority at both EU and Member State level, in the light of the latest UNHCR data;

14.  Calls on the Commission and the Council to ensure that within the reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), the highest international protection standards on qualification, reception conditions and procedural rights are applied homogenously across the EU, facilitating strong cooperation between the Member States, particularly with regard to vulnerable female asylum seekers affected by or at risk of FGM and other forms of gender-based violence;

15.  Urges the Commission, in the light of the increase in the number of women and girls affected by FGM, to launch a review of the 2013 communication entitled ‘Towards the elimination of female genital mutilation’ in order to ensure the scaling up of actions against the practice worldwide, and that work is done to tackle the disparities in laws, policies and service provision between the Member States, so that women and girls affected or at risk of FGM can access equal standards of treatment throughout the EU;

16.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that the forthcoming Gender Equality Strategy includes actions to end FGM and to provide care for survivors, that it contains inclusive language, strong commitments and clear indicators in all areas of EU competence, together with regular reporting and a strong monitoring mechanism, so that it ensures the accountability of all EU institutions and Member States;

17.  Calls on the Commission, the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Member States to step up cooperation with third countries in order to encourage them to adopt national laws banning FGM, to support law enforcement authorities in ensuring the implementation of these laws and to prioritise the issue of FGM and other practices harmful to women and girls in its external human rights policy, notably in its bilateral and multilateral human rights dialogues and other forms of diplomatic engagement; stresses that the EU can help to eradicate FGM around the world by establishing and encouraging best practices here in the EU;

18.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that the forthcoming Gender Action Plan III continues to include among its pivotal actions the eradication of FGM and the provision of care for survivors, as part of the fight against all forms of violence against women and girls, through concrete and trackable indicators;

19.  Calls on the Commission, including the EEAS, to ensure that the forthcoming new EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy continues to include among its objectives the eradication of FGM and the provision of care for survivors;

20.  Reiterates its call on the Council to urgently conclude the EU ratification of the Istanbul Convention on the basis of a broad accession without any limitations, and to advocate its ratification by all the Member States; calls on the Council and the Commission to ensure the full integration of the Convention into the EU legislative and policy framework to ensure the prevention of FGM, protection of women and prosecution of offenders and adequate provision of services in response to FGM by all State Parties;

21.  Reiterates its calls on the Commission and the Member States to mainstream the prevention of FGM in all sectors, especially in health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, social work, asylum, education, including sexual education, employment, law enforcement, justice, child protection, media, technology and communication; calls for the establishment of multi-stakeholder platforms between the different sectors to better coordinate such cooperation;

22.  Welcomes the Commission’s efforts and its active promotion of the elimination of FGM through internal discussions with civil society and external policies through dialogues with partner countries, as well as its commitment to a yearly assessment of the EU’s fight against FGM;

23.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that appropriate and structured mechanisms are in place to meaningfully engage with FGM-affected community representatives and grassroots women’s organisations, including survivor-led organisations, in policy and decision-making;

24.  Calls on the Commission to ensure, through the inclusion of human rights clauses, that EU cooperation and trade agreements with third countries are negotiated and reviewed in line with their compliance with international human rights standards, including the elimination of FGM as a systematic human rights violation and a form of violence hindering the full development of women and girls;

25.  Welcomes the updated methodology contained in the ‘Estimation of girls at risk of female genital mutilation in the European Union: Step-by-step guide (2nd edition)’ published by the EIGE and aimed at gathering more accurate and robust data; calls on the Commission and the Member States to update the relevant data and address the lack of reliable comparable statistics at EU level on the prevalence of FGM and its types, and to involve academics, as well as practicing communities and survivors, in the process of data collection and research, through a community-based and participatory approach; urges organisations, governments, and the EU institutions to work together to provide more accurate qualitative and quantitative information on FGM, and to make it available and accessible to the wider public; encourages, furthermore, the exchange of best practices and cooperation among the relevant authorities (police and prosecutors), including international alerts;

26.  Calls on the Commission to invest more sustainable funds in research into FGM, as producing in-depth qualitative and quantitative research is the only way to promote a better understanding of the phenomenon and ensure it is targeted in a tailored and effective way;

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

(1) OJ L 315, 14.11.2012, p. 57.
(2) OJ L 180, 29.6.2013, p. 96.
(3) OJ L 337, 20.12.2011, p. 9.
(4) OJ C 332 E, 15.11.2013, p. 87.
(5) OJ C 93, 24.3.2017, p. 142.
(6) OJ C 463, 21.12.2018, p. 26.
(7) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0007.
(8) OJ C 337, 20.9.2018, p. 167.
(9) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2019)0080.


Automated decision-making processes: Ensuring consumer protection, and free movement of goods and services
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European Parliament resolution of 12 February 2020 on automated decision-making processes: ensuring consumer protection and free movement of goods and services (2019/2915(RSP))
P9_TA(2020)0032B9-0094/2020

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its resolution of 12 February 2019 on a comprehensive European industrial policy on artificial intelligence and robotics(1),

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 February 2017 with recommendations to the Commission on civil law rules on robotics(2),

–  having regard to the report entitled ‘Liability for artificial intelligence and other emerging digital technologies’ by the Commission’s Expert Group on Liability and New Technologies, published on 21 November 2019,

–  having regard to the report entitled ‘Policy and investment recommendations for trustworthy artificial intelligence’ by the Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence, published on 26 June 2019,

–  having regard to the document entitled ‘Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI’ by the Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence, published on 8 April 2019, as well as the Trustworthy AI assessment list,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 8 April 2019 on building trust in human-centric artificial intelligence (COM(2019)0168),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 7 December 2018 on a coordinated plan on artificial intelligence (COM(2018)0795),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 25 April 2018 on Artificial Intelligence for Europe (COM(2018)0237),

–  having regard to the motion for a resolution of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection,

–  having regard to the question to the Commission on automated decision-making processes: ensuring consumer protection and free movement of goods and services (O-000008/2020 – B9‑0007/2020),

–  having regard to Rules 136(5) and 132(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas technological advances within the fields of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, complex algorithmic-based systems and automated decision-making processes are being made at a rapid pace, and whereas the applications, opportunities and challenges presented by these technologies are numerous and affect virtually all sectors of the internal market;

B.  whereas the development of automated decision-making processes is expected to make a significant contribution to the knowledge economy, and offers benefits for society through, among other things, improved public services, for consumers through innovative products and services and for businesses through optimised performance;

C.  whereas the use and development of AI and automated decision-making processes also presents challenges for consumer trust and welfare, especially in terms of empowering consumers to identify such processes, to understand how they function, to make informed decisions on their use, and to opt out;

D.  whereas ethical guidance, such as the principles adopted by the Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence, provides a starting-point; whereas, however, an examination of the current EU legal framework, including the consumer law acquis, product safety and market surveillance legislation, is needed to check whether it is able to respond to the emergence of AI and automated decision-making and provide a high level of consumer protection, as required under Article 38 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU;

E.  whereas a common EU approach to the development of automated decision-making processes will help secure the benefits of those processes and mitigate the risks across the EU, avoid fragmentation of the internal market, and enable the EU to better promote its approach and its values around the world;

Consumer choice, trust and welfare

1.  Welcomes the potential of automated decision-making to deliver innovative and improved services to consumers, including new digital services such as virtual assistants and chatbots; believes, however, that when consumers are interacting with a system that automates decision-making, they should be properly informed about how it functions, about how to reach a human with decision-making powers, and about how the system’s decisions can be checked and corrected;

2.  Urges the Commission to monitor closely the implementation of new rules under the Better Enforcement Directive(3) that require traders to inform consumers when prices of goods or services have been personalised on the basis of automated decision-making and profiling of consumer behaviour, allowing traders to assess the consumer’s purchasing power;

3.  Urges the Commission to monitor closely the implementation of the Geo-blocking Regulation(4), in order to ensure that automatic decision-making is not being used to discriminate against consumers on the basis of their nationality, place of residence or temporary location;

4.  Encourages the Commission to monitor whether obligations on traders enable effective consumer choice and offer sufficient consumer protection; calls on the Commission to check the existence of any regulatory gaps and to examine whether additional measures are necessary in order to guarantee a strong set of rights to protect consumers in the context of AI and automated decision-making;

5.  Notes that automated decision-making systems are being used in alternative dispute resolution mechanisms on various digital platforms to resolve disputes between consumers and traders; calls on the Commission to ensure that any upcoming review of Directive 2013/11/EU on alternative dispute resolution for consumer disputes(5) and Regulation (EU) No 524/2013 on online dispute resolution for consumer disputes(6) takes into account the use of automated decision-making and ensures that humans remain in control;

Safety and liability framework for products

6.  Underlines that the EU’s product safety framework obliges businesses to ensure that only safe and compliant products are placed on the market; recognises that the emergence of products with automated decision-making capabilities presents new challenges, since such products may evolve and act in ways not envisaged when first placed on the market; urges the Commission to bring forward proposals to adapt the EU’s safety rules for products covered by specific EU legislation that sets harmonised requirements, including the Machinery Directive(7), the Toy Safety Directive(8), the Radio Equipment Directive(9) and the Low Voltage Directive(10), and for ‘non-harmonised products’ covered by the General Product Safety Directive(11), so as to ensure that the new rules are fit for purpose, that users and consumers are protected from harm, that manufacturers have clarity about their obligations, and that users have clarity on how to use products with automated decision-making capabilities;

7.  Stresses the need for a risk-based approach to regulation, in light of the varied nature and complexity of the challenges created by different types and applications of AI and automated decision-making systems; calls on the Commission to develop a risk assessment scheme for AI and automated decision-making in order to ensure a consistent approach to the enforcement of product safety legislation in the internal market; emphasises that Member States must develop harmonised risk management strategies for AI in the context of their national market surveillance strategies;

8.  Notes that the Product Liability Directive(12) has, for over 30 years, provided a valuable safety net to protect consumers from harm caused by defective products; recognises the challenge of determining liability where consumer harm results from autonomous decision-making processes; calls on the Commission to review that directive and consider adapting such concepts as ‘product’ ‘damage’ and ‘defect’, as well as adapting the rules governing the burden of proof; urges the Commission to make proposals to update these concepts and rules if necessary;

Regulatory framework for services

9.  Recalls that the existing regulatory framework on services, consisting of the Services Directive(13), the Professional Qualifications Directive(14), the Proportionality Test Directive(15), the e-Commerce Directive(16) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)(17), already covers many policy aspects relevant for services that incorporate automated decision-making processes, including rules on consumer protection, ethics and liability; notes that such rules should apply to both traditional services and services incorporating automated decision-making processes;

10.  Underlines that while automated decision-making processes can improve the efficiency and accuracy of services, humans must always be ultimately responsible for, and able to overrule, decisions that are taken in the context of professional services such as the medical, legal and accounting professions, and for the banking sector; recalls the importance of supervision or independent oversight by qualified professionals in cases of automated decision-making where legitimate public interests are at stake;

11.  Underlines the importance, in line with the Proportionality Test Directive, of properly assessing risks before automating professional services; urges Member State competent authorities to ensure that professional training takes account of scientific advances in the field of automated decision-making;

Quality and transparency in data governance

12.  Notes that automated decision-making systems rely on gathering large amounts of data, and believes that the Regulation on the free flow of non-personal data(18) will help to make more data available across the EU, thereby enabling innovative data-driven services to be created; acknowledges the potential of data sharing not only from public but also private sources in this regard, while emphasising the imperative of protecting personal data under the GDPR; stresses the importance of using only high-quality and unbiased data sets in order to improve the output of algorithmic systems and boost consumer trust and acceptance;

13.  Stresses that, in light of the significant impact that automated decision-making systems can have on consumers, especially those in vulnerable situations, it is important for those systems not only to use high-quality and unbiased data sets but also to use explainable and unbiased algorithms; considers that review structures are needed within business processes to remedy possible mistakes in automated decisions and that it should be possible for consumers to seek human review of, and redress for, automated decisions that are final and permanent;

14.  Underlines that, in order to assess whether products with automated decision-making capabilities are in conformity with the relevant safety rules, it is essential for the algorithms behind those capabilities to be adequately transparent, and to be explainable to market surveillance authorities; invites the Commission to assess whether additional prerogatives should be given to the market surveillance authorities in this respect;

15.  Calls on the Commission to monitor closely the implementation of the Platform-to-Business Regulation(19), especially the rules on the transparency of rankings, which involve use of automated decision-making processes;

o
o   o

16.  Instructs its president to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0081.
(2) OJ C 252, 18.7.2018, p. 239.
(3) Directive (EU) 2019/2161 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 November 2019 amending Council Directive 93/13/EEC and Directives 98/6/EC, 2005/29/EC and 2011/83/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the better enforcement and modernisation of Union consumer protection rules (OJ L 328, 18.12.2019, p. 7).
(4) Regulation (EU) 2018/302 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 February 2018 on addressing unjustified geo-blocking and other forms of discrimination based on customers’ nationality, place of residence or place of establishment within the internal market and amending Regulations (EC) No 2006/2004 and (EU) 2017/2394 and Directive 2009/22/EC (OJ L 60 I, 2.3.2018, p. 1).
(5) OJ L 165, 18.6.2013, p. 63.
(6) OJ L 165, 18.6.2013, p. 1.
(7) Directive 2006/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2006 on machinery, and amending Directive 95/16/EC (recast), OJ L 157, 9.6.2006, p. 24.
(8) Directive 2009/48/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 June 2009 on the safety of toys (OJ L 170, 30.6.2009, p. 1).
(9) Directive 2014/53/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 on the harmonisation of the laws of the Member States relating to the making available on the market of radio equipment and repealing Directive 1999/5/EC (OJ L 153, 22.5.2014, p. 62).
(10) Directive 2014/35/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on the harmonisation of the laws of the Member States relating to the making available on the market of electrical equipment designed for use within certain voltage limits (OJ L 96, 29.3.2014, p. 357).
(11) Directive 2001/95/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 December 2001 on general product safety (OJ L 11, 15.1.2002, p. 4).
(12) Council Directive 85/374/EEC of 25 July 1985 on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning liability for defective products (OJ L 210, 7.8.1985, p. 29).
(13) Directive 2006/123/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 on services in the internal market (OJ L 376, 27.12.2006, p. 36).
(14) Directive 2013/55/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 November 2013 amending Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications and Regulation (EU) No 1024/2012 on administrative cooperation through the Internal Market Information System (‘the IMI Regulation’) (OJ L 354, 28.12.2013, p. 132).
(15) Directive (EU) 2018/958 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 June 2018 on a proportionality test before adoption of new regulation of professions (OJ L 173, 9.7.2018, p. 25).
(16) Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (‘Directive on electronic commerce’) (OJ L 178, 17.7.2000, p. 1).
(17) Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation) (OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 1).
(18) Regulation (EU) 2018/1807 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 November 2018 on a framework for the free flow of non-personal data in the European Union (OJ L 303, 28.11.2018, p. 59).
(19) Regulation (EU) 2019/1150 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on promoting fairness and transparency for business users of online intermediation services (OJ L 186, 11.7.2019, p. 57).


Proposed mandate for negotiations for a new partnership with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
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European Parliament resolution of 12 February 2020 on the proposed mandate for negotiations for a new partnership with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (2020/2557(RSP))
P9_TA(2020)0033B9-0098/2020

The European Parliament,

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

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’),

–  having regard to its resolutions of 5 April 2017 on negotiations with the United Kingdom following its notification that it intends to withdraw from the European Union(1), of 3 October 2017 on the state of play of negotiations with the United Kingdom(2), of 13 December 2017 on the state of play of negotiations with the United Kingdom(3), of 14 March 2018 on the framework of the future EU-UK relationship(4), and of 18 September 2019 on the state of play of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union(5), and of 15 January 2020 on implementing and monitoring the provisions on citizens’ rights in the Withdrawal Agreement(6),

–  having regard to its legislative resolution of 29 January 2020 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community(7),

–  having regard to the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community(8) (‘the Withdrawal Agreement’), and to the political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom(9), that accompanies the Withdrawal Agreement, (‘the Political Declaration’),

–  having regard to the letters from the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on International Trade, the Committee on Budgets, Committee on Budgetary Control, the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, the Committee on Transport and Tourism, the Committee on Regional Development, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, the Committee on Fisheries, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, the Committee on Constitutional Affairs and the Subcommittee on Security and Defence,

–  having regard to Recommendation for a Council decision authorising the opening of negotiations for a new partnership with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which nominates the Commission as the Union negotiator, and the Annex thereto containing the directives for the negotiation of a new partnership (COM(2020)0035) (‘negotiating directives’),

–  having regard to Rule 132(2) and (4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the United Kingdom (UK) ceased to be a Member State of the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020 at midnight (Central European Time);

B.  whereas the Political Declaration establishes the parameters of an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership across trade and economic cooperation with a comprehensive and balanced Free Trade Agreement (FTA) at its core, as well as law enforcement and criminal justice, foreign policy, security and defence and wider areas of cooperation, and sets out that, where the EU and UK consider it to be in their mutual interest during the negotiations, the future relationship may encompass areas of cooperation beyond those described in the Political Declaration;

C.  whereas the future relationship should be based on a balance of rights and obligations, respecting the integrity of the single market and the customs union as well as the indivisibility of the ‘four freedoms’; whereas a non-Member State of the EU, that does not comply with the same obligations as a Member State, cannot have the same rights and enjoy the same benefits as a Member State;

D.  whereas the Political Declaration states that the future economic partnership will be underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition;

E.  whereas the EU and the UK will remain close neighbours and will continue to have many interests in common;

F.  whereas such a close relationship in the form of a comprehensive partnership agreement between the EU and the UK could be considered an appropriate framework for the future relationship by which these common interests can be protected and promoted, including a new trade relationship;

G.  whereas the agreement on the future relationship between the EU and the UK should provide a flexible framework allowing for varying degrees of cooperation across a wide variety of policy areas, based on a common governance structure with appropriate dispute settlement provisions;

H.  whereas that cooperation will require both parties to maintain high standards and their international commitments in a number of policy areas;

I.  whereas the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland in the Withdrawal Agreement provides for legal framework that preserves the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts and the rights of the people of Northern Ireland, and safeguards single market integrity and the all-island economy and therefore avoids a hard border as long as the consent mechanism provides for its continuation; whereas the UK’s obligation to ensure the application of the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts applies under all circumstances;

J.  whereas it is appropriate that the EU institutions and the Member States, together with public and private institutions, undertake work to be prepared for all eventualities that may arise as a result of the negotiations between the EU and the UK;

K.  whereas the continued unity of the EU institutions and Member States is crucial in order to defend the interests of the EU and its citizens throughout the subsequent phases of negotiations, but also to ensure the successful and timely conclusion of those negotiations;

1.  Underlines its determination to establish a relationship as close as possible with the UK; notes however that such a relationship will have to be different from that enjoyed by the UK as a Member State of the EU and will need to adhere to the principles set out below;

2.  Recalls that any association agreement concluded pursuant to Article 217 TFEU between the EU and the UK (‘the Agreement’) must be in strict concordance with the following principles:

   (i) a third country must not have the same rights and benefits as a Member State of the EU, or a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) or European Economic Area (EEA),
   (ii) protection of the full integrity and correct functioning of the single market, the customs union and indivisibility of the four freedoms, and in particular the degree of cooperation in the economic pillar should be commensurate to the freedom of movement of people;
   (iii) preservation of the autonomy of the EU’s decision-making,
   (iv) safeguarding of the EU legal order and the role of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in this respect,
   (v) continued adherence to democratic principles, human rights and fundamental freedoms, as defined in particular in the United Nations (UN) Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its Protocols, the European Social Charter, the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court and other international human rights treaties of the UN and the Council of Europe, as well as respect for the principle of the rule of law,
   (vi) a level playing field, ensuring equivalent standards in social, labour, environmental, competition and state aid policies, including through a robust and comprehensive framework on competition and state aid control,
   (vii) the precautionary principle, the principle that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source and the ‘polluter pays’ principle,
   (viii) safeguarding of EU agreements with third countries and international organisations, including the EEA Agreement, and maintaining the overall balance of these relationships,
   (ix) safeguarding of the financial stability of the EU and compliance with its regulatory and supervisory regime and standards and their application,
   (x) a right balance of rights and obligations, including, where appropriate, commensurate financial contributions;

3.  Reiterates that the Agreement should provide an appropriate framework for the future relationship being based on three main pillars: economic partnership, foreign affairs partnership, specific sectoral issues and thematic cooperation; stresses that the Agreement should also secure a consistent governance framework, which should include a robust dispute resolution mechanism, thus avoiding a proliferation of bilateral agreements and the shortcomings which characterise the EU’s relationship with Switzerland; recalls that the Agreement must conform to Article 3(5) TEU;

4.  Notes that, given the shared basis of common values held by the EU and the UK, their close links and current regulatory alignment, the UK’s 47-year membership of the EU, and its status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council as well as membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the UK will continue to be an important partner for the EU in all the aforementioned pillars and it is in the mutual interest of both parties to establish a partnership that ensures continued cooperation;

5.  Recalls that the Agreement can only be concluded with the full involvement and final consent of the European Parliament; emphasises that it must be immediately and fully informed at all stages of the procedure in accordance with Articles 207, 217 and 218 TFEU, with relevant case-law and established best practices, and that its positions should be duly taken into account at all stages, ensuring that the European Parliament and its competent committees are in a position to exercise democratic scrutiny and decide on the Agreement fully informed; calls on the Council and the Commission to take the European Parliament’s position fully into consideration when defining the negotiating directives, and to make them public;

6.  Calls on the Commission to conduct negotiations transparently; urges the Commission to ensure in this respect public consultation and constant dialogue with social partners and civil society, as well as with national parliaments;

7.  Considers that the EU must do its utmost in its negotiations with the UK to guarantee the EU’s interests and make sure that at all times the EU’s leverage is preserved and that unity is ensured, as was the case during the negotiations on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU; insists that this unity must be preserved for the negotiations on the future partnership and therefore recalls the importance of the Commission being the EU’s sole negotiator during the negotiations, and that therefore Member States must not undertake any bilateral negotiations;

8.  Demands that negotiations start as soon as possible on all the points covered by the draft negotiating directives; considers, however, that the level of depth and ambition will necessarily be commensurate with the stringent timeframe that the UK has chosen, which does not reflect the complexity of the negotiations and raises the risks of a ‘cliff-edge’ in certain areas where contingency measures or the international framework may not be a sufficient legal framework to prevent severe disruption;

9.  Expresses its concern at the UK Prime Minister’s interpretation of the provisions of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland of the Withdrawal Agreement concerning border controls in the Irish Sea; considers that trust is an essential element of any negotiation, is of the opinion that the UK Prime Minister must immediately clarify in a satisfactory manner the UK’s intended approach to the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland;

10.  Supports the negotiating directives, which set out that Gibraltar will not be included in the territorial scope of the agreements to be concluded between the EU and the UK, and that any separate agreement will require the prior agreement of the Kingdom of Spain;

I.ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP

Trade & level-playing field

11.  Takes note that the UK has chosen to establish its future economic and trade partnership with the EU on the basis of an FTA; emphasises that, while the European Parliament is supportive of the EU constructively negotiating a balanced, ambitious and comprehensive FTA with the UK, by its nature an FTA will never be equivalent to ‘frictionless’ trade;

12.  Reiterates that, with a view to preserving the integrity of the EU and its single market, of the customs union and the indivisibility of the four freedoms, it is crucial to ensure that the level of quota and duty free access to the world’s largest single market fully corresponds to the extent of regulatory convergence and the commitments taken with respect to observing a level playing field for open and fair competition with a view to dynamic alignment; underlines that it requires a combination of substantive rules and measures, including non-regression clauses and mechanisms to ensure effective implementation, enforcement and dispute settlement;

13.  Stresses that an FTA should aim to allow market access and trade facilitation as close as possible to what existed prior to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, while it must also continue creating decent jobs and boosting the EU’s export opportunities, encouraging sustainable development, upholding the EU’s standards, and respecting democratic procedures; underlines that a level playing field should be ensured and EU standards safeguarded in order to avoid a ‘race to the bottom’, with a view to dynamic alignment, and the need to ensure that the UK does not gain unfair competitive advantage through the undercutting of levels of protection and to prevent regulatory arbitrage by market operators;

14.  Stresses that, for an FTA to truly promote the EU’s interests, the following objectives should be included in the negotiating directives:

   (i) a level playing field is to be guaranteed through robust commitments and enforceable provisions on competition and state aid, relevant tax matters (including the fight against tax evasion, avoidance and money laundering), full respect of the social and labour standards (including equivalent levels of protection and safeguards against social dumping), environmental protection and climate change related standards, promotion of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, a high-level protection of consumers and sustainable development; the provisions should ensure that standards are not lowered, while empowering both parties to modify commitments over time to lay down higher standards or include additional areas; commitments and provisions should be enforceable by autonomous interim measures, a solid dispute settlement mechanism and remedies, with a view to dynamic alignment;
   (ii) reciprocal arrangement for mutually beneficial market access for goods, services, public procurement, recognition of professional qualifications and where relevant foreign direct investment to be negotiated in full compliance with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules;
   (iii) commitment by both parties to continue working together for strong rules based free and fair trade in international fora, with a view to achieving effective multilateralism;
   (iv) while striving for the widest possible trade in goods, the Commission should evaluate possible quotas and tariffs for the most sensitive sectors as well as the need for safeguard clauses to protect the integrity of the EU single market; reiterates, moreover, that for instance with respect to food and agricultural products access to the single market is conditional on strict compliance with all EU law and standards, particularly in the fields of food safety, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), pesticides, geographical indications, animal welfare, labelling and traceability, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards, and human, animal and plant health;
   (v) rules of origin should mirror the most recent EU FTAs and be based on the interests of EU producers; the Agreement should safeguard the framework of existing commercial relationships between the EU and third countries and avoid any free-riding by ensuring consistency in keeping a tuned tariff and quota system and rules of origin for products vis-à-vis third countries;
   (vi) commitments on anti-dumping and countervailing measures could go beyond WTO rules in this area, as appropriate;
   (vii) commitments on services should be made with the aim of delivering a level of liberalisation in trade in services well beyond the parties’ WTO commitments, building on recent EU FTAs, while safeguarding the high quality of the EU’s public services in accordance with the TFEU and in particular Protocol 26 on Services of General Interest; in addition, audio-visual services should be excluded from provisions related to liberalisation; reiterates that under an FTA market access for services is limited and always subject to exclusions, reservations and exceptions; all modes of supply of services should be covered, including commitments on the movement of natural persons across borders (Mode 4) and provisions, linked to EU rules and the respect for equal treatment of workers and recognition of professional qualifications; the arrangements should include provisions on market access and national treatment under host state rules to ensure that EU service providers are treated in a non-discriminatory manner, including with regard to establishment; the new arrangements should allow for the temporary entry and stay of natural persons for business purposes with the aim of providing services;
   (viii) there should be opportunities for access to public procurement markets beyond WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) commitments, guaranteeing market access for EU companies in strategic sectors and a degree of openness equal to EU’s public procurement markets;
   (ix) strong and enforceable measures covering the recognition and protection of intellectual property rights, including geographical indications (GIs), such as copyright and related rights, trademarks, based on the current and future EU legal framework;
   (x) the agreement should confirm the protection of existing GIs, as provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement, and establish a mechanism for the protection of future GIs, ensuring the same level of protection as that provided for by the Withdrawal Agreement;
   (xi) an ambitious chapter on trade and gender equality should be included; the consequences of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on gender equality should be taken into account, including by ensuring a level-playing field for EU actions protecting and advancing the role of women in economy, for instance in terms of measures combatting the gender pay gap;
   (xii) an overarching chapter on the needs and interests of micro-enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with regard to market access facilitation issues including, but not limited to, compatibility of technical standards, and streamlined customs procedures with the aim of preserving and generating concrete business opportunities and fostering their internationalisation;
   (xiii) for a trade agreement to be comprehensive, it must include provisions to ensure continued regulatory alignment of the UK with the EU in the future; in order to facilitate trade, cross-cutting disciplines on regulatory coherence and non-tariff barriers should be negotiated, mindful of the voluntary nature of regulatory cooperation and the right to regulate in the public interests, while preserving the regulatory autonomy and parliamentary rights, and recalling that provisions on regulatory cooperation in a trade agreement cannot fully replicate the same frictionless trade as provided for by membership of the single market;
   (xiv) in order to safeguard financial and regulatory stability and to ensure the full respect of the EU regulatory regime and standards and their application, prudential carve-out and limitations in the cross-border provisions of financial services are a customary feature of EU trade agreements and should be included in this one;
   (xv) ambitious provisions allowing for the development of digital trade, and to address unjustified barriers to trade by electronic means, and ensure an open, secure and trustworthy online environment for businesses and consumers, and regulating cross-border data flows, including principles such as fair competition and ambitious rules for cross-border data transfers, in full compliance with, and without prejudice to, the EU’s current and future data protection and privacy rules;
   (xvi) the FTA would lead to customs checks and verification as soon as goods are entering into the single market, which would affect global supply chains and manufacturing processes; it is necessary to strengthen customs authorities both with regard to personnel and technical equipment, in order to cope with their additional tasks; the operational procedures of the future agreement must be aimed at preserving the rules of the Union’s single market for goods and the customs union; it is therefore of utmost importance to safeguard the compliance of the goods with single market rules;
   (xvii) regulatory alignment on the market surveillance of products and on robust product standards should be an essential and irreplaceable part of any future agreement with the UK to ensure a level playing field for EU businesses and a high level of protection of EU consumers;
   (xviii) the integrity of the customs union and its rules and procedures must be preserved; a timely and efficient working arrangement between the EU and the UK in this area should be established;

15.  Emphasises that the FTA in its entirety should be covered by provisions on civil society dialogue, stakeholder involvement and consultation by both parties; insists on the establishment of domestic advisory groups supervising the implementation of the agreement;

16.  Reiterates that the Agreement should secure a consistent governance framework, which should include a robust dispute resolution mechanism as well as governance structures; emphasises in this regard the competence of the CJEU for the interpretation of questions related to EU law in order to ensure the homogeneity of such interpretation;

Level playing field

17.   Recalls that the UK should continue to respect and implement the standards that exist under its international commitments with a view to dynamic alignment of legislation and policies, in a way that reflects the breadth and depth of the future relationship;

18.  Recalls its determination to prevent any kind of ‘dumping’ in the framework of the future EU-UK relationship and recalls in that regard that alignment on environmental, labour and social, relevant tax matters and state aid policies is the key to preventing it;

19.  Notes that the breadth and depth of the Agreement on a level playing field will be essential in determining the extent of the overall future EU-UK relationship; recalls that the continued adherence of the UK to the EU’s social model will play a key role in this; reiterates the need to set up safeguards to ensure the maintenance both of high standards and a level playing field in the areas of social and employment standards at least at the current high levels provided by the existing common standards;

20.  Underlines that a deeper relationship will require a robust and comprehensive framework for competition and state aid control that prevents undue distortion of trade and competition, in order to ensure that the UK does not engage in unfair and anti-competitive behaviour leading to the undercutting of EU economic actors;

21.  Strongly believes that the UK should adhere to the evolving standards on taxation and anti-money laundering legislation within the EU acquis, including tax transparency, the exchange of information on tax matters and anti-tax avoidance measures, and should address the respective situation of its Overseas Territories, its Sovereign Base Areas and its Crown Dependencies and their non-compliance with EU good governance criteria and transparency requirements;

22.  Reiterates the need to maintain high standards and a level playing field in the areas of medicinal products, medical devices, food safety and labelling, and veterinary, phytosanitary, and environmental policy and standards;

23.  Notes that, as with the entire Agreement, provisions on the level playing field will require robust governance structures to include appropriate management, supervision, dispute settlement and enforcement mechanisms with sanctions and interim measures where necessary and with a requirement for both parties to establish or, where relevant, maintain independent institutions capable of effectively overseeing and enforcing implementation; underlines that access to justice and a proper complaints mechanism must be guaranteed for citizens and non-governmental organisations with respect to the enforcement of labour and environmental standards;

II.SPECIFIC SECTORIAL ISSUES AND THEMATIC COOPERATION

Fisheries

24.  Stresses furthermore that the issue of free access to waters and ports is inseparable from the issue of free trade and access of UK fisheries products to the EU market, and that the negotiation with the UK on fisheries cannot be disconnected and must have a direct link with negotiations on the overall economic partnership, in particular on trade;

25.  Recalls and strongly supports the provisions on fisheries to be agreed by 1 July 2020 and believes that the UK future fisheries management regime should not become weaker than the current rules and obligations of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP);

26.  Underlines that the withdrawal of the UK from the EU does not exempt the UK from its responsibilities to cooperate as coastal state for the joint and sustainable management of shared fish stocks, in accordance with its international obligations;

27.  Recalls that the fundamental principle of free and equal access for EU fishers to all Member States’ waters under the CFP, as well as the EU single market and its principle of free movement of goods (including fisheries products) have established decades of rights and benefits for coastal communities, operators and consumers;

28.  Highlights the importance of establishing a mutually beneficial and comprehensive partnership between the EU and the UK, which includes in a non-dissociable manner and as a matter of priority before the end of the transition period, an agreement on fisheries and fisheries-related matters in accordance with the mutual obligations under international law;

29.  Insists that the Agreement should be built on the principles established in the CFP for the sustainable exploitation and conservation of marine living resources and for the socio-economic benefit of fishers, operators in the fisheries sector and consumers;

30.  Calls for the Agreement to ensure in particular a continued reciprocal access to waters and to maintain the existing stable quota share between the EU and the UK of commonly exploited stocks; highlights in that context the importance of maintaining commonly-agreed fisheries management principles and measures along the lines of those established in the CFP;

31.  Insists on the need for proper consultation mechanisms and a common science-based approach, together with guarantees for the continued contribution of the UK to data collection and to the scientific assessment of stocks; urges both parties to continue cooperation in fisheries control and the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing;

Data protection

32.  Recalls that, according to the case-law of the CJEU(10), in order for the Commission to declare the adequacy of the UK data protection framework, it must demonstrate that the UK provides a level of protection ‘essentially equivalent’ to that offered by EU legal framework, including on onward transfers to third countries; recalls that UK Data Protection Act provides for a general and broad exemption from the data protection principles and data subjects’ rights for the processing of personal data for immigration purposes; is concerned about the fact that, when non-UK citizens’ data are processed under this exemption, they are not protected in the same manner as UK citizens; is of the view that that exemption would be in conflict with Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council(11); furthermore, is of the view that the UK legal framework on retention of electronic telecommunications data does not fulfil the conditions of the relevant EU acquis as interpreted by the CJEU, and hence does not currently meet the conditions for adequacy;

33.  Considers necessary to pay particular attention to the legal framework in the UK in the fields of national security or processing of personal data by law enforcement authorities; recalls that mass surveillance programmes might not be adequate under EU law and strongly encourages taking into consideration CJEU case-law in this field such as the Schrems case as well as European Court of Human Rights case-law;

34.  Instructs the Commission to carefully assess UK’s data protection legal framework and ensure that the UK has resolved the problems identified in this resolution prior to considering UK data protection law adequate in line with EU law as interpreted by the CJEU(12), and to seek the advice of the European Data Protection Board and the European Data Protection Supervisor providing them with all the relevant information and appropriate timelines to fulfil their role;

Climate change and the environment

35.  Believes that the future EU-UK relationship should be based not only on economic factors, but also on a high level of environmental ambition underpinned by cooperation in the relevant international fora in order to address trans-boundary and global challenges;

36.  Considers that the EU and the UK should ensure that the level of environmental protection provided by law, regulations and practices is not reduced below the level provided by the common standards applicable within the EU and the UK at the end of the transition period in relation to: access to environmental information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters; environmental impact assessment and strategic environmental assessment; industrial emissions; air emissions and air quality targets and ceilings; nature and biodiversity conservation; waste management; the protection and preservation of the aquatic environment; the protection and preservation of the marine environment; the prevention, reduction and elimination of risks to human health or the environment arising from the production, use, release and disposal of chemical substances, plant protection products; and climate change and the precautionary principle;

37.  Calls on the negotiators to ensure that the UK commits itself to implement the standards, including targets, and other provisions agreed at EU level during the transition period;

38.  Urges that cooperation in the area of the fight against climate change be made an absolute priority in the negotiations, given the utmost importance of being successful in that area starting with the success of the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 26) in Glasgow; considers that the best option would be complete alignment of the UK and the EU in this area; in that regard, expresses a strong preference for the UK to fully align itself to the current and future EU climate policy framework, as well as the commitments under the Paris Agreement, and requests that the cap on EU emissions established by the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), the Effort Sharing Regulation, and including land use, land-use change and forestry, apply in its entirety;

39.  Calls on the UK to maintain a system of carbon pricing aligned with common standards and targets in place at the end of the transition period and for the negotiators to explore the possibility of linking the UK’s future national greenhouse gas emissions trading system with the EU ETS, provided that EU ETS’s integrity is fully respected;

40.  Underlines that any relationship between the UK and the European Investment Bank (EIB) should be subject to – among others – the UK’s alignment with the revamped EU climate and environmental objectives, the UK’s compliance with the regulation establishing a framework to facilitate sustainable investment and the EIB’s ambitious new climate strategy and energy lending policy;

41.  Stresses that there would be a risk of loss of EU biodiversity as a result of any lowering of protection in the UK, since many species (birds, bats, butterflies and cetaceans) migrate between the EU and the UK, and for many non-migratory species there is a regular gene flow between the UK and the EU;

42.  Stresses the importance for the UK to remain aligned on chemicals safety legislation (REACH(13)) and ensure cooperation with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA);

Energy

43.  Calls for the Agreement to ensure non-discriminatory access to networks for market participants, effective unbundling of network operators; guarantee the level playing field and non-regression, including effective carbon pricing, state-aid, and environmental protection;

44.  Calls for the establishment of mechanisms that ensure as far as possible security of supply and efficient trade over interconnectors over different timeframes;

45.  Expects the UK to comply with high nuclear safety, security and radiation protection standards; expects the agreement to address the UK’s relationship to Euratom and the ITER project and the impact of a withdrawal on assets and liabilities, enabling cooperation and the exchange of information between Euratom, the UK and its national authorities; calls for the Agreement to include a commitment to enable a level playing field in standards of nuclear safety to apply at the end of the transition period, ensuring full respect of international conventions, including the Aarhus and Espoo Conventions, and treaties;

Public health and food safety

46.  Highlights the importance to EU and UK consumers of the UK maintaining high standards on food safety and food labelling; recalls that any food imported in the EU from a third country must meet the EU’s high food safety standards, concerning inter alia the use of GMOs; notes the mutual benefit of the UK continuing to participate in the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed; recalls that robust checks and controls will have to take place between the EU and the UK, given the UK’s third country status;

47.  Stresses the importance of the UK maintaining equivalent animal health standards, in preventing the transmission of zoonotic diseases between animals and people, particularly in the case of migratory species, for the benefit of both animal and human health; considers it necessary to maintain passporting for animal movements, both for domestic and farm animals, between the EU and the UK on the basis of existing and future EU standards;

48.  Stresses the importance of high standards and a level playing field with regard to protecting the welfare and health of animals throughout the food chain and to ensuring fair competition between farmers in the UK and the EU; excludes the possibility of EU imports of live animals, meat and eggs that are not compliant with EU animal welfare standards;

49.  Underlines the importance of ensuring an adequate supply of medicines, medical devices and other healthcare products; calls therefore on the EU and the UK to ensure that measures are taken to limit shortages and limit the potential serious impacts on human health; calls, in particular, for targeted actions to ensure continued and rapid access to safe medicines and medical devices for patients, including a secure and consistent supply of radioisotopes;

50.  Urges that cooperation on health and public health issues be continued; underlines that, as a third country, the UK will not be able to take part in the authorisation procedures of medical products in the EU;

Citizens’ rights and mobility of persons

51.  Calls on the negotiating parties to strive towards full continuation of the citizens’ rights guaranteed under the Withdrawal Agreement for both EU and UK citizens and their families; stresses that any future mobility arrangements should be based on non-discrimination between the EU’s Member States and full reciprocity; considers, more generally, that further concretisation of citizens’ rights, including free movement for UK nationals in the EU based on a reciprocal approach, must constitute a cornerstone and indivisible part of the text of a future international agreement between the EU and the UK; considers that it is also essential that the EU’s Member States clarify the framework to be applied by each of them on UK citizens wishing to obtain residence status, and that such measures are user-friendly and transparent, in order to facilitate the process, as well as free of charge, and that the Commission and the European Parliament monitor relevant developments;

52.  Asks for the establishment of adequate social security coordination arrangements, including pension rights, in the light of the future movement of persons; welcomes in that respect the detailed provisions on the coordination of social security systems in the Withdrawal Agreement, which protect rights deriving from periods of social security insurance contributions;

53.  Urges the UK Government to enact a new employment bill before the end of the transition period in order to avoid any gaps where workers’ rights are neither protected by existing EU legislation nor the UK’s employment bill;

54.  Insists, in that respect, on the full and proper implementation of EU legislation with implementation deadlines during the transition period, such as the revision of the posting of workers directive, the work-life balance directive or the transparent and predictable working conditions directive;

55.  Calls for the special situation on the island of Ireland to be taken fully into consideration, and for outstanding issues concerning the citizens of Northern Ireland to be addressed; urges the UK authorities to ensure that there will be no diminution of rights for the citizens in Northern Ireland and to fully respect the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts;

56.  Is in favour of the UK to continue applying the roaming regulation for the benefit of both EU and UK citizens and in particular to facilitate the cross-border movement of people on the island of Ireland;

57.  Takes note of the UK’s intention to accede the 2007 Hague Maintenance Convention and calls for a proper cooperation and ambition in civil and family law matters, especially as regards the rights and repatriation of children; reminds that the future agreement should also take into account certain categories of citizens currently covered by EU law as interpreted by the CJEU such as UK nationals returning to UK with non-EU family members, people with disabilities and carers, third country nationals living in the UK that have strong legal ties with the Member States, for instance, third country nationals born in the EU, recognised refugees and stateless persons;

58.  Considers that mobility arrangements must be based on non-discrimination and full reciprocity; recalls that, once the negotiation mandate is adopted, Member States cannot negotiate bilateral agreements;

59.  Regrets, in this context, that the UK has announced that the principle of the free movement of persons between the EU and the UK will no longer apply; considers that any agreement on the future relationship between the EU and the UK should include ambitious provisions to ensure the continuation of rights for both EU and UK citizens and their family members, in particular concerning the movement of persons and workers; recalls that free movement rights are also directly linked to the three other freedoms integral to the single market, and have particular relevance to services and professional qualifications;

60.  Considers that the Agreement should provide for visa-free travel for short-term visits, including short-term work-related trips, based on full reciprocity and non-discrimination, and should establish conditions for entry and stay for research, study and training purposes and youth exchanges;

61.  Regarding future cooperation in asylum and migration policies between the UK and the EU27, stresses that this should at least contain arrangements that enhance safe and legal pathways to access international protection, including through family reunification; given that family reunion continues to be important for asylum seekers who reside in the UK and have families within the EU’s borders, encourages the adoption of a plan on family reunion, which should enter into force after the transition period, in order to avoid any gaps with humanitarian impacts and to respect the right to family life of asylum seekers in accordance with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights;

Equivalence in financial services

62.  Recalls that UK based companies will lose passporting rights;

63.  Considers that market access should be based on equivalence decisions, provided if the EU is satisfied that UK regulatory and supervisory regime and standards are and continue to be fully equivalent to those of the EU, reflecting the provisions agreed upon for a level-playing field; believes that once equivalence has been granted towards the UK, an effective mechanism has to be put in place to guarantee that equivalence is maintained over time and recalls that the EU can withdraw unilaterally the status of equivalent at any moment;

64.  Considers that any future framework should safeguard financial stability in the EU and respect its regulatory and supervisory regime and standards and their application, while maintaining the EU regulatory and decision-making autonomy;

Transport

65.  Calls on the negotiators to ensure continued connectivity between the UK and the EU, based on the requirement of reciprocity in mutual access to the transport markets, taking into account the difference in size of the two respective markets;

66.  In this respect, recalls that the multilateral quota system of the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) is currently inadequate to fully address the road freight transport needs between the EU and the UK and that appropriate measures should be put in place to avoid threats to public order and prevent disruptions to traffic flows of road haulage operators and coach and bus service operators;

67.  Highlights the need to ensure that negotiations also encompass an ambitious, balanced and high-standard comprehensive air transport agreement, especially as far as air traffic rights, air safety and airport security are concerned, which should be dealt with accordingly, recalls, in this regard, that future air connectivity between the UK and the EU cannot amount to de jure or de facto participation of the UK in the Single Aviation Market;

68.  Highlights that the future partnership between the UK and the EU should address the specific situation of the Channel Tunnel, especially the regulatory framework on railway safety;

69.  Considers that intra-EU access between Ireland and the other EU Member States should be ensured, including the rights to transit for the intra-EU road transport between Ireland and the other EU Member States;

70.  Stresses that the future relationship between the UK and the EU must ensure a strong level playing field in all transport sectors with a special focus on state aid, environmental protection, passenger rights, commercial flexibility and social aspects, including driving and rest times;

71.  Highlights the need to ensure continuous financing of jointly agreed infrastructure projects, especially within the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and Single European Sky (SES) framework, as well as Joint Technology Initiatives such as Clean Sky I and II and Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR); and considers it crucial that the UK honour its financial commitments and obligations in full, even if those commitments and obligations should extend beyond the duration of its EU membership;

Programmes and agencies

72.  Stresses that the rules for the UK’s participation in EU agencies and programmes will be the rules applicable to third countries outside the EEA; encourages the participation of the UK in EU programmes while respecting all relevant rules and mechanisms and conditions of participation;

73.  Stresses that any UK participation in EU programmes should not entail net transfers from the EU budget to the UK; considers moreover that any further participation of the UK in EU programmes needs to ensure a fair balance as regards the contributions and benefits of the third country participating in the EU programme and participation should not confer to the third country any decisional power; calls on the Commission to ensure that there are sufficient binding provisions and guarantees with regard to the Protection of Union’s Financial Interests and Sound Financial Management for the programs in which the UK would participate, including control and audit, and investigation in case of fraud, respect of the right of access of Commission services, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, the European Court of Auditors as well as the right of scrutiny of the European Parliament;

74.  Believes, in particular, that UK participation in cross-border, cultural, development, education and research programmes such as Erasmus+, Creative Europe, Horizon, the European Research Council, the LIFE Programme, TEN-T, CEF, SES, Interreg, joint technology initiatives such as Clean Sky I and II, SESAR, ERICs, Galileo, Copernicus, the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS), Space, Surveillance and Tracking (SST) Support Framework, and public-private partnerships, is important;

75.  Welcomes the contribution that the PEACE programme has made to delivering peace and stability in Northern Ireland and calls for the preservation of the Northern Ireland peace process and the benefits of the current Peace IV programme and the International Fund for Ireland;

76.  Considers it of the utmost importance that the EU and the UK explore the possibility of cooperation between the UK authorities and EU agencies, including in particular the European Chemicals Agency, the European Food Safety Authority, the European Environment Agency, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and the European Medicines Agency; underlines that the UK will have no decision-making authority over EU agencies; in that context, urges the Commission to define the nature, scope and limits of this potential cooperation;

77.  Considers it necessary to clarify the future practical cooperation between the UK authorities and the EU agencies in the field of Justice and Home Affairs;

III.SECURITY AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS PARTNERSHIP

Foreign policy, security challenges and defence

78.  Believes that, even though the UK will be excluded from the EU decision-making structures, the UK is an important partner as the need for common responses to address foreign, security and defence policy challenges is crucial in the EU’s immediate neighbourhood and on the international arena;

79.  Underlines that the new EU-UK relationship will require intensive cooperation in foreign and security policies as both the EU and the UK share many interests and experiences, and stand for so many of the same values; stresses that it is in both sides’ interest to maintain an ambitious cooperation that serves the security of Europe and its citizens and contributes to global stability, the protection of human rights and peace in line with the objectives and principles set out in Article 21 TEU;

80.  Notes that, on common foreign and security policy (CFSP), EU common positions and actions can only be adopted by EU Member States; points out, however, that this does not exclude consultation mechanisms that would allow the UK to align with EU foreign policy positions and joint actions, notably on defending the rules-based global order, multilateral cooperation and human rights especially in the frameworks of the UN, NATO, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Council of Europe; supports consultation and coordination on sanctions policy with the possibility of adopting sanctions that are mutually reinforcing when foreign policy objectives of the Parties are aligned; highlights the added value of close cooperation in CFSP given the UK’s substantial position as a security actor;

81.  Underlines that the UK must implement the EU’s restrictive measures in place or decided during the transition period, support EU statements and positions in third countries and international organisations and participate on a case by case basis in EU military operations and civilian missions established under the Common and Security Defence Policy (CSDP), yet without any leading capacity within a new Framework Participation Agreement, while respecting the decision making autonomy of the EU and the relevant EU decisions and legislation, including on procurement and transfers in the field of defence; such cooperation is conditional on full compliance with international human rights law and international humanitarian law and EU fundamental rights;

82.  Recalls that effective international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation regimes are a cornerstone of global and European security; calls on the EU and the UK to launch a coherent and credible strategy for multilateral negotiations at global level and on regional de-escalation and confidence-building measures; calls on the UK to commit to remain bound by Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP of 8 December 2008 defining common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment;

83.  Underlines that such cooperation would be mutually reinforcing, as it would allow to maintain the UK’s expertise and capabilities in CSDP missions and operations; strongly encourages the UK to contribute to civilian and military CSDP missions and operations; stresses that, as a third state, and following the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the EU and UK, the UK will not be able to participate in the planning or command of EU missions and operations and that its capacity and level of participation in the planning or command/ participation in EU missions and operations and exchange of information and interaction with the EU is to be proportionate to the UK contribution to each mission or operation;

84.  Expects that UK should continue to adhere fully to its commitments undertaken in the format E3 + 3 on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, enshrined in the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, as a pillar of international non-proliferation regime and a basis for de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East and Gulf regions;

85.  Underlines that security and defence policy cooperation should form an integral part of the comprehensive partnership agreement envisaged to govern the future relationship; underscores that such an agreement would be without prejudice to the decision-making autonomy of the EU or the sovereignty of the UK;

86.  Considers that it is in the common interest of the UK and the EU to cooperate on defence capabilities development including within the European Defence Agency, and cooperation against hybrid threats, thereby strengthening the European defence technological and industrial base and fostering genuine interoperability and joint effectiveness of European and Allied armed forces;

87.  Notes that any cooperation in the above areas that involves sharing EU classified information, including on intelligence, is conditional on a security information agreement for the protection of EU classified information; underlines that the exchange of information and intelligence shall be encouraged and shall respect the principle of reciprocity; notes that this requires a specific agreement on classified information and the further development of autonomous evaluation of intelligence data; encourages an exchange of liaisons and attaché’s to ensure seamless exchange of information;

88.  Notes that since the launch of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the UK has not participated in any of the projects selected; notes that its participation, with a key objective of interoperability among partners, and on an exceptional basis, should be considered when invited by the Council of the European Union in a PESCO format;

89.  Recalls that the UK remains a key member of NATO and will be able to continue the highly valuable partnerships it has developed both with other European members of NATO bilaterally and through EU-NATO cooperation;

90.  Notes that the UK could participate in EU programmes in support of defence and external security (such as the European Defence Fund, Galileo and cyber-security programmes), based on other similar third-country arrangements subject to respective negotiations for each instrument and on an appropriate balance between obligations and rights; underlines the possibility of the UK to contribute to the EU’s external financing instruments in pursuit of common objectives;

91.  Stresses the strategic dimension for Europe of the space sector, considers that an ambitious space policy can contribute effectively to enhancing the EU’s external action, and emphasises the need to make progress in developing technologies with both civilian and military uses which are capable of ensuring European strategic autonomy;

Security, law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters

92.  Considers it highly important, in view of the geographical proximity and the shared threats the EU and the UK are confronted with, that the EU and the UK strive to maintain effective arrangements for cooperation in law enforcement cooperation which is effective and mutually beneficial for the security of their citizens taking into account the fact the UK is a non-Schengen third country, and therefore it cannot enjoy the same rights and facilities as a Member State;

93.  Stresses that the UK cannot have direct access to EU information systems data or participate in the management structures of the EU agencies in the area of Freedom, Security and Justice, while any sharing of information including personal data with the UK should be subject to strict safeguards, audit and oversight conditions, including an equivalent level of protection of personal data to that provided by EU law;

94.  Considers that, as a third country, the UK cannot have access to the Schengen Information System (SIS); calls on the UK to remedy the serious deficiencies identified as regards its use of SIS immediately and calls on the Council and the Commission to monitor the process very closely to ensure that all deficiencies are addressed correctly without further delay; considers that the arrangements for the future cooperation between the EU and the UK in the area of law enforcement should only be discussed once the deficiencies are remedied; requests to be kept closely informed about all developments in that regard;

95.  Any reciprocal arrangements for timely, effective and efficient exchanges of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data and for the results of processing of such data to be stored in respective national PNR processing systems, and for the processing of DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registration data (Prüm), as well as operational cooperation via Europol and Eurojust, must be based on strong safeguards and conditions and fully comply with the CJEU Opinion 1/15, which declared the EU-Canada PNR agreement to be in breach of the Charter;

96.  Expects the UK to be able to continue the established cooperation and information exchange with national authorities in the area of cybersecurity;

97.  Considers that the enforcement and recognition of judgments in civil and commercial matters must be ensured without undue formalities;

98.  Highlights that the UK is a major development cooperation and humanitarian aid actor and that a close association in this area would be of high mutual benefit; and suggests the UK could be invited to contribute to the EU’s instruments and mechanisms whilst respecting of the autonomy of the EU; considers that the envisaged partnership should also promote sustainable development and the eradication of poverty and continued support for implementing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and European Consensus on Development;

IV.GOVERNANCE OF THE FUTURE AGREEMENT

99.  Points out that any future EU-UK agreement with the UK as a third country should include the establishment of a coherent and solid governance system as an overarching framework, covering the joint continuous supervision/management of the Agreement and dispute settlement and enforcement mechanisms with respect to the interpretation and application of the Agreement’s provisions; is of the opinion that a horizontal governance mechanism along these lines should be applicable to the future relation with the UK as a whole; recalls in that regard its resolution of 15 January 2020 and considers that the full implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement is an overriding priority; emphasises in that regard that the European Parliament will continue to be vigilant regarding the implementation of all provisions; points out that the conflict resolution mechanism will need to be robust, and that such a mechanism will need to ensure effective, rapidly actionable and dissuasive remedies;

100.  Insists on the absolute necessity for this governance system to fully preserve the autonomy of the EU’s decision-making and legal order, including the role of the CJEU as the sole interpreter of EU law;

101.  Stresses that the design of governance arrangements should be commensurate with the nature, scope and depth of the future relationship and take account of the level of interconnection, cooperation and proximity, while ensuring an effective and efficient application of the entire future agreement;

102.  Agrees with the idea of setting up a governing body responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Agreement, addressing divergences of interpretation and implementing agreed corrective measures, such as dissuasive sectoral corrective measures and safeguards, and fully ensuring the EU’s regulatory autonomy, including the legislative prerogatives of the European Parliament and the Council; underlines that the EU representatives on that governing body should be subject to appropriate accountability mechanisms involving the European Parliament; recalls the Commission President’s commitment before the European Parliament’s plenary on 16 April 2019 to make sure that whenever a decision will have to be taken in that governing body, the Commission will closely involve the European Parliament and take utmost account of the Parliament’s views and that nothing can be decided on Brexit without taking full account of the position of the European Parliament;

103.  Insists also that the Agreement should provide for the establishment of joint parliamentary body between the EU and the UK tasked to monitor the implementation of the future Agreement;

104.  Considers that, for provisions based on EU law concepts, the governance arrangements must provide for referral to the CJEU; reiterates that, for the application and interpretation of provisions of the Agreement other than those relating to EU law, an alternative dispute settlement mechanism can only be envisaged if it offers equivalent guarantees of independence and impartiality to the CJEU;

o
o   o

105.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and to the Government and Parliament of the United Kingdom.

(1) OJ C 298, 23.8.2018, p. 24.
(2) OJ C 346, 27.9.2018, p. 2.
(3) OJ C 369, 11.10.2018, p. 32.
(4) OJ C 162, 10.5.2019, p. 40.
(5) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2019)0016.
(6) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0006.
(7) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0018.
(8) OJ L 29, 31.1.2020, p. 7.
(9) OJ C 34, 31.1.2020, p. 1.
(10) Case C- 362/14 Maximillian Schrems v Data Protection Commissioner ECLI:EU:C:2015:650
(11) Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation) (OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 1).
(12) Case C- 362/14 Maximillian Schrems v Data Protection Commissioner ECLI:EU:C:2015:650, Opinion 1/15 PNR Canada; ECLI:EU:C:2017:592, Cases C 293/12 and C 594/12, Digital Rights Ireland and Others, EU:C:2014:238, Tele2 and Watson: , Cases C-203/15 - Tele2 Sverige and C-698/15 Watson ECLI:EU:C:2016:970
(13) Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), establishing a European Chemicals Agency, amending Directive 1999/45/EC and repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No 793/93 and Commission Regulation (EC) No 1488/94 as well as Council Directive 76/769/EEC and Commission Directives 91/155/EEC, 93/67/EEC, 93/105/EC and 2000/21/EC (OJ L 396, 30.12.2006, p. 1).


European Central Bank - annual report 2018
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European Parliament resolution of 12 February 2020 on the European Central Bank Annual Report for 2018 (2019/2129(INI))
P9_TA(2020)0034A9-0016/2020

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the 2018 Annual Report of the European Central Bank (ECB),

–  having regard to the Statute of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) and of the ECB, in particular Article 15 thereof,

–  having regard to Articles 127(1) and (2), 130 and 284(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to the hearing with the candidate for President of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, of 4 September 2019,

–  having regard to Mario Draghi’s Monetary Dialogue with the European Parliament as President of the European Central Bank, of 23 September 2019,

–  having regard to the report of 18 October 2019 from the G7 Working Group on Stablecoins entitled ‘Investigating the impact of global stablecoins’,

–  having regard to the ECB Feedback on the input provided by the European Parliament as part of its resolution on the ECB Annual Report for 2017,

–  having regard to the final report of 31 January 2018 of the High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, entitled ‘Financing a sustainable European Economy’,

–  having regard to its resolution of 29 May 2018 on sustainable finance(1) and its legislative resolution of 28 March 2019 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment(2),

–  having regard to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),

–  having regard to the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),

–  having regard to Rule 142(1) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (A9-0016/2020),

A.  whereas according to the Commission’s Autumn 2019 Economic Forecast, the latest figures of 2019 reflect a slowdown of GDP growth in the euro area in 2018, from 1,9 % to 1,1 % in 2019, and in the EU-27, from 2,1 % in 2018 to 1,4 % in 2019, owing to the recent escalation in trade tensions, the corresponding uncertainty and to Brexit;

B.  whereas according to Eurostat figures, the unemployment rate in August 2019 stood at 6,2 % in the EU and 7,4 % in the euro area, the lowest rates since July 2008; whereas the unemployment rate has remained uneven across the European Union; whereas a high youth unemployment rate, at more than double the average rate, remains a serious issue to be tackled in the EU; whereas extraordinary regional inequalities persist in unemployment both within and among the Member States;

C.  whereas according to the Eurosystem staff macroeconomic projections of September 2019, annual inflation for the euro area in the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) looks set to reach 1,2 %, 1,0 % and 1,5 % respectively in 2019, 2020 and 2021, thus falling short of maintaining inflation rates below, but close to, 2 %; whereas inflation projections show substantial variance across the euro area;

D.  whereas at the end of 2018 the size of the Eurosystem balance sheet had reached an all-time high of EUR 4,7 trillion, thereby exceeding 40 % of the euro area’s GDP, an increase of 4,25 % (0,2 trillion) compared with the end of 2017;

E.  whereas in 2018 the ECB’s net profit amounted to EUR 1,575 billion, compared with EUR 1,275 billion in 2017; whereas this increase can mainly be attributed to the increase in net interest income on the US dollar portfolio and on the asset purchase programme (APP) portfolio;

F.  whereas a stronger role of the euro, and its increased use as a reserve currency, would increase the EU’s ability to frame its policy stance independently vis-à-vis other global powers and is a key element in safeguarding European economic sovereignty;

G.   whereas, in order for the Euro to achieve a stronger global role, the euro area must first prove itself able to withstand a recession without any of its Member States resorting to write‑downs (whether voluntary or otherwise) of government debt;

H.  whereas Article 127(5) of the TFEU requires the ESCB to help maintain financial stability;

I.  whereas SMEs, which remain the backbone of the EU’s economy and societies, and which enhance economic and social cohesion, need further support;

J.  whereas the global issuance of green bonds has risen from less than EUR 1 billion in 2008 to more than EUR 120 billion in 2017 and euro-denominated net green bond issuance has increased ten-fold since 2013; whereas the gap between spreads of green bonds and those of the overall industrial sector have gradually closed;

K.  whereas despite this positive trend, green bonds still account for only 1 % of the overall supply of euro-denominated bonds;

L.  whereas the volume of transactions carried out with virtual currencies has increased drastically and represents a challenge to the predominance of the traditional legal tender systems; whereas virtual currencies are alternative options for payments and not legal tender;

M.  whereas according to the December 2018 Eurobarometer poll, popular support for the euro rose to 75 % in 2018;

General overview

1.  Welcomes the role of the ECB in safeguarding euro stability; highlights that the statutory independence of the ECB, as laid down in the treaties, is a prerequisite for it to fulfil its mandate of maintaining price stability;

2.  Emphasises that the euro is a political project in addition to a purely economic one; stresses the irreversible nature of the single currency; draws attention to the requirement, laid down in the Treaties, for every Member State, with the exception of Denmark, to adopt the single currency once they have met the Maastricht convergence criteria; takes the view that participation in the banking union must be regarded as a benefit for those countries wishing to join the euro area;

3.  Is concerned that after a short economic recovery, growth has slowed down to 1,1 % of GDP in the euro area; is, furthermore, concerned by the decrease in growth in industrial production and world trade; notes, therefore, as underlined by Mario Draghi, the need for maintaining both appropriate liquidity conditions and a degree of monetary accommodation;

4.  Stresses that sustainable growth and price stability cannot be achieved by monetary policy alone and that supportive fiscal policy and socially balanced and productivity-enhancing structural reforms are also necessary;

5.  Points out that accommodative monetary policy must not be seen as a substitute for structural reforms;

6.  Underlines the findings of the ESCB expert group on low wage growth(3), which analysed the disconnect between wage growth and labour market recovery; these findings show that low wage growth over recent years can be explained mainly by technology and wage bargaining shocks (the latter being impacted by changes in wage bargaining structure – reducing the bargaining power of employees) and labour market regulations – mainly in countries most affected by the crisis and the combination of labour underutilisation, low inflation readings and subdued productivity growth;

7.  Underlines that strengthening the role of the euro requires the right structural conditions, among which:

   The deepening of the European Monetary Union, including a fiscal capacity for the euro area to be able to provide a counter-cyclical stabilisation function;
   The completion of the banking union;
   The completion of the capital markets union;

8.  Underlines the requirement for every EU Member State except Denmark to adopt the single currency once it has met the Maastricht convergence criteria; calls on the ECB to continue its fruitful cooperation also with the non-euro area EU Member States;

Monetary policy

9.  Underlines that the open market operations and the non-standard monetary policy measures put in place by the ECB contributed to economic recovery, to an improvement in financing conditions via several transmission channels and to compressing yields across a wide range of asset classes; asks the ECB to keep monitoring potential risks to its balance sheets, asset price inflation, potential misallocation of resources and disadvantages to savers;

10.  Notes that on 12 September 2019 the ECB announced a broad stimulus package including net purchases under the asset purchase programme (APP) that will run at EUR 20 billion per month, a cut of 10 basis points in the deposit rate, a two-tier system for reserve remuneration, and easier terms for targeted long-term refinancing operations (TLTRO-III); notes the lack of unanimity and believes that the ECB’s leadership and President Lagarde should work towards bridging divides within the ECB’s Governing Council;

11.  Notes that the 33 % issuer limit applied to the ECB’s Quantitative Easing Programme may restrict the ECB's ability to purchase the bonds of several Member States; considers that this issuer limit may require changes given that the renewed quantitative easing programme is open-ended and may require bond purchases that go beyond the 33 % limit for some Member States; notes that the quantitative easing programme was designed to purchase Member State bonds proportionally on the basis of the size of an economy and population;

12.  Notes the intention of the ECB’s Governing Council to continue reinvesting the principal payments from maturing securities for as long as necessary;

13.  Notes that the negative effects on banks’ net interest income have been counterbalanced so far by the benefits from more bank lending and lower costs for provisions and losses; is concerned about the difficulties faced by small banks in particular; calls on the ECB to monitor the potential for an asset price bubble;

14.  Underlines that very low or negative interest rates offer opportunities to consumers, companies, including SMEs, workers and borrowers, who can benefit from stronger economic momentum, lower unemployment and lower borrowing costs;; however, there is concern in relation to the potential impact on pension and insurance systems as a result of low returns, economic inequalities and challenges for individual savers; notes, furthermore, that some Member States have not made use of the low interest rate environment to consolidate their budgets and make structural reforms;

15.  Takes note of the intention of the Governing Council of the ECB to continue reinvesting the principal payments from maturing securities for as long as necessary to maintain favourable liquidity conditions and an ample degree of monetary accommodation;

16.  Is concerned about the prolonged subdued inflationary pressure and the overreliance on the ECB’s monetary policy to sustain growth, as well as its increasingly limited options under its current toolbox;

17.  Notes President Draghi’s call for a better alignment between the ECB’s monetary and Member States’ fiscal policies, highlighting that a more balanced macroeconomic policy mix would allow low interest rates to deliver the same degree of stimulus as in the past, but with fewer side effects;

18.  Underlines the importance of cooperation between central banks, both in the European Union and at a global level, for the achievement of the inflation targets in the medium term;

Actions against climate change

19.  Recalls that, as an EU institution, the ECB is bound by the Paris Agreement on climate change and that this should be reflected in its policies, while fully respecting its mandate and its independence; welcomes the emergence of a discussion about the role of central banks and supervisors in supporting the fight against climate change; calls on the ECB to implement the environmental, social and governance principles (ESG principles) into its policies, while fully respecting its mandate and its independence;

20.  Echoes the positions expressed by Members of the ECB’s Executive Board on the importance of developing truly European payment systems that are immune from external disruptions (including political ones); calls on the ECB to continue its work on the Pan-European Payment System Initiative (PEPSI) project with the aim of preserving the EU’s sovereignty and economic efficiency for all users and providers, as well as ensuring fair competition;

21.  Takes good note of ECB President Christine Lagarde’s declaration of 4 September 2019, in which she endorsed ‘a gradual transition to eliminate carbon assets’ from the ECB’s portfolio and welcomed the ECB’s participation in the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) and commitment to help identify and measure the financial system’s exposure to climate‑related risks and foster a greener financial system acting in full respect for the ECB’s price stability mandate and other objectives;

22.  Suggests that the ECB make the question how central banking and bank supervision can contribute to a sustainable economy and the fight against climate change one of its research priorities; suggests that, to that end, the ECB also cooperate with international networks other than the NGFS, especially the Sustainable Banking Network and the UN Principles for Responsible Banking initiative;

23.  Is concerned about the fact that 62,1 % of ECB corporate bond purchases take place in the sectors that are responsible for 58,5 % of euro area greenhouse gas emissions; calls on the ECB to conduct a study investigating the impact of the APP on climate change and, in particular, the corporate sector purchase programme (CSPP) as a preliminary step towards redesigning the CSPP in a socially and environmentally sustainable manner; suggests, in this context, a framework for coordination between the ECB and the European Investment Bank, including InvestEU;

Other aspects

24.  Recognises the importance of micro, small and medium-sized businesses in the EU; invites the ECB to remain attentive to access to credit for these businesses, in particular in light of the slow improvement in their financial situation; points out, in this respect, the need to encourage public and private investments in the EU, and calls, therefore, for further efforts to ensure the financing of the real economy;

25.  Calls on the ECB to continue its preparatory efforts to ensure the stability of EU financial markets for all possible contingencies and negative consequences, especially for those relating to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, taking into account the fact that some regions and countries are more directly affected than others;

26.  Is concerned about the risks due to the delay in setting up the banking union and calls for its swift completion; takes note of the repeated calls of the ECB for the establishment of a European deposit insurance scheme (EDIS) as the third pillar of the banking union;

27.  Stresses that the particular operating principles and specific mission of the cooperative and mutual banks should be respected and reflected in ECB policies and approaches;

28.  Calls for the capital markets union (CMU) project to be accelerated in order to deepen financial integration, improve the access of SMEs to finance, allow for the effective mobilisation of capital in Europe to help promote sustainable growth in the real economy to the benefit of all citizens and to improve financial stability and the Union’s resilience to shocks; recognises the strong support of the ECB in establishing a real CMU; welcomes the contribution of the Next CMU Working Group in this context;

29.  Calls on the ECB and all supervisory authorities to increase their monitoring of crypto-assets and the increased risks in terms of cyber-security and money laundering to prevent negative effects on the stability, integrity and safety of the financial sector; agrees with EBA Opinion 2014/08 which suggests refraining from using the term ‘virtual currencies’ because using the term ‘currency’ can be misleading for a variety of reasons;

30.  Takes note of the remarks made by Christine Lagarde in the meeting of the Committee on Economic Affairs of 4 September 2019 on the subject of the new regulation of crypto assets to the effect that ‘the ECB and central banks in general should clearly monitor these developments and contribute to ongoing international work on policy responses’; asks the ECB, in collaboration with the Commission, to assess the EU legal and regulatory framework on e-money, financial instruments and virtual assets in order to have a comprehensive framework for the supervision of financial instruments, entities or infrastructures, for anti-money laundering and stability purposes, as well as for cross-border cooperation and coordination; asks the ECB to work with the Commission on creating a framework for these new currencies that reconciles innovation, citizens’ needs, the preservation of financial stability and the rule of law;

31.  Welcomes the continuous efforts of the ECB to further strengthen its response and recovery capabilities in the event of a cyberattack on its own organisation;

32.  Calls on the ECB to ensure an appropriate balance between financial innovation, including Fintech, and financial stability;

33.  Encourages the ECB to work with the Commission and all relevant stakeholders to foster the role of the euro as a reserve currency; considers that this can be achieved through a variety of channels such as institutional representation or European financial products that perform well;

34.  Agrees with ECB President Christine Lagarde’s statement that a review of the ECB’s monetary policy framework is timely and warranted in order to ensure that the ECB has the right tools to better support the general policies in the EU without prejudice to its primary objective of maintaining price stability; calls on the ECB to organise a public consultation as part of this process in order to ensure that the review is open to input and feedback from a broad range of stakeholders; calls on the ECB also to involve Parliament in this review process; agrees further with the ECB President that the ECB has to enhance its communication to citizens on the impact of its policies;

35.  Points out the importance of cash as a means of payment for EU citizens; invites the ECB, without prejudice to the Member States’ prerogatives, to create a system for better monitoring large transactions with a view to combating money laundering, tax evasion and the financing of terrorism and organised crime;

36.  Welcomes the fact that since 2017, the ECB has been publishing the full list of all CSPP holdings, including the names of issuers, together with aggregated data on those holdings by country, risk, rating and sector; deplores the fact that a similar policy has not been implemented with regard to the asset-backed securities purchase programme (ABSPP) and the third covered bond purchase programme (CBPP3); reiterates that more transparency is required, in particular for CBPP3, given the significant size of the programme;

37.  Welcomes the introduction of the euro short-term rate, the new overnight reference rate for euro area money markets; asks the ECB to include in its next annual report a first assessment of its evolution and functioning in the market;

38.  Notes that the ECB has not yet included Greek bonds in the public sector purchase programme (PSPP) despite the improvements made by Greece in terms of debt sustainability and re-accession to bonds markets;

39.  Underlines the technical nature of ECB rate-setting decisions and the importance of public support for expert-led decision making in this field; criticises, therefore, the politicising of ECB policy decisions; calls on all politicians and national central bankers to be careful in making public statements that can undermine trust in and support for ECB policies;

Accountability

40.  Welcomes the increase in the ECB’s accountability to the European Parliament under the Presidency of Mario Draghi, and looks forward to even greater accountability, dialogue and openness with President Christine Lagarde, building on the commitments she made during her hearing before its Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs on 4 September 2019;

41.  Considers that the ECB should allow sufficient access to documents and information for European Court of Auditors (ECA) audits related to banking supervision; welcomes, in this context, the Memorandum of Understanding between the ECA and the ECB of October 2019 setting out the practical arrangements for sharing information during the ECA’s audits of the ECB’s supervisory activities;

42.  Recalls that the nominations of Executive Board members should be prepared carefully, with full transparency and together with Parliament in line with the Treaties; calls on the Council to draw up a gender-balanced shortlist for all upcoming vacancies and to share it with Parliament, thus allowing it to play a more meaningful advisory role in the appointment process; regrets that to date no satisfactory progress has been made; recalls the importance of paragraph 4 of Parliament’s resolution of 14 March 2019 on gender balance in EU economic and monetary affairs nominations(4), in which Parliament commits itself not to take into account shortlists that do not respect the gender balance principle;

43.  Requests, while acknowledging that the bank has over the last decade been experiencing a widening of its functions as well as the need for more personnel employed under different conditions, to carry out the tasks set for it, that the human resource problems that have arisen be solved fairly, transparently and rapidly for all members of staff;

44.  Stresses the need for enhanced and more effective accountability of the ECB in a context in which its missions have expanded since the beginning of the global financial crisis; reiterates its call for greater ECB transparency and accountability to Parliament; stands ready, to this effect, to improve the format of the monetary dialogue with the ECB president; recognises the steps taken by the ECB on this front, in particular the adoption of the single Code of Conduct for all ECB high-level officials, which includes a requirement to publish the declarations of interests of Governing Council members and sets clear guidelines and transparency requirements, as well as appropriate restrictions on meetings with stakeholders; is of the opinion that enhanced transparency arrangements should contain at least the following elements:

   Ensuring that there are independent members in the Audit Committee, as well as in the Ethics Committee;
   Adoption of a new whistleblowing policy;
   Providing for specific requirements as regards the positions taken by the institution in the framework of financial assistance programmes, as well as in multilateral forums such as the Basel committee;

45.  Welcomes the substantial, detailed, section-by-section feedback provided by the ECB on Parliament’s resolution on the 2017 ECB Annual Report; calls on the ECB to continue and further enhance this commitment to accountability and to continue publishing its written feedback on Parliament’s resolution on the ECB annual report each year;

46.  Stresses that the ECB has improved its communication; believes, however, that it should continue its efforts to make its decisions available and understandable to all citizens, as well as its actions undertaken to maintain price stability in the euro area and therefore to preserve the purchasing power of the common currency;

o
o   o

47.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the European Central Bank.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0215.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0325.
(3) ECB Occasional Paper Series No 232 / September 2019: Understanding low wage growth in the euro area and European countries. https://www.ecb.europa.eu/pub/pdf/scpops/ecb.op232~4b89088255.en.pdf
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0211.


The illegal trade in companion animals in the EU
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European Parliament resolution of 12 February 2020 on protecting the EU’s internal market and consumer rights against the negative implications of the illegal trade in companion animals (2019/2814(RSP))
P9_TA(2020)0035B9-0088/2020

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Council Directive 92/65/EEC of 13 July 1992 laying down animal health requirements governing trade in and imports into the Community of animals, semen, ova and embryos not subject to animal health requirements laid down in specific Community rules referred to in Annex A (I) to Directive 90/425/EEC(1),

–  having regard to Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which stipulates that in formulating and implementing Union policies, the Union and the Member States must, since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to their welfare requirements,

–  having regard to Article 114 of the TFEU on the establishment and functioning of the single market and to Article 169 of the TFEU on consumer protection measures,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2016/429 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 on transmissible animal diseases (Animal Health Law)(2) and to the delegated and implementing powers conferred on the Commission by this regulation,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 576/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 June 2013 on the non-commercial movement of pet animals and repealing Regulation (EC) No 998/2003(3) and to Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 577/2013 of 28 June 2013 on the model identification documents for the non-commercial movement of dogs, cats and ferrets, the establishment of lists of territories and third countries and the format, layout and language requirements of the declarations attesting compliance with certain conditions provided for in Regulation (EU) No 576/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 February 2016 on the introduction of compatible systems for the registration of pet animals across Member States(5),

–  having regard to the study financed by the Commission (SANCO 2013/12364) on the welfare of dogs and cats involved in commercial practices, undertaken pursuant to the Commission statement attached to Regulation (EU) No 576/2013(6),

–  having regard to the outcomes of the EU Coordinated Control Plan on online sales of dogs and cats(7),

–  having regard to the questions to the Commission and the Council on protecting the EU’s internal market and consumer rights against the negative implications of the illegal trade in companion animals (O-000011/2020 – B9‑0004/2020 and O-000010/2020 – B9‑0003/2020),

–  having regard to Rules 136(5) and 132(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

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

A.  whereas NGOs, law enforcement services, competent authorities and veterinarians have produced evidence of the growing number of companion animals that are illegally traded across Member States, often by organised crime networks, through evasion of controls, document falsification and widespread misuse of Regulation (EU) No 576/2013, which is intended for the non-commercial movement of pet animals, when in fact they should be transported under Council Directive 92/65/EEC;

B.  whereas it is estimated that the illegal trade in companion animals within the EU can generate very high profits with minimal risk of detection for the actors involved, including illegal breeders, thus impacting unfavourably on the profitability of the legal breeding sector;

C.  whereas many adverts offering animals for sale online come from illegal sources;

D.  whereas no common rules exist at EU level on the breeding of companion animals, and whereas legislative differences between Member States in breeders’ standards of animal welfare have led to considerable differences in the price of companion animals sold on the internal market, differences which are exploited by illegal traders;

E.  whereas in large-scale, mass production breeding facilities, animals are not treated in a manner that is adequate for their needs, resulting in severe and lasting consequences for their health, welfare and behavioural development;

F.  whereas illegal traffickers and sellers most often act with complete impunity as they know that the majority of consumers who have purchased a companion animal in a poor state of health will not take legal action;

G.  whereas the illegal breeding of cats and dogs is often carried out in terrible conditions and the costs are kept as low as possible; whereas illegally bred new-born animals are often separated from their mothers much too early, poorly socialised and prone to disease, and suffer from stress, malnutrition, dehydration and an increased risk of hypothermia while subjected to long journeys across the EU in cramped and filthy conditions with no food, water, air-conditioning or breaks; whereas young puppies and kittens commonly arrive in the destination country unweaned and devoid of basic socialisation skills;

H.  whereas despite improvements, there are still major concerns surrounding pet passports, such as age verification for individual animals and the possibility of changing passports; whereas a large number of counterfeit pet passports have been registered and veterinarians often collude with traffickers in this illegal practice, making checks and investigations more complex(8);

I.  whereas illegally bred companion animals are often partially or completely unvaccinated or have otherwise not been duly treated for diseases; whereas various zoonotic risks are associated with the illegal trafficking of companion animals, including the introduction of rabies from endemic parts of Europe into countries that are rabies-free and parasites such as Echinococcus multilocularis, which is easily spread and difficult to control(9);

J.  whereas the Animal Health Law, which will apply from 21 April 2021, will facilitate greater transparency in the online trade in cats and dogs, and improve animal health and welfare; whereas the Animal Health Law strictly obliges all dog and cat sellers, breeders, transporters and assembly centres to register their establishments with the relevant national competent authority;

K.  whereas in addition to harming the welfare of animals, the illegal trafficking of companion animals has negative impacts on consumer protection, the smooth functioning of the EU internal market through unfair competition, and public finances through the loss of tax revenue;

L.  whereas a very common method of purchasing companion animals in the EU is now through online classified adverts, closely followed by social media(10); whereas consumers who purchase companion animals via online advertisements enjoy little protection of their rights, whether at national or EU level; whereas high numbers of illegally bred companion animals are sold on markets in Member States or straight from cars along the internal borders of the EU;

M.  whereas 65 % of respondents to a Flash Eurobarometer survey on illegal online content did not think that the internet was safe for users and 90 % agreed that online hosting services should immediately remove content flagged as illegal by public or law enforcement authorities; whereas 60 % of internet users said that they used an online social network at least once a week and most also used online marketplaces at least occasionally, with 30 % using them at least once a week; whereas 69 % of internet users in the EU said they bought online with numbers increasing on an annual basis, including with regard to animals(11);

N.  whereas mistreatment of companion animals, including animals bred, kept and sold for the purpose of becoming pets in households, companion animals used for entertainment, sport and work, such as greyhounds and galgos, and stray animals, remains a huge concern for many citizens; whereas (better) identification and registration of pets can be a useful tool in the battle against animal abuse and in promoting responsible pet ownership; whereas identification and registration are key components in the non-lethal and humane management of stray animals and in the gradual reduction of stray animal populations;

O.  whereas more than 70 % of the new diseases that have emerged in humans over recent decades are of animal origin, and animals commonly kept as pets are hosts of 41 zoonoses, including rabies(12);

P.  whereas pet animals belonging to the species listed in Part A of Annex I to Regulation (EU) No 576/2013 may not be moved from one Member State to another unless they are marked through implantation of a transponder; whereas there is no requirement for harmonised mandatory identification of cats and dogs that stay within national borders and are not being moved to other Member States; whereas many cats and dogs in the Member States remain unidentified and unregistered;

Q.  whereas the EU Coordinated Control Plan on online sales of dogs and cats found inconsistencies between traders’ status and their activities in 42 % of the advertisements inspected(13);

R.  whereas some classified advertising websites are starting to adopt stricter rules on a voluntary basis to verify the identity of online sellers and improve the welfare of the animals;

S.  whereas the majority of Member States have already established requirements of some kind for the identification and registration of cats and dogs; whereas identification requirements for cats, dogs and ferrets are not harmonised, which has resulted in misuse of country codes and the use of duplicate and incorrect codes, among other issues(14); whereas most registration databases are not interconnected, which limits traceability in the EU;

1.  Stresses that the illegal trade in dogs and cats not only has catastrophic repercussions in terms of animal welfare but also poses risks in terms of public health and consumer protection;

Identification and registration of cats and dogs

2.  Emphasises that a harmonised, EU-wide system of mandatory identification and registration of cats and dogs is a crucial and necessary first step in the fight against illegal trade in companion animals, and that registration and identification are key conditions for control, enforcement and traceability;

3.  Considers it essential for companion animals to be microchipped by a veterinarian and recorded in a national animal identification and registration file to ensure their effective traceability; considers it vitally important for identification and registration files to contain the registration numbers of everyone who played a part in the life of the animal, including breeders, sellers, veterinarians, transporters and owners;

4.  Urges the Commission to make full use of its delegated powers under Articles 109(2) and 118 of the Animal Health Law and to come forward with a proposal for detailed, EU-wide, compatible systems for the means and methods of identification and registration of cats and dogs, setting a minimum threshold for the information required for individual animal identification and establishing rules for the exchange of electronic data between databases in the Member States, which should be interconnected by the end of this legislative term;

5.  Calls for a clear link between the EU pet passport and pet microchip registration to ensure that the origin of the companion animal remains clear even if the pet passport is replaced;

6.  Calls on the Member States to introduce policies with the aim of marking and registering all cats and dogs by default in the battle against animal abuse;

7.  Stresses that information collected for the identification of companion animals must include personal data and should be protected in full accordance with EU privacy and data protection rules; believes that such personal data should not be used for any commercial purposes;

EU action plan to address the illegal trade in companion animals

8.  Calls on the Commission to draw up a cross-sectoral EU action plan to address the illegal trade in companion animals in the EU; considers that the action plan should take on board the views of the European Parliament, the Member States and the relevant stakeholders and should clearly define the responsibilities of all stakeholders and decision-makers, including the Member States, the Commission, border, customs and veterinary authorities, veterinarians and civil society organisations;

9.  Recommends that the Commission involve in the action plan its various directorates-general working on animal welfare, public health, consumer protection, internal market and trafficking issues;

10.  Considers that a uniform EU definition of large-scale commercial breeding facilities, known as puppy mills, is necessary to tackle the illegal trade in companion animals; calls on the Commission and the Member States to take measures to prohibit breeding and marketing practices that are detrimental to the health, welfare and behavioural development of pets;

11.  Considers it necessary for citizens to be better informed about the trade in companion animals and the possible risks of purchasing animals online or without regard for legal procedures;

12.  Calls on the Commission to improve the protection of consumers buying companion animals via online adverts as part of its Digital Agenda;

13.  Supports the exclusion of the sale of live animals by trader to consumer from the scope of the forthcoming directive on contracts for online and other distance sales of goods;

Controls and better enforcement of EU legislation

14.  Calls on the Member States to improve law enforcement and to apply tougher sanctions – which should be effective, proportionate and dissuasive – against economic operators, veterinarians and national competent authorities in source, transit and destination countries who supply counterfeit pet passports, in order to curb the illegal trafficking of companion animals efficiently;

15.  Calls on the Member States to apply financial penalties in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2017/625(15) that outweigh the benefits sought by economic operators, including breeders and sellers advertising animals online in return for economic gain and in violation of EU and national legislation;

16.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to develop strategies for the regulation or self-regulation of online companion animal adverts in order to put a stop to misleading advertising and to better control the online sale of cats and dogs;

17.  Calls on the Commission to introduce mandatory requirements for online platforms to conduct minimum validation checks on the identity of users advertising pets for sale online; underlines that any potential revisions of the relevant legislative framework must lead to the better protection of consumers and animals;

18.  Calls for the Directorate for Health and Food Audits and Analysis’ inspection programmes (European Commission – DG Health and Food Safety) to include checks on Member States’ compliance with Regulation (EU) No 576/2013;

19.  Calls on the Commission to propose common standards for the breeding and marketing of cats and dogs to be put in place across the EU with the aim of preventing unfair commercial practices and the mis-selling of such companion animals, limiting the continuation of breed-specific health and welfare issues, and establishing a level playing field for economic operators;

20.  Calls on Member States to ensure that detailed rules are in place for the monitoring of companion animal breeders and appropriate oversight by veterinarians;

21.  Considers that Member States should be encouraged to set up a compulsory register of authorised companion animal breeders and sellers that can be accessed by those responsible in other Member States;

22.  Calls on Member States to introduce in-country compliance monitoring with regular checks on traders and permit holders, such as shops selling companion animals, breeders, research centres and nurseries, in addition to the border checks required under Regulation (EC) No 338/97(16);

23.  Believes that the frequency of inspections should also be harmonised across the EU and carried out in cooperation with the customs, police and veterinary services of the Member States;

24.  Calls on the competent authorities of the Member States, in the case of non-compliance with Regulation (EU) No 576/2013, to adhere strictly to the procedures laid down therein and to ensure the rehoming of any seized companion animals; calls, furthermore, on the Member States to adequately support animal rescue centres;

25.  Welcomes the results delivered within the EU Platform on Animal Welfare and the Voluntary Initiative Subgroup on Health and Welfare of Pets in Trade; calls for the inclusion of the European Parliament and a balanced representation of civil society, competent authorities, businesses and scientists in future work on animal welfare at EU level, and for a sufficient level of resources in order to ensure optimal progress;

Cooperation, communication and training

26.  Calls on the Commission and Member States to build on and disseminate the output of the Voluntary Initiative Subgroup on Health and Welfare of Pets in Trade within the framework of the EU Platform on Animal Welfare and to adopt measures to address the illegal trade in companion animals in forthcoming legislative and non-legislative work by 2024; considers that there is an urgent need, in this context, for active cooperation and the exchange of best practices between all Member States;

27.  Calls on the Member States to systematically inform the other Member States concerned when filing a lawsuit against an illegal dog and cat trader whose activities might affect those other Member States;

28.  Advocates collaborative cross-agency working methods to tackle the illegal trade in companion animals and to mitigate the associated zoonotic risk, including developing an intelligence system to record and share data in respect of illegally traded commercial animal consignments and a warning system to flag up any anomalies detected;

29.  Calls on the Commission to put forward measures, including the use of technologies and tailor-made training, to better equip customs and veterinary authorities to detect the smuggling of companion animals;

30.  Calls on the Commission and Member States to build on the recommendations of the EU Coordinated Control Plan on online sales of dogs and cats through the development of partnerships between authorities, databases, websites and animal welfare organisations to come up with precise measures against the misleading advertising and illegal online trade of dogs and cats;

31.  Recognises the important role played by animal protection associations and NGOs in the fight against the illegal trafficking of companion animals; calls, furthermore, on Member States to provide animal rescue centres and animal protection associations/NGOs with adequate financial and other material and non-material support;

32.  Calls on the Member States to allocate sufficient resources for the enforcement of the registration requirement for operators of all establishments breeding, keeping or trading animals as mandated by the Animal Health Law, so as to curb the illegal trade of companion animals online;

33.  Considers that more should be done to raise awareness among potential purchasers and economic operators, including online service providers, in relation to illegal sales of companion animals and associated low welfare standards;

34.  Highlights the fact that some national and in some cases regional databases containing identification information on companion animals already exist; considers that these databases should be used as interconnected, compatible and interoperable systems to allow for traceability across the EU;

35.  Highlights that Member States should ensure that staff at borders are adequately trained in the procedures and rules that apply to the importation of companion animals from listed and unlisted third countries and that they are enforcing these rules;

36.  Calls on the Member States to carry out more information and awareness-raising campaigns to encourage the adoption from trustworthy animal rescue centres, rather than the purchase, of companion animals and to inform citizens about the negative effects of the illegal trade in companion animals and the importance of purchasing only companion animals that have been bred, kept and traded in a responsible manner and with due concern for animal welfare;

o
o   o

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

(1) OJ L 268, 14.9.1992, p. 54.
(2) OJ L 84, 31.3.2016, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 178, 28.6.2013, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 178, 28.6.2013, p. 109.
(5) OJ C 35, 31.1.2018, p. 139.
(6) Study on the welfare of dogs and cats involved in commercial practices (2015), financed by the Commission under Specific Contract SANCO 2013/12364. https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/animals/docs/aw_eu-strategy_study_dogs-cats-commercial-practices_en.pdf
(7) European Commission (2019). Analysis of the results of the EU Coordinated Control Plan on online sales of dogs and cats. https://ec.europa.eu/food/animals/welfare/other_aspects/online_dog-cat_en
(8) FOUR PAWS report of 2013 entitled ‘Puppy trade in Europe’. http://www.carodog.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/REPORT_EUROPEAN_PUPPY_TRADE2.pdf
(9) Study on the welfare of dogs and cats involved in commercial practices (2015), financed by the Commission under Specific Contract SANCO 2013/12364, pp. 55-56. https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/animals/docs/aw_eu-strategy_study_dogs-cats-commercial-practices_en.pdf; EU Dog and Cat Alliance (2016). Briefing on the review of pet movement legislation under the ‘Animal Health Law’. https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/assets.dogandcatwelfare.eu/live/media/publicationtemp/EU_Dog_Cat_‌Alliance_briefing_AHL_pet_movement_review.pdf
(10) EU Dog and Cat Alliance and the Blue Cross (2017). Online Pet Sales in the EU: What’s the cost? https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/assets.dogandcatwelfare.eu/live/media/publicationtemp/12195_-_EU_Pet_‌sales_report_spreads.pdf
(11) Flash Eurobarometer 469/2018 report on illegal content online. http://ec.europa.eu/commfrontoffice/publicopinion/index.cfm/ResultDoc/download/DocumentKy/83669
(12) Michael J. Day et al (2012). Surveillance of Zoonotic Infectious Disease Transmitted by Small Companion Animals. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/18/12/12-0664_article
(13) EU Coordinated Control Plan on online sales of dogs and cats. https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/animals/docs/reg-com_ahw_20190612_asf_aw-control-coord-plan-sale-dog-cats_eur.pdf
(14) FOUR PAWS report of 2016 entitled ‘Identification, vaccination and movement of dogs and cats in the EU: How to improve the Pet Passport and TRACES systems?’ http://www.lawyersforanimalprotection.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/INSIDE-1.pdf
(15) Regulation (EU) 2017/625 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2017 on official controls and other official activities performed to ensure the application of food and feed law, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health and plant protection products (OJ L 95, 7.4.2017, p. 1).
(16) Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 of 9 December 1996 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein (OJ L 61, 3.3.1997, p. 1).

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