Index 
Texts adopted
Friday, 19 June 2020 - BrusselsFinal edition
Setting up a committee of inquiry to investigate alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application of Union law in relation to the protection of animals during transport within and outside the Union, and defining its responsibilities, numerical strength and term of office
 The reopening of the investigation against the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic on the misuse of EU funds and potential conflicts of interest
 Banking Union - annual report 2019
 Guidelines for the 2021 Budget - Section III
 Eastern Partnership in the run-up to the June 2020 Summit
 Western Balkans, following the 2020 summit
 Tourism and transport in 2020 and beyond
 Administrative cooperation in the field of taxation: deferring certain time limits due to the COVID-19 pandemic *
 Exceptional temporary support under EAFRD in response to the COVID-19 outbreak (amendment of Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013) ***I
 European citizens' initiative: temporary measures concerning the time limits for the collection, verification and examination stages in view of the COVID-19 outbreak ***I
 The Anti-racism protests following the death of George Floyd
 The PRC national security law for Hong Kong and the need for the EU to defend Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy
 Situation in the Schengen area following the Covid-19 outbreak
 European protection of cross-border and seasonal workers in the context of the COVID-19 crisis

Setting up a committee of inquiry to investigate alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application of Union law in relation to the protection of animals during transport within and outside the Union, and defining its responsibilities, numerical strength and term of office
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European Parliament decision of 19 June 2020 on setting up a committee of inquiry to investigate alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application of Union law in relation to the protection of animals during transport within and outside the Union, and defining its responsibilities, numerical strength and term of office (2020/2690(RSO))
P9_TA(2020)0163B9-0191/2020

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the request presented by 183 Members for a committee of inquiry to be set up to look into alleged violations in the application of Union law governing live animal transport both within and outside the Union,

–  having regard to the proposal from the Conference of Presidents,

–  having regard to Article 226 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Decision 95/167/EC, Euratom, ECSC of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission of 19 April 1995 on the detailed provisions governing the exercise of the European Parliament’s right of inquiry(1),

–  having regard to Article 4(3) of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to Article 17(1) of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 of 22 December 2004 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations and amending Directives 64/432/EEC and 93/119/EC and Regulation (EC) No 1255/97(2),

–  having regard to the judgment of the Court of Justice of 23 April 2015 in Case C-424/13(3),

–  having regard to Rule 208 of its Rules of Procedure,

1.  Decides to set up a committee of inquiry to investigate alleged violations in the application of Union law in relation to the implementation by Member States and enforcement by the European Commission of Regulation (EC) No 1/2005;

2.  Decides that the committee of inquiry shall:

   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to act upon the evidence of serious and systematic infringements of Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 which occur when animals are transported live across the Union and to third countries. The Commission has been regularly informed of the systematic and severe violations occurring during the transport of live animals. Since 2007, the Commission has received approximately 200 reports on breaches to Regulation (EC) No 1/2005. In 2016, the law firm Conte & Giacomini, acting on behalf of Animal Welfare Foundation/Tierschutzbund Zürich (AWF/TSB), issued a formal complaint to the Commission on the violation of Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 during the transport of animals from Europe to Turkey by road(4), calling on the Commission to open infringement procedures against the Member States involved in illegal practices,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to enforce effectively, and of Member States to implement and to enforce effectively, the provisions on space allowance and headroom laid down in Article 3, second paragraph, point (g), of, and in Chapter II, point 1.2, Chapter III, point 2.3, and Chapter VII of Annex I to, Regulation (EC) No 1/2005,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to enforce effectively, and of Member States to implement and to enforce effectively, the provisions on the approval of means of transport by road and of livestock vessels, laid down in Articles 7, 18 and 19 of Regulation (EC) No 1/2005,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to enforce effectively, and of Member States to implement and to enforce effectively, the provisions on watering and feeding laid down in Article 3, second paragraph, point (h), of, and in Chapter V, point 1.4, point 1.5 and point 2.1 (a) and (b), and in Chapter VI, points 1.3 and 2.2 of Annex I to, Regulation (EC) No 1/2005,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to enforce effectively, and of Member States to implement and to enforce effectively, the provisions on bedding laid down in Chapter II, point 1.1 (h) and point 1.5, and in Chapter VI, point 1.2, of Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 1/2005,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to enforce effectively, and of Member States to implement and to enforce effectively, the provisions on temperature and ventilation system laid down in Chapter II, point 1.1 (b), Chapter III, point 2.6, and Chapter VI, point 3.1, of Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 1/2005,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to enforce effectively, and of Member States to implement and to enforce effectively, the prohibition to transport unfit animals provided for in Article 3, second paragraph, point (b), of, and in Chapter I of Annex I to, Regulation (EC) No 1/2005,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to enforce effectively, and of Member States to implement and to enforce effectively, the provisions concerning the separation of certain animals laid down in Chapter III, point 1.12, of Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 1/2005,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to enforce effectively, and of Member States to implement and to enforce effectively, the additional provisions concerning long distance journey laid down in Article 14 of, and in Chapter VI of Annex I to, Regulation (EC) No 1/2005,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to enforce effectively, and of Member States to implement and to enforce effectively, the provisions concerning the checks to be carried out laid down in Article 15(2) and Article 21 of Regulation (EC) No 1/2005,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to enforce effectively, and of Member States to implement and to enforce effectively, the obligation of Member States’ competent authorities to, in case of infringements, take specific measures and notify the infringements, laid down in Article 26 of Regulation (EC) No 1/2005,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to enforce effectively, and of Member States to implement and to enforce effectively, the provisions concerning the obligation of the competent authority to prevent and to reduce delay during transport, and the appropriate measures to be taken in such case, laid down in Article 22 of Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 ,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to enforce effectively, and of the Member States to implement and to enforce effectively, the provisions concerning the transportation of unweaned animals, laid down in Chapter V, point 1.4 (a), of Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 1/2005,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to enforce effectively, and of the Member States to implement and to enforce effectively, the provisions concerning the transport of live animals by the sea, including the loading practices and the structures on vessels, laid down in Articles 19, 20 and 21 of, and in Chapter II, points 1 and 3, Chapter III, point 1, and Chapter IV of Annex I to, Regulation (EC) No 1/2005,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to enforce effectively, and of the Member States to implement and to enforce effectively, the provisions concerning the means of transport laid down in Chapter II, points 1, 2 and 5, of Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 1/2005,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to enforce effectively, and of the Member States to implement and to enforce effectively the provisions concerning the handling of animals, including the loading and unloading operations, laid down in Article 3, second paragraph, point (e), of, and in Chapter III, points 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9 and 1.11 of Annex I to, Regulation (EC) No 1/2005,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to enforce effectively, and of the Member States to implement and to enforce effectively, the provisions concerning the route planning and the journey log laid down in Article 5(4), Article 8, Article 14(1), points (a), (b) and (c), and Article 21(2) of, and in Annex II to, Regulation (EC) No 1/2005,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to enforce effectively, and of the Member States to implement and to enforce effectively, the provisions concerning the duties and obligations of Member States’ competent authorities laid down in Articles 10 and 13 of Regulation (EC) No 1/2005,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to enforce effectively, and of the Member States to implement and to enforce effectively, Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 outside the Union, in accordance with the judgment of the Court of Justice (Fifth Chamber) of 23 April 2015 in Case C-424/13; in its judgment, the Court of Justice recalled that Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 imposes severe obligations not only on transport of live vertebrate animals taking place entirely within the territory of the European Union, but also on transport operations having their points of departure within that territory and their destination in a third country. In the same judgment, the Court held that compliance should be ensured by Member States’ competent authorities when they authorise journeys taking place in third countries,
   investigate potential breaches of the duty of sincere cooperation established in Article 4(3) of the Treaty on European Union that are relevant to the scope of the inquiry; to that end, assess, in particular, whether any such breach may arise from alleged failure to take appropriate measures to prevent the operation of modes of transport in such a way that the identity of their ultimate beneficial owners is hidden from the institutions of the Union, competent authorities, and other intermediaries, and violations to Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 are facilitated,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to facilitate the OIE mission of implementing international standards on animal welfare during transport,
   investigate the alleged failure of the Commission to respect the Union’s trade values enshrined in the new EU trade strategy ‘Trade4All’, especially in relation to the horrendous transport practices documented in third countries, which are critical, not only from an animal welfare point of view, but also in terms of food security and public health,
   make any recommendation that it deems to be necessary in this matter, including in respect of the implementation, by Member States, of the above-mentioned judgment of the Court of Justice;

3.  Decides that the committee of inquiry shall submit its final report within 12 months of the adoption of this decision;

4.  Decides that the committee of inquiry should take account in its work of any relevant developments within the remit of the committee that emerge during its term;

5.  Decides that any recommendations drawn up by the committee of inquiry should be dealt with by the relevant standing committees;

6.  Decides that the committee of inquiry shall have 30 members;

7.  Instructs its President to arrange for publication of this decision in the Official Journal of the European Union.

(1) OJ L 113, 19.5.1995, p. 1.
(2) OJ L 3, 5.1.2005, p. 1.
(3) Judgment of the Court of Justice of 23 April 2015, Zuchtvieh-Export GmbH v Stadt Kempten, C-424/13, ECLI:EU:C:2015:259.
(4) (CHAP(2016) 01703-01707-01708-01709-01710-01711-01712-01713-01714-01715-01716­01717-01718). In October 2016, the Conte & Giacomini Law Firm sent to the Commission an integration of the complaint.


The reopening of the investigation against the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic on the misuse of EU funds and potential conflicts of interest
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European Parliament resolution of 19 June 2020 on the reopening of the investigation against the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic on the misuse of EU funds and potential conflicts of interest (2019/2987(RSP))
P9_TA(2020)0164B9-0192/2020

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 13(2) and 17(3) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),

–  having regard to its previous decisions and resolutions on discharge to the Commission for the years 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018,

–  having regard to the administrative investigations conducted by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) into the project in the Czech Republic known as ‘Stork Nest’, which found ‘serious irregularities’,

–  having regard to the fact-finding mission to the Czech Republic undertaken by the Committee on Budgetary Control on 26 and 27 March 2014,

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 December 2018 on conflicts of interest and the protection of the EU budget in the Czech Republic(1),

–  having regard to Czech Act No 159/2006 of 16 March 2006 on conflicts of interest, Article 4(c) of which entered into force in February 2017,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 July 2018 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union(2) (the new Financial Regulation), which entered into force on 2 August 2018, and in particular to Article 61 thereof,

–  having regard to Articles 144 and 145 of Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund(3),

–  having regard to the questions and complaint sent to the Commission regarding the potential conflict of interest in the Czech Republic(4),

–  having regard to the opinion of the Commission’s Legal Service of 19 November 2018 entitled ‘Impact of Article 61 of the new Financial Regulation (conflict of interests) on payments from the European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds’,

–  having regard to the press conference given by the Chief Public Prosecutor on 4 December 2019 regarding the reopening of the investigation into the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic for the misuse of EU funds,

–  having regard to its plenary debate of 18 December 2019 on conflicts of interest and corruption affecting the protection of the EU’s financial interests in the Member States,

–  having regard to its plenary debate of 15 January 2020 on the reopening of the prosecution against the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic on for the misuse of EU funds and potential conflicts of interest,

–  having regard to the fact-finding mission to the Czech Republic undertaken by the Committee on Budgetary Control from 26 to 28 February 2020,

–  having regard to Decision Pl. ÚS 4/17 of the Czech Constitutional Court of 18 February 2020,

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

A.  whereas the criminal investigation into Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš that followed OLAF’s report on irregular use of EU subsidies intended for small businesses, which was suspended two years later, has recently been reopened by the Czech Chief Public Prosecutor; recalls that as part of the ‘Stork Nest’ project Agrofert artificially created a medium-sized company, which remained in Agrofert’s control, in order to obtain funds intended for small and medium-sized businesses amounting to a total of around EUR 2 million;

B.  whereas the Czech Chief Public Prosecutor denounced the dropping of the criminal investigation as ‘unlawful and premature’, since EU law had not been taken into account, adding also that the process of allocating subsidies had lacked sufficient checks;

C.  whereas Article 61(1) of the Financial Regulation (in conjunction with Article 61(3)) lays down:

   a) a negative obligation on financial actors to prevent situations of conflict of interest in relation to the EU budget;
   b) a positive obligation on financial actors to take appropriate measures to prevent conflicts of interest from arising in the functions under their responsibility and to address situations which may objectively be perceived as a conflict of interest;

D.  whereas Article 63 of the Financial Regulation requires the Member States to put in place management and control systems that, as required by Article 36(3), should be capable of avoiding conflicts of interest;

E.  whereas in February 2017, Czech Act No 159/2006 on conflicts of interest was amended with an expanded list of forbidden activities, including provisions preventing certain companies from being involved in public procurement even as a subcontractor or from receiving grants; whereas the act aims to prevent conflicts of interest in all their forms;

F.  whereas public procurement rules oblige Member States to avoid conflicts of interest (Article 24 of Directive 2014/24/EU(5)), including direct or indirect personal interests, and rules are in place to address situations perceived as conflicts of interest, as well as specific obligations in shared management (e.g. Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013);

G.  whereas according to the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union(6)‘a conflict of interest constitutes, objectively and in itself, a serious irregularity without there being any need to qualify it by having regard to the intentions of the parties concerned and whether they were acting in good or bad faith’;

H.  whereas the Commission is obliged to suspend EU fund payments in cases where a serious deficiency in the functioning of the management and control systems exists and where undiscovered, unreported and uncorrected serious irregularities related to a conflict of interest have come to light;

I.  whereas Agrofert is a conglomerate established by the Czech Prime Minister, consisting of over 230 companies and over 34 000 employees (2017); whereas Mr Babiš has been revealed to be the beneficial owner of Agrofert, the controlling company of the Agrofert Group, including among others a number of important Czech media outlets, through trust funds AB I and AB II of which he is the founder and, at the same time, the sole beneficiary; whereas whenever Mr Babiš decides to dissolve these trust funds he regains full ownership of all assets they possess;

J.  whereas in January and February 2019, a coordinated, comprehensive audit was carried out by several Commission services (DG REGIO/DG EMPL, DG AGRI (associated DG)) on the application of EU and national law; whereas an ongoing AGRI audit is examining alleged conflicts of interest with regard to the Czech Minister of Agriculture;

K.  whereas in November 2019 the Commission sent the final audit report by DG REGIO and DG EMPL to the Czech authorities, following up on allegations of conflicts of interest in the Czech Republic on the basis of Article 61 of the Financial Regulation, which was leaked to the Czech media;

L.  whereas the Committee on Budgetary Control held an in camera meeting with Commissioner for Budget and Administration Johannes Hahn on 16 December 2019;

M.  whereas Commissioner Hahn informed the Committee on Budgetary Control that the Commission would only make its audit’s conclusions public once all evidence had been duly considered and thoroughly analysed; whereas the Czech authorities submitted their replies to the final audit report by DG REGIO on 29 May 2020;

N.  whereas the Commission audit is still ongoing and, as a precautionary measure and until the situation is clarified, no payments from the EU budget under the ESI Funds are being made to companies directly or indirectly owned by Mr Babiš that could potentially be implicated in the alleged conflict of interest;

O.  whereas the Commission is not reimbursing the Czech authorities for payments made under the Rural Development Fund to Agrofert Group projects that could potentially be concerned by the alleged conflict of interest;

P.  whereas the Czech Parliament has no oversight over possible public tenders, Czech national-level subsidies or state-supported public investments that the Agrofert Group might continue to profit from;

Q.  whereas the Agrofert Group owns two of the largest Czech daily newspapers, Mladá fronta Dnes and Lidové Noviny, and controls the Óčko television station and the Impuls and RockZone radio stations; whereas according to a report by the European Federation of Journalists, Mr Babiš is the de facto owner of 30 % of the private media in the Czech Republic(7);

R.  whereas the revenues of the Agrofert Group have grown significantly during Mr Babiš’s time in public office, while at the same time the Agrofert Group has benefited from EU agricultural subsidies amounting to a total of CZK 970 414 000 in 2016, CZK 1 048 685 000 in 2017 and CZK 973 284 000 in 2018 in the Czech Republic alone; whereas the Agrofert Group allegedly received EU Cohesion Fund subsidies amounting to CZK 427 385 000 for the period 2014-2020 in the Czech Republic; whereas the Agrofert Group has most likely received additional subsidies in other Member States, such as Slovakia and Germany;

S.  whereas the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic in Decision Pl. ÚS 4/17 of February 2020 dismissed legal action brought by the President of the Czech Republic and Members of the Parliament of the Czech Republic over the repealof the Czech law which defines conflicts of interest among public officials; whereas the Constitutional Court clarified in the same decision that elections are not to be used as a means to seize control over the state for the purpose of using or even abusing its capacities and resources;

1.  Welcomes the re-opened criminal investigation into the Czech Prime Minister for his involvement in the ‘Stork Nest’ project; trusts that the national judiciary system will proceed with this process independently and free from any possible political influence;

2.  Condemns any potential situations of conflicts of interest that could compromise the implementation of the EU budget and undermine EU citizens’ trust in the proper management of EU taxpayers’ money;

3.  Asks the Commission, as the Guardian of the Treaties, to fight all forms of conflicts of interest and evaluate the preventive measures taken by the Member States to avoid them;

4.  Calls on the Commission to set up a control mechanism to address the issue of conflicts of interest in the Member States and to establish active avoidance of conflicts of interest, including the identification of final beneficiaries of EU subsidies, as one of its priorities;

5.  Calls on the Commission to ensure a policy of zero tolerance towards conflicts of interest, to ensure the swift recovery of potentially irregularly paid-out subsidies while respecting the rule of law and procedural requirements and to intervene decisively, especially when national authorities fail to act to prevent conflicts of interest among their highest representatives;

6.  Stresses that national legislation on the prevention of conflicts of interest must be compatible with the letter and spirit of the new Financial Regulation; calls on the Commission to propose common guidelines to assist the Member States in the avoidance of conflicts of interest among high-profile politicians;

7.  Urges the Council and the European Council to adopt common standards for all issues related to conflicts of interest and to strive for a common understanding in all Member States;

8.  Calls on the Commission, in the case of non-compliance with the rules, to take appropriate measures to protect the EU budget, including corrective actions to recover all funds that have been illegally or irregularly paid out, where this is provided for;

9.  Calls on all Member States to step up their efforts to increase budgetary transparency by ensuring that relevant data concerning public procurement procedures and the granting of publicly funded contracts is easily and freely accessible to the general public;

10.  Is concerned about reports from different parts of the EU of the increasing political influence of politicians with vested interests, close to or in government, on law-making and the use of public money, with the potential aim of serving the self-interest of specific individuals rather than the general public;

11.  Deplores the fact that the Czech Prime Minister was and continues to be actively involved in the implementation of the EU budget in the Czech Republic in his position as Prime Minister (and formerly Chair of the Council for the European Structural and Investment Funds) while still controlling the Agrofert Group as a founder and the sole beneficiary of two trust funds, in contravention of Article 61(1) of the Financial Regulation, and therefore calls into question the impartial and objective exercise of his functions; is deeply concerned about recent media reports(8) that the Prime Minister continues to exert control over business decisions taken at Agrofert;

12.  Notes that recent media reports have seemingly revealed that Mr Babiš and his wife are still listed as among the six active persons with significant influence or control over the trustees of a trust related to the Agrofert subsidiary GreenChem Solutions Ltd. in the UK;

13.  Insists that a conflict of interest at the highest level of government of a member state, if confirmed, cannot be tolerated and must be resolved by the person(s) concerned either by:

   a) taking measures that ensure that this person no longer has any economic interest or other interests falling within the scope of Article 61 of the Financial Regulation in relation to a business entity;
   b) the business entities under their control ceasing to receive any funding from EU funds, public subsidies or funding distributed by the national government;
   c) abstaining from participation in decisions which concern their interests; stresses, however, that in the light of the functions and powers of the Prime Minister and members of his government, it seems doubtful that such a measure could adequately address the conflict of interest in practice if the persons in question continue to exercise their public functions, and that resigning from public duty therefore constitutes a more adequate means to address the conflict of interests;

14.  Calls on the Commission to thoroughly supervise the payment allocation process in the Czech Republic, especially EU fund payments being made to companies directly and indirectly owned by the Prime Minister or any other member of the government involved in budget implementation;

15.  Calls on the Commission to assess, without undue delay, whether cases in which companies belonging to the Agrofert Group continue to receive subsidies from the national budget comply with State aid rules; notes the potential risk of financial damage that these cases may pose and calls on the national authorities to assess these situations; considers that Czech and EU taxpayers should be duly informed of such a situation;

16.  Is deeply concerned over reports(9) about the ability of Agrofert Group companies to artificially move assets among subsidiaries, thus meeting the eligibility criteria for subsidies to small and medium-sized companies or, conversely, to join their operations in order to present themselves as a large company, thus winning public tenders;

17.  Deplores reports that the auditors detected serious deficiencies in the functioning of the management and control systems in the area of regional and cohesion funds in the Czech Republic, and therefore suggested a financial correction of almost 20 %; calls on the Commission to critically assess whether these cases represent cases of systemic misuse of EU funds;

18.  Is concerned about the financial loss caused by deficiencies in national paying agencies and controlling bodies; calls on the Council in this context to urgently adopt the proposal for a regulation on the protection of the Union’s budget in the case of generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in Member States;

19.  Is deeply concerned about the legal framework in the Czech Republic denying the national Supreme Audit Institution the right to check the regularity and performance of public spending at regional and local level, thus preventing the institution from having any insight into the beneficial owners of the complex company structures; deplores reports(10).that the Supreme Audit Office does not perform systematic on-the-spot checks of final beneficiaries; is worried about the derogatory remarks made by the Czech Prime Minister about the work of the Czech Supreme Audit Office;

20.  Stresses that a politically imbalanced composition of the Supervisory Board of the State Agricultural Intervention Fund (SZIF) carries the risk of political influence, thereby undermining the ability to perform independent audits;

21.  Is concerned about reports that civil servants(11)received instructions and were pressurised not to investigate potential conflict of interest allegations related to the Agrofert Group and were allegedly instructed to assess commercial offers received by Agrofert; is deeply worried by reports that civil servants faced negative repercussions, such as dismissals on the pretext of systemisation upon refusal to follow such orders; stresses that these measures call into question the impartiality of the state administration and the independent exercise of public duties;

22.  Regrets indications of systemic weaknesses in the detection of conflicts of interest; deplores the fact that there are no cross-checks and that divergent responsibilities foster opaque structures that hamper the effective prevention and detection of conflicts of interest in the Czech Republic; recalls that a positivist approach whereby public officials are required to submit self-declarations of absence of conflict of interest is not sufficient for effectively preventing situations of conflict of interest; calls on the Czech authorities to address these systemic shortcomings without delay, in particular by requiring a verifiable conflict of interest declaration, whereby public officials provide a list of their respective financial interests;

23.  Regrets that EU funds affected by financial corrections related to irregularities can be re-used without any further consequences or restrictions; is of the opinion that such a system threatens the EU’s financial interests; calls on the Commission to closely monitor the re-use of EU funds and to consider developing a system whereby corrections are also accompanied by restrictions on their further use;

24.  Takes note of the Commission decision of 28 November 2019 to suspend the relevant amounts included by the Czech authorities in their interim declarations of expenditure for the Czech Rural Development Programme for Q4-2018 and Q1-2019;

25.  Notes that the Commission has confirmed that it made payments under the common agricultural policy (CAP) relating to the year 2018 to companies belonging to the Agrofert Group, and also to companies with the same beneficial owner in several other Member States outside the Czech Republic; insists that the Commission should provide the discharge authority with a complete and reliable overview of all payments made to the Agrofert Group and to companies with the same beneficial owner in all Member States for the financial years 2018 and 2019;

26.  Calls on the Czech authorities to ensure the fair and balanced distribution of EU funds, so that EU taxpayers’ money benefits the vast majority of the population, both economically and socially;

27.  Is concerned about the inadequate implementation of Directives (EU) 2015/849(12) and (EU) 2018/843(13) on preventing the use of the financial system for money laundering or terrorist financing (fourth and fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directives); highlights the obligation to fully and correctly transpose both directives and to ensure that all provisions, including those on beneficial ownership transparency, are fully implemented;

28.  Urges the Czech Financial Analytical Unit to take a more proactive approach to combating tax crimes, fraud and corruption, as well as to ensure effective checks of beneficial owners by the entities responsible under the anti-money laundering rules;

29.  Regrets that the authorisation, distribution and auditing of EU funds in shared management are complex and opaque processes where only the Member States have full access to the data, meaning that the Commission is unable to provide a timely and comprehensive overview to Parliament when asked for information on payments to certain beneficiaries in several Member States; emphasises that this severely hampers the Committee on Budgetary Control’s and the European Court of Auditors’ efficiency and ability to carry out their functions as control entities;

30.  Calls on the Commission, in full acceptance of the principle of shared management, to establish uniform and standardised means for Member States to report information on the final beneficiaries of EU funds; emphasises that information on final beneficiaries should include specification of the beneficial owners of companies (natural and legal persons); calls on the Commission to propose a regulation for the establishment of an IT system that allows for uniform and standardised reporting in real time by Member State authorities, ensuring interoperability with the systems in the Member States, in order to guarantee better transparency and cooperation between the Commission and the Member States, to further improve accountability with regard to payments, and in particular to contribute to the earlier detection of systemic errors and misuse;

31.  Regrets that none of the regulations governing the use of agricultural or cohesion funds impose an obligation on national authorities to publish the ultimate beneficial owner of an individual, legal entity or trust benefiting from the funds; calls on the co-legislators to pay special attention to this issue and to address it comprehensively when deciding on future rules for the transparency of EU subsidies;

32.  Insists that the register of beneficial ownership must contain only fully verified information on the controlling person(s) and must be fully open to the public;

33.  Strongly disapproves of the creation and establishment of oligarchical structures drawing on EU agricultural and cohesion funds, whereby a small minority of beneficiaries receive the vast majority of EU funds; calls on the Commission, together with the Member States, to develop effective legal instruments to ensure respect for the rule of law and prevent the fostering of such structures;

34.  Reiterates its concern that cases of conflicts of interest damage the goals of cohesion policy and the CAP, which have important economic, social and environmental dimensions, and creates a negative image for these policies;

35.  Calls on the Commission to table a proposal modifying the CAP rules towards a fairer allocation of EU funds, to ensure that the CAP is allocated fairly to active farmers who cultivate the land and does not result in land deals that benefit a select group of political insiders or incentivise abusive practices during auctions privatising state-owned land; acknowledges the Commission proposal for a new delivery model, including capping combined with a degression mechanism; is of the opinion, however, that capping, with the introduction of a labour cost offset before capping, is insufficient to guarantee a fairer allocation of direct payments; supports the idea of a mandatory redistribution mechanism;

36.  Takes note of the fact that land property rights were often not clearly defined and land remained classified as state land under the supervision of the State Land Office, which tended to lease it to large scale-farm corporations; acknowledges the efforts of the Czech authorities to identify the rightful owners until 2023; insist that the auction of land whose rightful owners cannot be established must be carried out in a fair manner, providing equal opportunities for small and medium-sized farmers and young farmers to acquire the land;

37.  Urges the Commission to table a proposal for a maximum amount of direct payment per natural person as beneficial owner of one or several companies, while applying a zero tolerance policy for those with a conflict of interest; underlines that it should not be possible to receive EU subsidies in the hundreds of millions in one multiannual financial framework (MFF) period;

38.  Insists that those responsible for the misuse of EU funds should suffer the consequences, and that in the case of financial corrections, the burden should not be shifted to national taxpayers; calls on the Czech national authorities to reclaim unduly paid subsidies from those who unlawfully benefited from them; is of the opinion that an enabling condition for using EU funds should be introduced for the next programming period, requiring national legislation to include provisions obliging the beneficiary responsible to recover the funds wrongfully claimed;

39.  Strongly condemns the public use of defamatory language and hate speech against participants in the fact-finding mission of 26 to 28 February 2020 by the Prime Minister during his press conference; finds it unacceptable that Members of the European Parliament who took part in the fact-finding mission of the Committee on Budgetary Control to the Czech Republic received death threats and other verbal attacks while fulfilling their responsibilities as Members of the European Parliament;

40.  Calls on the Committee on Budgetary Control to report back to Parliament about any relevant insights gained during its fact-finding mission and to inform the Commission and relevant authorities accordingly;

41.  Calls on the Commission to do its utmost to finalise the ongoing audit procedures without undue delay and to make its findings public as soon as all the evidence has been duly evaluated; encourages the Council and the European Council to consider the findings of these audits and to give due attention to Article 61 of the Financial Regulation with regard to the negotiations for the next MFF;

42.  Calls on the Commission to follow up on allegations of unresolved conflicts of interest in other Member States;

43.  Reiterates its regret that the country-by-country report was discontinued in a second EU anti-corruption report by the Commission (ARES(2017)455202); calls on the Commission once again to resume reporting, separately from the Economic Semester, on the status of corruption in Member States, including evaluating the effectiveness of EU-supported anti-corruption efforts; reiterates its call on the Commission not to evaluate anti-corruption efforts only in terms of economic loss;

44.  Stresses the importance of upholding the rule of law, the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, and the independence and pluralism of the media as a precondition for the successful use of EU funding;

45.  Highlights the importance of independent public media and of the investigative journalists and non-governmental organisations working to strengthen the rule of law; Underlines in that connection that EU support for independent journalists and civil society organisations is paramount, including in the context of the next MFF; is concerned about the high concentration of private media in the hands of a few in the Czech Republic;

46.  Calls on the Commission to take concerns expressed in this resolution into account when monitoring the situation in the context of the rule of law mechanism;

47.  Calls on the Czech authorities to inform the EU institutions of the outcome of the reopened ‘Stork Nest’ investigation as soon as possible;

48.  Calls on the Council and European Council to take all necessary and appropriate measures to prevent conflicts of interest in the context of the negotiations for the future EU budget and the next MFF, in line with Article 61(1) of the Financial Regulation;

49.  Expresses solidarity with the Czech people calling for fairness, justice and the resolution of the incompatibility of the Czech Prime Minister’s business interests with his political role and powers;

50.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the Council and the Government and Parliament of the Czech Republic.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0530.
(2) OJ L 193, 30.7.2018, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 320.
(4) https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/P-8-2019-001656_EN.html
(5) Directive 2014/24/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on public procurement (OJ L 94, 28.3.2014, p. 65).
(6) Ismeri Europa Srl v Court of Auditors, Judgment of 15.6.1999, Case T-277/97, ECLI:EU:T:1999:124.
(7) https://europeanjournalists.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Czech-Republic-fact-finding-mission.pdf
(8) https://www.seznamzpravy.cz/clanek/babis-mu-zadal-praci-pro-agrofert-ja-jen-splnil-pokyn-rika-exnamestek-90945; https://www.seznamzpravy.cz/clanek/soukromy-obchod-agrofertu-na-stole-premiera-poslete-odpoved-napsal-babis-90494; https://www.seznamzpravy.cz/clanek/dukazy-z-e-mailu-babis-kvuli-agrofertu-ukoluje-vladou-placene-experty-90815
(9) Information received from the Association of Private Farming in the Czech Republic during the fact-finding mission of 26 to 28 February 2020.
(10) Information received from the Supreme Audit Institution of the Czech Republic during the fact-finding mission of 26 to 28 February 2020.
(11) Reports by civil servants and representatives of NGOs, brought to the attention of members of the fact-finding mission to the Czech Republic of 26 to 28 February 2020.
(12) Directive (EU) 2015/849 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 May 2015 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing, (OJ L 141, 5.6.2015, p. 73).
(13) Directive (EU) 2018/843 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 amending Directive (EU) 2015/849 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing (OJ L 156, 19.6.2018, p. 43).


Banking Union - annual report 2019
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European Parliament resolution of 19 June 2020 on Banking Union – annual report 2019 (2019/2130(INI))
P9_TA(2020)0165A9-0026/2020

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 January 2019 on Banking Union – annual report 2018(1),

–  having regard to the feedback of the Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) on Parliament’s resolution of 16 January 2019 on Banking Union – annual report 2018,

–  having regard to the approval of the Banking Package by the European Parliament and the Council,

–  having regard to The Five Presidents’ Report of 22 June 2015 entitled ‘Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union’,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal of 24 November 2015 for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) No 806/2014 in order to establish a European Deposit Insurance Scheme (COM(2015)0586),

–  having regard to the 2010 Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission,

–  having regard to the Political Guidelines for the next European Commission 2019-2024 entitled ‘A Union that strives for more – My agenda for Europe’, presented by Ursula von der Leyen on 16 July 2019,

–  having regard to its resolution of 23 November 2016 on the finalisation of Basel III(2), and to the conclusions of the Ecofin Council of 12 July 2016,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal of 24 May 2018 for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on sovereign bond-backed securities (COM(2018)0339),

–  having regard to the ECB Annual Report on supervisory activities 2018, published in March 2019(3),

–  having regard to the European Systemic Risk Board report of July 2019 entitled ‘EU Non-bank Financial Intermediation Risk Monitor 2019’(4),

–  having regard to the European Banking Authority (EBA) Fintech Roadmap conclusions from the consultation on the EBA’s approach to Financial Technology (Fintech) of March 2018,

–  having regard to the EBA report of November 2019 entitled ‘Risk Assessment of the European Banking System’(5),

–  having regard to the EBA report of 18 July 2019 on regulatory perimeter, regulatory status and authorisation approaches in relation to FinTech activities,

–  having regard to the European Supervisory Authorities’ (ESAs) report of January 2019 entitled ‘FinTech: Regulatory sandboxes and innovation hubs’(6),

–  having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement of 7 November 2013 between the European Parliament and the European Central Bank on the practical modalities of the exercise of democratic accountability and oversight over the exercise of the tasks conferred on the ECB within the framework of the Single Supervisory Mechanism(7),

–  having regard to the Memorandum of Understanding of 9 October 2019 between the ECB and the European Court of Auditors (ECA) regarding audits on the ECB’s supervisory tasks(8),

–  having regard to the endorsement by the Euro Summit on 14 December 2018 of the report of the Eurogroup in its inclusive format establishing a High-Level Working Group,

–  having regard to the endorsement by the same Euro Summit of the terms of reference of the common backstop to the Single Resolution Fund,

–  having regard to the Commission report of 30 April 2019 on the application and review of Directive 2014/59/EU (Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD)) and Regulation (EU) No 806/2014 (Single Resolution Mechanism Regulation (SRMR)) (COM(2019)0213),

–  having regard to the statement agreed by the Euro Summit at its meeting of 21 June 2019,

–  having regard to the ECA special report of 10 July 2019 on EU-wide stress tests for banks(9),

–  having regard to the announcement by the ECB of 22 August 2019 of the revision of supervisory expectations for prudential provisioning for new non-performing loans to account for the new EU regulation on supervisory expectations for prudential provisioning(10),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 12 June 2019 entitled ‘Fourth Progress Report on the reduction of non-performing loans and further risk reduction in the Banking Union’ (COM(2019)0278),

–  having regard to the European Securities and Markets Authority Technical Advice of 18 July 2019 to the European Commission on Sustainability Considerations in the credit rating market(11),

–  having regard to the European Stability Mechanism discussion paper of October 2019 entitled ‘Completing banking union to support Economic and Monetary Union’,(12)

–  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Action Plan: Financing Sustainable Growth’ (COM(2018)0097),

–  having regard to its resolution of 8 June 2011 on credit rating agencies: future perspectives(13),

–  having regard to the Commission study of November 2019 on the differences between bank insolvency laws and on their potential harmonisation,

–  having regard to its resolution of 19 September 2019 on the state of implementation of the Union’s anti-money laundering legislation(14),

–  having regard to the EBA opinions of 8 August 2019 on the eligibility of deposits, coverage level and cooperation between deposit guarantee schemes (DGSs), of 30 October 2019 on deposit guarantee scheme payouts and of 23 January 2020 on deposit guarantee scheme funding and uses of deposit guarantee scheme funds,

–  having regard to the Joint Opinion of the ESAs of 4 October 2019 on the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing affecting the European Union’s financial sector(15),

–  having regard to the Commission study of November 2019 on options and national discretions under the Deposit Guarantee Scheme Directive and their treatment in the context of a European Deposit Insurance Scheme,

–  having regard to the agreement on the exchange of information between the ECB and the competent authorities responsible for anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT),

–  having regard to the Commission’s withdrawal of its proposal on structural measures improving the resilience of EU credit institutions (COM(2014)0043),

–  having regard to the EBA report of November 2019 on NPLs – progress made and challenges ahead(16),

–  having regard to the ECB’s financial stability review of November 2019,

–  having regard to the joint advice of the ESAs to the European Commission of 10 April 2019 on the need for improvements relating to ICT risk management requirements in the EU financial sector(17),

–  having regard to the 2018 Annual Economic Report of the Bank of International Settlements,

–  having regard to the EBA report of 29 October 2019 on potential impediments to the cross-border provision of banking and payment services,(18)

–  having regard to Rule 54 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (A9-0026/2020),

A.  whereas a more stable, competitive and convergent Economic and Monetary Union requires a solid Banking Union and a more developed and safe Capital Markets Union, as well as the creation of a Budgetary Instrument;

B.  whereas the completion of the Banking Union is a vital contributor to the international perception of the euro and its increased role in global markets;

C.  whereas downside risks to global and euro area economic growth have increased, particularly since the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and continue to create financial stability challenges;

D.  whereas the Banking Union remains incomplete as long as it lacks a backstop for the Single Resolution Fund (SRF) and a European Deposit Insurance Scheme (EDIS) as the third pillar of the Banking Union;

E.  whereas a well-functioning market for retail financial services is important for both the economy and citizens of the EU;

F.  whereas the Banking Union still lacks effective tools to tackle problems consumers are facing: artificial complexity, unfair commercial practices, exclusion of vulnerable groups from using basic services as well as limited involvement of public authorities;

G.  whereas, despite the overall reduction of non-performing loans (NPLs) in recent years, the level of NPLs in some financial institutions still remains high;

H.  whereas entrusting the ECB with the supervision of systemically important financial institutions has proven to be successful; whereas the ECB can exercise, where necessary, supervisory tasks in relation to all credit institutions authorised in, and branches established in, participating Member States;

I.  whereas the development of the Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM), which aims at ensuring uniform rules and procedures and a common decision-making process for orderly resolution of failing banks with minimum impact on the real economy, was efficient; whereas there is still, however, work to be done in order to effectively prevent taxpayer-funded intervention in failing banks;

J.  whereas recent large-scale money laundering scandals involving financial institutions in the EU demonstrate that prudential and anti-money laundering supervision cannot be treated separately and that a proper system of supervision and enforcement of EU legislation is lacking;

K.  whereas the European banking sector still remains by far the main provider of financing to companies, in contrast with other jurisdictions, where capital markets account for a considerable share of financing to companies;

L.  whereas more than ten years after the financial crisis, the ‘too big to fail’ and ‘too interconnected to fail’ problems remain insufficiently addressed and under review by the Financial Stability Board;

General considerations

1.  Recalls the progress made regarding the implementation of the Banking Union, namely on risk reduction; stresses, however, that further progress has to be made on risk sharing and also on risk reduction in order to tackle challenges that remain in specific institutions;

2.  Recalls that the Banking Union is open to all Members States that wish to join;

3.  Welcomes the support of the President of the European Commission and the President of the ECB for the completion of the Banking Union and, more broadly, the Economic and Monetary Union, through, for example, the creation of a Budgetary Instrument in order to attain a more stable, competitive and convergent Union;

4.  Stresses that the Eurogroup is neither an institution, a body nor an agency of the European Union but an informal intergovernmental forum of discussion; regrets the fact that Member States continue to act outside the Community framework, jeopardising Parliament’s role as co-legislator and its right to democratic oversight;

5.  Highlights the lack of efficacy of the intergovernmental negotiations conducted thus far, most notably those involving the Budgetary Instrument for Convergence and Competitiveness and the Eurogroup’s Banking Union High Level Working Group; urges negotiations to continue in an open setting that guarantees Parliament’s active involvement, within the legal order of the EU; underlines the increased judicial protection that these changes would result in, along with stricter requirements regarding transparency and access to documents;

6.  Welcomes the overall increased resilience of the European banking system, as attested by the EBA’s 2019 Risk Assessment of the European Banking System; welcomes in particular the fact that banks have kept their capital ratios stable and asset quality has improved, as reflected in a further decline of NPLs;

7.  Stresses, however, that profitability levels remain low and the macroeconomic environment is deteriorating, namely in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has triggered unprecedented challenges to the global economy, affecting asset quality and, thus, the profitability of banks; further notes that a high level of competition, especially in the area of financial technology (FinTech), as well as higher operational risks due to digitalisation and innovation, and the lack of integration of markets due to remaining fragmentation between Member States, are expected to pose further challenges to bank profitability;

8.  Notes the current prospect of low risk and low profitability in the banking sector; highlights the fact that low interest rates persist as a response to the current macroeconomic situation; stresses, furthermore, that economic slowdown and geopolitical tensions, including the effects of Brexit, as well as cyber risks and data security, are among the major challenges the EU banking sector is facing, in addition to climate change and the risks of money laundering and terrorism financing;

9.  Notes that, bank profitability has increased steadily since 2012, with return on equity surpassing 6 % since 2017; highlights, however, that this evolution falls short of the estimated cost of capital for most banks; underlines that the low risk and low interest rate environment has resulted in lower costs for provisions and losses; points out that this is not, however, a structural improvement and that challenges to profitability are not expected to abate in the short term; recalls the need to continuously evaluate the levels of financing to the economy, and particularly to SMEs, coming from the financial system as whole; calls for an appropriate assessment of the impact of past and future regulations on reaching the objective of financing the economy;

10.  Emphasises that the provision of credit and liquidity by banks plays a decisive role in mitigating the most severe economic consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak on people in the EU; notes, in this context, the legislative and supervisory measures that have been proposed or adopted to make sure that banks keep lending throughout this crisis; welcomes the flexibility given to banks in relation to the prudential treatment of loans, the application of accounting rules, and the release of capital buffers; emphasises that any relief granted should be made fully available to support bank customers, families and firms; supports the actions taken by banking supervisors to introduce strong temporary restrictions on the payment of dividends and bonuses and the buying back of own shares by banks;

11.  Underlines the crucial role of the banking sector in channelling funding into the real economy, and particularly into sustainable and socially responsible investments, thereby fostering growth and employment and enabling the transition to a climate-neutral economy, while not endangering financial stability;

12.  Welcomes, in that respect, the political agreement reached on the Regulation on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment; calls for the revision of the Non-Financial Reporting Directive in order to better reflect the ESG-related reporting and disclosure obligations;

13.  Is concerned that the vulnerabilities of banks to climate-related risks may not be fully comprehended and welcomes the EBA’s commitments to include climate risk considerations in its annual risk assessment and to introduce climate change stress tests; underlines, in this respect, the importance of adequate disclosure and risk assessment;

14.  Calls, furthermore, on all European banks to sign up to the UN-led Principles for Responsible Banking and, accordingly, to report annually on their efforts to implement sustainable financing and to reduce climate change-related risks in their balance sheets; calls on the EU and national competent authorities responsible for the banking sector to follow and, where possible, implement the recommendations of the Principles for Responsible Banking, the Sustainable Banking Network and the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System;

15.  Calls for the establishment of a EU-wide green bond standard and the definition of a framework favourable to the development of these bonds in order to enhance the transparency, effectiveness and credibility of sustainable investments;

16.  Takes note of the work of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) on sovereign risk; stresses that the EU regulatory framework on prudential treatment of sovereign debt should be consistent with international standards; calls for further discussions on the creation of a European safe asset, based on an evaluation to be performed by the Commission of the sovereign bond-backed securities (SBBS) proposal and possible developments, in order to strengthen the international role of the euro, stabilise financial markets and allow banks to diversify their portfolios;

17.  Underlines the fact that financial markets are strongly interrelated; stresses the importance of preparedness of banking supervisors for all possible outcomes of Brexit, bearing in mind that this complements preparedness of private actors themselves; welcomes all significant actions and cooperation so far; takes note of the practice of UK firms of establishing branches in the EU in order to continue providing services; stresses, in this regard, the risk of regulatory arbitrage due to the diverse application of rules in each Member State; considers, therefore, that further harmonisation is required to avoid regulatory arbitrage and to ensure that risks are appropriately addressed; underlines the importance of a level playing field in financial regulations between the EU and the UK after Brexit and the need to prevent a regulatory race to the bottom;

18.  Reiterates the commitments that the EU has undertaken jointly with the United Kingdom under the revised Political Declaration; commits to maintaining close and structured cooperation on regulatory and supervisory matters, at both political and technical levels;

19.  Regrets that the Commission and the large majority of EU governments have so far failed in ensuring full gender balance in EU institutions and bodies, particularly with regard to high-level appointments in economic, financial and monetary affairs; calls on the governments of the Member States, the European Council, the Eurogroup and the Commission to actively work towards gender balance in their upcoming proposals for shortlists and appointments, endeavouring to include at least one female and one male candidate per nomination procedure; reiterates its resolution on respect for the gender balance principle in forthcoming lists of candidates;

20.  Stresses the importance of completing the Capital Markets Union, which complements the Banking Union in the financing of the real economy; stresses, furthermore, that a fully integrated Capital Markets Union together with a fully-fledged Banking Union would allow for public and private risk sharing, and would moreover strengthen the international role of the euro as well as further enhancing the competitiveness of European markets and promoting sustainable private investment; highlights, in this regard, the need for a level playing field that avoids disadvantages for SMEs in terms of access to finance, and the need to carefully monitor the issuance of securitised products;

Supervision

21.  Welcomes the progress made in the banking sector in reducing risk and increasing financial stability; notes however that fragilities still remain in specific institutions and that further progress is required; recalls the aims of the Banking Union of ensuring financial stability, and fostering a truly single market, a level playing field and predictability for market actors;

22.  Considers, nevertheless, that the current supervisory framework has focused primarily on credit risk exposures, to the detriment of market risk exposures related to illiquid securities, including derivatives; urges for adequate measures to enhance asset quality review, and welcomes, in this regard, the inclusion of level 2 and level 3 instruments in the scope of the 2018 stress tests; reiterates its call on the SSM to include among its main supervisory priorities the reduction of these complex and illiquid financial instruments, including derivatives;

23.  Welcomes the efforts made to strengthen the financial sector and reduce NPLs at European level and the risk reduction measures achieved in the recent Banking Package; notes that the ratio of NPLs held by significant institutions fell by more than half from the start of ECB banking supervision, in November 2014, to June 2019; highlights that the euro area NPL average was 2,9 % in September 2019, down from 6,5 % in December 2014; welcomes this significant progress; points out that the level of non-performing loans still remains high in certain institutions and that further efforts are needed to address this issue; takes note of the ongoing legislative work on the directive for credit servicers and credit purchasers, and stresses the need to make sure that the development of secondary markets for loans and the creation of an extrajudicial enforcement mechanism (AECE) include appropriate consumer protection;

24.  Underlines the need to protect customers’ rights in the context of NPL transactions; notes the importance of the full implementation of the Mortgage Credit Directive (2014/17/EU); calls on Member States to put measures in place to ensure that borrowers, who might be in already vulnerable financial situations, are not subject to aggressive and unfair treatment and practices by poorly-regulated debt buyers and collectors; calls on the Commission, in the upcoming revision of the Consumer Credit Directive, to lay down more ambitious provisions on the protection of borrowers against abusive practices, ensuring that those rights apply equally to existing and future loans;

25.  Underlines the importance of protecting consumer rights, namely regarding banking fees and the transparency of product costs, profitability and risks; calls, in this respect, on the EBA to devote more focus to fulfilling its mandate on properly collecting, analysing and reporting on consumer trends, and also on the review and coordination of financial literacy and education initiatives by the competent authorities;

26.  Notes that recent banking crises have revealed that credit institutions have miss-sold bonds and other financial products to retail customers; calls on supervisory and resolution authorities to vigorously enforce the newly introduced BRRD provisions on consumer protection, particularly the minimum requirement for own funds and eligible liabilities (MREL); urges the Commission to further assess the issue of miss-selling of financial products by banking institutions;

27.  Calls on the ESAs to make full use of their powers to ensure a high degree of consumer protection, including, where appropriate, product intervention powers where financial and credit products have resulted in or are likely to result in consumer detriment;

28.  Notes that work on the implementation of the final Basel III standards has already started; stresses that the BCBS standards should be enacted into European law in a timely fashion and with due regard for their goals, while taking proper account of the specific characteristics of the European banking system, where appropriate, and the proportionality principle; warns that, owing to the diversity of banking models across the EU, a one-size-fits-it-all solution might be ill-suited to the European market; underlines that the competitiveness and financial stability of the EU banking sector should be ensured and its ability to finance the economy, in particular SMEs, should not be harmed; is convinced that viable and well-capitalised financial institutions are necessary for the sound financing of the EU economy and a stable Banking Union; recalls its resolution of 23 November 2016 on the finalisation of Basel III and calls on the Commission to act on the recommendations therein when drafting the new legislative proposals;

29.  Takes not of the importance of the need to assess the adequacy of internal models and to continuously evaluate them, in order to ensure they are reliable and robust; takes note of the findings of the targeted review of internal models (TRIM) carried out by the ECB; calls on banks to improve their use and implementation of their internal models accordingly;

30.  Is concerned that the EBA warned about not delivering its proposals for reducing the administrative burden for small institutions within the deadline set by co-legislators in the Banking Package;

31.  Recalls that standards provided by international fora should avoid regulatory fragmentation and help to promote a level playing field for all internationally active banks;

32.  Notes that in its report assessing the risks to and vulnerabilities of the EU banking sector, the EBA points to differences in the application and setting of the O-SII buffer among Member States; calls, thus, for further harmonisation of the application of capital buffers across the EU, in order to create a level playing field;

33.  Welcomes the agreement on a Memorandum of Understanding between the European Central Bank and the European Court of Auditors, setting out the practical arrangements for the exchange of information between the institutions in respect of their respective mandates;

34.  Requests increased transparency standards in banking supervision, for instance in the outcomes of the supervisory review and evaluation process, in order to reinforce the trust of capital and financial markets, companies and citizens, as well as to ensure consistency of treatment across Member States; welcomes improved and refined information-sharing between supervisory and resolution institutions;

35.  Notes that innovative financial technologies are profoundly transforming the financial sector, including banking and payment services, and welcomes the efficiency and broader range of choices these offer to consumers in the market; supports technological neutrality as a guiding principle and encourages investments in financial technology;

36.  Highlights the need to address the challenges posed by these new technologies, such as ensuring sustainable business models that are interoperable across borders, a level playing field in terms of regulation and supervision, and cybersecurity; underlines the responsibility of financial institutions in ensuring the protection of clients’ data and their security, in accordance with EU law; notes, also, the increasing reliance of the banking sector on cloud computing and urges the Commission to respond to the joint advice of the ESAs on the need for legislative improvements relating to ICT risk management requirements in the EU financial sector; reiterates that a balanced legislative framework and legal certainty can enhance an environment prone to innovation without undermining financial stability;

37.  Recognises the contribution that the non-bank financial intermediation sector, previously known as shadow banking, can make to further diversifying the funding channels to the economy; highlights, however, that there is considerable interconnectedness between the non-bank financial intermediation sector and the ‘traditional’ banking sector, which raises concerns of systemic risk given the lack of appropriate regulation and supervision of the former;

38.  Calls, in this regard, for coordinated action to address these risks, including the establishment of a macroprudential toolkit and the further operationalisation of existing tools to counter threats to financial stability posed by the increasing role of the non-bank financial intermediation system; considers that it is necessary to assess whether prudential requirements on large exposures in particular to non-bank financial intermediation are sufficient to ensure financial stability; underlines further the risks highlighted by the European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB) in its EU Non-bank Financial Intermediation Risk Monitor 2019, such as those derived from liquidity transformation, risk-taking and leverage affecting the sector more broadly;

39.  Welcomes the agreement on the exchange of information between the ECB and the authorities responsible for anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT); recalls its resolution of 19 September 2019 on the state of implementation of the Union’s anti-money laundering legislation; welcomes the joint position paper of 8 November 2019, prepared by several euro area finance ministers, which calls for the harmonisation of the European money laundering and terrorism financing regulatory framework;

40.  Recalls that for AML/CFT efforts to be effective, the competent authorities and financial institutions must act in a coordinated manner; highlights that prudential and anti-money laundering supervision need to be better aligned; recalls its serious concerns about regulatory and supervisory fragmentation in the field of AML/CFT, which has led to a failure to provide adequate oversight and responses to the deficiencies of national supervisory authorities and undermines their ability to supervise the increasing cross-border activity in the EU;

41.  Is convinced that the SSM also has a role to play in combatting money laundering and welcomes the setting-up of a dedicated anti-money laundering unit; notes in particular the complexity of carrying out the important suitability assessment of the top management of banks due to the highly diverse transposition of the Capital Requirements Directive; encourages, therefore, the integration of the ‘fit and proper’ requirements into the Capital Requirements Regulation;

42.  Welcomes the Council conclusions of 5 December 2019, which give a mandate to the Commission to explore ways of ensuring better cooperation between authorities and conferring AML tasks to an EU body, and to turn certain parts of the Anti-money Laundering Directive into a Regulation, in order to ensure a single rulebook; welcomes the Commission’s communication on an Action Plan for a comprehensive Union policy on preventing money laundering and terrorist financing, which outlines proposals to further harmonise the AML/CFT rulebook and effectively address the risks posed by cross-border illegal activity to the integrity of the EU financial system and the security of EU citizens, namely through the creation of a new EU body;

43.  Acknowledges that legal and supervisory action need to be taken to address the money laundering and terrorism financing risks posed by crypto assets; invites the Commission to further carry out impact assessments on the money laundering and terrorism financing risks that may arise from vulnerabilities created by the increasing use of new technologies by credit and financial institutions, and the rapid spread of crypto assets in view of the absence of a common regulatory regime and the anonymity associated with those assets;

44.  Calls on the Commission to evaluate in 2020 the current state of the credit rating agencies market, to assess it in terms of competition, information asymmetries and transparency to the markets; notes that sustainability ratings based on environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria may become an important complement to credit risk assessments; stresses the importance of standardisation in the criteria for sustainability rating and ensuring that the development of a market for the provision of sustainability ratings is competitive and not concentrated with a limited number of providers;

45.  States the need for efforts to make financial market activity more consistent with sustainability objectives and ESG criteria, underlining the central role of the ESAs in these objectives; calls, in this respect, on the EBA, in coordination with the ESRB, to take steps towards a common methodology for measuring the intensity of climate risks to which financial institutions are exposed, including risks related to the possible depreciation of assets in the event of changes to the regulatory treatment stemming from climate change mitigation and adaptation, the macroeconomic impact of sudden changes in energy use and a rise in the incidence of natural catastrophes;

Resolution

46.  Welcomes the fact that the Single Resolution Board (SRB) has not been required to take resolution action in 2019; invites the Commission to reflect on the appropriate follow-up to its own report on the implementation of BRRD and SRMR of April 2019; urges the Commission to review whether the legislation is adequate to ensure that all banks could, if needed, be resolved without the need for taxpayers’ money; calls on the Commission to take into account the Financial Stability Board review of the ‘too big to fail’ legislation and address potential shortcomings, in particular with regard to the safeguarding of retail deposits;

47.  Calls on the SRB to complete the process of establishing resolution plans and analyse if all relevant banks hold sufficient MREL; notes that the SRB does not regularly disclose the extent to which banks comply with MREL targets;

48.  Invites the Commission to reflect on the potential for further harmonisation of specific aspects of existing national insolvency laws and to assess the extent to which such further harmonisation is necessary to ensure a consistent and effective application of the crisis management framework; calls on the Commission, in the framework of the revision of the Deposit Guarantee Scheme Directive (DGSD) to bring more clarity to the least-cost principle under the DGSD;

49.  Calls for further reflection on the Single Resolution Mechanism’s framework and the need to assess the applicability of the Banking Communication of 2013(19); notes the need to ensure a level playing field and the consistent application of the public interest test;

50.  Notes the important role that early intervention measures can play in preventing bank failures and crises; notes, however, that the requirements for the use of early intervention measures overlap with some of the standard intervention measures of the ECB; stresses that in such instances, standard intervention measures are favoured; considers, therefore, that this overlap should be removed by way of the sufficient clarification of the legal basis for each instrument, in order to ensure the gradual application of the measures;

51.  Takes note of the Eurogroup decision on the ‘agreement in principle’ related to the reform of the European Stability Mechanism and its terms of reference; calls for the creation of the backstop to the SRF and its swift operationalisation; is concerned by the lack of a mechanism in the Banking Union to ensure that liquidity can be provided to a bank in the event of a resolution in order to ensure the smooth continuity of services and the stability of financial markets, and calls on the Commission to attempt to address this gap without further delay;

52.  Stresses the fact that banks need to be able to operate across borders while managing their capital and liquidity at a consolidated level, in order to diversify their risks and address any lack of profitability; highlights its view that rules should allow for greater flexibility for the parent company in this regard, while providing for credible and enforceable mechanisms that require, in the event of a crisis, the parent company (resolution entity) to provide capital, MREL, and liquidity to subsidiaries located in a host country within the Banking Union;

Deposit insurance

53.  States that the Banking Union still lacks its third pillar; urges the completion of the Banking Union through the creation of a fully implemented European Deposit Insurance Scheme to protect depositors against banking disruptions, ensure confidence among depositors and investors across the Banking Union and reinforce the stability of the euro area as a whole; recognises the benefits of risk sharing and further risk reduction in specific institutions;

54.  Urges the Council to resume negotiations on EDIS as soon as possible, while ensuring a coherent framework with the DGSD in order to deliver on the objective of enhancing financial stability;

55.  Calls on the Commission to analyse the framework of functioning institutional protection schemes in the context of EDIS;

56.  Takes note of the continued discussions on the completion of the Banking Union within the High-level Working Group on EDIS, established in January 2019 to report to the Eurogroup, including on further improvements to the crisis management framework for banks; is concerned that Parliament has not been kept informed of discussions taking place in the context of the High-Level Working Group on EDIS, which reports to the Eurogroup; notes that the Commission is a participant in the High-Level Working Group and recalls Article 9 of the 2010 Framework Agreement, which contains the obligation for the Commission to guarantee equal treatment, particularly on legislative matters, between Parliament and the Council;

o
o   o

57.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the EBA, the ECB, the SRB, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, and the competent authorities as defined in point (40) of Article 4(1) of Regulation (EU) No 575/2013.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0030.
(2) OJ C 224, 27.6.2018, p. 45.
(3) https://www.bankingsupervision.europa.eu/press/publications/annual-report/pdf/ssm.ar2018~927cb99de4.en.pdf?eacb68897aba01af07abf90319758ded
(4) https://www.esrb.europa.eu/pub/pdf/reports/nbfi_monitor/esrb.report190717_NBFImonitor2019~ba7c155135.en.pdf?aad1f4a011a6d589537645242475aa89
(5) https://eba.europa.eu/sites/default/documents/files/document_library/Risk%20Analysis%20and%20Data/Risk%20Assessment%20Reports/2019/Risk%20Assessment%20Report_November%202019.PDF
(6) JC 2018 74.
(7) OJ L 320, 30.11.2013, p. 1.
(8) https://www.bankingsupervision.europa.eu/ecb/legal/pdf/memorandum_of_understanding_between_the_eca_and_the_ecb_regarding_the_ecbs_supervisory_tasks.pdf
(9) ‘Special report no10/2019: EU-wide stress tests for banks: unparalleled amount of information on banks provided but greater coordination and focus on risks needed’, European Court of Auditors, 10 July 2019, https://www.eca.europa.eu/en/Pages/DocItem.aspx?did=50393
(10) Press release, ‘ECB revises supervisory expectations for prudential provisioning for new non-performing loans to account for new EU regulation’, 22 August 2019, https://www.bankingsupervision.europa.eu/press/pr/date/2019/html/ssm.pr190822~f3dd1be8a4.en.html
(11) ESMA 33-9-321.
(12) Discussion Paper Series/7, European Stability Mechanism, October 2019.
(13) OJ C 380E, 11.12.2012, p. 24.
(14) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2019)0022.
(15) JC 2019 59.
(16) https://eba.europa.eu/file/233465/download?token=xH5hxq39
(17) JC 2019 26, https://eba.europa.eu/file/102634/download?token=ZR98JZp8
(18) https://eba.europa.eu/file/178124/download?token=7fFsD9og
(19) OJ C 216, 30.7.2013, p. 1.


Guidelines for the 2021 Budget - Section III
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European Parliament resolution of 19 June 2020 on general guidelines for the preparation of the 2021 budget, Section III – Commission (2019/2213(BUD))
P9_TA(2020)0166A9-0110/2020

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of 8 October 2018 on Global Warming of 1.5°C(1),

–  having regard to Article 314 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 July 2018 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union, amending Regulations (EU) No 1296/2013, (EU) No 1301/2013, (EU) No 1303/2013, (EU) No 1304/2013, (EU) No 1309/2013, (EU) No 1316/2013, (EU) No 223/2014, (EU) No 283/2014, and Decision No 541/2014/EU and repealing Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012(2),

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1311/2013 of 2 December 2013 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020(3),

–  having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement of 2 December 2013 between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline, on cooperation in budgetary matters and on sound financial management(4),

–  having regard to Council Decision 2014/335/EU, Euratom of 26 May 2014 on the system of own resources of the European Union(5),

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2020(6) and the joint statements agreed between Parliament, the Council and the Commission annexed thereto,

–  having regard to its interim report of 14 November 2018 on the multiannual financial framework 2021-2027 – Parliament’s position with a view to an agreement(7) and to its resolution of 10 October 2019 on the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework and own resources: time to meet citizens’ expectations(8),

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 April 2020 on EU coordinated action to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences(9),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 May 2020 on a safety net to protect the beneficiaries of Union programmes: setting up an MFF contingency plan(10),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 May 2020 on the new multiannual financial framework, own resources and the recovery plan(11),

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 January 2020 on the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity(12),

–  having regard to the European Pillar of Social Rights, and its resolution thereon of 19 January 2017(13),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 January 2020 on the European Green Deal(14),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 18 February 2020 on the 2021 budget guidelines (06092/2020),

–  having regard to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,

–  having regard to Rule 93 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs,

–  having regard to the position in the form of amendments of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs,

–  having regard to the letters from the Committee on Development; the Committee on Budgetary Control; 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 Culture and Education; the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs; the Committee on Constitutional Affairs and the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgets (A9-0110/2020),

A.  whereas the European Union is facing an unexpected and unprecedented health, economic, social and environmental crisis due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic;

B.  whereas these exceptional circumstances cannot be tackled with a budget designed for ‘business as usual’;

C.  whereas pursuant to Article 311 of the TFEU, the Union shall provide itself with the means necessary to attain its policy objectives and the budget shall be financed wholly from own resources;

D.  whereas pursuant to Article 312 of the TFEU, the multiannual financial framework (MFF) shall be adopted by the Council by unanimity after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament by a majority of its component members;

E.  whereas the current MFF ends at the end of 2020, and whereas 2021 should be the first year of implementation of the next one in a revised and reshaped form;

F.  whereas Parliament has been ready to negotiate the MFF since November 2018, but the Council has so far failed to engage in any meaningful talks with Parliament beyond minimal contact on the margins of the General Affairs Council; whereas the timeframe for reaching an agreement in the European Council has been repeatedly extended;

G.  whereas on 27 May 2020, the Commission presented an updated proposal for the next MFF;

H.  whereas IPCC scientists, in their latest report, call for radical action to catch up with the ecological transition, in the light of their warning that CO2 concentration increased three times faster in 2018-2019 than in the 1960s, underlining the fact that there are only a few years left to prevent climate change and its environmental impact from getting irreversibly out of control;

I.  whereas in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak, victims of gender-based violence can be exposed to abusers for long periods of time and be cut off from social and institutional support, as demonstrated by the data in several EU countries, and whereas women are disproportionally represented in professions where the risk of getting infected is high;

Facing the COVID-19 crisis: a budget to protect and innovate…

1.  Insists that the EU budget is vital to respond to the challenges faced by the Union and made even more visible and acute by the COVID-19 crisis, and that it needs to reflect the degree of ambition of the Member States and the institutions; stresses, therefore, that the primary focus of the 2021 budget should be to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak and support the recovery, built on the European Green Deal and digital transformation;

2.  Emphasises that the Union and all of its Member States must show full solidarity with those most in need, pulling together as a community and ensuring that no country is left to fight this pandemic and its aftermath on its own, including through a 2021 budget commensurate with this historical challenge;

3.  Highlights, in this context, that the 2021 budget should be the first of an updated, reoriented and very ambitious 2021-2027 MFF;

4.  In line with its resolution of 13 May 2020, reiterates its request that the Commission propose an MFF contingency plan by 15 June 2020, on the basis of the automatic extension of the 2020 ceilings, in order to protect beneficiaries of EU programmes and ensure continuity of funding; stresses that this MFF contingency plan should allow for the prolongation of existing EU programmes and their refocusing on addressing the consequences of the crisis, as well as for setting up the most urgent new instruments and initiatives; underlines the need to avoid any risk of discontinuity or a disorderly extension of the current MFF and programmes in 2021, and to guarantee that the Union will be enabled to carry out its operations and to provide an ambitious crisis response and recovery strategy;

5.  Underlines that no Member State on its own will be able to finance a massive recovery plan, as long as needed, to face the COVID-19 crisis and that, if financed solely with debt, national recovery plans would be very limited in amount and duration; insists that the recovery plan must comprise a massive investment component financed by the Union budget as of 2021, and calls, therefore, for the 2021 budget to be an important part of this recovery plan;

6.  Believes that the recovery plan needs to be built on the European Green Deal and digital transformation of our societies to rebuild our economy, ensure resilience and inclusion, while respecting planetary boundaries, protect people’s wellbeing and health from further risks and environmental impacts, create high-quality jobs and ensure social, economic and territorial cohesion and convergence, notably through investment in SMEs and the sectors most affected by the crisis such as tourism, and in the development of sustainable public infrastructure and services and of the strategic sectors, such as the health sector, that tackle the crisis on the front line; calls on the Commission to introduce a draft 2021 budget that is line with these priorities;

7.  Considers that the EU budget’s revenue side must be seen as a tool for the achievement of EU policies; underlines that, in order to cover supplementary expenditure incurred by the crisis and to mitigate the predominance of the GNI contributions in the EU budget, new additional own resources flowing directly into the EU budget as general revenue will need to play a key role as of 2021; considers that the absence of fresh new own resources will have negative political consequences on the 2021 Union budget and jeopardise the new political agenda of the Commission; considers, in this context, the Commission’s proposals on own resources from May 2018 as a good starting point that needs to be broadly deepened in the light of the current challenges and crisis; recalls, as expressed in its interim report of 14 November 2018 and its resolution of 10 October 2019, that the European Parliament will not give its consent to the 2021-2027 MFF without an agreement on the reform of the EU own resources system, including the introduction of a basket of new own resources;

8.  Is convinced that the current crisis should not undermine the ambition of moving towards the objective of achieving climate neutrality by 2050, requiring a cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 55 % compared with 1990 levels by 2030; recalls that the 2019 Emissions Gap Report of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) calls for a global reduction of greenhouse gases of 7,6 % each year to limit the temperature rise to under 1,5°C, meaning a reduction of approximately 6,.8 % each year at EU level; highlights that it represents an enormous challenge, notably with regard to the much-needed sustainable, socially just transition, which should take into account the different starting points of the EU regions and Member States and be accompanied by job creation on a massive scale; insists that in order to succeed in this unprecedented challenge in only ten years, urgent action is needed, backed by a strong EU budget as of 2021;

9.  Is concerned about further economic, social and political consequences of the crisis if the EU does not equip itself quickly with new and efficient tools to protect social cohesion, preserve jobs and prevent massive layoffs; welcomes, in this context, the proposal for a Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE) programme and the commitment by the President of the Commission to present a legislative proposal for a European Unemployment Benefit Reinsurance scheme with a view to implementing it as soon as possible;

…in order to provide solutions to exacerbated social, environmental, economic and financial challenges

10.  Welcomes the Commission’s proposals for the European Green Deal and the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan;

11.  Notes, however, that in order to attain the 40 % greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target by 2030, and the upcoming raising of this ambition, the Commission has estimated that it will be necessary to bridge a funding gap of at least EUR 260 billion every year plus additional costs for environmental protection, resource management and social adaptation measures; believes that in order to help reduce the EU’s GHG emissions and overall carbon footprint, a carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM), the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) and EU climate law should fully contribute to a quantum leap in political and financial efforts; considers that a just transition, as an inherent part of the answer to the crisis, requires just and adequate funding;

12.  Reiterates that Parliament’s mandate for the MFF was set in its interim report of 14 November 2018 on ceilings, programme allocations, own resources and flexibility provisions, the mid-term revision and horizontal principles, such as mainstreaming the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate and gender equality; notes that the outcome of the MFF negotiations will largely determine the funding level of EU programmes for the next period and reiterates its position that commitment appropriations for the 2021-2027 period should be set at EUR 1 324,1 billion in 2018 prices, which would represent 1,3 % of the EU-27’s gross national income (GNI); reflecting this position, is determined to defend a 2021 budget of EUR 192,1 billion in current prices in commitment appropriations; underlines that major additional appropriations on top of this position are required to respond to the ongoing crisis;

13.  Recalls its position that the 2021-2027 MFF climate and biodiversity mainstreaming targets must go beyond the levels of targeted spending shares as set out in its interim report; aims, therefore, to achieve a biodiversity spending level of 10 % and a climate mainstreaming spending level of 30 % for 2021; reiterates its call on the Commission to lay down clear eligibility criteria for a new stringent and comprehensive methodology, in the form of a Framework Regulation, for defining and tracking relevant climate and biodiversity expenditure in line with the ‘do no harm’ principle, together with the corresponding correction measures, where relevant, and the proofing mechanism to identify potential harmful impacts of EU actions on biodiversity and climate in keeping with its commitments under the Paris Agreement and its call for a progressive phase-out of direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies;

14.  Supports the mobilisations of funds and the flexibility to mobilise funds for research and development (R&D) to COVID-19-related measures such as the development of vaccines, new treatments, diagnostic tests and medical systems to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and save lives;

15.  Strongly underlines that the Union`s climate goals require sustainable and long-term solutions; highlights the paramount role of R&D in finding effective, realistic and implementable solutions for citizens, businesses and society; underlines that Horizon Europe will be the main programme for developing new solutions for the climate; requests increased funding for all contributing R&D programmes in order to establish the Union as a global leader for green technologies and strengthen its global competitiveness on a greater scale, to reduce its dependency on foreign key technologies, to become a leader in information and communication technologies (ICTs), artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity, to develop new treatments for serious diseases such as cancer, and to build up supercomputing and data processing capacities;

16.  Notes with great concern that many excellent proposals for research cannot be implemented, not because of bad quality, but due to significant under-funding of the relevant programmes; stresses that research and innovation are very competitive markets, with researchers being drawn to other regions of the world as a result of the unavailability of funding opportunities in Europe; underlines that the UK will move from being the main beneficiary of many Union R&D programmes to being a strong competitor; invites the Council to take into account the fact that every gap of EUR 10 billion in Horizon Europe will result in a GDP loss of EUR 110 billion over the next 25 years; concludes that low budgetary ambitions for R&D would contradict any pledge favourable to competitiveness or fighting climate change, particularly regarding the efforts that still lie ahead to meet the Europe 2020 target of 3 % GDP;

17.  Underlines that transport infrastructure investment can meet both objectives of supporting EU’s economy in the current context and efforts to fight climate change, as well as the to shift to sustainable mobility, relying in particular on the completion of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), the Shift2Rail and the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) policies; calls on the Commission to align all CEF projects with the Paris Agreement objectives;

18.  Reiterates that a competitive space industry is vital for the business landscape of Europe by providing high-quality jobs, significant R&D activities and ensuring the autonomy of a European satellite infrastructure; highlights the benefits of data generated in space as an essential tool for land and environmental monitoring;

19.  Stresses that small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) make up 99 % of all companies in the Member States and contribute significantly to the creation of jobs, economic stability and, increasingly, to sustainability efforts, and that these companies are most likely to be the most affected by the economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak; stresses that SMEs face difficulties in finding financing opportunities and recalls the role of the EU programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME) in this regard; recalls Parliament’s position on doubling the financial envelope of its successor’s lines within the Single Market programme for the next MFF, which is expected to allow for a success rate of high-quality proposals of at least 80 %; stresses that financial support for SMEs should also be channelled through the InvestEU SMEs window, to make products and services market ready and enable their rapid scaling up on global markets; reiterates the need to further expand opportunities to create and scale up start-ups and to put special emphasis on the digital transformation of SMEs, also supported by the Single Market Gateway as an e-government business facilitator, in compliance with ambitious consumer protection policies, as well as their ecological transition; welcomes, furthermore, in this context, the various initiatives from the European Investment Bank (EIB) group, namely the mobilisation of EUR 40 billion for impacted SMEs, the EUR 5 billion available for companies in the health sector and the EUR 25 billion guarantee fund to be financed by its shareholders;

20.  Stresses that the ongoing crisis will affect many regions and sectors considerably; in this context, is convinced that cohesion policy will play a key role and be more than ever before essential to stimulate the economic recovery in all EU territories, strengthen the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the Union and will require additional funding and more flexibility to respond to the complex environmental, social, economic and demographic challenges ahead; underlines that, if the adoption of the 2021-2027 MFF and the relevant legal basis are delayed, a transitional period between the two programming periods will be indispensable;

21.  Believes that tourism, as one of the sectors most affected by the crisis, needs a comprehensive strategy supported by a specific allocation through a separate EU programme in the next MFF; insists that particular attention and support should be given to small and family-run businesses, especially in the cases of agri-tourism and small hospitality providers who will face more difficulties in complying with new safety standards, as well as insular regions and ultra-peripheral regions;

22.  In the light of the immediate and long-term major negative social impacts of the current situation, underlines the importance of fully implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights in the 2021 EU budget and the crucial role of strengthened EU social actions, notably the European Social Fund+, in the economic recovery, and, in particular, to tackle unemployment among young people and the elderly, child poverty, the risk of poverty and social exclusion, discrimination, to ensure a reinforced social dialogue, addressing long-term structural demographic change and guarantee access for all, and especially for ageing populations, to vital and key services such as healthcare, mobility, adequate nutrition and decent housing;

23.  Calls for the 2021 budget to pay particular attention to the needs of and relations with the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs), as they can be particularly vulnerable to the adverse impact of climate change; stresses, furthermore, that access to funding for the OCTs must be improved as they possess limited administrative resources and expertise owing to their special status and size;

24.  Stresses that internal security is an integral part of EU citizens’ expectations of a Union that protects; underlines that security threats such as terrorist attacks, cross-border organised crime, and new types of criminal activity such as cybercrime, pose an ongoing threat to the cohesion of the European Union and require a strong, coordinated European response; believes that this requires intensified cross-border cooperation between competent authorities; stresses that strengthening and modernising IT systems with a focus on better interoperability of systems, facilitated access and readability of data are mandatory to ensuring effective and rapid cooperation between police, judicial and other competent authorities; takes note that the Commission is expected to launch a new Security Union Strategy in 2021, which will comprise a set of initiatives in key areas related to these threats;

25.  Calls on the Commission to allocate the necessary budget in order to ensure that the EU civil protection mechanism has a greater capacity, so that the EU will be better prepared and able to respond to all types of natural disasters, pandemics and emergencies, such as chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear emergencies; reiterates the importance of the EU civil protection mechanism to better protect citizens from disasters;

26.  Stresses the success of the Erasmus+ Programme in enhancing youth mobility, training and skills; highlights the need to adequately fund the programme, inter alia, to make it accessible to people from all backgrounds and age groups;

27.  Recalls that the promotion of European values and cultures plays an active role in supporting democracy, non-discrimination and gender equality, and tackling disinformation and fake news; stresses, in this respect, the need to provide sufficient funding for Justice, Rights and Values programmes and to reinforce the resources dedicated to supporting victims of gender-based violence within this programme; underlines that the cultural and creative sectors, as well as tourism, are and will be among the main sectors that are victims of the crisis the EU is experiencing; calls for emergency measures for those sectors and a strengthening of the Creative Europe programme;

28.  Expects a strong EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights to be in place by 2021; stresses that the 2021-2027 MFF should include a conditionality clause for the protection of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights, which would guarantee that in order to benefit from EU funding, Member States must fully comply with Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union;

29.  Considers that the European Solidarity Corps is a fundamental tool for promoting civic engagement across the Union and strengthening Union citizenship; insists that the 2021 budget for the European Solidarity Corps be commensurate with the many expectations it has raised among young people across Europe, particularly in the volunteering strand; calls for sufficient funding to be allocated to cover the high demand for volunteering placements;

30.  Calls for sufficient funding to be provided as a priority to support the activity of civil society organisations and other stakeholders active in promoting rights and strengthening and promoting Union values and the rule of law, including through the future Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values programme, in times when a shrinking space for civil society is being witnessed in several Member States;

31.  Stresses the worrying and increasing backlash against gender equality and women’s rights and the importance of EU instruments, including the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI), to combat this situation; regrets that the Commission did not include a specific programme on gender equality in its proposal, and calls for ambitious and specific budget allocations to support women human rights defenders and the protection and promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights; stresses, therefore, the need to reinforce budgetary allocations that support universal respect for and access to sexual and reproductive health and rights;

32.  Points out that the common agricultural policy (CAP) and the common fisheries policy (CFP) are cornerstones of European integration, which aim to ensure a safe, high-quality food supply and food sovereignty for Europeans, the proper functioning of food markets, the sustainable development of rural regions, generational renewal and the sustainable management of natural resources and the preservation of biodiversity; recalls the key role of these policies in contributing to stable and acceptable earnings for farmers and fisherwomen and fishermen, especially in the current difficult context; recalls its position for the 2021-2027 MFF negotiations to preserve the budgets for the CAP and CFP; asks for the reinforcement of these policies and for particular attention to be paid to small-scale agriculture and small fisheries; takes note that the CAP, together with other Union policies, will have an important role to play in fulfilling the Green Deal ambitions;

33.  Calls on the Commission to take into account in its proposal and subsequent amending act for the draft 2021 budget, the outcome of the political agreement to be reached on the transitional measures for the year 2021 (set out in the Commission’s proposal of 31 October 2019 (COM(2019)0581)); further calls on Member States to ensure the timely allocation of sufficient resources for the continued improvement of the quality of data and indicators reported to the Union in order to fully comply with the ‘EU Budget Focused on Results’ (BFOR) initiative; insists on the high quality of data and indicators to properly assess the CAP;

34.  Takes note of the most recent developments with regard to the migration situation at the EU’s external border with Turkey, leading to the recent adoption of an amending budget 1/2020 in order to respond to the increased migration pressure; underlines that an adequate level of resources needs to be secured in the 2021 budget in anticipation of a possible continuation or even deterioration of this situation; recalls the need for solidarity and cooperation among all Member States in this field and for a common asylum policy; stresses the additional needs resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak to adopt specific measures for migrants as particularly vulnerable people, including preventive evacuation and relocation; recalls the regular need to reinforce the Asylum and Migration Fund over the last period to help Member States to cope with the refugee crisis, and to mobilise the special instruments for that purpose because the ceiling under heading 3 was too low, or through amending budgets; expects Member States to understand their own interests and to compensate for the effect of the delay in the adoption of the Dublin IV regulation by supporting the necessary appropriations and implementing the solidarity principle in this field; recalls the need for adequate funding to improve migrants’ and refugees’ living conditions in EU refugee camps, for law enforcement, training for border personnel and coastguards, and for effective measures for the integration of migrants and refugees;

35.  Points out that well-managed legal migration is important to ensure an adequate response to the evolving labour market;

36.  Notes that Turkey continues to host the largest refugee population in the world and that discussions are currently ongoing as to how the EU should continue its support to Turkey after the end of its commitments made under the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey;

37.  Stresses that immediate solidarity measures, in particular a relocation programme, should be introduced pending meaningful reform of the EU’s asylum rules; requests, furthermore, that funding remain envisaged in the EU budget for the support of refugees in Turkey;

38.  Calls for an ambitious 2021 budget in EU’s external policies that would enable the Union to rise to the challenges it faces; recalls that peace and solidarity constitute core values that should be consistently supported by the EU budget; emphasises the need to increase the funding for the countries of the Western Balkans and for the Eastern and Southern Neighbourhood in order to support political and economic reforms, as well as for other regions in need of financial support for their development;

39.  Believes that the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA III) should focus its funding on the areas of the functioning of democratic institutions, the rule of law, good governance and public administration; welcomes the green light to opening accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, and calls for adequate financial provisions in order to support political reforms and alignment with the acquis;

40.  Underlines that financial allocations under the IPA III should be conditional on respect for European values such as the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, the democratic process, respect for fundamental values and good neighbourly relations; calls on the Commission to monitor the implementation of conditionality; asks the Commission to use the funds currently allocated under IPA III to support, through direct management by the EU, Turkey’s civil society, human rights defenders and journalists, and to increase opportunities for people-to-people contacts, academic dialogue, access for Turkish students to European universities, and media platforms for journalists with the objective of protecting and promoting democratic values and principles, human rights and the rule of law;

41.  Stresses that Parliament’s first reading position on the NDICI was adopted on 4 March 2019, and its mandate regarding the NDICI was reconfirmed on 8 October 2019; recalls its position in favour of a contribution of 45 % of the overall financial envelope of the NDICI to climate objectives, environmental management and protection, biodiversity and combating desertification, and addressing the root causes of migration and forced displacement, and puts a strong focus on the promotion of democracy, the rule of law and human rights, including the rights of women, children, refugees, displaced people, LGTBI persons, persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples and ethnic and religious minorities;

42.  Recalls that the long-lasting solution to the current migration phenomenon lies in the political, economic and social development of the countries from which migration flows originate; calls for the respective external policy programmes to be endowed with sufficient financial resources to support fair and mutually beneficial partnerships between the EU and countries of origin and countries of transit, including those on the African continent; in the same context, in view of the difficult financial situation faced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), calls on the EU to step up its financial support to the Agency in 2021, in order to preserve the uninterrupted provision of vital services to millions of Palestinian refugees;

43.  Is concerned at the rapid worldwide spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the affected countries; is convinced that international cooperation is crucial to overcoming this global crisis; believes that the EU should take the lead in the global efforts to contain the pandemic and mitigate its impact; believes that the Union must show solidarity with affected third countries, including by mobilising additional resources, to help them rebuild their economies, mitigate the socio-economic impact of the crisis and strengthen the capacities of public health systems worldwide;

44.  Recalls that human rights are an integral part of the EU’s external action policy; reiterates the need for increased funding dedicated to supporting human rights worldwide, with a particular focus on the protection of human rights defenders, in particular those most at risk; stresses, in this regard, the need to continue the Human Rights Defenders Mechanism (Protectdefenders.eu) and to increase the funding dedicated to it; believes that the EU should strictly refrain from budget support as a means of providing assistance in countries which grossly fail to meet international standards in the field of human rights and democracy, or which fail to demonstrate their commitment to fighting corruption; highlights the importance of election observation missions, particularly by local civil society groups, and calls for an appropriate level of funding;

45.  Calls for further funding for strategic communication actions to counter disinformation campaigns, which are increasingly being used to undermine democratic order in the Union and in countries in the Union’s near neighbourhood; highlights the importance of the flagship project of the European External Action Service’s ‘East StratCom Task Force – EUvsDisinfo’ in the fight against disinformation, propaganda and foreign influence;

46.  Emphasises the importance of providing adequate financial support to frame a genuine European Defence Union, promote strategic autonomy and bolster the EU’s role at global level; stresses in particular the importance of maintaining its position regarding the amounts for the European Defence Fund (EDF) and for military mobility; stresses that continued support to and enhanced coordination of defence-related policy and actions under the European Defence Agency (EDA), Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the EDF and other initiatives should be ensured; urges the Commission to provide for the funding of the administrative and operating expenditure of the EDA and PESCO from the Union budget, thereby restoring Parliament’s budgetary function as provided for by Article 41 of the TEU;

47.  Reiterates that the new External Financing Instruments (EFI) architecture should enhance coherence, accountability, efficiency and democratic oversight; emphasises the need for a greater role for Parliament in the strategic steering of the new instruments; expects to be involved from an early stage in the (pre-)programming of the new instruments;

48.  Urges the Commission to assess and prepare for all possible scenarios to ensure the sound financial management of the Union budget, defining clear commitments and outlining mechanisms and protecting the EU budget; calls on the Commission to ensure that the future participation of UK in EU programmes respects a fair balance as regards the contributions and benefits;

49.  Expresses its intention for the United Kingdom to remain as close a partner in as many EU programmes as possible, in particular Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe;

50.  Recalls the pivotal role played by EU agencies in the implementation of EU policy objectives and reaffirms the importance of endowing these bodies with sufficient and predictable funding and staff for the efficient running of their duties, while rejecting any unjustified and arbitrary cuts to their budgets in real terms; highlights the key role performed by the European Environment Agency in developing awareness with regard to climate change, the European Labour Authority in promoting labour mobility, as well as the European Asylum Support Office and the Fundamental Rights Agency in supporting asylum seekers looking for protection in Europe;

51.  At the same time, stresses the strong need to combat human trafficking and smuggling, as well as to support EU Justice and Home Affairs agencies, which provide assistance to Member States on external borders, such as the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex); takes note of the role that Frontex is called on to play in the context of the current migration crisis taking place at the EU’s external borders with Turkey; calls for appropriate funding levels for border management in the 2021 budget;

52.  Notes that agencies operating in the area of security, law enforcement and criminal justice cooperation are being assigned an increasing number of tasks; requests increased financial resources and staff posts for these agencies, in particular for the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust), the European Police Office (Europol), the European Police College (CEPOL), the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), as well as adequate funding and staff for those that will be working on money laundering and terrorism financing;

53.  Is concerned about the insufficient level of funding and staff provided to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in the course of the 2020 budgetary procedure and, with a view to 2021, calls on the Commission to increase staff and resources for this institutional body and to protect its budgetary autonomy; underlines that the establishment of the EPPO must not result in the a deterioration of the capacity of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) to function properly;

54.  As a result of the recent COVID-19 outbreak in Europe and of the need for a prompt, coordinated and coherent EU response, urgently calls on the Commission to provide adequate and necessary funding to the relevant EU agencies which need to work and support the Commission and the Member States in the effort to tackle this pandemic, in particular the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA); insists that the Commission and the Council refrain from cutting the resources of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA);

55.  Underlines the need to substantially reinforce the European Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER), taking into account the additional tasks conferred on it through recent legislation, including the Clean Energy Package; recalls, furthermore, the need for additional resources for the Agency for Support for BEREC (BEREC Office) to carry out its tasks enshrined in the BEREC Regulation and the European Electronic Communications Code;

56.  Recalls that no Union policy, whether to cope with the COVID-19 crisis or to implement the European Green Deal, can be properly implemented without the support of a dedicated Union civil service and sufficient funding;

57.  Believes, in the ongoing political and economic context, that the Conference on the Future of Europe should be adequately supported, also on the budgetary side, and that the Commission, among other institutions involved in this project, should be equipped with the necessary means to make a success of it;

58.  Asks the Commission to lead by example in ensuring high-quality and socially responsible procurement, so that contracts are awarded to companies respecting environmental and core labour standards, and in enforcing improved and stricter criteria to prevent conflicts of interest;

59.  Calls for a gender-responsive evaluation of the previous budgetary period and the implementation of gender budgeting in the 2021 EU budget; expects, therefore, the Commission to include in its draft budget an annex that draws together gender-specific information on objectives, inputs, outputs and results, and that presents financing commitments for gender equality and the related tracking measures;

A sufficient and realistic level of payments

60.  Is determined to avoid a new payment crisis, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic; reiterates that the overall payment ceiling must also take into account the unprecedented volume of outstanding commitments at the end of 2020 to be settled under the next MFF; further notes that the focus of payment appropriations in 2021 will largely be on completion of 2014-2020 programmes; insists, however, that this should not hinder the launch of new programmes;

61.  Insists, therefore, in line with the 2020 measures, on the need to keep ensuring a high level of liquidity to Member States as part of the response to COVID-19 pandemic;

62.  Underlines that cooperation between Member States in the field of taxation incomes would bring back to their national budgets much more than would any cut to expenditure in the EU annual budgets;

63.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that no EU funding is granted to any parties subject to EU restrictive measures (including contractors or subcontractors, participants in workshops and/or training courses, and recipients of financial support to third parties);

64.  Is convinced that any legal person who is a beneficial owner of legal entities receiving funds from the EU budget must be prohibited from receiving any funds from the existing, as well as the future European budget under the rules of the Regulation on the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2017, including direct agricultural payments and any disbursements, expenditures, guarantees or other benefits dealt with therein if they are in a clear conflict of interests as defined in Article 61 of the Financial Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046;

65.  Reiterates its long-standing view that new political priorities and upcoming challenges for the EU should be financed by fresh appropriations and not by reducing the appropriations of existing programmes; considers that this principle should also apply to amending budgets;

66.  Notes that, as the first year of the potentially agreed next MFF, the 2021 budget will be the first reflecting a new budgetary nomenclature; calls on the Commission to involve the budgetary authority appropriately in its preparation; believes that the new nomenclature, while being better aligned with the policy priorities, must be sufficiently detailed to allow the budgetary authority to fulfil its decision-making role effectively, and for Parliament in particular to fulfil its democratic oversight and scrutiny roles;

67.  Notes that, as the arm of the budgetary authority directly elected by the citizens, Parliament will fulfil its political role and put forward proposals for pilot projects and preparatory actions expressing its political vision for the future; commits itself, in this context, to proposing a package of pilot projects and preparatory actions developed in close cooperation with each of its committees so as to strike the right balance between political will and technical feasibility, as assessed by the Commission;

o
o   o

68.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors.

(1) https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
(2) OJ L 193, 30.7.2018, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 884.
(4) OJ C 373, 20.12.2013, p. 1.
(5) OJ L 168, 7.6.2014, p. 105.
(6) OJ L 057, 27.2.2020, p. 1.
(7) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0449.
(8) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2019)0032.
(9) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0054.
(10) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0065.
(11) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0124.
(12) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0015.
(13) OJ C 242, 10.7.2018, p. 24.
(14) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0005.


Eastern Partnership in the run-up to the June 2020 Summit
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European Parliament recommendation of 19 June 2020 to the Council, the Commission and the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the Eastern Partnership, in the run-up to the June 2020 Summit (2019/2209(INI))
P9_TA(2020)0167A9-0112/2020

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 2, 3 and 8 and Title V, notably Articles 21, 22, 36 and 37, of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), and to Part Five of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to the launch of the Eastern Partnership in Prague on 7 May 2009 as a common endeavour of the EU and its six Eastern European Partners Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine,

–  having regard to the Joint Declarations of the Eastern Partnership Summits of 2009 in Prague, 2011 in Warsaw, 2013 in Vilnius, 2015 in Riga and 2017 in Brussels,

–  having regard to the Association Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their Member States, of the one part, and Georgia, of the other part(1), to the Association Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Moldova, of the other part(2), to the Association Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and Ukraine, of the other part(3), including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs), and to the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Armenia, of the other part(4),

–  having regard to the Partnership Priorities between the EU and Azerbaijan endorsed by the Cooperation Council on 28 September 2018(5),

–  having regard to the final statements and recommendations of the meetings of the Parliamentary Association Committees with Ukraine and Moldova of 19 December 2019,

–  having regard to Parliament’s annual report on the implementation of the common foreign and security policy of 18 December 2019(6),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2018/1806 of the European Parliament and of the Council(7) listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement,

–  having regard to the Agreements between the European Union and the Republic of Armenia(8) and the Republic of Azerbaijan(9) on the facilitation of the issuance of visas, and to the signing of an agreement on the facilitation of the issuance of visas by the European Union and the Republic of Belarus on 8 January 2020(10),

–  having regard to the Joint Communication of the Commission and the Vice‑President/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of 18 March 2020 to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Eastern Partnership policy beyond 2020, entitled ‘Reinforcing Resilience – an Eastern Partnership that delivers for all’,

–  having regard to the conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council on the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership,

–  having regard to the recommendations by and the activities of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, the Committee of the Regions, and the Conference of Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP),

–  having regard to the resolution of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly of 9 December 2019 on ‘The future of the Trio Plus Strategy 2030: building a future of Eastern Partnership’,

–  having regard to the EU Global Strategy and the revised European Neighbourhood Policy,

–  having regard to the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages,

–  having regard to its resolutions of 20 May 2010 on the need for an EU strategy for the South Caucasus(11), of 23 October 2013 on the European Neighbourhood Policy(12), of 18 September 2014 on the situation in Ukraine and state of play of EU-Russia relations(13), of 15 January 2015 on the situation in Ukraine(14), of 15 April 2015 on the centenary of the Armenian Genocide(15), of 9 July 2015 on the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy(16), of 21 January 2016 on Association Agreements / Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine(17), of 23 November 2016 on EU strategic communication to counteract propaganda against it by third parties(18), of 13 December 2016 on rights of women in the Eastern Partnership States(19), of 16 March 2017 on the Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia and the situation in Crimea(20), of 19 April 2018 on Belarus(21), of 14 June 2018 on Georgian occupied territories 10 years after the Russian invasion(22), of 4 July 2018 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the Union, of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Armenia, of the other part(23), of 4 October 2018 on the deterioration of media freedom in Belarus, notably the case of Charter 97(24), of 14 November 2018 on the implementation of the EU Association Agreement with Moldova(25), of 14 November 2018 on the implementation of the EU Association Agreement with Georgia(26), and of 12 December 2018 on the implementation of the EU Association Agreement with Ukraine(27),

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Russia, especially those related to Russia's actions in the territories of the EaP countries, violations of the rights of the Crimean Tatars, the occupation of parts of the territory of Georgia and related borderisation activities, and hostile propaganda and disinformation against the EU and the EaP countries,

–  having regard to its recommendation of 15 November 2017 to the Council, the Commission and the EEAS on the Eastern Partnership, in the run-up to the November 2017 Summit(28) and to its recommendation of 4 July 2018 to the Council, the Commission and the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the negotiations on the EU-Azerbaijan Comprehensive Agreement(29),

–  having regard to Rule 118 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the letter from the Committee on International Trade,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A9-0112/2020),

A.  whereas for the foreseeable future the EU remains the dominant political and economic power of Europe, and this generates responsibility towards its neighbours;

B.  whereas the June 2016 EU Global Strategy states that the EU’s priority is fostering resilient, well-governed, prosperous and aligned states in the neighbourhood;

C.  whereas the Eastern Partnership (EaP) is inclusive by nature, is based on mutual interests and understanding, shared ownership and responsibility, differentiation and conditionality, and aims for a shared commitment between Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and the European Union to deepen their relations and adhere to international law and core values such as democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, a social market economy, sustainable development and good governance, with the goal of increasing stability and prosperity;

D.  whereas increased cooperation between the EU and the EaP countries is not a linear process and a fully-fledged cooperation can be achieved and maintained only insofar as the core European values and principles are respected during the constitutional and legislative process and if the fight against corruption, organised crime, money laundering, oligarchic structures and nepotism is guaranteed; stresses, however, that in serious cases of backsliding cooperation can be reversed;

E.  whereas certain EaP countries chose to pursue a closer political, human and economic integration with the EU, based on the principle of differentiation and in accordance with performance results and aspirations, and concluded ambitious Association Agreements (AAs) including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs), as well as visa-free regimes and Common Aviation Area Agreements; in addition, they declared the strategic goal of membership of the EU and have already proved their ability to ensure greater stability, security, prosperity and resilience in the Eastern neighbourhood; whereas public support in their societies for European integration remains at a very high level;

F.  whereas other EaP countries pursue a more nuanced level of ambition towards the EU; whereas Armenia is part of the Russian-led economic and military regional integration structures (the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation) and has concluded the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the EU; whereas Azerbaijan as of 2017 is negotiating a new comprehensive agreement with the EU which will replace the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement of 1999; whereas Belarus does not have any treaty-based contractual relationship with the EU, but recently visa facilitation and readmission agreements have been signed;

G.  whereas since the establishment of the EaP, partner countries have displayed a varied pace of political and economic reform, due to both internal and external factors, and have not yet reached a point where these reforms are irreversible;

H.  whereas maintaining a long-term European perspective for the interested countries in the EaP is a catalyst for democratisation and further reforms in the EaP countries;

I.  whereas there is a need to encourage the development of tailor-made strategies with all EaP countries, as well as to advance to more ambitious forms of cooperation and integration where desired by the partner countries and to support and sustain an ambitious pace of implementation of European integration reforms;

J.  whereas that goal can be achieved provided that progress in respect for the rule of law and in strengthening democracy is attained, and comprehensive reforms are implemented in a timely, authentic, sustainable and effective manner, with the support of flexible EU instruments and in accordance with international commitments and obligations, also respecting fundamental human and minority rights;

K.  whereas the achievements and the strengthened differentiation in bilateral relations between the EU and the EaP countries with which it has signed an Association Agreement are welcome, and it is now time to provide those countries with clearer guidance on specific reform priorities, alignment criteria and the next steps in the EU integration process;

L.  whereas the main goal of the AAs/DCFTAs is to create the necessary conditions to accelerate political association and further economic integration between the EU and interested partner countries;

M.  whereas the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the EaP countries are still infringed by unresolved regional conflicts, external aggression and the ongoing occupation of the territories of some of those countries, which undermine the human rights situation, represent a barrier to enhancing the prosperity, stability and growth of the EaP and compromise EU action, thus endangering the whole EaP project; whereas in the majority of these conflicts Russia is playing an active role as an aggressor, through its hybrid warfare, illegal occupation and annexation policy, cyberattacks, propaganda and disinformation, which threaten European security as a whole;

N.  whereas European prosperity and security are closely linked to the situation of the neighbouring countries, and of the EaP countries in particular; whereas the Eastern Partnership pursues the common goals of good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation, and the revised European Neighbourhood Policy should foster and strengthen capacities to resolve bilateral disputes and strive for reconciliation between societies in the Eastern neighbourhood;

O.  whereas the European Parliament condemns the violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the EaP countries, does not recognise forcible changes in their borders and attempted annexation of their territories, and rejects the use of force or the threat of force, sharing the EU’s commitment to supporting a peaceful conflict resolution via diplomatic means and in accordance with the norms and principles of international law, the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act, namely in the conflicts to which Russia is a party;

P.  whereas since the establishment of the EaP the EU has expanded and sustained its political, economic and security presence in the EaP countries, thus gaining increased leverage and opportunities to promote its values and principles and increasing the interdependence between the EU and EaP countries;

Q.  whereas the EaP countries can play a significant role for direct access to Central Asia and contribute to the EU’s Central Asia Strategy as reliable Eastern European partners;

R.  whereas through the EaP the EU helped kick-start structural reforms, including of institutions and governance structures, as well as laying the foundations for deep socio-economic and political transformation across the Eastern neighbourhood; whereas progress has been achieved in the approximation of the EaP countries to the EU regulatory framework and its norms, standards and practices;

S.  whereas a direct consequence of the EaP has been the empowerment, increased expectations and demand for accountability and transparency from civil society towards the governments of the EaP countries, which have proved to be a major internal driver for reform; whereas the success of transformation in the EaP countries, and in particular in the three associated partner countries, can yield a positive example for other countries;

T.  whereas independent prosecutors and judges, free courts and institutions, a strong civil society and independent media, all acting as watchdogs, are key elements that the EU should continue to actively support in its Eastern neighbourhood;

U.  whereas strong and resilient institutions, the prevalence of the rule of law, the implementation of judicial reforms and the fight against corruption and money laundering are pivotal in building a fair, stable and trustworthy environment, which can then in turn attract and sustain long-term investment and growth in the EaP countries;

V.  whereas on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the EaP the European Council emphasised the importance of the strategic partnership with the EaP countries and called on the Commission and the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to make long-term policy proposals in order to prepare the June 2020 Summit;

W.  whereas the European Parliament is committed to adopting annual resolutions on the implementation of AAs/DCFTAs by the associated countries and at least biannual recommendations on the relations with the remaining EaP countries and the EaP policy as a whole;

1.  Recommends that the Council, the Commission and the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy:

Structured dialogue, state building and democratic accountability

Sectoral cooperation towards a common economic space

Boosting human capital

Security, stability, territorial integrity and conflict resolution

Local and regional authorities and civil society

Better media, communication and policy management

   (a) acknowledge that the EaP countries have increasingly assumed more responsibility and ownership with respect to the EaP initiative; underline the importance of striving for a continuous impetus towards effective cooperation, intense dialogue and close partnership within the EaP, enhanced by the transformational impact of the EaP policy, which supports reforms that generate positive political, social, economic and legal change in the EaP countries, taking into consideration their level of ambition towards the EU; highlight the associated countries’ striving for an ever closer relationship with the EU; confirm the sovereign right of the EaP countries to freely choose their individual level of cooperation or integration with the EU and to reject any external pressure on such choice;
   (b) underline that, pursuant to Article 49 TEU, any European state may apply to become a member of the EU provided that it respects the values of human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, as referred to in Article 2 TEU; acknowledge that, while accession is not foreseen under the framework of the EaP, the EaP policy can facilitate a process of gradual integration into the EU; consider that for an eventual accession process both the EU and the EaP country concerned must be well prepared, taking into account the EU’s future reforms process and the partner country’s approximation to the EU acquis, as well as its compliance with the EU membership criteria; ensure that the full implementation of the current agreements between the EU and EaP countries will be the first step in this gradual integration process;
   (c) promptly enact a strategic and future-oriented vision for the next decade of the EaP policy beyond 2020 with the aim of providing benefits first and foremost for citizens, strengthening resilience, fostering sustainable development, ensuring irreversible achievements, and deepening the EU-EaP cooperation and integration process, which is in the EU’s own security and economic interests;
   (d) ensure that the conclusions of the June 2020 Summit include a clear strategy and a long-term common vision for further engagement and development of the EaP beyond 2020, reinforced EU commitments and political incentives, as well as a pledge from the EaP countries to deliver on their own; encourage future Presidencies of the Council of the EU, in line with the European Parliament’s resolutions and recommendations, to prepare detailed and ambitious agendas for cooperation with EaP countries, which would help to shape relations with EaP countries in a mutually desired direction in the decades to come;
   (e) recognise that the EaP should continue to be an attractive framework for cooperation and support this process in line with the ‘more for more’ principle, in order to keep the EaP countries engaged in the reform process and on their path towards the EU;
   (f) acknowledge that the Eastern partnership runs both ways as the experience of the EaP countries can be shared for the mutual benefit of the EU and its Member States and the EaP countries;
   (g) maintain a balanced approach between tailor-made differentiation within the EaP and the inclusiveness, coherence and consistency of the multilateral framework, which remains a reference point for all EaP countries; avoid splitting the EaP along the lines of the different countries’ ambitions towards the EU; consider that the scope and depth of cooperation between the EU and the EaP countries is to be determined by the ambitions of the parties, as well as by their implementation of reforms; acknowledge that the AAs/DCFTAs that have been signed with Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine are the evidence of a differentiated approach and should lead to further enhanced bilateral relationship formats and roadmaps based on the principle of ‘more for more’;
   (h) in light of a tailor-made approach, consider creating for the three associated countries an enhanced cooperation strategy, which could establish a reform and investment support programme in areas such as capacity building, transport, infrastructure, connectivity, energy, justice and the digital economy, which could later foresee an extension to the remaining EaP countries on the basis of individual assessments of EU reform commitments and progress achieved, bearing in mind the need to sustain the coherence of the EaP and in line with the inclusiveness principle; this dialogue could include meetings on the margins of the European Council with leaders of the associated countries on a structured basis, and regular participation of their representatives in the meetings of the European Council working groups and committees;
   (i) embark on a process to create a common economic space, leading towards integration with the four freedoms, that would facilitate deeper economic integration and convergence of EaP countries with EU policies and a deeper economic cooperation among the EaP countries themselves, using the path trodden with the Western Balkan countries;
   (j) launch additional measures for a deeper integration and further sectoral cooperation of the EaP countries with the EU and their participation in selected EU agencies, investment framework platforms and intra-EU programmes and initiatives, in full compliance with existing conditionalities and pursuant to the EU’s incentive-based approach, in order to achieve further convergence in the spirit of the ‘more for more’ principle and taking into account the best reform support practices;
   (k) provide EaP countries with greater financial assistance, and make it subject to conditions, including in the context of ongoing legislative negotiations on the external financial instruments for the period 2021-2027; ensure that such assistance should be tailored to the specific needs of the individual EaP countries under the guidance of the European Parliament via delegated acts, and used to implement activities under the EaP programme; acknowledge that the EU’s financial assistance is also an investment in the future, since it supports reforms that increase the economic and social stability of the EaP countries and lays down the basis for a successful future cooperation;
   (l) recognise the need for an additional political, administrative and financial support framework for the three associated countries within the overall EaP, based on individual approaches, that would address their specific structural reforms, modernisation and institution-building needs; note that this access to EU funding should be linked to reform commitments and should include a set of ambitious benchmarks;
   (m) prioritise the imperative of the ‘more for more’ democracy and rule of law principle in the light of recent developments in both the EU and EaP countries, and ensure that functioning and resilient democratic institutions, the rule of law, good governance, the fight against corruption and nepotism, media freedom and respect for human rights remain the key criteria and conditions for closer political partnership and financial assistance;
   (n) carry out regular impact assessments of the EU support programmes in order to increase their efficiency and apply timely adjustments; react faster to the deterioration of the rule of law and democratic accountability in the EaP countries and apply smart conditionality, including by linking the provision of macrofinancial assistance to democratisation and reforms, so as to prevent the partner governments from further backsliding; create conditions to be in a position to divert assistance in a given EaP country from the central authorities, if they do not adhere to commitments, to local authorities or civil society actors;
   (o) enhance the role of the European Parliament in the scrutiny and oversight of programmes via delegated acts in the application of the EU external financial instruments;
   (p) enhance parliamentary diplomacy and review the functioning of Euronest in order to enable it to reach its full potential;
   (q) while keeping the inclusive nature of the Partnership and continuing to engage with all EaP countries, acknowledge the associated partnership status of advanced EaP countries, notably the signatories of AAs with DCFTAs, and establish more venues for enhanced political dialogue with them in order to advance further economic integration and legislative harmonisation; for example, include the associated countries as observers in the proceedings of the committees established pursuant to Article 291 TFEU and Regulation (EU) No 182/2011, as a means to show the EU's commitment to further integration and strengthen the countries' reform orientation and administrative know-how;
   (r) engage with the EaP countries in further assistance in state building and in strengthening institutions and their accountability by making instruments similar to the Support Group for Ukraine available to all EaP countries, with the associated partners having priority; develop existing and new EU tools in the area of rule of law and good governance to monitor and assess progress by the associated partners, in particular the EU Justice Scoreboard and the Rule of Law Mechanism; provide effective guidance and benchmarks for reforms, including by adopting roadmaps to specify association commitments; develop detailed working documents with a clear methodology and a comparative perspective drawing on the practice of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan and accession process and in order to supplement the current Progress Reports and Association Agendas;
   (s) include multi-stakeholder monitoring in the assessment process of reforms in the EaP countries and, following the practice already established in Ukraine, make it mandatory for the EaP governments; ensure the continuation of the annual Association Implementation Reports by the Commission and the EEAS on the progress made by the three associated partners and apply a unified evaluation methodology, especially when analysing reforms in the same areas and sectors; issue regular, at least biannual, reports on relations with non-associated EaP countries; provide an implementation report on the trade and association agreements between the Union and the EaP countries, with a focus on social, environmental and economic development in the societies of the EaP countries, including in the framework of the Paris agreement;
   (t) acknowledge that strong, independent and efficient institutions at central and local level are key to democratic accountability, deoligarchisation, and the fight against corruption and state capture; therefore seek a renewed commitment by the EaP countries to enact comprehensive reforms of the judicial and public administration aimed at ensuring the independence, competence and merit-based recruitment of judges and civil servants, as well as the prioritisation of the fight against corruption, among other means by reducing the space for corruption through increased transparency, accountability and promotion of clean behaviour among the population at large, strengthening the rule of law and promoting good governance; acknowledge that without achieving the above-mentioned goals it will be virtually impossible to achieve sustainable growth, boost economic activity and development, cut back poverty, increase Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and improve societal trust and political stability;
   (u) advance on a broader spectrum legal and economic reforms with an experience transfer from the EU Member States through twinning projects, particularly by extending the twinning programme to local and regional governments;
   (v) develop a European quality public administration in the associated EaP countries by opening job-shadowing schemes, offering civil servants from EaP countries temporary placements in the relevant services of the EU institutions and Member States in specific areas;
   (w) encourage the work of political foundations in fostering the next generation of political leaders in the EaP countries;
   (x) acknowledge the initiatives by the governments of associated countries to boost their mutual cooperation and joint position within the EaP, and encourage their expansion to the multi-sectoral level, in particular in the areas of energy, transport, digital matters, cybersecurity, environmental protection, the maritime economy, border controls, customs cooperation, trade facilitation and justice and home affairs; a similar approach should be applied to cooperation among all EaP countries on various issues;
   (y) promote intra-regional trade among EaP countries, since increased trade with multiple partners contributes to developing the resilience of countries and their economies; encourage a greater involvement of the EaP countries in implementing EU macro-regional strategies and an efficient interregional and cross-border cooperation dialogue, so as to strengthen partners' national and regional capacities and facilitate their social and economic development;
   (z) foster electoral reforms in order to ensure free, fair, competitive and transparent elections and encourage full compliance of election processes, notably in the adoption of legislative amendments to electoral laws and party financing, with international standards, the recommendations of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the opinions of the Venice Commission; urge EaP countries to ensure the non-harassment, whether judicial, physical, or institutional, of political actors not aligned with the incumbent government, and to safeguard freedom of expression, of association and of assembly, including the right to peaceful demonstration; commend EaP states that have agreed on the implementation of democratising political reforms and support the strengthening of the electoral legislative framework through inclusive political dialogues;
   (aa) ensure that during the amending process of their electoral legislation the EaP countries create equal possibilities for the representation of all ethnic and national minorities;
   (ab) ensure regular European election observation missions to EaP countries in order to support the process of strengthening institutions, election processes and democratic accountability;
   (ac) contribute to preventing third-party interference in the political, electoral, and other democratic processes of the EaP states, whether designed to sway an election towards a favoured candidate or party, or to undermine trust in the democratic system, notably through disinformation, illicit political financing, cyberattacks on political and media actors, or any other illegal means;
   (ad) adopt an EU human rights violations sanctions mechanism or EU ‘Magnitsky Act’, to be applicable to individuals or entities found in breach of human rights or essential freedoms, particularly by engaging in arrests, kidnappings and beatings of civil society or opposition activists and journalists and in violent repression of peaceful protests, as well as those involved in high-level corruption cases in the EaP countries;
   (ae) encourage continuous and effective implementation of the DCFTAs in order to gradually create the conditions for the opening up of the EU single market; consider the creation of a special legal approximation facility aimed at helping associated partners in harmonising their legislation with the EU acquis and assisting them in their efforts to implement it; acknowledge that the implementation of the DCFTAs has delivered numerous positive results, but there are still some issues that need to be adequately addressed;
   (af) note the importance of deepening economic cooperation and market integration with the EaP countries through a gradual opening of the EU single market, including the full implementation of DCFTAs and compliance with legal, economic and technical regulations and standards, as well as by establishing a common economic space;
   (ag) aim to explore and secure the cooperation and gradually differentiated sectoral integration of eligible and willing EaP countries in the Energy Union, the Transport Community and the Digital Single Market, among other areas; focus on telecommunications and prioritise the creation of a roaming fees-free regime between the EU and EaP countries and an intra-EaP one as soon as possible; build trust services, including cyber capacities to protect critical infrastructure and personal data, and achieve greater cooperation on customs, banking and financial services, which would help the EaP countries’ fight against money laundering and bolster financial surveillance, while leading to the possible expansion of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) to the EaP countries;
   (ah) introduce instruments such as legal screening and sectoral roadmaps to determine the EaP countries’ readiness to comply with the EU acquis and to confirm their readiness for differentiated sectoral integration;
   (ai) promote the development of e-services, both commercial and public, and of the e-economy as well as of a wide range of telework capabilities, in order to strengthen resilience and resistance in case of crisis, as experienced with pandemics;
   (aj) ensure the EaP countries’ strong involvement in and contribution to the fight against climate change, including through participation in the new European Green Deal and by ensuring that the DCFTAs do not contradict the climate objectives and initiatives set out therein; such engagement should take place through EU investment support, including from the EBRD and EIB, and should be conditional on a sound assessment of the environmental impact and of the effects on local communities, with a special focus on the sectors that might be affected and would be in need of extra support;
   (ak) make sure that adequate actions and funding are dedicated to improving waste water management in line with the absorption capacity of the partner countries and for the improvement of energy security and interconnectivity, particularly reverse flow of gas, energy efficiency and use of renewables in the EaP countries; recognise the important role of Azerbaijan in the diversification of energy supply towards the EU, as well as the success of Ukraine in the unbundling of the gas transmission system, and support energy independence and supply diversification efforts in other EaP countries; encourage the EaP countries to complete their reforms in the energy sector in compliance with EU law, including on environmental and safety policy;
   (al) provide continuous support to the upgrading of the EaP countries’ solid waste management system to EU standards, by establishing recycling targets and recycling systems to meet the targets; address the negative impact on the environment and public health of outdated and unauthorised solid waste facilities; identify financial instruments to support the financing of waste management projects by the EU and national/local funds;
   (am) ensure that existing and new nuclear installations in the EaP countries comply with the highest environmental and nuclear safety standards, according to the international conventions; ensure that unsafe energy projects such as the Ostrovets nuclear plant will not be part of the European electricity network;
   (an) adopt a comprehensive infrastructure building plan, including border crossings, and support the implementation of the priority projects as identified in the Indicative TEN-T and other Investment Action Plans with the aim of improving transport, energy and digital connectivity between the EU and the EaP countries, and among the EaP countries themselves, while ensuring environmental sustainability during the implementation process; encourage regulatory convergence in the transport sector;
   (ao) urge the EaP countries, in cooperation with the Commission, to fully use the opportunities provided by the trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) Investment Action Plan; underline the need to better exploit the connectivity potential of the Black Sea and support infrastructure projects, which are crucial for increasing connectivity with the region and with Central Asia; in this regard, acknowledge the strategic geographical location of EaP countries as a link between the European Union, Asia and the wider neighbourhood, which could bring increased value for EU foreign policy engagements;
   (ap) implement the EU’s ambitious Central Asia Strategy with the active engagement of EaP countries, as reliable partners enjoying a direct access to this region;
   (aq) ensure that the MFF confirms the EU’s financial support for the infrastructure and investment projects of EaP countries, increasing their resilience to cyberthreats and improving and modernising their education systems; take active measures to improve the absorption capacity of the EaP countries; apply the experience of the Western Balkans Investment Framework to attract and coordinate financial and technical assistance and to increase efficiency of infrastructure projects;
   (ar) prioritise the need for sustainable and credible investments in EaP countries by devising a strategy for long-term engagement, focusing not only on stabilisation alone but also on democratisation;
   (as) extend to other associated partners the approach employed by the EU in its efforts to support the recovery of the Ukrainian economy, including by means of tailored and flexible macrofinancial assistance and instruments and engagement and coordination of international financial institutions and donors, and by improving the environment for foreign direct investment (FDI), taking into account social, labour and environmental rights; make the promotion of FDI from the EU a key aspect of the EaP policy and develop an action plan for this purpose, with the aim of further improving the business environment and guaranteeing legal certainty;
   (at) support greater diversification and competitiveness of the economies of EaP countries, through reinforced support for SMEs as well as demonopolisation, deoligarchisation and privatisation, by strengthening and widening the scope, geographical coverage and relevance to the recipients’ needs of programmes such as EU4Business; in particular, lend to SMEs in local currencies, develop new initiatives designed to attract venture capital into the EaP countries, and provide continuous support for the development of export-oriented industries;
   (au) address the rural-urban divide in the EaP countries through effective financial and technical incentives for micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), small-scale farmers and family enterprises in rural and suburban areas, and through the improvement of human connectivity and infrastructure between cities and countryside with a view to fostering social cohesion;
   (av) support increased labour mobility between the EU and EaP countries, as well as among the EaP countries, with a strong focus on the legality and sustainability of the process, allowing for exchange of skills and experience and avoiding brain drain and local labour shortages; in this regard, take full stock of the successful implementation of visa-free regimes with the three associated countries;
   (aw) take into account the challenges posed to EaP countries by brain drain and address them by promoting quality and inclusive education, vocational training and other training programmes, and creating job opportunities with a view to providing socio-economic perspectives for young people and families in their local communities;
   (ax) cope with the effects of depopulation and migration in EaP countries by involving them in the European Agenda on Migration;
   (ay) support and launch country-based action plans to combat unemployment and tackle social and regional inequalities; invest in youth, foster entrepreneurship and create new programmes and incentives for young professionals to return to the labour markets of the EaP countries;
   (az) encourage EaP countries to pursue comprehensive labour policy reforms in order to improve working conditions and workers’ rights; develop an action plan to fight undeclared work, support the creation of fully-fledged trade unions, and call for ILO conventions to be transposed into national law and implemented;
   (ba) address the shortcomings in the implementation of the commitments with regard to social policies and labour rights and protect the EU labour market from social dumping; control not only the transposition of relevant EU directives and norms into national law, but also their actual implementation; together with the EaP countries, create a monitoring scheme for fundamental labour rights involving trade unions and civil society organisations; use the disbursement of macrofinancial assistance as a leverage or conditionality to force EaP countries to improve labour conditions;
   (bb) support educational reforms in those EaP countries that are willing, since this is key for their future, with the aim of addressing shortfalls between the reform of education systems and labour market demand, and promote vocational training, among other measures; acknowledge the importance of cross-border mobility in strengthening people-to-people contacts, expand funding for and the participation of the EaP countries in educational and professional skills-boosting and exchange programmes such as Erasmus+ and Creative Europe, and strengthen the capacity of EaP countries to participate in Horizon Europe;
   (bc) strengthen academic and educational cooperation among the EU and EaP countries, including intra-EaP cooperation, by: (i) launching a regional programme supporting centres of academic and research excellence in the region; (ii) establishing the Eastern Partnership University in Ukraine; (iii) creating targeted EaP programmes in specialised universities and an electronic educational platform for online training courses focused on European values and the rule of law, good governance, public administration and eradication of corruption in the EaP countries; and (iv) providing a venue for joint training for EaP countries’ public officials, including at the level of local and regional authorities;
   (bd) launch a pilot project aimed at establishing the Eastern Partnership Open Science and Innovation Centre, a network of thematic centres of competence located in each EaP country to provide R&I support and services;
   (be) ensure that all EU support programmes include a consistent gender equality and human rights dimension, address and target the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in society, including ethnic and other minorities, such as Roma, refugees and internally displaced persons from areas experiencing violent conflicts; reinforce initiatives for those groups’ political and socio-economic empowerment and improving their access to education, healthcare and decent housing;
   (bf) ensure that the EU assistance and programmes reach the local level, including in the remote parts of the EaP countries, in particular rural areas, so as to enable the inhabitants to push for positive changes in their communities, in particular those more vulnerable to post-Soviet sentiments and Russian manipulation;
   (bg) insist strongly on non-discrimination with regard to all LGBTI+ people, their protection against discrimination in law and the prosecution of all acts of abuse, hate speech and physical violence perpetrated against them; acknowledge the associated EaP countries that have aligned their legal framework accordingly;
   (bh) support freedom of belief, opinion and expression and the right to information in the native language of all citizens; condemn and counter hate speech and discrimination based on ethnicity or language, as well as fake news and misinformation targeting ethnic and national minorities;
   (bi) ensure the fundamental right of freedom of religion or belief by protecting and promoting the rights of all religious components present in the region, on the basis of the concept of full and equal citizenship;
   (bj) strengthen dialogue and cooperation with churches and religious communities and organisations in areas such as peace-building and reconciliation, thus reinforcing trust in a just and free society, as well as in education, healthcare and basic social services;
   (bk) recognise that through its political, cultural and economic investment in the EaP countries the EU invests in the security and stability of the region;
   (bl) acknowledge the increased security interdependence between the EU and EaP countries, as well as the importance of security, stability and peace for the future development of the EaP countries, considering that in recent years they have been subject to the interest and ambition of third countries, such as China, Turkey or some Gulf states, which do not necessary share the values and interests of the EU; therefore, boost EU-EaP cooperation in security and defence by devoting particular attention to the peaceful resolution of regional conflicts and the prevention and resolution of the new types of challenges, such as hybrid threats, cyberattacks, including election cyber-meddling, disinformation and propaganda campaigns, and third-party interference in the political, electoral, and other democratic processes; strengthen cooperation and support in respect of the EaP countries’ resilience against corruption, money laundering, terrorism and organised crime in general, and underline the need to strengthen the resilience of individuals, communities and state institutions;
   (bm) reiterate the EU's commitment to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of the EaP countries within their internationally recognised borders, and support their efforts to fully enforce those principles; underline the importance of the unity and solidarity of the Member States in this regard;
   (bn) strongly condemn the continued violations of fundamental principles and norms of international law in the EaP region, notably destabilisation, invasion, the occupation and annexation of territories of several EaP countries by the Russian Federation and its refusal to comply with the decisions of international tribunals and courts; establish a more coordinated policy towards the Russian Federation among the EU Member States, in particular in terms of engagement on issues concerning the EaP countries;
   (bo) call for the immediate withdrawal of foreign troops from all occupied territories and for an end to military hostilities, which unnecessarily claim the lives of civilians and soldiers while hampering socio-economic development, thus enabling hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) to return to their homelands;
   (bp) develop a more active role for the EU, represented by the Vice-President of the European Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in the peaceful resolution of the ongoing conflicts and in the prevention of any future conflicts in its Eastern neighbourhood, while acknowledging the agreed negotiating formats and processes, such as the Geneva International Discussions, the OSCE Minsk Group, the Normandy Format and the 5 + 2 Talks; appoint an EU Special Envoy for Crimea and the Donbas region;
   (bq) continue promoting an environment conducive to the settlement of conflicts and supporting activities that promote confidence and people-to-people contacts across conflict-divided communities; prioritise efforts and expand funding for pre-emptive peace-building, including preventive diplomacy, as well as early warning and action mechanisms;
   (br) reaffirm its support for the efforts of the co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and for their 2009 Basic Principles, with a view to achieving a solution based on the norms and principles of international law, the UN Charter and the OSCE 1975 Helsinki Final Act; encourage all sides to intensify dialogue and to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric that would further jeopardise any prospects for settlement;
   (bs) take action to ensure effective activities and the execution of a full mandate for the following existing EU missions in the EaP region, including coordination of their activities: the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia, the EU Advisory Mission in Ukraine, the EU Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine, and the mission of the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia;
   (bt) take into consideration the calls made by the Ukrainian Government for an extended international peacekeeping force to be stationed along the Ukraine-Russia border and in the Luhansk and Donetsk districts; once the situation permits and as part of the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements, an EU-led CSDP mission should be offered for deployment to the parties to the conflict, to assist in tasks such as demining, preparations for local elections and securing free access for humanitarian aid organisations;
   (bu) support freedom of navigation and strongly oppose the blockade of the Azov Sea and the continued creeping annexation of the Black Sea by the Russian Federation;
   (bv) acknowledge the unique experience and expertise of EaP countries; recognise the contribution of the EaP countries to the EU common security and defence policy (CSDP) missions, battlegroups and operations; continue supporting the Security Sector Reform (SSR); deepen cooperation in EU-related defence policies, including participation in PESCO once the issue of participation of third countries is resolved;
   (bw) acknowledge that cybersecurity is one of the areas where the EU and the EaP countries can work together more effectively and the EU can take advantage of the experience of EaP countries in combating hybrid or cybersecurity threats; establish a formal cyber dialogue with the interested EaP countries and promote cooperation platforms between the countries in the EaP region in order to address hybrid threats more effectively with a view to strengthening the resilience of those countries, especially following the large-scale cyberattack of the Russian Federation against Georgia in October 2019;
   (bx) condemn the influence of third countries in undermining the democratic order of the EaP countries, as well as influencing elections, disseminating disinformation and operating targeted disinformation campaigns;
   (by) enhance cooperation in building the societal and institutional resilience of the EaP countries with a stronger focus on countering disinformation, propaganda, manipulation and hostile influencing carried out by external forces aiming at dividing and destabilising the EaP countries, as well as undermining the integrity of their political processes and their relations with the EU; assist interested EaP countries in the activities carried out at the EU level to tackle the above-mentioned hostilities, including the implementation of good practices and solutions, such as the Action Plan against Disinformation and the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation, and by using the expertise of the Helsinki European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, the Riga NATO StratCom Centre of Excellence and the EU East StratCom Task Force;
   (bz) promote integrated border management and cooperation between the EU and associated countries, and advance law enforcement cooperation;
   (ca) welcome further cooperation between the EU and EaP countries with the aim of promoting international stability and security, in line with the EU's Global Strategy, and propose new forms of voluntary cooperation in the field of security and defence, considering it an area of ambition in the coming future as the EU will aim gradually to create the European Defence Union;
   (cb) promote R&D and industrial cooperation in the development of armaments and military technologies and capabilities among the EU Member States and the EaP countries;
   (cc) acknowledge that any lack of EU presence or inaction vis-a-vis its EaP partners will create space for other global players to step in; increase cooperation or create a forum with like-minded democratic allies and international actors to mitigate and counteract the negative influence of third-country powers in the EaP region;
   (cd) acknowledge the contribution of EaP civil society actors and organisations to democratisation and reform processes in their countries and the whole EaP region, and call for greater openness and engagement towards them from the governments of the EaP countries, and particularly a more meaningful and effective involvement in the policymaking processes;
   (ce) continue a wide-ranging dialogue with the EaP civil society actors and enhance the EU’s support for the activities of democratically oriented civil society organisations by promoting their activities and safety and by safeguarding their working environment;
   (cf) increase the EU’s efforts to strengthen its engagement and support for grassroots initiatives in regions and rural areas in order to develop civil society’s organisational and monitoring capacities and local democratic practices;
   (cg) strengthen EaP civil society's ability to act as a watchdog for reform and to hold the respective state institutions to account, by cutting red tape and securing its presence in trilateral meetings, including in all Human Rights Dialogues and Association and Cooperation Council meetings;
   (ch) foster cooperation among the EaP countries’ civil societies by establishing a regional centre to increase competences and exchange best practices and working approaches, as part of the new project of the Eastern Partnership University in Ukraine;
   (ci) continue providing structural, financial and capacity development support to organisations that assist independent pro-democracy civil society actors; insist that EU, Member State, and independent programmes in support of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, including the European Endowment for Democracy, must continue to operate freely and without harassment or judicial limitations; take all possible measures to prevent independent NGOs from being crowded out through the imposition of judicial limitations and financial barriers, the selective application of legal provisions, or the enhanced presence of government-organised NGOs (GONGOs);
   (cj) raise awareness about attacks on civil activists in EaP countries by extremist forces and also by state authorities, which undermine EU values, international human rights standards and joint obligations to the ECHR;
   (ck) scale up the EU’s support and initiatives to strengthen and enable the local authorities and their associations to implement national reforms at a local level; promote the role of local authorities as policymakers and decision-makers, and encourage regular exchanges between central and local governments on reform agendas with the active and inclusive participation of civil society and other relevant stakeholders;
   (cl) develop country roadmaps and indicators for engagement with local and regional governments, following the examples of similar engagement with civil society;
   (cm) extend the representation in EaP policy formulation and implementation of the Conference of Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP), and increase its capacities to support local and regional authorities in substantial actions; develop, in cooperation with CORLEAP and the European Committee of the Regions, a capacity-building programme for local and regional governance in the EaP countries, which would include taking systematic steps to strengthen the role of local and regional authorities;
   (cn) encourage the substantial participation of EaP citizens in EU-financed projects and their ownership, in accordance with a bottom-up approach based on EU values and standards;
   (co) acknowledge that the lack of a proper communication and information campaign in the midst of the disinformation wave to which the EaP countries are exposed might result in a loss of the EaP’s decade-long effort, investment and achievements; therefore step up strategic communication efforts and, in an open dialogue with citizens, increase the visibility of the support provided by the EU in the EaP countries, at both national and local level; to this end, reach out to people in small communities and rural areas, business and community leaders, diasporas and national minorities, beyond already EU-minded cohorts;
   (cp) counteract anti-EU disinformation and propaganda by boosting EU and EaP citizens’ information resilience and awareness about the EaP and the opportunities and benefits it provides, particularly those deriving from a close political and economic cooperation between the EU and the EaP countries, and from the AA/DCFTA implementation, linking them to economic growth and increased trade;
   (cq) use more efficiently the existing EU structures, such as the EEAS East StratCom task force, to identify and respond to disinformation and propaganda campaigns undermining the EU-EaP countries' relationship and its goals;
   (cr) strengthen the EU Delegations in the EaP countries and enable them to assist the EaP countries in completing the reforms and to more effectively communicate how the EU is helping citizens there; develop more horizontal links and foster cooperation among the EU Delegations, and encourage regular exchanges of information and expertise and other successful working approaches;
   (cs) ensure a more active role for EU liaison offices in Member States in promoting the importance of EaP countries for the European project;
   (ct) improve information-sharing among the EU institutions, especially the Commission and the EEAS, and preserve institutional memory, particularly about the support provided and the technical assistance projects implemented, in order to build on their results when launching new projects and programmes;
   (cu) capitalise on the Young Ambassadors programme and the Eastern Partnership Civil Society fellowships, by establishing an active alumni network on the basis of existing successful models;
   (cv) promote free media and freedom of expression as a fundamental principle, and therefore support a democratic, independent, pluralistic and balanced media landscape in the EaP countries which ensures protection of local journalists, opinion makers and dissident voices from harassment and intimidation, allows non-discriminatory access to online and offline information and meaningful civic participation, and safeguards and guarantees human and civil rights;
   (cw) step up the support in the local fight against fake news, hybrid warfare in communication and degradation of media programmes, which can undermine the fight against corruption, and against the dissemination of false information in order to obtain economic or political advantages; sustain the development of actions to ensure full transparency of media ownership; constantly help and monitor the local official regulatory agency in every EaP country;
   (cx) support programmes and reforms concerning media and information literacy to reflect the current digital age;
   (cy) promote the broadcasting of European media productions in the EaP countries as well as EaP countries’ productions in the EU, in order to bridge the differences provoked by history and by the fake information delivered in the last decades; support local media outlets in obtaining access to European media programmes and initiatives for close collaboration between media outlets from the EU and EaP;
   (cz) denounce the misuse of pandemic-related measures by the authorities as a means to silence the political opposition, civil society and the media by restricting their legitimate rights;
   (da) reinforce and, where possible, increase the EU’s and EaP countries’ common efforts in the field of people-to-people contacts and exchanges in order to build mutually positive images among the population and make good use of the pro-European sentiment among the EaP citizenry;
   (db) promote inclusive and participatory platforms for dialogue and cooperation bringing together stakeholders across different sectors and levels, including policymakers, economic actors, academics and civil society, as well as churches, religious communities and citizens with fewer opportunities, with the goal of countering polarising and extremist tendencies in politics and society, as well as the impact of disinformation and propaganda campaigns;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this recommendation to the Council, the Commission and the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

(1) OJ L 261, 30.8.2014, p. 4.
(2) OJ L 260, 30.8.2014, p. 4.
(3) OJ L 161E, 29.5.2014, p. 3.
(4) OJ L 23, 26.1.2018, p. 4.
(5) Recommendation No 1/2018 of the EU-Azerbaijan Cooperation Council of 28 September 2018 on the EU-Azerbaijan Partnership Priorities (OJ L 265, 24.10.2018, p. 18).
(6) European Parliament resolution of 15 January 2020 on the implementation of the common foreign and security policy – annual report (Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0008).
(7) Regulation (EU) 2018/1806 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 November 2018 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement (OJ L 303, 28.11.2018, p. 39).
(8) OJ L 289, 31.10.2013, p. 2.
(9) OJ L 128, 30.4.2014, p. 49.
(10) 12363/19 VISA 191 COEST 210.
(11) OJ C 161 E , 31.5.2011, p. 136.
(12) OJ C 208, 10.6.2016, p. 119.
(13) OJ C 234, 28.6.2016, p. 14.
(14) OJ C 300, 18.8.2016, p. 27.
(15) OJ C 328, 6.9.2016, p. 2.
(16) OJ C 265, 11.8.2017, p. 110.
(17) OJ C 11, 12.1.2018, p. 82.
(18) OJ C 224, 27.6.2018, p. 58.
(19) OJ C 238, 6.7.2018, p. 42.
(20) OJ C 263, 25.7.2018, p. 109.
(21) OJ C 390, 18.11.2019, p. 100.
(22) OJ C 28, 27.1.2020, p. 97.
(23) OJ C 118, 8.4.2020, p. 43.
(24) OJ C 11, 13.1.2020, p. 18.
(25) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0458.
(26) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0457.
(27) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0518.
(28) OJ C 356, 4.10.2018, p. 130.
(29) OJ C 118, 8.4.2020, p. 158.


Western Balkans, following the 2020 summit
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European Parliament recommendation of 19 June 2020 to the Council, the Commission and the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the Western Balkans, following the 2020 summit (2019/2210(INI))
P9_TA(2020)0168A9-0091/2020

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the European Council conclusions of 28 June 2018, the Council conclusions of 18 June 2019 and the European Council conclusions of 17-18 October 2019 postponing the decisions on opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania,

–  having regard to the Zagreb Declaration of 6 May 2020,

–  having regard to the Final Agreement for the Settlement of the Differences as described in UN Security Council resolutions 817 (1993) and 845 (1993), the termination of the Interim Accord of 1995 and the establishment of a Strategic Partnership on 17 June 2018 between Greece and North Macedonia, also known as the Prespa Agreement,

–  having regard to the European Council conclusions of 26 March 2020 on opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, which endorsed the Council conclusions of 25 March 2020 on enlargement and stabilisation and association process,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 5 February 2020 entitled ‘Enhancing the accession process – A credible EU perspective for the Western Balkans’ (COM(2020)0057),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 29 May 2019 on EU enlargement policy (COM(2019)0260),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 6 February 2018 entitled ‘A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans’ (COM(2018)0065),

–  having regard to the EU Global Strategy of 2016, which specifies that a credible enlargement policy represents a strategic investment in Europe’s security and prosperity, and has already contributed greatly to peace in formerly war-torn areas,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 16 October 2013 entitled ‘Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2013-2014’ (COM(2013)0700),

–  having regard to the renewed consensus on enlargement approved by the European Council in December 2006 and subsequently endorsed in the European Council conclusions of June 2019,

–  having regard to the Final Declaration of the Zagreb Summit of 24 November 2000,

–  having regard to the EU-Western Balkans Summit Declaration of Thessaloniki, of 21 June 2003, concerning the prospect of the Western Balkan countries joining the European Union,

–  having regard to the Sofia declaration of the EU-Western Balkans summit of 17 May 2018 and the Sofia Priority Agenda annexed thereto,

–  having regard to the Berlin Process, launched on 28 August 2014, and in particular to the declaration of the Western Balkans Foreign Ministers on regional cooperation and bilateral disputes of 27 August 2015, and the establishment of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), with further summits being held in Vienna (2015), Paris (2016), Trieste (2017), London (2018) and Poznan (2019),

–  having regard to the conclusions of the General Affairs Council of 29-30 April 1997 on the application of conditionality with a view to developing a coherent EU strategy for relations with the countries of the region,

–  having regard to the joint statement of the Foreign Ministers of 13 EU Member States of 11 June 2019 on the EU commitment to the Western Balkans’ European integration,

–  having regard to the joint declaration of the European Parliament-Western Balkans Speakers’ Summit, convened by the President of the European Parliament with the leadership of the Western Balkan parliaments on 28 January 2020,

–  having regard to the informal meeting of 16 February 2020 which brought together the leaders of the Western Balkan countries, the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia presiding the Council of the European Union,

–  having regard to the resolution of the European Economic and Social Committee of 31 October 2019 entitled ‘Opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania: EU credibility and geostrategic interests should be upheld’(1),

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Committee of the Regions on the Enlargement package 2019, adopted on 13 February 2020(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 July 2015 on the Srebrenica Commemoration(3),

–  having regard to its legislative resolution of 27 March 2019 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA III)(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 24 October 2019 on opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 January 2020 on the European Parliament’s position on the Conference on the Future of Europe(6),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 5 June 2020 on enhancing cooperation with Western Balkans partners in the field of migration and security,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 29 April 2020 entitled ‘Support to the Western Balkans in tackling COVID-19 and the post-pandemic recovery’ (COM(2020)0315),

–  having regard to Rule 118 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the letter from the Committee on International Trade,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A9-0091/2020),

A.  whereas enlargement is one of the EU’s most successful and strategic policies as well as the most effective foreign policy instrument contributing to extending the reach of the Union’s core values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, fostering peace and prosperity equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities across Europe;

B.  whereas the enlargement process is an integral part of European integration and remains strategically important to the European Union;

C.  whereas the merit-based prospect of full EU membership for the Western Balkan countries is in the Union's own political, security and economic interests;

D.  whereas the prospect of EU membership constitutes recognition of a major geopolitical challenge for the unification of the European continent and a fundamental incentive for reforms in the Western Balkan countries;

E.  whereas the Western Balkan countries are geographically, historically and culturally part of Europe and the process of integrating them into the European Union is of key importance for the stability and security of the continent as a whole, free and at peace;

F.  whereas the EU’s enlargement process is a two-way street on which both sides have to uphold their commitments and is built on the premise of delivering on obligations by both the European Union and the candidate countries;

G.  whereas the enhanced methodology proposed by the Commission aims at injecting new dynamism into the enlargement process and provides a new impetus for the transformation of accession countries;

H.  whereas the EU is the leading investor, trading partner and donor in the region;

I.  whereas the European Parliament in its resolutions welcomed the progress achieved by North Macedonia and Albania; whereas given this progress, Parliament agreed to the granting of the performance reward under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance to North Macedonia and Albania;

J.  whereas the 2020 Zagreb Summit recognised the primacy of democracy and the rule of law and called on the EU to further intensify its engagement with the region;

K.  whereas the European Parliament deplored the failure of the European Council to agree in 2019 on opening accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania; whereas this failure following the Commission's recommendations of 2018 and 2019, which were endorsed by Parliament, eroded the credibility of the European Union, contributed to the rise of populism, nationalism and Euroscepticism, undermined efforts made by candidate countries, risking the creation of a political vacuum, and emboldened third-party actors seeking to establish political influence in the region to the detriment of the EU integration process;

L.  whereas the enlargement process fosters and strengthens capacities to resolve bilateral disputes and strives for reconciliation between societies in the region;

M.  whereas the Western Balkan countries should increase efforts to overcome political polarisation and protracted parliamentary boycotts in order to strengthen parliamentary oversight;

N.  whereas the European Parliament remains a reliable partner of countries in the EU accession process and an advocate of the enlargement process as a positive mechanism of the European Union to stimulate reforms aimed at the institutional and socio-economic strengthening of those countries for the benefit of their citizens;

O.  whereas the Thessaloniki Agenda and the Sofia Declaration highlighted that special emphasis will be placed on creating further opportunities for youth, while ensuring that this contributes to the socio-economic development of the Western Balkans;

P.  whereas the European Parliament is committed to intensifying political and institutional support for democratic and economic reforms in the region and assisting the Western Balkan countries in the process of EU accession;

Q.  whereas the Political Guidelines of the Commission 2019-2024 reaffirm the European perspective of the Western Balkans;

R.  whereas during their hearings in the European Parliament both Vice-President/High Representative Borrell and Commissioner Várhelyi committed to prioritising the enlargement process, undertaking to accelerate structural and institutional reforms and integration processes in the Western Balkans;

S.  whereas an ambitious enlargement policy requires an adequate budget; whereas the Council should provide for sufficient budgetary means in support of the enlargement policy;

T.  whereas the EU also needs to strengthen the rule of law mechanisms inside the Union and establish an ambitious agenda for the Future of Europe conference;

U.  whereas the prosperity and security of Europe are closely linked to the integration process and the advancement of peace, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law in the Western Balkans region and its countries’ future in a strong and reformed EU;

V.  whereas in its communication of 5 February 2020, the Commission undertook to present a communication defining actions on bringing forward fundamental reforms including on the rule of law;

W.  whereas the EU has mobilised EUR 3,3 billion to address the coronavirus pandemic in the Western Balkans, including EUR 38 million in immediate support to the health sector, EUR 389 million for the social and economic recovery, EUR 750 million for macro-financial assistance, EUR 455 million for economic reactivation and EUR1,7 billion in preferential loans from the European Investment Bank;

X.  whereas the Western Balkan countries have benefited from the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, the joint procurement of medical equipment, exemptions from the EU’s export authorisation scheme for personal protective equipment, and the ‘green lanes’ for essential goods;

1.  Recommends the following to the Council, the Commission and the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy:

   (a) to support the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries and to enhance the accession process by ensuring that it strengthens fundamental values and the rule of law and brings sustainable democratic, economic and ecological transformation and social convergence, and ensures good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation as essential elements of the enlargement and the Stabilisation and Association Process, and by making sure that enlargement of the Union continues in parallel with the discussions on the future of Europe and the internal reform of the EU;
   (b) to increase efforts to build political will among the Member States in progressing with the enlargement to the Western Balkans instead of letting internal EU processes stand in the way, as well as improving the EU’s political and strategic guidance of overall policy in the region;
   (c) to maintain enlargement as a necessary condition for the EU’s credibility, success and influence in the region and beyond;
   (d) to accelerate the accession process of the countries committed, both politically and administratively, to the implementation of EU-related reforms;
   (e) to ensure that the enhanced methodology sustains fully-fledged EU membership as the final goal and that the EU sets more predictable rules and criteria based on conditionality and reversibility and applies them consistently, making the accession process more dynamic and thus restoring its credibility by applying the revised methodology;
   (f) to ensure that the stronger emphasis on the political nature of the process, as presented in the revised enlargement methodology proposal by the Commission, does not supersede evaluations of completion of benchmarks at the expert level or hinder the EU's commitment to a merit-based enlargement process;
   (g) to ensure that the grouping of policy areas enhances the depth, quality and sustainability of reforms, bringing concrete results in the accession countries while enabling simultaneous negotiations on different chapters;
   (h) to provide clear, transparent and consistent accession benchmarks as well as continued political and technical support throughout the process, including for parliaments to ensure their independent oversight roles, and to improve the measuring of progress on the ground, ensuring that each accession country is assessed on the basis of conditionality and the principle of own merits;
   (i) to ensure the continuity, accountability, consistency and predictability of the enlargement process by anchoring the Commission’s new methodology as a long-term policy adjustment and avoiding ad hoc revisions of the process and its parameters as a consequence of political considerations of any Member State; to ensure that the accession benchmarks and support are based on lessons learnt in order to avoid shortcomings found earlier and improve the accession process;
   (j) to facilitate the implementation of the enhanced methodology for the accession countries already in negotiations, should they decide to opt in with a view to a meaningful and long-lasting alignment with EU standards and norms;
   (k) to increase political and economic incentives for the Western Balkan countries and improve coherence between the enlargement process and political initiatives in the EU via annual regional meetings on the margins of the European Council with Western Balkans leaders, ensuring the regular participation of Western Balkans representatives in the meetings of the European Council, in the Political and Security Committee and in Commission working groups;
   (l) to encourage the gradual integration of accession countries in EU processes, sectoral policies and programmes prior to their accession, including via targeted financial support through EU funds, in order to bring tangible benefits for citizens, particularly for children and young people, and enhance the EU’s pre-accession assistance and presence in those countries prior to their full membership;
   (m) to support an enhanced parliamentary role in the accession process through the established forums and to consistently encourage new initiatives such as the Speakers’ Summit, which was convened, for the very first time, by the President of the European Parliament and the leaders of the Western Balkan parliaments on 28 January 2020;
   (n) to facilitate and promote closer association of members of parliament from the countries in negotiations in the work of the European Parliament;
   (o) to engage the representatives of the Western Balkan countries in the Conference on the Future of Europe, with a special focus on youth participation;
   (p) to strengthen the conditionality mechanism and insist on the reversibility of the accession process by applying objective criteria when deciding whether negotiations should be put on hold or suspended; to ensure that the Commission initiates these procedures after a thorough evaluation and in response to a proposal from the Member States or the European Parliament, while also noting that the principle of the imbalance clause and reversibility is already applicable to the current negotiating frameworks for Serbia and Montenegro; to ensure that the conditionality and suspension mechanism is accompanied by a clear communication from the EU institutions on the specifics of a possible suspension;
   (q) to enhance ownership of the enlargement process by Member States by increasing the involvement of experts on the rule of law and other areas from the Member States, as well as of civil society and human rights defenders on the ground, and to improve the measurement of the overall developments by continuing to adhere to the long-standing objective standards and by avoiding politicisation of the technical aspects of the accession process, in particular drawing upon the monitoring reports and recommendations of the Council of Europe and other standard-setting bodies;
   (r) to recognise that the Berlin Process supports and supplements the EU enlargement policy and cannot be treated either as an alternative to accession or as replicating efforts undertaken as part of the enlargement;
   (s) to recognise that the opening of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia is in the Union's own political, security and economic interests;
   (t) to recognise that the European Council’s failure to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, in June 2018, June 2019 and October 2019, had a detrimental effect on the EU’s role in the region and on public opinion regarding EU accession, sending a negative message to the Western Balkan countries, and to acknowledge that opening accession talks restores credibility to the process, as recommended by the European Parliament and the Commission;
   (u) to grant visa liberalisation to Kosovo as soon as possible, as the benchmarks have been fulfilled since July 2018;
   (v) to increase the dynamism of the negotiations in order to accelerate the accession of Montenegro and Serbia;
   (w) to bring the primacy of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms back to the very centre of the enlargement process by opening first and closing last the chapters related to the judiciary, corruption and organised crime, as well as those covering respect for human rights, including minority rights, media freedom and freedom of expression;
   (x) to focus on institutional and administrative capacity building in order to reinforce transparency and the effectiveness of good governance at all levels;
   (y) to use experience of recent enlargements, including lessons learnt from Central European countries;
   (z) to continue working together with the Western Balkan countries on countering terrorism and organised crime;
   (aa) to ensure targeted focus on state capacity-building, implementation of court rulings, judicial reforms and efforts to combat corruption and organised crime;
   (ab) to insist on the respect and full implementation of domestic and international court rulings, including those of constitutional courts and all rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and its successor the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), and the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (SC) and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO), as well as the recommendations of the Council of Europe monitoring bodies, including the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI);
   (ac) to urge the Western Balkan countries to comply with their international obligations in the prosecution of war crimes and the determination of the fate of missing persons; to advocate full cooperation with the IRMCT, the Kosovo SC and SPO and the explicit upholding of the work and the findings of ICTY, as well as the promotion and dissemination of its work and legacy to citizens; to condemn all attempts to glorify war criminals and to deny historical facts and to support, in this respect, the Regional Commission Tasked with Establishing the Facts about All Victims of War Crimes and Other Serious Human Rights Violations Committed on the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia (the RECOM initiative);
   (ad) to increase EU engagement in solving outstanding bilateral issues, promoting good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation through confidence-building and mediation efforts, and to urge the Western Balkan countries to commit to reconciliation and peaceful solutions to longstanding disputes;
   (ae) to strengthen the accession process with a view to deepening solidarity between the peoples of the Western Balkan countries and the Member States, while respecting their history, culture and traditions;
   (af) to support the newly appointed EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional issues in achieving comprehensive normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo and advancing good neighbourly relations in the region during his mandate;
   (ag) to promote wider support in society for regional reconciliation by inter alia supporting full engagement of parliaments in the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and in pursuing sustainable regional reconciliation;
   (ah) to reinforce and, where possible, increase the common efforts by EU and Western Balkan countries to foster people-to-people contacts and exchanges in order to build mutually positive images of each other among their respective populations;
   (ai) to foster the creation of a level playing field for inclusive political environments and to facilitate efforts in all Western Balkan countries to overcome political polarisation and protracted parliamentary boycotts; to develop an inclusive and constructive parliamentary culture and to strengthen parliamentary scrutiny and oversight; and to promote a responsible approach towards representing citizens’ interests within the parliaments, in order to promote democratic scrutiny and better quality of legislation;
   (aj) to take note of and facilitate the accession-related work and democracy support activities of the European Parliament, including the activities of its standing committees and delegations, and to involve Parliament’s standing rapporteurs for the Western Balkan countries in the scrutiny process and on the ground;
   (ak) to foster electoral reforms that ensure free, fair, competitive and transparent elections at central and local levels that are free from intimidation and disinformation campaigns, in line with international standards, including on transparency in party funding, and with the recommendations of international observation missions; to follow up on the implementation of Venice Commission opinions; to contribute to the European Parliament’s democracy support programmes in the region;
   (al) to encourage the national parliaments to use the European Parliament’s democracy support tools, such as the Jean Monnet Dialogue and the Inter-Party Dialogue, in order to facilitate political work on parliamentary dialogue and to enhance accountability, oversight, democratic scrutiny and the quality of legislative work;
   (am) to strengthen and closely associate civil society in its role as an indispensable actor in the processes of democratic consolidation, regional cooperation and accession-related reforms, with a focus on pro-European and pro-democratic forces in the region;
   (an) to ensure that the citizens and societies of candidate countries are more closely associated with and benefit from the accession process; to give particular support and encouragement, in this framework, to pro-European and pro-democratic segments of society, views and opinions;
   (ao) to make sure that each step taken includes a substantial and comprehensive dialogue with civil society organisations, academia and youth from the early stage of decision-making to the implementation and evaluation phase, taking special care not to support or finance existing local anti-European power structures or local structures of dubious democratic reputation, and thereby fostering the development of EU values, the rule of law, the fight against corruption and the building of strong and efficient democratic institutions as the foundation for a successful accession to the EU;
   (ap) to strongly condemn smear campaigns, threats and intimidation against journalists and media outlets and to insist on the investigation and prosecution of such offences, thus enabling a safe environment for journalists, while tackling the issues of concentration, political and economic pressure on the financing of the media and lack of transparency of media ownership;
   (aq) to actively support and strengthen a democratic, independent and diverse media landscape, as well as media accountability and governance;
   (ar) to increase support measures fostering resilience against disinformation and disruptive media campaigns, including those conducted through foreign influence operations seeking to undermine democratic processes and the sovereignty of the Western Balkan countries as well as the role of the EU in the region by means of hybrid warfare;
   (as) to promote and actively support the implementation of anti-discrimination policies and to insist on the prosecution of hate crimes; to encourage swifter progress towards gender equality and in tackling discrimination and ensuring social inclusion of ethnic, national and religious minorities, people with disabilities, Roma and LGBTQI+ people, with special attention to children, by establishing inclusive policies to protect the fundamental rights of citizens;
   (at) to call for a stronger legal framework to prevent and actively fight femicide and violence against women and children and other forms of domestic violence, including by recalling the obligations under the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, and by undertaking the necessary steps for its ratification; to prevent and combat trafficking in human beings;
   (au) to acknowledge the difficulties Western Balkan countries face in managing migration and refugee flows and the substantial efforts the region has made to provide shelter and humanitarian supplies, primarily with the support of the EU; to ensure efficient implementation of the status agreements between Western Balkan countries and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex);
   (av) to underline the significance of the contribution of the Western Balkan countries to the protection of the European Union’s external border and to intensify European support to border management in the region; to strengthen the capacity of the asylum system in the region in cooperation with the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR);
   (aw) to emphasise the crucial importance of the social dimension and of socio-economic cohesion and its key role throughout the accession process;
   (ax) to focus more on the eradication of poverty, support for civil society and the implementation of the commitments in the area of labour law;
   (ay) to encourage the Western Balkan countries to raise the standard of their labour and social rights, to promote growth and implement the EU’s social acquis, and to include a wide range of stakeholders such as trade unions, chambers of commerce and chambers of labour in the negotiation process with EU partners;
   (az) to tackle the brain drain with concrete measures such as promoting quality educational reforms of an inclusive nature, especially in the area of vocational education and training (VET), ensuring that the education sector better matches requirements in the labour market and contributes to the creation of long-term and sustainable job opportunities for young people;
   (ba) to support the regional dialogue platform ‘Bridging the Gap’ under the European Parliament’s Young Political Leaders Programme, in the effort to eliminate the gap between youth policy, youth participation and parliamentarians in the Western Balkans, and to encourage concrete actions to enhance youth participation in politics and the implementation of youth-centred policies throughout the region;
   (bb) to promote opportunities in volunteering and civic engagement for young people and to invest more in the region’s young people by increasing the participation of the accession countries in existing mobility programmes, such as Erasmus+, Creative Europe and Horizon 2020 and establishing new programmes for intraregional mobility;
   (bc) to strengthen cooperation in the fields of science, research and innovation via dedicated European Commission programming;
   (bd) to intensify assistance to the Western Balkan countries with a view to improving their environmental, energy efficiency and climate laws and ensuring that they have the capacity to implement them in line with EU standards and the Paris Agreement, including by fully and swiftly implementing their international obligations under the Energy Community Treaty with regard to the full alignment and implementation of the energy acquis of the Union;
   (be) to call on the authorities to take urgent measures for the monitoring, mitigation and prevention of air and water pollution; to ensure ex ante strategic environmental assessments and environmental impact assessments in order to secure sustainable hydropower and tourism development, balanced with conservation efforts;
   (bf) to facilitate regional energy integration, increasing diversification and security of supply sources, and to enhance connectivity of the energy infrastructures and digital networks;
   (bg) to encourage the necessary energy transition to cleaner renewable energy sources and away from coal and lignite, which cause serious social and health risks to local populations and neighbouring countries; to include the Western Balkan accession countries in the European Green Deal and Just Transition Fund processes;
   (bh) to recall that the EU is the largest foreign investor in the region, having invested EUR 12.7 billion in foreign direct investment between 2014 and 2018; to put in place a strategic economic and investment plan with a view to improving competitiveness, the legal and business environment, the situation of SMEs and sustainable development in the whole region in line with the commitments made under the Paris Agreement and the European Green Deal, while noting that growth in the Western Balkans is slowing down after a short-lived revival in investment in previous years and that the contribution of investment and of exports to growth is fading;
   (bi) to promote and enhance regional economic integration in the Western Balkans, as already implemented within the framework of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) and modelled on the EU acquis, and to actively support economic integration between the EU and the region by extending EU policies and the internal market to the Western Balkan countries when the preconditions have been met;
   (bj) to support initiatives based on the Multiannual Action Plan for a Regional Economic Area (MAP REA) adopted by the prime ministers of the Western Balkan countries at the 2017 Trieste summit, comprising four pillars – trade, investment, mobility and digital integration – which are crucial for the economic development of the region and to accelerating convergence with the EU;
   (bk) to support cooperation of the Western Balkans countries with regional and international organisations such as the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and with international financial institutions such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB);
   (bl) to continue supporting and providing the assistance needed as soon as possible to accomplish the processes of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), welcoming their WTO membership applications which were lodged in 1999 and 2005 respectively, and recalling the importance of WTO membership for opening up trade opportunities and bringing candidate countries closer to EU membership;
   (bm) to defend the interests of the Union by mitigating the negative effect of free-trade agreements with the Eurasian Economic Union signed by countries which have applied for membership of the European Union and which have been granted the opportunity of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union, including by reviewing the level of assistance provided to such countries;
   (bn) to encourage regional cooperation in the area of infrastructure development between the countries of the Western Balkans;
   (bo) to give the region high priority under the EU’s Connectivity Strategy, highlighting the importance of improving transport infrastructure in the region, and, in particular, the role this plays in facilitating trade; to support the construction of European rail and road corridors throughout the Western Balkan countries; encourages the Commission to expedite infrastructure investment financing;
   (bp) to bring the people and economies of the region and the EU closer together by embedding the Western Balkan countries in the TEN-T and TEN-E networks, and to assist in ensuring quality and safe transport and energy services and improving infrastructure and overall connectivity within the region, as well as between the region and the EU, in line with the Commission’s proposal for a strategic economic and investment plan for the Western Balkans;
   (bq) to accelerate the implementation of the digital agenda for the Western Balkans in order to bring the benefits of the digital transformation to citizens; to assist the countries of the region in improving funding and development opportunities for start-ups and SMEs;
   (br) to establish a predictable timetable and speed up the implementation of a regional roaming free zone and to initiate a further decrease in tariffs for communications with the EU based on increased physical and digital regional cooperation and connectivity;
   (bs) to improve the consistency, efficiency, visibility and transparency of Union financing in the field of external action, thereby advancing the Union’s values, the rule of law, the fight against corruption and the building of strong and efficient democratic institutions; to align, where appropriate, the IPA III funding with the objectives of the European Green Deal;
   (bt) to ensure adequate, fair and proportionate, performance-based and results-oriented pre-accession assistance that matches the transformation needs of the beneficiaries and helps them deliver on EU accession obligations; to prioritise specific projects benefiting the people of the countries in question and to enhance the absorption capacity of beneficiaries;
   (bu) to coordinate economic governance issues more closely with international financial institutions (IFIs) and to improve mutual cooperation in order to streamline support efforts and avoid duplication of funding;
   (bv) to strengthen the conditionality between macro-financial assistance and progress in the fight against corruption and respect for the rule of law and human rights;
   (bw) to avoid cuts in the overall IPA funding which could slow down EU-related reforms and undermine the Union’s capacity to fulfil its strategic objective of stabilising and transforming accession countries and preparing them for membership obligations, as well as seriously limiting the ability to address multiple challenges related to the rule of law, reconciliation, regional integration and climate change, while leaving the region even more susceptible to the influence of third-country actors; to ensure adequate and continuous support to civil society;
   (bx) to ensure that IPA III is driven by political priorities that through concrete projects have a direct impact on citizens’ lives, and that pre-accession funding is allocated in a transparent, proportionate and non-discriminatory manner and is based on solid performance indicators, taking into account the commitment shown and progress made by the beneficiary countries in implementing reforms;
   (by) to reinforce the performance-based approach through a suspension mechanism, ensuring coherence with the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI); to complement the IPA III Regulation with a reformed and improved ‘Strategic Dialogue’ ensuring that the European Parliament is informed and consulted in a timely manner;
   (bz) to uphold democratic accountability by ensuring the full involvement of the European Parliament in the scrutiny, oversight and strategic steering of the design, programming and monitoring and evaluation of IPA III through delegated acts;
   (ca) to improve the overall visibility of and information about EU support in the region by strengthening strategic communication and public diplomacy in order to convey the values of the Union and highlight the added value of the EU-funded projects and programmes; to prepare a joint communication strategy in cooperation with the Western Balkan countries; to further develop an understanding of the benefits of the accession and unification process across the European continent;
   (cb) to insist on the progressive alignment of accession countries with the EU common foreign and security policy and common commercial policy;
   (cc) to significantly increase communication concerning the EU aid, in particular concerning the substantial support the EU has provided to the Western Balkans to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, and to ensure that the recipients of this aid do not spread disinformation and negative rhetoric concerning the EU’s response to COVID-19;
   (cd) to commend the cooperation of Western Balkan countries in common security and defence policy (CSDP) missions with the EU;
   (ce) to condemn the actions of third countries aimed at destabilising and undermining democratic governance in the Western Balkan region;
   (cf) to continue cooperation in the field of countering hybrid threats, including combating Russian propaganda;
   (cg) to follow up on the 2020 EU-Western Balkans Summit in order to evaluate, reassess and inject new dynamism into the enlargement process and provide a new impetus for the transformation of accession countries;
   (ch) to swiftly implement the revised enlargement methodology for a relaunch of the accession process, and, building upon the Zagreb Western Balkans Summit, to adopt negotiating frameworks and convene intergovernmental conferences aimed at starting accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia;
   (ci) Stresses the 15 conditions, decided by the Council of the European Union, that Albania needs to have fulfilled prior to its first intergovernmental conference with the EU Member States;
   (cj) to sustain cooperation with the United Kingdom in the Western Balkans, taking into account the British ties with the region, as well as common objectives, from the advancement of the rule of law and fighting organised crime to counter-terrorism and other objectives and goals of CSDP missions;
   (ck) to intensify high-level political dialogue through regular EU-Western Balkans summits;
   (cl) to implement the recommendations of the 2019 Thematic Evaluation of EU Support for Rule of Law in Neighbourhood and Enlargement Countries (2010-2017), in addition to the prompt adoption of a Commission communication addressing serious rule of law concerns through a conditionality and reversibility mechanism;
   (cm) to follow up on the significant support provided to all the Western Balkan countries to address the immediate health and humanitarian needs resulting from COVID-19;
   (cn) to continue to support the EU candidate countries and potential candidate countries in the Western Balkans in response coordination and mitigation of the socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak, and to align the measures with the EU’s common emergency economic package prepared with international financial institutions;
   (co) to ensure that the current and next generation MFF along with the economic and investment plan for the Western Balkans significantly contribute to the post-COVID-19 recovery, and facilitate economic growth and integration through enhanced and sustainable digital, energy and transport links;
   (cp) to guarantee that the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans is not predominantly financed via existing IPA funds, thus potentially absorbing financing for other important policies and programmes; to bring this plan completely in line with the European Green Deal, in particular the EU’s decarbonisation target;
   (cq) to prioritise the Western Balkans in the new External Action Guarantee and the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD+) under the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI); to ensure a twofold increase in the provision of grants through the Western Balkans Investment Framework to support private sector development, connectivity, digitalisation, the green agenda, and social investments, and to substantially increase the financial guarantees for supporting public and private investment in the region through the Guarantee Instrument;
   (cr) to extend the geographic scope of the European Union Solidarity Fund, which already covers public health crises, to all the Western Balkan countries;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this recommendation to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the governments and parliaments of the accession countries.

(1) OJ C 47, 11.2.2020, p. 15.
(2) CDR 2727/2019.
(3) OJ C 265, 11.8.2017, p. 142.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0299.
(5) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2019)0050.
(6) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0010.


Tourism and transport in 2020 and beyond
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European Parliament resolution of 19 June 2020 on transport and tourism in 2020 and beyond (2020/2649(RSP))
P9_TA(2020)0169RC-B9-0166/2020

The European Parliament,

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

A.  whereas tourism is a cross-cutting economic activity with a wide-ranging impact on economic growth, employment and social and sustainable development;

B.  whereas the tourism sector employs 22.6 million people, equating to 11.2 % of total EU employment, contributed 9,5 % to EU GDP in 2019, helps to promote a balanced regional structure, and has a positive impact on regional development; notes that at least 6,4 million jobs are at risk in the EU;

C.  whereas tourism, and especially overtourism, like all human activities, has an impact on climate change, as well as environmental and economic impacts such as increased pollution, loss of biodiversity, congestion, infrastructure maintenance costs and rising prices; whereas, however, the sector is committed to accelerating progress towards sustainable tourism development and to ensuring it contributes towards European and international climate goals through initiatives aimed at reducing emissions;

D.  whereas tourism consists of a complex value chain of many stakeholders with a direct link to passenger transport activities;

E.  whereas the transport, culture and tourism sectors have been the most negatively affected of all major economic sectors by COVID-19, with large-scale unemployment affecting, in particular, seasonal workers and those in vulnerable situations;

F.  whereas cultural sites and venues, festivals and museums have been particularly badly hit by the health crisis, while four out of ten tourists choose their destination based on what it has to offer by way of culture;

G.  whereas by adopting the communication on tourism and transport in 2020 and beyond (COM(2020)0550) and the Tourism and Transport Package on 13 May 2020, the Commission took the first necessary step to support the recovery of our valuable transport and tourism sectors from the COVID-19 outbreak;

H.  whereas it has been ten years since the Commission adopted the communication entitled ‘Europe, the world’s No 1 tourist destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe’ (COM(2010)0352) in June 2010, which sets out a strategy and action plan for EU tourism;

I.  whereas since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 the EU has supporting competences aimed at coordinating and complementing action in this domain by the Member States(1);

European tourism and transport recovery plans following the COVID-19 outbreak

1.  Believes that both swift, short-term support and long-term support to the transport and tourism sectors are necessary to ensure their survival and competitiveness, while implementing measures which give tourists the confidence to travel to and within Europe again is imperative for minimising additional losses in the sector, as well as for its longer-term sustainability; stresses that the current crisis also represents a historic opportunity to modernise tourism in the EU and make it more sustainable and more accessible for persons with disabilities, and to start considering it as an industrial ecosystem with investment targets, human capital, technological innovation needs and performance indicators, as well as a major sector which could contribute to reaching the 2050 climate neutrality goals;

2.  Underlines that in the current crisis, when many transport companies are struggling for survival, it is of utmost importance to further invest in strategic transport infrastructure at EU level; stresses, furthermore, that recovery plans for transport, along with support aimed at saving existing transport sectors, should be focused on innovative growth opportunities;

3.  Welcomes the communication entitled ‘COVID-19 – Towards a phased and coordinated approach for restoring freedom of movement and lifting internal border controls’ adopted by the Commission as part of the package, and the proposal for a phased and coordinated approach, aiming at returning to the unrestricted free movement of persons; asks that a mechanism be established at EU level to define the rate of a sufficiently low level of transmission, and that uniform application of such a rate be ensured across the EU; calls on the Commission to support the ‘restart of tourism’ with a recommendation to highlight ‘sustainable tourism’ and to make credibly certified businesses and destinations frontrunners for environmentally friendly, socially responsible and economically sound travel and tourism; welcomes the Commission’s initiative aiming to ensure the continuous flow of goods, especially food and medical devices, across the EU and all initiatives aimed at ensuring the full functioning of the EU internal market without unjustified checks and delay;

4.  Reiterates the importance of the principle of non-discrimination in the progressive lifting of domestic and cross-border restrictions, as well as the mutual recognition of the agreed measures at EU level, and stresses the importance of avoiding agreements between individual Member States (so-called tourism corridors), which would further impact the economy of those Member States that have been particularly affected by the health crisis, and in particular their tourism sector; is concerned about the fact that several Member States have recently imposed unilateral measures which not only might undermine the functioning of the single market and have a negative impact on the lives of millions of EU citizens, but also strike a further blow against tourism and confidence; urges, therefore, the Commission to prevent the implementation of any type of discriminatory and non-epidemiological measures by Member States, which call into question the integrity of the Schengen area and impede the swift recovery of Europe’s travel and tourism industry;

5.  Stresses the need for the support and promotion of tourism areas in the EU through, among other things, attractive offers for visitors, provided that the epidemiological and socio-health conditions in the respective areas allow this; believes it is essential that all health, hygiene and sanitary requirements, such as social distancing measures, are fully respected and implemented by both businesses and their clients, in order to guarantee safe conditions for visitors; calls for uniform assessment criteria to be established throughout the EU in order to highlight the areas that represent safe environments for inbound and outbound tourism; supports the need for the highest levels of safety and security to be enforced and maintained, for which interoperable digital technologies could be used (for example, a dedicated Commission information website, or making use of the Digital Innovation Hubs) with a view to providing help for the travel and tourism industry and for tourists themselves while respecting individuals’ privacy and data protection rights; stresses that an early alert system that efficiently warns tourists about any potential health threat at their destination should be developed so that quarantine and evacuation protocols are immediate and effective;

6.  Recognises the importance of international travellers to our tourism sector; calls, therefore, on the Commission and the Member States to assess whether restrictions on non-essential travel could be lifted at the external borders of the EU, without hampering public health and safety, taking into account the epidemiological situation in each respective third country and working towards the mutual recognition of COVID-19 protective measures, especially in aviation, following International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards and the joint document from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) entitled ʻCOVID-19 Aviation Health Safety Protocol: Operational Guidelines for the management of air passengers and aviation personnel in relation to the COVID-19 pandemicʼ for the safe restart of air transport in Europe, and urges their swift implementation;

7.  Stresses the importance of cross-border and seasonal workers for the provision of services in the tourism sector as a key component of the economic recovery effort, and calls for measures aimed at encouraging their mobility and protecting their rights, including better implementation of existing legislation;

8.  Welcomes the Commission communication on ‘COVID-19: Guidelines on the progressive restoration of transport services and connectivity’, as well as the guidance based on a framework of principles and a common toolbox that will help with the resumption of transport services of all kinds across the EU by taking coordinated, non-discriminatory and proportionate measures;

9.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to agree on temporary, proportionate and non-discriminatory measures, that are in line with scientific evidence, to facilitate safe transit and country-to-country movements, based on a robust risk assessment, and in accordance with international standards defined by bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC); highlights the importance of ensuring mutual recognition of the measures agreed at EU level for the resumption of EU and international travel; stresses, moreover, that the implementation of containment measures, as well as their easing, must at no time lead to a reduction of the high levels of EU safety and security standards in transport;

10.  Underlines that screening is an effective means of reducing the spread of the virus and building confidence in cases where social distancing is not possible, provided that fast, reliable and affordable screening methods are available; calls on the Commission, in cooperation with the ECDC and the Member States, to regularly evaluate the existence of tests meeting these conditions and, when available, to carry out coordinated procurement in order to ensure the best possible conditions and price; urges the Commission and Member States to use all available funding tools to ensure that citizens can be tested free of charge;

11.  Highlights that travel restrictions and border controls should be lifted for the regions, areas and Member States where the epidemiological situation is improving and is sufficiently similar, once common criteria have been established to assess it; stresses that improvements in the epidemiological situation are key for restoring safe travel and transport and for resuming tourism services; calls, furthermore, on the Commission, in coordination with the Member States, to explore the feasibility and the added value of health screening measures such as diagnostic tests (e.g. serological or swab tests) and temperature checks on passengers departing from transport hubs; calls for standards and detailed protocols for common hygiene measures to be established for the various modes of transport; considers that each transport operator should apply uniform measures in a harmonised way so as to provide predictability and clarity; considers that technical operational protocols should be made a prerequisite for safe travel;

12.  Welcomes the Commission communication on ‘COVID-19: EU Guidance for the progressive resumption of tourism services and for health protocols in hospitality establishments’ and urges Member States to share this guidance with competent authorities at regional and local level; calls on the Commission and the Member States, in this regard, to support the travel and tourism sector financially in the implementation of these measures, in full cooperation with the tourism and travel industry and in line with the ambitions of the European Green Deal and digitalisation;

13.  Calls on the Commission to create an EU safety certification seal and clear and effective health protocols, guaranteeing that EU tourism facilities, travel establishments and operators meet the highest hygiene and safety standards, in cooperation with Member States’ public authorities, tourism stakeholders and international organisations, with the aim of encouraging the implementation of specific measures based on the EU guidance, enhancing the confidence, security and safety of travellers who visit the EU Member States and fostering the sector’s recovery;

14.  Calls on the Commission to propose common EU rules on the terms and conditions of the vouchers issued related to COVID-19 while maintaining a high level of consumer protection, always conditional on their voluntary acceptance by consumers and without affecting the obligation for companies to reimburse their travellers within the timeframe as provided for by EU law, in order to make vouchers more flexible and thus more attractive and viable, and to prevent another patchwork implementation resulting in the different treatment of consumers and in distortions of competition in the transport and tourism market; urges, moreover, the Commission to use all the means at its disposal to ensure the proper enforcement and uniform application of EU law, and to promote the use of harmonised rules on voluntary vouchers;

15.  Calls on the Commission to explore the possibility of elaborating, based on the experience of the COVID-19 crisis and Member States’ similar schemes, a European Travel Guarantee scheme for companies to secure financial liquidity in order to guarantee refunds to travellers as well as repatriation costs, together with fair compensation for any damages incurred in the event of bankruptcy; moreover, is of the opinion that travellers should be encouraged to take out travel insurance;

16.  Calls on the Commission to launch a dedicated EU communication campaign on travel and tourism, including through an EU-wide information app, aiming at promoting intra-EU travel, re-establishing citizens’ confidence in travel and tourism during COVID-19, educating tourists on the health and safety measures in place and building sustainable and cohesive values through an ‘EU Tourism Brand’; calls for the concept of ‘safe and smart destination’ to be central to ensuring the development of sustainable, responsible and accessible tourism;

17.  Requests that a mechanism be put in place at EU level for establishing a threshold, based on scientific evidence and reliable and uniform data, for safety and security when it comes to lifting or introducing travel restrictions and that an appropriate level of monitoring and an action plan be prepared for any negative development regarding the epidemiological landscape; emphasises, in that regard, the need for a more concrete and detailed action plan on monitoring and evaluating the proposed phased exit strategy for getting out of the COVID-19 crisis;

18.  Calls on the Commission, Member State public authorities and stakeholders to cooperate in order to establish clear guidelines and preparedness action plans for a potential second wave of the pandemic as soon as possible, addressing infection prevention and control measures for travel and tourism, given that extended lockdown measures could lead to a 16 % drop in GDP this year according to projections;

19.  Welcomes the SURE programme, which helps Member States cover the costs of national short-time work schemes and similar measures allowing companies to safeguard jobs in the tourism industry; highlights, furthermore, the importance of investing in reskilling, digital skills training and job support initiatives, which will prevent ongoing job losses and social inequalities due to the pandemic;

Enhanced solidarity and coordination in the EU tourism sector

20.  Highlights the importance of moving towards a genuine European tourism policy that will significantly contribute to enhancing the competitiveness of the Union in this sector, promoting cooperation between Member States and regions and creating possibilities for further investments and innovations in the sector; recalls the importance of avoiding overregulation within the single market for tourism services, with the objective of removing and preventing regulatory contradictions and duplications, by ensuring better coordination of policies and legislation affecting the tourism sector;

21.  Welcomes the Commission proposal to organise a European tourism summit involving the EU institutions, industry, regions, cities and stakeholders, in order to reflect on the European tourism of tomorrow, and supports the development of a 2050 roadmap towards a sustainable, innovative and resilient European tourism ecosystem (‘European Agenda for Tourism 2050’); calls on the Commission, therefore, to adopt a new strategy and action plan for EU tourism in 2021 based on the outcome of this dialogue, in order to maintain Europe’s standing as a leading destination through an ‘EU Tourism Brand’; stresses that this long-term strategy must include a plan for digitalising the sector and schemes to regenerate tourist areas; stresses that the strategy must support the green transition of the sector by adapting processes and renewing infrastructures and facilities; underlines that the Commission should closely monitor its proper implementation;

22.  Welcomes the Commission’s initiative providing for flexibility under State aid rules; insists, however, on the need for viable projects and competitiveness and social and ecological standards as well as for clear and sector-specific guidance in the transport and tourism sectors to allow effective coordination between all Member States, and to ensure that national compensation schemes are used in a fair, timely and proportionate manner, and are put in place for a limited duration, with the aim of tackling the losses caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, without unduly distorting competition;

23.  Highlights the importance of enhanced cooperation between EU, national, regional and local authorities and all relevant stakeholders, with a view to addressing cross-cutting tourism-related issues; calls on the Commission, in this regard, to establish an EU Tourism Strategy, including a more concrete and detailed action plan with short-, medium- and long-term objectives, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and proposing that Member States set clear, strategic and results-oriented objectives; insists that a proper strategy for sustainable tourism be adopted in coordination with Parliament and the Member States, which includes measures to be applied and observed by all Member States, industries and tourists;

24.  Stresses that the proposal for an EU Recovery plan presented by the Commission on 27 May 2020, which includes a reinforced long-term EU budget (MFF 2021-2027) and a new recovery instrument of EUR 750 billion which should be conditional on implementing structural reforms and respecting ecological and social standards, serves as a good basis for further negotiations; welcomes the recognition of tourism as one of the economic activities worst affected by the COVID-19 crisis; notes that the new recovery instrument, Next Generation EU, outlines that tourism could see a more than 70 % drop in turnover in the second quarter of 2020, while the basic investment needs in tourism, comprising EUR 161 billion, rank first among the various ecosystems; calls on the Commission to accord due importance to the tourism sector in the recovery package and to issue guidance to ensure swift access to funding, without being hindered by any disproportionate administrative burden, under both ongoing and upcoming programmes: highlights, in this context, the importance of investments in this sector through the Recovery and Resilience Facility which will allow the development of a strategy for a sustainable, flexible and competitive tourism sector across the EU; considers that the EU Recovery plan must include the possibility of providing additional financial support to the tourism sector on the basis of the share that the travel and tourism sector contributes to a Member State’s GDP;

25.  Regrets the absence of a dedicated budget line on sustainable tourism in the next multiannual financial framework (MFF 2021-2027), and regrets the current lack of a concrete and targeted financial instrument, in the short term, to help the sector’s recovery; stresses that special treatment and specific measures should be considered for outermost regions (RUPs) and island regions;

26.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to urgently support businesses and workers, including self-employed workers, in the transport, culture and tourism sector, especially SMEs, and including macro businesses and family-run businesses, to manage their liquidity, help them to maintain jobs and reduce unnecessary administrative burdens; calls, furthermore, for a European framework to be developed for workers across the entire value chain of the tourism industry, in close dialogue with social partners and covering all types of workers;

27.  Calls for a revised European SME strategy that would take into account the impact of COVID-19 on SMEs and put forward concrete recovery initiatives with a roadmap to support them by reducing red tape, cutting the costs of access to finance, and fostering investments in strategic value chains in line with the European industrial policy based on ecosystems, the Green Deal and the digital transition; recalls the need for making the necessary adjustments in order to comply with new health and safety measures, providing substantial investments to ensure the safety of consumers and the respect of social distancing, and other relevant precautionary measures; emphasises the importance of creating networks and clusters across the EU, which have the potential to lead to the harmonisation of best practices, strategies and synergies within the SME sector;

28.  Stresses that thousands of companies, in particular SMEs, are struggling to survive, while many of them are facing insolvency; calls on the Commission and Member States to monitor developments and assess the possibility of enhanced emergency support, in relation to the instruments already announced, by taking appropriate measures to avoid the bankruptcy of businesses;

Towards a future-proof EU tourism sector

29.  Stresses that the tourism sector is highly dependent on the transport sector, and that therefore improving the accessibility, sustainability and connectivity of all modes of transport, while maintaining the highest level of safety in all transport sectors (road, rail, aviation, maritime and inland waterways), would have a significant impact on enhancing the EU tourism sector; emphasises, in this regard, in the context of 2021 being the European Year of Rail and the need to reduce transport emissions, that the Commission should promote all sustainable alternative modes of travel;

30.  Highlights the need to foster sustainable modes of travel such as providing increased support to tourist cycling infrastructure and night trains; stresses the economic and environmental benefits that sustainable transport modes such as cycling can have for tourism, and calls on the Commission to promote and invest in cycling infrastructure to facilitate such tourism;

31.  Highlights the necessity for all Member States to have a network of developed, modern, safe and sustainable infrastructure, in order to facilitate travel across the EU and to make the peripheral Member States more accessible for intra-European and international tourism; calls therefore on the Commission to support the reinstatement of cross-border missing links, to carry out fitness checks on the existing infrastructure network, and to propose immediate additional measures for the least advanced areas and remote areas, which often have the least well-developed networks and need particular attention; notes that border regions throughout the EU make up 40 % of the EU’s territory and a third of its population; calls on the Commission to ensure that Member States have appropriate planning to complete the entire TEN-T core by 2030 and comprehensive networks by 2050, indicating the schedule and budgetary availability, and to focus particularly on cross-border sections, especially in Member States which are not progressing in these areas; points out that this includes the much-needed Single European Sky project, which, although it has been stalled at EU level for many years, would bring safety, efficiency and sustainability to European aviation at once;

32.  Calls on the Commission to explore the feasibility and potential benefits of a crisis-management mechanism (CMM) for the EU tourism sector, in order to respond adequately and swiftly not only to the current COVID-19 outbreak, but also in order to prepare for future challenges of a similar nature and magnitude; stresses the importance of including funding solutions for short-term financial shortages and also providing for medium- and long-term frameworks and strategies; calls on the Commission to issue guidelines based on best practice in the tourism sector in the event of large-scale crises such as the current pandemic, and to facilitate the development and coordination of adequate online platforms where stakeholders can exchange best practice and share information;

33.  Urges the Commission to propose a new European inclusive tourism scheme following the model of the Calypso initiative, enabling vulnerable social groups to use national tourist vouchers in associated establishments in other Member States which also offer a social tourism programme to their citizens; notes that many Member States are implementing such programmes with very good results and believes that it would be very positive to make these schemes interoperable at EU level;

34.  Points out the importance of a common EU approach on safeguarding the competitiveness of the sector by improving its communication strategy towards citizens; further emphasises the EU’s coordination role for the tourism sector, which should be improved by taking EU added value actions and further facilitating the exchange of best practice among Member States; calls for reductions in unjustified administrative and fiscal burdens, support for the creation of businesses, and the promotion of cross-border sales and services;

35.  Highlights the importance of international cooperation in the travel and tourism sector and encourages the EU institutions to continue to foster dialogue and cooperation with the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO);

36.  Considers that the emergence of new technologies and further digitalisation would considerably boost the attractiveness of the travel and tourism sector, and that user-friendly platforms and new business models would enhance the growth, competitiveness and prosperity of the sector; believes, therefore, that regular training and the reskilling of the existing workforce in the sector is of the utmost importance, with a specific focus on digital skills and innovative technologies;

37.  Invites the Commission to evaluate the possibility of establishing an online visa application process, while at the same time maintaining the strong protection of European borders, as a means of attracting an increased flow of international tourists to Europe; notes that the outbreak of COVID-19 has revealed the necessity of embracing innovation and of re-conceptualising the delivery of services, including those that allow for enhanced people-to-people contacts; invites the Commission, therefore, to examine the opportunities for remote, low-cost and time-efficient e-visa access to Europe’s tourist destinations for bona fide third-country nationals who require visas and whose biometric data would be collected in any event once the Entry-Exit System has become fully operational;

38.  Points out the importance of promoting sustainable tourism, contributing to job creation, to the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems and biodiversity, and to growth and competitiveness, by building on new business models; calls on the Commission to facilitate access to EU funding for tourism stakeholders, in particular small hospitality providers in all segments of the market, which must receive particular attention and support; affirms that such funding should support the shift towards more sustainable, innovative, resilient and high-quality tourism products and services, and further contribute to sustainability, out-of-season travel and the geographical dispersion of tourism flows; believes that support and coordination at Union level must be provided to improve tourism administration at national, regional and local level, inter alia by introducing tourism sustainability certification; stresses the importance of promoting a shift from overtourism to other forms of cultural and sustainable tourism which respect our environment and our cultural heritage;

39.  Highlights the importance of tourism for certain countries and geographical areas of the EU, where tourism-related services are often an important factor in securing employment and are one of the main sources of income for the local population; calls on the Commission to draw up tailor-made measures when restoring freedom of movement and transport links between the outermost regions and islands and the EU mainland; points out that specific connection lanes and additional financial and administrative support are of the utmost importance for these regions; stresses the importance of developing a coastal and maritime focus in the EU tourism strategy and initiatives, including financing opportunities and promotional and communication tools, as well as strengthening the functioning of relevant markets, by establishing custom-made policies in cooperation with destination stakeholders and authorities; recalls the importance of supporting family businesses which develop local or regional markets and promote local tourism, since they account for a significant proportion of European private-sector employment and constitute the natural incubators of an entrepreneurial culture;

40.  Recalls that cultural tourism accounts for 40 % of all European tourism and that 68 % of Europeans say that the presence of cultural heritage, which includes cultural routes, among them the Way of St James (‘Camino de Santiago’), which in 2021 will celebrate a Jubilee or Jacobean Year, has an influence on the choice of their holiday destination(2); calls on the Commission, therefore, to propose that the Member States set clear strategic and operational results-oriented objectives in the next Work Plan for Culture, and to improve the current strategic framework for culture; stresses that investments in cultural sites should be seen and treated as a resource to improve competitiveness and growth at local level, without forgetting their intrinsic value as part of our cultural heritage that needs to be protected, especially from climate change and overtourism; calls on the Commission to strengthen the financial sustainability of cultural sites funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and to encourage the development of funding schemes that build on private funds; calls furthermore for a budget increase for Discover EU, a programme that has the potential to considerably boost youth tourism; highlights the specific needs of the cultural institutions receiving public aid during this period of recovery, since they need to ensure visitor safety and sustain their economic model; asks the Commission to find alternative support mechanisms for the cultural workers who are heavily dependent on functional tourism;

41.  Highlights the benefits of rural and agro-ecotourism, and calls on the Commission to further promote and support initiatives which would generate additional income sources for rural areas, create job opportunities, prevent depopulation and increase the social benefits; stresses the role that the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) can play, especially the LEADER programme, in supporting local and rural tourism initiatives, and calls for this programme to be adequately funded for the 2021-2027 programming period; considers it necessary to reinforce agri-tourism in rural areas in order to diversify the sources of farmers’ revenues, particularly for smallholdings, and thereby prevent land abandonment and depopulation and support the rural economy; stresses, in this regard, the need to ring-fence a specific allocation for agri-tourism, which plays an essential role in the diversification of farmers’ revenues and in the development of rural areas;

42.  Points out the importance of health tourism, comprising medical, wellness and spa tourism; calls on the Commission to promote, when appropriate, European health prevention, balneology, sustainable and mountain medical tourism; highlights the need for further investment in improving the sustainable tourism infrastructure, and the importance of enhanced visibility for European resorts for spa and wellness tourism; calls on the Commission to make provision for further science-based funding opportunities, as medical tourism may help to reduce health costs through prevention measures and lower pharmaceutical consumption, and would further improve sustainability and labour quality;

43.  Underlines the importance of accessibility of travel and tourism services for the ageing population, as well as people with disabilities and people with functional limitations; calls on the Commission and the Member States to actively drive the ongoing development of the International Organisation for Standardisation’s standard on accessible tourism services and to ensure that it is swiftly and correctly implemented once adopted, and that service providers respect the relevant accessibility standards that are already in place or are in the process of being implemented; calls on the Commission, furthermore, to make efforts to facilitate the possible wider implementation and recognition of the EU Disability Card;

44.  Underlines the major role sport plays in tourism, recalling the important place of sporting events and activities in making Europe’s regions attractive to tourists; highlights the opportunities arising from travel by athletes and spectators to sports events, which can attract tourists to even the most remote areas; highlights the importance of Europe’s gastronomy, gastronomic routes and HORECA sector for the tourism industry and the economy as a whole; stresses that the above must therefore be integrated into the overall tourism strategy;

o
o   o

45.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the President of the Commission, the President of the European Council and the Presidency-in-Office of the Council.

(1) Article 195(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
(2) Special Eurobarometer 466 - Cultural Heritage, 12/2017.


Administrative cooperation in the field of taxation: deferring certain time limits due to the COVID-19 pandemic *
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European Parliament legislative resolution of 19 June 2020 on the proposal for a Council directive amending Directive 2011/16/EU to address the urgent need for deferring certain time limits for the filing and exchange of information in the field of taxation due to the COVID-19 pandemic (COM(2020)0197 – C9-0134/2020 – 2020/0081(CNS))
P9_TA(2020)0170

(Special legislative procedure – consultation)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to the Council (COM(2020)0197),

–  having regard to Articles 113 and 115 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Council consulted Parliament (C9-0134/2020),

–  having regard to Rules 82 and 163 of its Rules of Procedure,

1.  Approves the Commission proposal as amended;

2.  Calls on the Commission to alter its proposal accordingly, in accordance with Article 293(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union;

3.  Calls on the Council to notify Parliament if it intends to depart from the text approved by Parliament;

4.  Asks the Council to consult Parliament again if it intends to substantially amend the Commission proposal;

5.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the national parliaments.

Text proposed by the Commission   Amendment
Amendment 2
Proposal for a directive
Recital 5
(5)  In order to determine the length of the deferral, it is necessary to consider that this aims to address an exceptional situation and should not disrupt the established structure and functioning of Directive 2011/16/EU. Consequently, it would be appropriate to limit the deferral to a duration that is proportional to the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic for filing and exchanging information.
(5)  In order to determine the length of the deferral, it is necessary to consider that this aims to address an exceptional situation. It should not undermine the Union policy to combat tax evasion, tax avoidance and aggressive tax planning through the exchange of information between tax administrations and therefore should not disrupt the established structure and functioning of Directive 2011/16/EU. Consequently, it would be appropriate to limit the deferral to a duration that is proportional to the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic for filing and exchanging information.
Amendment 3
Proposal for a directive
Recital 6
(6)   Considering the current uncertainty about the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, it would also be useful to provide for the possibility of one further extension of the deferral period for the filing and exchange of information. This would be necessary if during part or all of the period of deferral, the exceptional circumstances of severe risks for public health caused by the COVID-19 pandemic persist and Member States have to either implement new or continue existing lockdown measures. Such extension should not disrupt the established structure and functioning of Council Directive 2011/16/EU. Rather, it should be of a limited and pre-determined duration in proportion to the practical difficulties caused by the temporary lockdown. The extension should not affect the essential elements of the obligation to report and exchange information under this Directive. It may merely extend the deferral of the time limit for complying with such obligations while ensure that no information remains without eventually being exchanged.
deleted
Amendment 4
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – point 2
Directive 2011/16/EU
Article 27b
Article 27b
deleted
Extension of the period of deferral
The Commission shall be empowered to adopt a delegated act, in accordance with Article 27c, in order to extend the period of deferral for filing and exchanging information, as provided for in paragraphs 12 and 18 of Article 8ab and in Article 27a, for a maximum of 3 additional months.
The Commission may only adopt the delegated act mentioned in the first subparagraph if during part or all of the period of deferral, the exceptional circumstances of severe risks for public health caused by the COVID-19 pandemic persist and Member States have to implement lockdown measures.
Amendment 5
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – point 2
Directive 2011/16/EU
Article 27c
Article 27c
Exercise of delegation
deleted
1.  The power to adopt the delegated act referred to in Article 27b shall be conferred on the Commission subject to the conditions laid down in this Article.
2.  The power to adopt the delegated act referred to in Article 27b shall be conferred on the Commission only for the period of deferral of the time limits for filing and exchanging information, as provided for in paragraphs 12 and 18 of Article 8ab and in Article 27a.
3.  The delegation of power referred to in Article 27b may be revoked at any time by the Council. A decision to revoke shall put an end to the delegation of the power specified in that decision. It shall take effect the day following the publication of the decision in the Official Journal of the European Union or at a later date specified therein. It shall not affect the validity of the delegated act if already in force.
4.  Before adopting the delegated act, the Commission shall consult experts designated by each Member State in accordance with the principles laid down in the Inter-institutional Agreement on better law making of 13 April 2016.
5.  As soon as it adopts the delegated act, the Commission shall notify it to the Council. The notification of the delegated act to the Council shall state the reasons for the use of the urgency procedure.
6.  The delegated act adopted pursuant to Article 27b shall enter into force without delay and shall apply as long as no objection is expressed by the Council. The Council may object to the delegated act within five working days of the notification of that act. In such a case, the Commission shall repeal the act immediately following the notification of the decision to object by the Council.
7.  The European Parliament shall be informed of the adoption of a delegated act by the Commission, of any objection formulated to it and of the revocation of a delegation of powers by the Council.

Exceptional temporary support under EAFRD in response to the COVID-19 outbreak (amendment of Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013) ***I
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Resolution
Text
European Parliament legislative resolution of 19 June 2020 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 as regards specific measures to provide exceptional temporary support under EAFRD in response to the COVID-19 outbreak (COM(2020)0186 – C9-0128/2020 – 2020/0075(COD))
P9_TA(2020)0171

(Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2020)0186),

–  having regard to Article 294(2) and Articles 42 and 43(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C9-0128/2020),

–  having regard to Article 294(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee(1),

–  having regard to the undertaking given by the Council representative by letter of 4 June 2020 to approve Parliament’s position, in accordance with Article 294(4) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Rules 59 and 163 of its Rules of Procedure,

1.  Adopts its position at first reading hereinafter set out;

2.  Calls on the Commission to refer the matter to Parliament again if it replaces, substantially amends or intends to substantially amend its proposal;

3.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the national parliaments.

Position of the European Parliament adopted at first reading on 19 June 2020 with a view to the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2020/… of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 as regards a specific measure to provide exceptional temporary support under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) in response to the COVID-19 outbreak

P9_TC1-COD(2020)0075


(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Regulation (EU) 2020/872.)

(1) Opinion of 11 June 2020.


European citizens' initiative: temporary measures concerning the time limits for the collection, verification and examination stages in view of the COVID-19 outbreak ***I
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Amendments adopted by the European Parliament on 19 June 2020 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down temporary measures concerning the time limits for the collection, verification and examination stages provided for in Regulation (EU) 2019/788 on the European citizens' initiative in view of the COVID-19 outbreak (COM(2020)0221 – C9-0142/2020 – 2020/0099(COD))(1)
P9_TA(2020)0172

(Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)

Text proposed by the Commission   Amendment
Amendment 6
Proposal for a regulation
Recital 1
(1)  On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization announced that the COVID-19 outbreak had become a worldwide pandemic. The Member States have been affected in a dramatic and exceptional way by the consequences of that pandemic. They have taken a series of restrictive measures to stop or slow down the transmission of COVID-19, including lockdown measures to restrict the free movement of their citizens, the prohibition of public events, and the closure of shops, restaurants and schools. Those measures have led to a near standstill of public life in almost all Member States.
(1)  On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization announced that the COVID-19 outbreak had become a worldwide pandemic. The Member States have been affected in a dramatic and exceptional way by the consequences of that pandemic. They have taken a series of restrictive measures to stop or slow down the transmission of COVID-19, including lockdown measures to restrict the free movement of their citizens, the prohibition of public events, and the closure of shops, restaurants and schools. Those measures have led to a standstill of public life in almost all Member States.
Amendment 7
Proposal for a regulation
Recital 6
(6)  Member States have indicated that they will only gradually reduce the level of restrictions introduced by the measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to monitor and control the public health situation. An extension of the period for the collection of statements of support by six months, covering the period starting from 11 March 2020, when the World Health Organization announced that the outbreak had become pandemic, is therefore appropriate. That extension is based on the assumption that at least in the first six months since 11 March 2020 a majority of Member States or a number of Member States representing more than 35 % of the Union population will have measures in place that will substantially hamper the organisers’ possibilities to carry out local campaigning and collect paper statements of support. The collection period of initiatives the collection of which was ongoing on 11 March 2020 should therefore be extended by six months. Where the collection period of an initiative started after 11 March, that period should be extended proportionately.
(6)  Member States have indicated that they will only gradually reduce the level of restrictions introduced by the measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to monitor and control the public health situation. An extension of the period for the collection of statements of support by six months, covering the period starting from 11 March 2020, when the World Health Organization announced that the outbreak had become pandemic, is therefore appropriate. That extension is based on the assumption that at least in the first six months since 11 March 2020 at least a quarter of Member States or a number of Member States representing more than 35 % of the Union population will have measures in place that will substantially hamper the organisers’ possibilities to carry out local campaigning and collect paper statements of support. The collection period of initiatives the collection of which was ongoing on 11 March 2020 should therefore be extended by six months. Where the collection period of an initiative started after 11 March, that period should be extended proportionately.
Amendment 8
Proposal for a regulation
Recital 7
(7)  Given that the end of the pandemic in the Union is difficult to predict, it is appropriate to empower the Commission to adopt implementing acts to further prolong the collection period in respect of initiatives, for which the collection period is still ongoing on 11 September 2020 in cases where the exceptional circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic continue to exist. The six-month extension of the collection period provided for by this Regulation should allow the Commission sufficient time to decide whether a further prolongation of the collection period is justified. The empowerment should also allow the Commission to adopt implementing acts to prolong the collection period in the case of a new public health crisis linked to a new outbreak of COVID-19, if a majority of Member States or a number of Member States representing more than 35 % of the Union population have taken measures that are likely to have the same effect.
(7)  Given that the end of the pandemic in the Union is difficult to predict, it is appropriate to empower the Commission to adopt implementing acts to further prolong the collection period in respect of initiatives, for which the collection period is still ongoing on 11 September 2020 in cases where the exceptional circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic continue to exist. The six-month extension of the collection period provided for by this Regulation should allow the Commission sufficient time to decide whether a further prolongation of the collection period is justified. The empowerment should also allow the Commission to adopt implementing acts to prolong the collection period in the case of a new public health crisis linked to a new outbreak of COVID-19, provided that at least a quarter of Member States or a number of Member States representing more than 35 % of the Union population have taken measures that are likely to have the same effect.
Amendment 9
Proposal for a regulation
Article 2 - paragraph 1 - subparagraph 2 a (new)
The Commission shall inform the organisers and the Member States of the extension granted in respect of each initiative concerned and publish its decision in the online register referred to in Article 4(3) of Regulation (EU) 2019/788. It shall also publish the list of all such initiatives and the new collection period for each initiative in the Official Journal of the European Union.
Amendment 10
Proposal for a regulation
Article 2 - paragraph 2 - subparagraph 1
(2)  The Commission may adopt implementing acts to prolong the maximum collection periods of initiatives referred to in paragraph 1, if a majority of Member States or a number of Member States representing more than 35% of the Union population continue to apply after 11 September 2020 measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic which substantially hamper the possibility for organisers to collect paper statements of support and to inform the public of their ongoing initiatives.
(2)  The Commission may adopt implementing acts to prolong the maximum collection periods of initiatives referred to in paragraph 1, where at least a quarter of Member States or a number of Member States representing more than 35% of the Union population continue to apply after 11 September 2020 measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic which substantially hamper the possibility for organisers to collect paper statements of support and to inform the public of their ongoing initiatives.
Amendment 11
Proposal for a regulation
Article 2 - paragraph 2 - subparagraph 2
The Commission may adopt implementing acts to prolong the maximum collection period of initiatives for which the collection is ongoing at the moment of a new COVID-19 outbreak requiring a majority of Member States or a number of Member States representing more than 35 % of the Union population to apply measures that affect organisers of those initiatives to the same extent.
The Commission may adopt implementing acts to prolong the maximum collection period of initiatives for which the collection is ongoing at the moment of a new COVID-19 outbreak where at least a quarter of Member States or a number of Member States representing more than 35 % of the Union population apply measures that affect organisers of those initiatives to the same extent.
Amendment 12
Proposal for a regulation
Article 2 - paragraph 2 - subparagraph 3
Those implementing acts shall be adopted in accordance with the advisory procedure referred to in Article 6(2) and shall identify which initiatives are concerned and the new end date of their collection period.
The implementing acts referred to in the first and second subparagraphs shall identify the initiatives in respect of which the collection period is prolonged along with the new end date of their collection period and the results of the assessment referred to in the fifth subparagraph.
The implementing acts referred to in this paragraph shall be adopted in accordance with the advisory procedure referred to in Article 6(2).
Amendment 13
Proposal for a regulation
Article 2 - paragraph 2 - subparagraph 5
For the purpose of assessing whether the requirement in the first and second subparagraph is fulfilled, the Member States shall provide the Commission, upon request, with information on the measures that they have taken or intend to take in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Member States shall provide the Commission, upon request, with information on the measures that they have taken or intend to take in response to the COVID-19 pandemic or in response to a new COVID-19 outbreak.
For the purpose of assessing whether the requirements in the first and second subparagraphs are fulfilled, the Commission shall adopt implementing acts laying down the detailed criteria for such assessment.
Amendment 14
Proposal for a regulation
Article 4 - paragraph 1
(1)  Notwithstanding Articles 14(2) and 15(1) of Regulation (EU) 2019/788, where the European Parliament or the Commission have encountered difficulties since 11 March 2020 in organising a public hearing or a meeting with organisers, respectively, because of the measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic by the Member State where those institutions intend to organise the hearing or meeting, they shall organise the hearing or the meeting as soon as the public health situation in the Member State concerned makes it possible to do so.
(1)  Notwithstanding Articles 14(2) and 15(1) of Regulation (EU) 2019/788, where the European Parliament or the Commission have encountered difficulties since 11 March 2020 in organising a public hearing or a meeting with organisers, respectively, because of the measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic by the Member State where those institutions intend to organise the hearing or meeting, they shall organise the hearing or the meeting as soon as the public health situation in the Member State concerned makes it possible to do so, or, in the event that the organisers agree to participate remotely in the hearing or meeting, as soon as they are able to agree with the institutions on a date for it.

(1) The matter was referred back for interinstitutional negotiations to the committee responsible, pursuant to Rule 59(4), fourth subparagraph.


The Anti-racism protests following the death of George Floyd
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European Parliament resolution of 19 June 2020 on the anti-racism protests following the death of George Floyd (2020/2685(RSP))
P9_TA(2020)0173B9-0196/2020

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Treaty on European Union (TEU), and, in particular, the second and the fourth to seventh indents of the preamble, Article 2, the second subparagraph of Article 3(3) and Article 6 thereof,

–  having regard to Articles 10 and 19 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, in particular Articles 2, 3, 4, 5 and 21 thereof,

–  having regard to Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin(1),

–  having regard to Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law(2),

–  having regard to Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA(3),

–  having regard to the Fundamental Rights Report 2020 by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), to the Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS II) published in December 2017 by the FRA, to the FRA surveys ‘Being black in the EU’ published on 23 November 2018 and 15 November 2019 respectively, and to the FRA’s report on experiences of racial discrimination and racist violence among people of African descent in the EU,

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 January 2019 on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union in 2017(4),

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on racism and hatred against minorities in the world,

–  having regard to its resolution of 26 March 2019 on fundamental rights of people of African descent in Europe(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 February 2019 on the right to peaceful protest and the proportionate use of force(6),

–  having regard to the establishment in June 2016 of the EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance,

–  having regard to the general policy recommendations of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI),

–  having regard to the video press conference with the Vice‑President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of 2 June 2020 following George Floyd’s death,

–  having regard to its exchange of views of 5 June 2020 on the case of George Floyd in its Subcommittee on Human Rights,

–  having regard to the FRA’s publication of 5 December 2018 entitled ‘Preventing unlawful profiling today and in the future: a guide’,

–  having regard to Protocol No 12 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms prohibiting discrimination,

–  having regard to the recommendation of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers of 19 September 2001 on the European Code of Police Ethics,

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

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

–  having regard to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) General Recommendations,

–  having regard to the statement of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet of 28 May 2020 condemning the killing of George Floyd,

–  having regard to the statement on the protests against systemic racism in the United States of 5 June 2020 by the independent experts of the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council,

–  having regard to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action of 2002 and its follow-up, and the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,

–  having regard to the International Decade for People of African Descent,

–  having regard to the US Constitution,

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

A.  whereas on 25 May 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed African American man, was arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit bill and was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes 46 seconds; whereas George Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe;

B.  whereas George Floyd’s death, added to the list of other examples of the use of excessive force and killings by police officers, has sparked massive demonstrations and protests against racism and police brutality all over the US, as well as around the globe;

C.  whereas following the massive protests, police officer Derek Chauvin’s initial charge of third degree murder without intention to kill was replaced by a charge of second degree murder and manslaughter, charges which carry a combined maximum sentence of 35 years; whereas three other police officers involved in the arrest of George Floyd were fired and face charges of aiding and abetting;

D.  whereas the violence and destruction of property will not solve the problem of entrenched discrimination and has to be strongly denounced; whereas the protestors must express their demands for justice peacefully and the police and other security forces must refrain from further escalating the current tense situation through use of excessive force;

E.  whereas the protests following the death of George Floyd are preceded by a long history of protests against police brutality and racism in the US; whereas in the US, black people and people of colour constitute up to 40 % of the incarcerated population, while they represent 13 % of the total population; whereas the rate of mortality in police custody in the US is six times higher for black people than for white people and is three times higher for Hispanic people(7), as is the use of excessive or lethal force, which has disproportionately affected people of colour;

F.  whereas some individual violent incidents occurred during the protests, including in Minneapolis;

G.  whereas President Trump deployed the National Guard;

H.  whereas the reaction and the inflammatory rhetoric used by the US President, including his threats to deploy the US army if the ongoing protests did not stop, only served to strengthen the protests;

I.  whereas a CNN reporter, Omar Jimenez, and his colleagues were arrested while covering the Minneapolis protest and were later released following confirmation that they were members of the media; whereas a large number of journalists were kept from freely reporting about the demonstrations, despite visibly displaying their media credentials, and dozens were attacked by police forces, some of whom sustained serious injuries;

J.  whereas the EU is committed to respecting freedom of expression and information, as well as freedom of assembly and association; whereas according to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) all restrictions of fundamental rights must respect the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality;

K.  whereas the exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary, as prescribed by Article 10 of the ECHR;

L.  whereas in accordance with Article 4(2) of the Treaty on European Union, the EU ‘shall respect [the Member States’] essential state functions, including ensuring the territorial integrity of the state, maintaining law and order and safeguarding national security’; whereas ‘in particular, national security remains the sole responsibility of each Member State’;

M.  whereas following the death of George Floyd and the protests in the US, thousands of people marched in European cities and other cities around the world in support of the US protests and to protest against racism with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement; whereas the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is not new;

N.  whereas in some EU Member States the protests strengthened the movement against racism that targets black people and people of colour, and also led to the recollection of Europe’s colonial past and its role in the transatlantic slave trade; whereas these injustices and crimes against humanity should be recognised at EU and national level, and be addressed at institutional level and within education;

O.  whereas some in the international community firmly rejected the excessive use of force, condemned violence and racism of any kind, and called for all such incidents to be addressed swiftly, effectively and in full respect of the rule of law and human rights; whereas the leaders of the EU institutions should publicly and without reservation condemn the racism and police brutality that lead to the death of George Floyd and others;

P.  whereas democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights are key principles enshrined in EU law; whereas these shared principles and values should unite us in fighting injustice, racism and discrimination in all forms;

Q.  whereas the right to equal treatment and non-discrimination is a fundamental right enshrined in the Treaties and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and should be fully respected;

R.  whereas Article 21(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights states that any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited;

S.  whereas the EU’s motto ‘United in Diversity’ encompasses not only nationality, but also all the above-mentioned grounds;

T.  whereas racism is an issue of concern around the globe, and whereas racist and xenophobic attitudes persist everywhere in the world;

U.  whereas structural racism is also mirrored in socio-economic inequality and poverty, and these factors interact and reinforce each other; whereas this is particularly visible in the labour market, where the most precarious workers are people of colour, but also in housing and in education; whereas actions for equality and against structural racism must go hand in hand and be addressed systematically;

V.  whereas according to the FRA, racial discrimination and harassment remain commonplace throughout the European Union(8); whereas racial and ethnic minorities are subject to harassment, violence and hate speech, both online and offline; whereas racial and ethnic minorities face structural discrimination in the EU in all areas, including housing, healthcare, employment and education;

W.  whereas the FRA survey reported that the racialised groups that are most affected by racism and discrimination in Europe based on ethnic or immigrant background are Roma, individuals from North Africa and sub-Saharan Africans(9); whereas FRA surveys also report high levels of discrimination and racism against Muslims(10) and Jewish(11) people;

X.  whereas racist and xenophobic attitudes are embraced by certain opinion leaders and politicians across the EU, fostering a social climate that provides fertile ground for racism, discrimination and hate crimes; whereas this climate is further fuelled by populist and extremist movements which try to divide our societies; whereas these acts run counter to the common European values which all the Member States have undertaken to uphold;

Y.  whereas the work of police and law enforcement forces aims to defend the security of people in the EU and protect them against crime, terrorism and illegal activities or actions, and to apply the law, sometimes in difficult circumstances; whereas police officers often put their lives at risk for the purpose of protecting others;

Z.  whereas racism, discrimination and the excessive and lethal use of force by the police also exists within the EU; whereas law enforcement authorities in several Member States have been criticised for using excessive force; whereas when a person is confronted by the police or other agents of the State, recourse to physical force which has not been made strictly necessary by the person’s own conduct diminishes human dignity and is in principle an infringement of the right set out in Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)(12); whereas the disproportionate use of force should be strongly condemned;

AA.  whereas the FRA has reported that black people and people of colour in the EU experience racial and discriminatory profiling; whereas one quarter of all persons of African descent surveyed by the FRA had been stopped by the police in the five years before the survey and, of these, 41 % characterised the most recent stop as racial profiling(13);

AB.  whereas a majority (63 %) of victims of racist physical attacks by police did not report the incident either because they felt reporting would not change anything (34 %) or because they do not trust or are afraid of the police (28 %)(14); whereas there is a need to ensure the protection of and access to justice for victims of police violence;

AC.  whereas the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) annual hate crimes report has found that black people and people of colour are often targets of racist violence, yet in many countries there is a lack of legal assistance and financial support for victims recovering from violent attacks;

AD.  whereas the EU institutions need to take concrete steps to address structural racism, discrimination and the underrepresentation of racial and ethnic minority groups within its structures;

AE.  whereas the fight against racism and discrimination in our societies needs to be stepped up and is a shared responsibility; whereas the European Union needs to urgently reflect on and commit to tackling the structural racism and discrimination faced by many minority groups;

1.  Affirms that Black Lives Matter;

2.  Strongly condemns the appalling death of George Floyd in the US, as well as similar killings elsewhere in the world; expresses its condolences to his relatives and friends, and those of other victims; urges the authorities to investigate this and similar cases thoroughly and bring those responsible to justice;

3.  Strongly condemns all forms of racism, hate and violence, as well as any physical or verbal attacks targeting people of a particular racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, and nationality, in both the public and private spheres; recalls that there is no place for racism and discrimination in our societies; asks that the Commission, the European Council and the Council take a strong and decisive stand against racism, violence and injustice in Europe;

4.  Calls on the Government and authorities of the United States to take decisive steps to address the structural racism and inequalities in the country, as reflected in police brutality; condemns the police crackdowns on peaceful US protesters and journalists, and strongly regrets the US President’s threat to deploy the US Army;

5.  Supports the recent massive protests in European capitals and cities all around the world against racism and discrimination following the death of George Floyd; highlights the protesters’ call to take a stand against oppression and structural racism in Europe; expresses solidarity, respect and support for the peaceful protests, and believes that our societies need to put an end to structural racism and inequalities; recalls the right to peaceful protest of each individual as enshrined in international treaties; condemns the individual violent incidents that occurred;

6.  Condemns white supremacism in all its forms, including the use of slogans that aim to undermine or detract from the Black Lives Matter movement and dilute its significance;

7.  Condemns the episodes of looting, arson, vandalism and destruction of public and private property caused by some violent demonstrators; denounces the extremist and anti-democratic forces which purposely misuse the peaceful protests to aggravate the conflicts with the intention of spreading disorder and anarchy;

8.  Calls on all leaders and citizens to refrain from backsliding in values, and to reinforce the promotion of human rights, democracy, equality before the law and a free and independent media; condemns statements and actions by leaders that risk undermining these values and enlarging divisions within our societies; notes that these values are common to the foundations of both the EU and the US, and to our transatlantic cooperation; underlines the importance of closer interparliamentary cooperation through the Transatlantic Legislators’ Dialogue, in order to exchange views and best practices during their upcoming meeting, and identify legal means of combating structural racism and protecting human rights;

9.  Calls for closer multilateral cooperation to combat racism and discrimination; calls on the Commission to liaise closely with international actors such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the UN, the African Union and the Council of Europe, as well as other international partners, in order to combat racism at an international level; welcomes the request of 54 African countries for an urgent debate at the UN Human Rights Council to be held on 17 June 2020 on the ‘current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and the violence against peaceful protests’;

10.  Calls for the EU institutions, bodies and agencies and the Member States to strongly and publicly denounce the disproportionate use of force and racist tendencies in law enforcement whenever it occurs, in the EU, in the US and around the world;

11.  Considers that the fight against racism is a horizontal issue and that it should be taken into account in all areas of Union policy; recalls that all citizens should be entitled to protection from these inequities, both as individuals and as a group, including positive measures for the promotion and the full and equal enjoyment of their rights;

12.  Recalls the adoption on 26 March 2019 of its resolution on the fundamental rights of people with African descent, and calls urgently for the EU and the Member States to implement it;

13.  Is deeply concerned about the reported cases of right-wing extremism in security forces that have been brought to light in recent years in the EU(15);

14.  Calls for the EU institutions and the Member States to officially acknowledge past injustices and crimes against humanity committed against black people, people of colour and Roma; declares slavery a crime against humanity and calls for 2 December to be designated the European Day commemorating the Abolition of the Slave Trade; encourages the Member States to make the history of black people, people of colour and Roma part of their school curricula;

15.  Reiterates the crucial role of education in deconstructing prejudices and stereotypes, promoting tolerance, understanding and diversity, and highlights that education is a key tool to end structural discrimination and racism in our societies;

16.  Calls on the Member States to denounce and refrain from racist and Afrophobic traditions, such as the black face practice;

17.  Invites the EU leaders to organise a European Anti-Racism Summit on combating structural discrimination in Europe in the near future; urges the Commission to come forward with a comprehensive strategy against racism and discrimination and an EU framework for national action plans against racism with a dedicated component on fighting against these phenomena in the law enforcement services, while taking an intersectional approach; urges the Council to set up a dedicated Council configuration for equality; calls for the EU institutions to establish an interinstitutional task force to fight racism and discrimination at EU level;

18.  Calls on the Member States to promote anti-discrimination policies in all areas and to develop national action plans against racism that address areas such as education, housing, health, employment, policing, social services, the justice system and political participation and representation, in close cooperation with civil society and the communities concerned;

19.  Requests that all anti-discrimination policies have an intersectional and gender approach in order to tackle multiple discrimination;

20.  Urges the Member States to step up measures to increase diversity within police forces and to establish frameworks for dialogue and cooperation between police and communities;

21.  Urgently calls for the combating of discrimination on all grounds in the EU and calls, therefore, for the Council to immediately unblock and conclude the negotiations on the Horizontal Directive on non-discrimination that has been blocked since the Commission proposed it in 2008;

22.  Condemns all types of incidents of hate crime and hate speech, both offline and online, that occur in the EU on a daily basis, and recalls that racist and xenophobic speech is not covered by the freedom of expression;

23.  Insists that the Member States implement and properly enforce Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law, notably by investigating the bias motive for crimes based on race, national or ethnic origin, and by ensuring that racist hate crimes are recorded, investigated, prosecuted and sanctioned; further calls on the Commission to review and revise, where appropriate, the Framework Decision and its implementation, and to take action against Member States that do not fully implement it;

24.  Reminds Member States that independent police complaints mechanisms should be established to lead investigations into cases of police misconduct and abuse; underlines that democratic policing requires that the police be accountable for their actions before the law, the public authorities and the entire public they serve; believes that the key requirement for accountability is the maintenance of effective and efficient oversight instruments;

25.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to take steps towards the collection of further data disaggregated by race and ethnic origin (as defined by the EU Racial Equality Directive) that are voluntary and anonymous; considers that, if data on ethnic discrimination and hate crime were to be collected, this should be for the sole purpose of identifying the roots of and to combat racism and discriminatory discourse and acts, in accordance with the relevant national legal frameworks and EU data protection legislation;

26.  Notes that the Commission will come forward with the first of its annual Rule of Law reports, with a limited scope; reiterates the European Parliament’s calls for a comprehensive mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights, which should include monitoring of the state of affairs regarding racism and discrimination in all EU Member States;

27.  Condemns racial and ethnic profiling used by police and law enforcement authorities, and considers that police and law enforcement forces must have an exemplary record on anti-racism and anti-discrimination; calls for the EU and the Member States to develop policies and measures to tackle discrimination and to end racial or ethnic profiling in all forms in criminal law enforcement, counter-terrorism measures and immigration controls; stresses, in particular, that the new technologies to be used by law enforcement authorities must be designed and used in such a way that they do not create risks of discrimination for racial and ethnic minorities; proposes action to strengthen the training of members of police and law enforcement forces on strategies to fight against racism and discrimination, and to prevent, identify and respond to racial profiling; calls on the Member States not to leave cases of police brutality and abuses unpunished, and to properly investigate, prosecute and sanction them;

28.  Condemns the use of violent and disproportionate interventions by State authorities; encourages the relevant authorities to ensure transparent, impartial, independent and effective investigation when the use of disproportionate force is suspected or has been alleged; recalls that law enforcement agencies must always be held accountable for the fulfilment of their duties and their compliance with the relevant legal and operational frameworks, in particular the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials;

29.  Calls on the Member States to ensure that the use of force by law enforcement authorities is always lawful, proportionate, necessary and the last resort, and that it preserves human life and physical integrity; notes that the excessive use of force against crowds contravenes the principle of proportionality;

30.  Recalls the right of citizens to record scenes of police violence that can be used as evidence and that people should never be threatened by the police or the responsible authority when recording nor obliged to destroy evidence or be deprived of their goods in order to prevent them from giving testimony;

31.  Asks the Commission to create an independent expert group tasked with developing an EU Code of Police Ethics that provides a set of principles and guidelines for the objectives, performance, oversight and control of the police in democratic societies governed by the rule of law, which can also help police actors in their daily work to properly enforce the prohibition on racism, discrimination and ethnic profiling;

32.  Emphasises that a free press is a fundamental pillar of any democracy; notes the important role of journalists and photojournalists in reporting cases of disproportionate violence, and condemns all instances in which they have been deliberately targeted;

33.  Calls on the relevant EU agencies, including the FRA, the European Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL) and the European Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (EUROPOL), within their respective mandates, to step up their efforts in combating racism and discrimination;

34.  Calls for a serious funding commitment in the next MFF to fight racism and discrimination across the EU; deplores the fact that the proposed amount for the heading ‘Justice, Rights and Values’ was decreased significantly in the revised multiannual financial framework proposals of the Commission; calls on the Commission to effectively respond to the concern about the increasingly shrinking space for independent civil society in some Member States; recalls the importance of ensuring adequate funding to support activities of civil society actors working on anti-racism and discriminations;;

35.  Stresses that entities that engage in discriminatory activities against racialised communities, or take decisions or implement measures to this effect, should not be eligible for funding through the Union’s budget;

36.  Condemns the fact that extremist and xenophobic political forces worldwide are increasingly resorting to the distortion of historical, statistical and scientific facts and employ symbolism and rhetoric that echo aspects of totalitarian propaganda, including racism, anti-Semitism and hatred towards minorities;

37.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative for the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the United Nations, US President Donald Trump and his administration, and the US Congress.

(1) OJ L 180, 19.7.2000, p. 22.
(2) OJ L 328, 6.12.2008, p. 55.
(3) OJ L 315, 14.11.2012, p. 57.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0032.
(5) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0239.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0127.
(7) https://www.ncbi.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5559881/
(8) https://fra.europa.eu/en/news/2019/rising-inequalities-and-harassment-fundamental-rights-protection-falters
(9) https://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2017/second-european-union-minorities-and-discrimination-survey-main-results/
(10) https://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2017/second-european-union-minorities-and-discrimination-survey-muslims-selected
(11) https://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2018/experiences-and-perceptions-antisemitism-second-survey-discrimination-and-hate
(12) Judgment of the ECtHR of 17 April 2012, Case Rizvanov v. Azerbaijan, paragraph 49.
(13) FRA, Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey: Being black in the EU, https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/c046fe4f-388-11e8-9982-01aa75ed71a1/language-en
(14) FRA, Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey: Being black in the EU, https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/c046fe4f-f388-11e8-9982-01aa75ed71a1/language-en
(15) https://www.dw.com/en/germany-over-500-right-wing-extremists-suspected-in-bundeswehr/a-52152558


The PRC national security law for Hong Kong and the need for the EU to defend Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy
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European Parliament resolution of 19 June 2020 on the PRC national security law for Hong Kong and the need for the EU to defend Kong Kong’s high degree of autonomy (2020/2665(RSP))
P9_TA(2020)0174RC-B9-0169/2020

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its resolution of 18 July 2019 on the situation in Hong Kong(1), to its resolutions of 24 November 2016 on the case of Gui Minhai, jailed publisher in China(2), of 4 February 2016 on the case of the missing book publishers in Hong Kong(3), and to its previous recommendations relating to Hong Kong, in particular the recommendation of 13 December 2017 on Hong Kong, 20 years after handover(4),

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on China, in particular those of 12 September 2018(5) and of 16 December 2015(6) on EU-China relations,

–  having regard to the adoption on 28 May 2020 of the Chinese National People’s Congress’ resolution on the National Security Law for Hong Kong,

–  having regard to the declarations on Hong Kong by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR), on behalf of the European Union, of 22 and 29 May 2020,

–  having regard to the joint statement of the 21st EU-China summit of 9 April 2019,

–  having regard to the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) adopted on 4 April 1990, which entered into force on 1 July 1997,

–  having regard to the joint communication from the Commission and the VP/HR of 22 June 2016 on elements for a new EU strategy on China (JOIN(2016)0030), the joint communication from the Commission and the VP/HR of 12 March 2019 entitled ‘EU-China – A strategic outlook’ (JOIN(2019)0005), and the Council conclusions of 18 July 2016 on the EU Strategy on China,

–  having regard to the joint reports of the Commission and the VP/HR of 8 May 2019 (JOIN(2019)008), 26 April 2017 (JOIN(2016)0016) and 25 April 2016 (JOIN(2016)0010) on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region – Annual Report, and the other 20 similar reports preceding it,

–  having regard to the 13th annual Structured Dialogue that took place in Hong Kong on 28 November 2019, and the 37th EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, held in Brussels on 1 and 2 April 2019,

–  having regard to the Joint Declaration of the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Question of Hong Kong of 19 December 1984, also known as the Sino-British Joint Declaration,

–  having regard to the EU’s ‘One China’ policy,

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

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 16 December 1966,

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

A.  whereas the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration guaranteed, and the 1990 Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) stipulates that Hong Kong will maintain the autonomy and independence of the executive, legislature and judiciary as well as basic rights and freedoms, including freedom of speech, of assembly, of association and of press for 50 years after the handover of sovereignty; whereas the Basic Law of the HKSAR lays down provisions guaranteeing its autonomy in maintaining security and order, and to enact legislation on any act of treason, secession, sedition or subversion against the Central People’s Government; whereas both the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law enshrine the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle’ as agreed between China and the United Kingdom; whereas the PRC has also signed and ratified international agreements guaranteeing these rights and has thus acknowledged the significance and universality of human rights; whereas Hong Kong is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);

B.  whereas the EU advocates the promotion of and respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law as core values guiding our long-standing relationship with the People’s Republic of China, in line with the EU’s commitment to uphold these values in its external action; whereas the EU remains a strong supporter of the continued stability and prosperity of Hong Kong under the ‘One Country Two Systems’ principle and attaches great importance to the preservation of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, in line with the Basic Law and with international commitments, as well as to the respect for this principle; whereas in particular since the Occupy Protest, the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle is being eroded through the interference of Chinese authorities, political leaders have been imprisoned, free speech has been eroded, enforced disappearances have increased, and bookshops and media outlets have been bought by owners friendly to Beijing;

C.  whereas the Chinese National People’s Congress (NPC) adopted a resolution on 28 May 2020 authorising the NPC Standing Committee to adopt legislation targeting separatism, subversion of state power, terrorism and foreign interference in Hong Kong, and mentions other measures to be taken, including national security education, the establishment of national security organs of the Central People’s Government (CPG) in Hong Kong, and regular reporting by the Chief Executive to the CPG on Hong Kong’s performance in fulfilling its duty to safeguard national security;

D.  whereas the international community sees this decision as a threat to the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle, believes that it ignores the provisions of the Basic Law and the Joint Sino-British Declaration, goes against Hong Kong’s commitments on human rights, entirely bypasses Hong Kong’s own legislative process, and constitutes the latest and most blatant of Beijing’s continuing attempts ongoing for years to curb the freedom and autonomy of Hong Kong and its citizens’ civil liberties;

E.  whereas over recent years, the people of Hong Kong have taken to the streets in unprecedented numbers, exercising their fundamental right to assemble and to protest; whereas instead of reducing the ongoing tensions in Hong Kong’s politics and society, this law further intensifies existing unrest; whereas, in February 2019, the HKSAR administration proposed the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance against massive opposition from Hong Kong citizens, sparking the massive protests in Hong Kong in 2019 and 2020, but was later withdrawn after 20 weeks of protests;

F.  whereas during April and May 2020 Beijing redoubled its efforts to impose its rule on Hong Kong while silencing, arresting and prosecuting hundreds of pro-democracy activists and opposition groups; whereas Hong Kong police have enjoyed impunity for all its brutality against demonstrators in 2019 and 2020; whereas more than 360 Hong Kong pro-democracy activists were arrested on 27 May 2020 amid demonstrations against the Chinese anti-sedition law; whereas the Hong Kong police used social distancing measures related to COVID-19 as a pretext to use unnecessary and excessive force against the peaceful vast majority, including tear gas, rubber bullets, beanbags and pepper spray;

G.  whereas on 20 April 2020 Members of the European Parliament urged the Chief Executive to ensure that charges against 15 pro-democracy activists who participated in peaceful protests in Hong Kong in 2019 are dropped; whereas on 13 May 2020 United Nations human rights experts urged the authorities of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to immediately drop the criminal prosecution of the 15 pro-democracy activists;

H.  whereas under the proposed national security plan, activist groups could be banned and prosecuted, Courts could impose long jail sentences for national security violations, China’s security agencies could operate openly in the city, and a new ban on terrorism will give to the Chinese authorities, security and military forces ample and unchecked discretion to operate in Hong Kong; whereas mainland China’s enforcement agencies have reportedly already been operating in Hong Kong illegally; whereas any operation of PRC law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong is a serious violation of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle;

I.  whereas Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam defended the legislation proposed by Beijing admitting that no public consultation will take place in Hong Kong on the security plan, while also claiming that rights and freedoms are not absolute; whereas in a letter published in newspapers on 29 May 2020 the Chief Executive appealed to Hong Kong citizens for their full understanding and staunch support for the Decision passed by the NPC;

J.  whereas the PRC State Council issued a white paper on the practice of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ policy in Hong Kong on 10 June 2014, stressing that the autonomy of the HKSAR is ultimately subject to central PRC Government authorisation; whereas the Chinese Government has encouraged the HKSAR Government to adopt a new zero-tolerance policy towards any mention of ‘self-determination’ or ‘independence’ on grounds of national security and in contravention of the Basic law;

K.  whereas mainland China’s judiciary lacks independence from the government and the Chinese Communist Party and is characterised by arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, serious violations of the right to a fair trial, enforced disappearances and various systems of incommunicado detention without trial;

L.  whereas a cross-party international coalition led by the former Governor of Hong Kong, Lord Patten, which has so far been joined by around 900 parliamentarians and policymakers from more than 40 countries, issued a statement decrying Beijing’s ‘unilateral introduction of national security legislation in Hong Kong,’ and calling for sympathetic governments to unite against this ‘flagrant breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration’;

M.  whereas the Pan-Democracy Camp won an overwhelming victory in the Hong Kong district elections of 24 November 2019; whereas the Hong Kong Legislative Council elections are scheduled for September 2020;

N.  whereas UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stated on 2 June 2020 in the House of Commons that if China follows through with its proposed legislation, the government will put in place new arrangements to allow British National Overseas passport holders in Hong Kong to come to the United Kingdom without the current six month limit, enabling them to live and apply to study and work for extendable periods of 12 months, thereby also providing a pathway to citizenship;

O.  whereas according to Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU): ‘the Union’s action on the international scene shall be guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation, development and enlargement, and which it seeks to advance in the wider world’;

1.  Deplores the unilateral introduction of national security legislation by Beijing in Hong Kong, as this is a comprehensive assault on the city’s autonomy, rule of law, and fundamental freedoms; stresses that the integrity of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is seriously threatened; stresses that the introduction of the planned national security legislation would be seen as a breach of the People’s Republic of China’s commitments and obligations under international law, in particular the Sino-British Joint Declaration, threatens to severely damage the relationship of trust between China and the EU, and affect future cooperation, as well as business confidence in Hong Kong as a major global financial centre;

2.  Strongly condemns the constant and increasing interference by China in Hong Kong’s internal affairs, as well the recent assertion by China that the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 is a historic document, and hence no longer valid; stresses that the Chinese Government is bound by the Joint Declaration, which was registered with the UN as a legally binding treaty, to uphold Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and its rights and freedoms; expresses deep concern that a permanent infringement of Hong Kong’s autonomous governing framework will severely dampen its economy; calls upon the PRC Central Government to desist from pressuring the business community into supporting the National Security legislation, and to refrain from labelling international support for Hong Kong’s autonomy and Hong Kong’s freedoms as ‘interference in internal affairs’ and acts of subversion and separation, as these concerns address binding international obligations of the PRC;

3.  Calls on the Chinese authorities to respect China’s international obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration; stresses that China should fully respect the Basic Law and the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle, including by finally implementing universal suffrage; underlines that China should not undermine the high degree of autonomy of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region;

4.  Supports the VP/HR’s assessment that a new and more robust strategy to deal with a more assertive China is necessary, as well as an open and honest dialogue; urges the Council and the EEAS to adopt a stronger position supporting Hong Kong’s continued legal autonomy; stresses that this is paramount to let pro-democracy supporters in Hong Kong and the wider international community know that the EU will stand by its founding values of freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law;

5.  Strongly urges the Council and the VP/HR to ensure that all aspects of EU relations with the People’s Republic of China are guided by principles and values stipulated in Article 21 of the TEU, and to address the issue of the national security law for Hong Kong as a top priority on the agenda of the upcoming EU-China Summit and at the planned EU-China Leaders meeting, as well as other human rights issues, such as the situation of the Uyghurs;

6.  Stresses that the EU is China’s largest export destination; believes that the EU should use its economic leverage to challenge China’s crackdown on human rights by economic means; underlines that the current situation reinforces Parliament’s conviction that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms must be an important element in the negotiations of an EU-China investment agreement; calls on the Commission to make use of all means at its disposal, together with the ongoing negotiations for a bilateral investment agreement, to put pressure on the Chinese authorities to preserve Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy as well as the basic rights and freedoms of its citizens and independent civil society organisations and to improve the human rights situation in the mainland and in Hong Kong; reiterates its call to include a binding and enforceable sustainable development chapter in the agreement; urges the EU, pursuant to Article 21 of the TEU, to include a human rights clause in any future trade agreement with the People’s Republic of China; instructs the Commission to inform the Chinese side that Parliament will take the human rights situation in China, including in Hong Kong, into consideration when asked to endorse a comprehensive agreement on investment or future trade deals with the PRC;

7.  Stresses that the international community must work together closely to put pressure on Beijing to ensure that its actions are in line with the country’s international commitments under the 1984 Sino-British Declaration;

8.  Observes that the PRC’s policy of abandoning the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ approach has greatly alienated the people of Taiwan, and emphasises its willingness to cooperate with international partners in order to help strengthening democracy in Taiwan;

9.  Calls on the EU and its Member States to consider, in the event the new security law is applied, filing a case before the International Court of Justice alleging that China’s decision to impose national security legislation on Hong Kong violates the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the ICCPR;

10.  Urges the EU Member States that are members of the UN Security Council to convene an ‘Arria meeting’ to discuss the situation in Hong Kong with activists, NGO representatives and UN Special Rapporteurs; calls, in this context, on the EU to push for the UN Secretary General or the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to appoint a UN Special Envoy or Special Rapporteur on the situation in Hong Kong, joining the initiative by the Chairs of the UK, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand Foreign Affairs Committees;

11.  Calls on the Council and the VP/HR to work with the international community to establish an international contact group on Hong Kong, and to coordinate action with international partners, in particular with the United Kingdom;

12.  Calls on the Council and in particular on the incoming Council Presidency to finalise in 2020 the work on an EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Mechanism as supported by the European Parliament in its resolution of 14 March 2019(7), and calls on the Council to adopt targeted sanctions and assets freezes against Chinese officials responsible for devising and implementing policies that violate human rights; believes this human rights framework could be used to impose Magnitsky-style sanctions on the leaders who conduct this crackdown on Hong Kong and its people and are responsible for serious human rights abuses; stresses that such sanctions should be discussed and, when possible coordinated with democratic partners such as Australia, Canada, the USA, Japan and South Korea;

13.  Calls for the EU, its Member States and the international community to work towards the imposition of appropriate export control mechanisms including cyber surveillance items to deny China, and in particular Hong Kong, access to technologies used to violate basic rights; calls on the co-legislators, in this regard, to conclude a common position on reform of the Dual Use Regulation; stresses that Parliament has further developed and strengthened the Commission’s proposal on the inclusion of strict export controls for listed and non-listed cyber-surveillance technology;

14.  Calls on the EU Member States to carefully consider how to avoid economic and in particular technological dependency on the PRC, including in EU Member State decisions on developing their 5G networks;

15.  Calls on the Council and the Commission to consider the creation of a ‘life boat’ scheme for the citizens of Hong Kong in the case of any further deterioration of human rights and fundamental freedoms;

16.  Strongly condemns all cases of human rights violations in Hong Kong, in particular arbitrary arrests, rendition, forced confessions, incommunicado custody and violations of the freedoms of publication and of expression; calls for an immediate end to human rights violations and political intimidation; expresses grave concern over the reported practices of secret detention, of torture and ill-treatment, and of forced confessions; calls on the EU Member States to fully apply the relevant EU human rights guidelines, mobilising all diplomatic personnel to resolutely react to arrests and convictions of activists, including by ensuring trial observation, requesting prison visits, reaching out to relevant authorities to urge the release of those detained and convicted for the peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression;

17.  Calls for an independent, impartial, effective and prompt investigation into the use of force by Hong Kong police against protesters; calls on the authorities of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to ensure that the charges against the 15 pro-democracy activists and politicians, as well as peaceful demonstrators, are dropped and the prosecution is stopped, including, among others, Martin Lee, Margaret Ng, Lee Cheuk-yan, Benny Tai, Jimmy Lai, Albert Ho and Leung Kwok-hung;

18.  Expresses great concern at the steady deterioration of civil rights, political rights and press freedom; is deeply concerned by the abrogation of journalists’ rights, the unprecedented pressure on journalists and their increasing self-censorship with regard, in particular, to coverage of sensitive issues on mainland China or those concerning the HKSAR Government;

19.  Expresses growing concern over the heightened risk of the entry into force of the National Security Law for hundreds of thousands of EU citizens in Hong Kong;

20.  Urges the VP/HR and the Member States’ delegations to monitor closely and report regularly on the run-up to the Legislative Council (LegCo) elections currently scheduled for September, taking particular note of whether candidates are unjustly barred from running either through procedural obstacles or baseless legal proceedings, taking note also of whether all have access to assemble for campaign purposes, and whether voters are able to cast their votes freely; calls upon the HKSAR Government to ensure free and fair elections to the Legislative Council in September 2020; urges China to refrain from interference in the election processes in the HKSAR; reiterates its call for a systematic reform to implement direct elections for the position of Chief Executive and to the Legislative Council, as enshrined in the Basic Law, and calls for agreement on an electoral system that is overall democratic, fair, open and transparent and that grants the people of the HKSAR the right to elect candidates, and to stand for election in the selection process for all leadership positions;

21.  Calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai imprisoned in the PRC;

22.  Calls on the VP/HR, the EEAS and the Member States to firmly raise all these concerns and to ensure a dialogue with the governments of the HKSAR and of China; recalls the importance for the EU to raise the issue of human rights violations in China, in particular the case of minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang, at every political and human rights dialogue with the Chinese authorities, in line with the EU’s commitment to project a strong, clear and unified voice in its approach to the country; recalls, further, that in its ongoing reform process and increasing global engagement, China has opted into the international human rights framework by signing up to a wide range of international human rights treaties; calls for the dialogue with China to be pursued to ensure that it lives up to these commitments;

23.  Pays respect to the brave people of China who gathered in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in June 1989 to call for the elimination of corruption, for political reforms and civil liberties; urges the Chinese authorities to enable the commemoration of the Tiananmen massacre not only in Hong Kong, but also in the whole territory of the PRC;

24.  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 Government and Parliament of the People’s Republic of China, and the Chief Executive and the Assembly of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

(1) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2019)0004.
(2) OJ C 244, 27.6.2018, p. 78.
(3) OJ C 35, 31.1.2018, p. 46.
(4) OJ C 369, 11.10.2018, p. 156.
(5) OJ C 433, 23.12.2019, p. 103.
(6) OJ C 399, 24.11.2017, p. 92.
(7) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0215.


Situation in the Schengen area following the Covid-19 outbreak
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European Parliament resolution of 19 June 2020 on the situation in the Schengen area following the COVID‑19 outbreak (2020/2640(RSP))
P9_TA(2020)0175B9-0165/2020

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the 35th anniversary of the Schengen Agreement signed on 14 June 1985(1), the 30th anniversary of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement signed on 19 June 1990(2), and the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the Schengen Agreement on 26 March 1995,

–  having regard to Article 67(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which provides that the Union must constitute an area of freedom, security and justice which ‘shall ensure the absence of internal border controls for persons’,

–  having regard to Article 21(1) of the TFEU, which provides that every citizen of the Union must have the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States,

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, including Article 45 thereof, which stipulates that every citizen of the Union has the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2016/399 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 on a Union Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (Schengen Borders Code)(3), which codified Regulation (EC) No 562/2006(4) of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 establishing a Community Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (Schengen Borders Code), which had been the first act adopted under the codecision procedure in the area of Justice and Home Affairs,

–  having regard to Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States (the Free Movement Directive)(5), and the principle of non-discrimination enshrined therein,

–  having regard to the Commission’s guidelines (‘COVID‑19: Guidelines for border management measures to protect health and ensure the availability of goods and essential services’) of 16 March 2020 (C(2020)1753), endorsed by the Heads of State or Government on 17 March 2020,

–  having regard to the conclusions of the President of the European Council following the videoconference of 17 March 2020 with members of the European Council on COVID‑19, which endorsed the call to reinforce the external borders by applying a coordinated temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU for a period of 30 days, based on the Commission communication ‘COVID-19: Temporary Restriction on Non-Essential Travel to the EU’ (COM(2020)0115) and its subsequent prolongation,

–  having regard to the Commission communication ‘COVID-19: Guidance on the implementation of the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU, on the facilitation of transit arrangements for the repatriation of EU citizens, and on the effects on visa policy’ of 30 March 2020 (C(2020)2050),

–  having regard to the Joint European Roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures presented by the President of the Commission and the President of the European Council,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 8 April 2020 on the assessment of the application of the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU (COM(2020)0148),

–  having regard to the Commission communication ‘COVID-19: Towards a phased and coordinated approach for restoring freedom of movement and lifting internal border controls’ of 13 May 2020 (C(2020)3250),

–  having regard to its resolution of 30 May 2018 on the annual report on the functioning of the Schengen area(6),

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 December 2018 on the full application of the provisions of the Schengen acquis in Bulgaria and Romania: abolition of checks at internal land, sea and air borders(7),

–  having regard to the preparatory work for this resolution undertaken by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs’ Working Group on Schengen Scrutiny,

–  having regard to the questions to the Council and to the Commission on the situation in the Schengen area following the COVID‑19 outbreak (O-000037/2020 – B9‑0010/2020 and O-000038/2020 – B9‑0011/2020),

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

A.  whereas as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, most Member States, which, given the subject-matter of this resolution, include the Schengen associated countries, have reintroduced internal border controls or have closed such borders, either partially or totally, or have closed them to certain types of travellers, including EU citizens and their family members and third-country nationals residing on their territory or that of another Member State; whereas there was a clear lack of coordination among Member States and with the Union institutions when these measures were introduced;

B.  whereas internal border controls affect the rights and freedoms of people as enshrined in Union law; whereas travel restrictions at the external borders shall not affect the right to seek asylum;

C.  whereas the free movement of persons provided for in the Schengen Agreement and the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement is accompanied by compensatory measures aiming to guarantee security within the territory of the Schengen States(8); whereas these compensatory measures include instruments such as the Schengen Information System (SIS) and other large-scale IT systems which exist to ensure the exchange of information among the authorities of the Schengen States and common rules for the protection of the external borders;

D.  whereas the key requisite for the proper functioning of the area without internal border control is mutual trust among the Member States;

E.  whereas, following the original lifting of internal border controls, such controls were rarely reintroduced; whereas since 2015, however, several Member States have maintained internal border controls based on the justification of increased levels of migration and/or security threats; whereas Parliament has raised questions about the legality and proportionality of those internal border controls;

F.  whereas a return to a fully functional Schengen area is of the utmost importance to safeguard the principle of freedom of movement as one of the main achievements of European integration and as a key prerequisite for the EU’s economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic;

1.  Recalls that the Schengen area is a tangible and cherished achievement at the very heart of the EU project, allowing unrestricted travel for more than 400 million people and having priceless value for citizens and businesses alike, and unique across history and the world;

2.  Expresses concern about the current situation with regard to the internal border controls introduced by so many Member States, and the various other measures taken which include the closure of borders fully or partially, or their closure to certain types of travellers, including EU citizens or third-country nationals residing on the territory of the Member States, and the very serious impact those measures are having on people and businesses, including on the tourism and seasonal work sectors;

3.  Points out, while fully supporting the public health measures put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 through physical distancing, including imposed confinement measures decided on by Member States to be applicable to their territories, that Member States have provided little justification in their formal notifications under the Schengen Borders Code as to how border control is an appropriate means to limit the spread of COVID-19; recalls, in that regard, that border control is defined in the Schengen Borders Code as ‘the activity carried out at a border in response exclusively to an intention to cross or the act of crossing that border, regardless of any other consideration’; believes that more targeted restrictions applicable at regional level, including cross-border regions, would have been more appropriate and less intrusive;

4.  Points out that the rules governing the Union’s internal borders are laid down in the Schengen Borders Code and that when adopting any measures that have an impact upon the crossing of internal borders Member States must respect both the spirit and the letter of that Code;

5.  Recalls that the terminology of the Schengen Borders Code is unequivocal: control at internal borders is to be the exception, a measure of last resort, based on objective criteria, likely to adequately remedy the serious threat to public policy or internal security, strictly necessary and proportionate, with a strictly limited scope and for a strictly limited period of time; considers that many of the notifications provided by Member States lack sufficient detail to allow for a verification as to whether those principles have been respected;

6.  Points out that the notion of ‘last resort’ requires a verification as to whether other measures may be equally or better suited to achieving the objective; calls on Member States to recognise the option of imposing minimum health checks as a superior alternative to introducing internal border controls; recalls in this regard the health-related measures detailed in the Commission guidelines(9); recalls in addition the Commission’s recommendation on proportionate police checks(10), according to which ‘where in a situation of a serious threat to public policy or internal security, Member States consider applying chapter II of Title III of the Regulation (EU) 2016/399 (introducing internal border control), they should first assess whether the situation can be adequately addressed by way of stepping up police checks within the territory, including in border areas’;

7.   Acknowledges that the Schengen Area has never before experienced the outbreak of such a serious pandemic on its territory; recalls that the provisions of the Schengen Borders Code state explicitly that a threat to public health may constitute a ground for refusal of entry at the external border, and further recalls that the Code does not – and the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement did not – mention public health as a ground for the reintroduction of internal border controls, foreseeing the reintroduction of internal border controls only to address serious threats to public policy or internal security;

8.  Regrets the fact that some Member States introduced border controls and other border restrictions at short notice without providing sufficient information to their own populations and other Member States; deplores, moreover, the collateral consequences of border checks observed at some internal borders, such as excessive waiting times without adequate hygiene facilities and adequate physical distancing, thereby creating health risks both for the persons subject to the border checks and for border guards, and the additional burden placed on already overstretched border guards and police officers, who are not trained health professionals; expresses concern, moreover, at the numerous obstacles encountered by many cross-border workers within the Schengen area since the outbreak of the pandemic, including the lack of clear and available information regarding restrictions applicable to them when crossing borders;

9.  Notes that, under the Free Movement Directive, Member States may restrict the freedom of movement and residence of Union citizens and their family members, irrespective of nationality, on grounds of public health; insists, nonetheless, that the safeguards laid down in that directive must be guaranteed by all Member States and that, in particular, non-discrimination between Member States’ own nationals and resident EU-citizens must be ensured;

10.  Considers that a swift return to a fully functional Schengen area is of the utmost importance, and depends both on the political will of the Member States and their commitment to coordinate measures under the Schengen acquis; calls on the Commission to take the lead in coordinating action at European level, with the objective of addressing the challenge that COVID-19 poses to the health of European citizens, while maintaining the Schengen area as an area without internal border controls, in full respect of the principles of solidarity and mutual trust; believes that the search for European responses will deliver mutual benefits; deeply regrets and rejects any uncoordinated, bilateral or multilateral action by individual Member States, discussed outside the Union framework; requires that any arrangement must respect the principle of non-discrimination;

11.  Calls on Member States to reduce restrictions on the freedom of movement to the same extent that COVID-19 containment measures are relaxed; considers that with the appropriate Union-level coordination, a more regional approach may be more proportionate than national border controls and might allow for restrictions on freedom of movement to be lifted where the public health situation in neighbouring regions has comparably improved;

12.  Calls urgently on Member States to discuss, together with Parliament, the Council and the Commission, a Recovery Plan for Schengen, including the ways and means to return to a fully functioning Schengen area without internal border control and contingency plans in the event of a potential second peak, as quickly as possible, in order to prevent temporary internal border controls from becoming semi-permanent in the medium term;

13.  Recalls that, according to the Schengen Borders Code, the assessment of the necessity for internal border control and its prolongation when introduced as an immediate action should be monitored at Union level; calls on the Commission in that respect to exercise appropriate scrutiny over the application of the Schengen acquis, and in particular to assess the measures already taken by Member States, as well as the timeliness and quality of notifications made by the Member States, to closely monitor developments and, where necessary, to remind Member States of their legal obligations and to adopt opinions; encourages the Commission to make use of its prerogatives to request additional information from Member States; calls on the Commission to enhance its reporting to Parliament on how it exercises its prerogatives under the Treaties;

14.   Deplores the fact that the provision of the Schengen Borders Code under which Member States are to report within four weeks of the lifting of border controls to Parliament, the Council and the Commission has lost its intended purpose, resulting in Parliament being uninformed; calls, therefore, on the Member States which have introduced internal border controls to report in a timely manner, at least every six months, to Parliament by providing accurate and detailed data on the grounds for reintroduction of internal border controls; deeply regrets that the Commission, since 2015, has not published the annual report on the functioning of the area without internal border controls, something it is obliged to do under the Schengen Borders Code;

15.  Recalls that temporary travel restrictions applying to all non-essential travel from third countries to the Schengen Area have been introduced; underlines that all decisions on refusal of entry at external borders need to be in accordance with the provisions of the Schengen Borders Code, including the respect of fundamental rights in particular, as laid down in Article 4 thereof;

16.  Calls on the Council and the Member States to step up their efforts to achieve the completion of Schengen integration with all EU Member States; reiterates its call on the Council to present a new draft decision on the full application of the provisions of the Schengen acquis in Bulgaria and Romania as soon as possible; is prepared, when consulted by the Council in accordance with Article 4 of the Act of Accession,to express its opinion on the full application of the provisions of the Schengen acquis in Croatia; considers that solidarity and responsibility are for all, and that the future of the Schengen area can only be one without fragmentation;

17.  Considers that, in the medium term, a reflection is necessary on how to enhance mutual trust between Member States and ensure that the Union’s legislative tools provide for a truly European governance of the Schengen area, which would allow for an effective European coordinated response to challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, while maintaining the right to freedom of movement and the principle of the absence of controls at internal borders, which is at the heart of the Schengen project cherished by EU citizens; calls for a proposal from the Commission to that end to reform Schengen governance in light of new challenges;

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

(1) The Schengen acquis – Agreement between the Governments of the States of the Benelux Economic Union, the Federal Republic of Germany and the French Republic on the gradual abolition of checks at their common borders (OJ L 239, 22.9.2000, p. 13).
(2) The Schengen acquis – Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985 between the Governments of the States of the Benelux Economic Union, the Federal Republic of Germany and the French Republic on the gradual abolition of checks at their common borders (OJ L 239, 22.9.2000, p. 19).
(3) OJ L 77, 23.3.2016, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 105, 13.4.2006, p. 1.
(5) OJ L 158, 30.4.2004, p. 77.
(6) OJ C 76, 9.3.2020, p. 106.
(7) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0497.
(8) Declaration of the Executive Committee of 26 June 1996 on extradition (SCH/Com-ex (96) Decl. 6 Rev. 2) (OJ L 239, 22.9.2000, p. 435).
(9) Commission Recommendation C(2020)1753 of 16 March 2020 on Guidelines for border management measures to protect health and ensure the availability of goods and essential services.
(10) Commission Recommendation C(2017)3349 final of 12 May 2017 on proportionate police checks and police cooperation in the Schengen area.


European protection of cross-border and seasonal workers in the context of the COVID-19 crisis
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European Parliament resolution of 19 June 2020 on European protection of cross-border and seasonal workers in the context of the COVID-19 crisis (2020/2664(RSP))
P9_TA(2020)0176B9-0172/2020

The European Parliament,

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

–  having regard to Articles 4, 9, 26(2), 45, 46, 48, 151, 153 and 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to the European Pillar of Social Rights, in particular principles 5, 6, 10, 12 and 16 thereof,

–  having regard to the Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers,

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

–  having regard to Directive 2014/54/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 on measures facilitating the exercise of rights conferred on workers in the context of freedom of movement for workers(1),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 492/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2011 on freedom of movement for workers within the Union(2),

–  having regard to Directive 2014/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on the conditions of entry and stay of third-country nationals for the purpose of employment as seasonal workers(3),

–  having regard to Directive 2008/104/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on temporary agency work(4),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2019/1149 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 establishing a European Labour Authority(5),

–  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 987/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 September 2009 laying down the procedure for implementing Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems(6),

–  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the coordination of social security systems(7),

–  having regard to Council Directive 89/654/EEC of 30 November 1989 concerning the minimum safety and health requirements for the workplace (first individual directive within the meaning of Article 16 (1) of Directive 89/391/EEC)(8),

–  having regard to Directive 96/71/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 1996 concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services(9),

–  having regard to Directive (EU) 2018/957 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 June 2018 amending Directive 96/71/EC concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services(10),

–  having regard to Directive 2014/67/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 May 2014 on the enforcement of Directive 96/71/EC concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services and amending Regulation (EU) No 1024/2012 on administrative cooperation through the Internal Market Information System (‘the IMI Regulation’)(11),

–  having regard to Directive 2000/54/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 September 2000 on the protection of workers from risks related to exposure to biological agents at work(12),

–  having regard to Directive (EU) 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2019 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law(13),

–  having regard to Directive 2009/52/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 June 2009 concerning minimum standards on sanctions and measures against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals(14),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 13 May 2020 on COVID-19 – Towards a phased and coordinated approach for restoring freedom of movement and lifting internal border controls (C(2020)3250),

–  having regard to the Joint Declaration of the European Social Partners of Agriculture – the Employers’ Group of Professional Agricultural Associations in the EU (GEOPA-COPA) and the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT) – of 15 May 2020 on the deployment of seasonal workers from European countries in the EU,

–  having regard to the Joint Statements of the Social Partners of the European Horeca sector – EFFAT and the umbrella association of hotels, restaurants and cafés (HOTREC) – of 11 March 2020 and 27 April 2020,

–  having regard to the Guidelines of the Social Partners in the food manufacturing industry EFFAT and FoodDrinkEurope of 9 April 2020 to protect the health and safety of workers in food business during the COVID-19 pandemic,

–  having regard to Directive (EU) 2019/1152 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on transparent and predictable working conditions in the European Union(15),

–  having regard to Directive 2011/98/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on a single application procedure for a single permit for third-country nationals to reside and work in the territory of a Member State and on a common set of rights for third-country workers legally residing in a Member State(16),

–  having regard to the 2018 Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, in particular Objectives 5 and 22,

–  having regard to the Joint European Roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures,

–  having regard to the joint statement of the members of the European Council of 26 March 2020,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 13 March 2020 on a coordinated economic response to the COVID-19 Outbreak (COM(2020)0112),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 30 March 2020 on guidelines concerning the exercise of the free movement of workers during COVID-19 outbreak,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 30 March 2020 on COVID-19: Guidance on the implementation of the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU, on the facilitation of transit arrangements for the repatriation of EU citizens, and on the effects on visa policy (C(2020)2050),

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 April 2020 on EU coordinated action to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences(17),

–  having regard to its resolution of 4 July 2017 on working conditions and precarious employment(18),

–  having regard to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDGs 3 and 8,

–  having regard to the fundamental labour standards established by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and to its conventions and recommendations on working conditions,

–  having regard to ILO Convention 184 (Safety and Health in Agriculture),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 13 May 2020 on tourism and transport in 2020 and beyond (COM(2020)0550),

–  having regard to the guidelines of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) of 24 April 2020 entitled ‘COVID-19: back to the workplace – adapting workplaces and protecting workers’,

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

A.  whereas the free movement of workers is a right for workers and a fundamental principle of the European Union, and essential to the proper functioning of the internal market; whereas labour mobility should not only be free but also fair; whereas the principle of equal treatment is enshrined in Article 45(2) of the TFEU, which forbids any discrimination based on nationality between workers of the Member States as regards employment, remuneration and other conditions of work and employment; whereas this principle applies equally to cross-border and seasonal workers, who must be guaranteed equal treatment with workers who are nationals of their host Member State in line with EU legislation, whether it be equal rights, equal working conditions or equal protection;

B.  whereas cross-border workers include persons who exercise their right of free movement to work in one EU Member State while remaining resident in another, frontier workers and posted workers; whereas a frontier worker is a worker who is employed in the frontier zone of an EU Member State but who returns each day or at least once a week to the frontier zone of a neighbouring country in which they reside and of which they are nationals; whereas a posted worker is an employee who is sent by their employer to carry out a service in another EU Member State on a temporary basis, in the context of a contract of services, an intra-group posting or a hiring out through a temporary agency; whereas seasonal workers include EU and third country nationals who travel to a Member State to temporarily live and carry out an activity dependent on the passing of the seasons;

C.  whereas there are over 17 million EU citizens who live and work abroad in an EU country other than that of their citizenship (3,9 % of the total labour force in 2018); whereas there are 1,5 million cross-border workers in the EU; whereas there are over 2,3 million posting operations for which services are carried out in another Member State;

D.  whereas the COVID-19 pandemic is a serious threat to public health, impacting the health and lives of all persons residing in the EU and the health and care systems in the Member States; whereas the crisis has further impacted European society and the European economy, particularly those workers and sectors who are on the frontline; whereas all workers are affected, regardless of their status; whereas the outbreak of the pandemic has shed light on the inherent link between fair and safe mobility;

E.  whereas many cross-border and seasonal workers are essential to the provision of critical goods and services in key economic sectors such as agriculture and food production, transport, logistics, construction, social services including care, social work and tourism, but also food processing and packaging, fisheries, forestry, healthcare and research, the IT and pharmaceutical industries, critical infrastructure industries and other sectors, and are vital to any economic recovery effort; whereas the business models of some temporary agencies and employers in these sectors can be based on reducing labour costs and precarious working conditions; whereas labour inspectorates repeatedly report violations of labour rights of cross-border and seasonal workers in these sectors;

F.  whereas cross-border and seasonal workers have been severely impacted by both the crisis and Member States’ measures to contain and prevent the spread of the virus, particularly border closures, temporary restrictions and internal border controls; whereas the COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure of borders and the cessation or suspension of numerous economic activities, which in turn led to increased unemployment and serious relocation issues for cross-border and seasonal workers who found themselves stuck in Member States of former employment, without means of income, protection or transportation and, at times, with no shelter, access to healthcare or food; whereas young and women cross-border and seasonal workers can be particularly vulnerable;

G.  whereas numerous cross-border and seasonal workers are employed under short-term work contracts, which afford them little or no job security and insufficient or no social security coverage, and often leave them below national qualification thresholds for receiving social benefits; whereas numerous cross-border and seasonal workers often come from impoverished and vulnerable regions, minorities and social groups, are often at risk of in-work-poverty and social exclusion, and can be subject to possible violations of their rights by recruiters, agencies or employers, all of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic; whereas workers on short-term assignment often live in group accommodation, which makes social distancing difficult and increases their risk of infection; whereas large outbreaks of COVID-19 infections occurred in industries such as food production and are likely to continue in sectors and workplaces where social distancing may be difficult to observe unless appropriate measures are introduced;

H.  whereas numerous cross-border and seasonal workers are in a particularly vulnerable situation as regards their working conditions and occupational health and safety in the context of the COVID-19 crisis; whereas disturbing reports regarding breaches of cross-border and seasonal workers’ rights in terms of working and living conditions have surfaced during the crisis, namely on working time, minimum wages, unfair dismissals, workplace health and safety standards, such as a lack of written instructions and display notices at the workplace, a lack of safe transport and decent accommodation that meet sanitary requirements and where social distancing measures can be maintained, high pressure and non-adapted working patterns, posting arrangements and subcontracting practices, non-compliance with quarantine restrictions and repatriation support, and an inadequate provision of personal protective equipment (PPE); whereas these reports and the crisis generally have exposed and exacerbated social dumping and the existing precariousness of the situations of many cross-border and seasonal workers and gaps in the implementation and enforcement of existing legislation for their protection; whereas many cross-border and seasonal workers are in practice dependent on their employer or temporary agency for not only their income, but also their housing; whereas numerous cross-border and seasonal workers have ended up on the streets following being fired; whereas on account of their vulnerable circumstances, these workers may also find it hard to report abuses or stay away from work if they feel sick, owing to a lack of information or fear of losing their income, accommodation or residence status;

I.  whereas cross-border self-employed workers and entrepreneurs have also been severely impacted by the crisis; whereas actions and measures taken by Member States during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to financially compensate workers, self-employed workers and entrepreneurs are mainly based on the national labour market and often lack proper provisions for cross-border workers and cross-border self-employed workers;

J.  whereas a number of workers have contracted COVID-19, with fatalities occurring in several Member States; whereas the access of some such workers to proper care, medical attention and facilities as well as health and social insurance was problematic or in some instances non-existent even before the crisis; whereas promotion and access to sick leave among such workers is also an issue;

K.  whereas the European Labour Authority (ELA) was established in July 2019 with the aim of supporting Member States and the Commission in the effective application and enforcement of Union law related to labour mobility and social security coordination; whereas the ELA is expected to reach its full operational capacity by 2024;

L.  whereas civil society organisations (CSOs) and social partners have been instrumental in providing aid to workers during the crisis, both in their home countries and their Member States of employment;

M.  whereas the vast majority of cross-border and seasonal workers affected by the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have as yet been unable to access adequate social protection and security entitlements, due to impeded coordination between the social security institutions of the Member States which has been exacerbated by COVID-19; whereas cross-border and seasonal workers have found themselves in situations where they are not necessarily eligible for temporary support measures such as short-time work schemes, adjusted unemployment benefits and measures to facilitate working from home;

N.  whereas during the crisis some Member States have taken action to address the vulnerabilities that cross-border and seasonal migrant workers face in the context of the COVID-19 crisis and take note of their role in our societies;

O.  whereas frontier workers and EU border regions have also been severely affected by the crisis in terms of employment, access to the workplace and teleworking arrangements, and legal uncertainty with regard to applicable social security and tax regimes;

P.  whereas the European agricultural sector sometimes sees below average incomes coupled with a high working time, incidences of accidents and illnesses and low participation in education and training programmes, particularly for cross-border and seasonal workers; whereas poor working conditions in the agricultural sector are one of the main causes of labour shortages in some Member States;

Q.  whereas there is no EU-wide systematic data-gathering or digital tracking system in place to provide adequate data on the total numbers of cross-border and seasonal workers affected or to allow workers to easily and quickly establish the status of their social security coverage and claim various entitlements accrued before the crisis began; whereas municipalities too often lack information on the cross-border and seasonal workers who are living and working there;

R.  whereas there is a risk that the crisis may continue to exacerbate existing problems in the treatment of cross-border and seasonal workers by some recruitment agencies and local employers;

Protecting rights, ensuring safety and enforcing existing legislation

1.  Welcomes the Commission’s continuing guidance as part of the ongoing coordination of a common EU response to the COVID-19 outbreak, particularly as regards the implementation of the principle of equal treatment and non-discrimination, and the exercise of the free and fair movement of workers; stresses that border controls, health screenings and restrictions on movement must remain proportionate and exceptional and that all freedom of movement should be re-established as soon as it is deemed safe with regard to national situations on COVID-19; recalls that the principle of equal treatment is not limited to cross-border and seasonal workers only in essential sectors and occupations, but extends to all such workers who need to cross internal borders, given that the sectors in question are also open to local workers in the host Member State of work; calls on the Member States which have not yet done so to lift as soon as possible all travel restrictions and discriminatory confinement and quarantine measures for cross-border and seasonal workers to avoid labour shortages in key sectors and for the benefit of the workers, while ensuring their health and safety;

2.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to implement measures to ensure that cross-border and seasonal workers and cross-border entrepreneurs and self-employed persons are afforded adequate protection from COVID-19 and its effects, including easy access to testing, and are informed about the risks and the safety precautions to be taken in a language they understand; stresses the particular vulnerability of young and women cross-border and seasonal workers; calls, furthermore, for measures to ensure that their health and safety are safeguarded during their travel to and decent housing conditions ensuring social distancing at their places of their employment other than of their residence, and that repatriation solutions that are not at the expense of the worker are made available, should they be necessary; underlines that existing legislation concerning the access to social rights, including their exportation, must be respected; underlines that cross-border and seasonal workers must not be left behind for having exercised their freedom of movement as EU citizens;

3.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to support the work of social partners and CSOs actively working in this area so as to ensure that any workers who are left stranded on their territory as a result of the crisis or otherwise have adequate and urgent access to public services, trade union support, decent housing, protective equipment, meals and healthcare; welcomes the engagement of the social partners to address sector-specific issues as regards the mobility and rights of cross-border and seasonal workers;

4.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure, in the context of COVID-19, the equal treatment of third-country seasonal workers with EU nationals, as stated in Directive 2014/36/EU, recalling that such workers have the same labour and social rights as EU citizens;

5.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure, as a matter of urgency, the proper implementation and enforcement of applicable EU legislation as regards the rights of cross-border and seasonal workers, particularly as regards the right to equal pay for equal work in the same place, including through national and cross-border concerted and joint labour inspections; insists that clear steps must be taken to ensure that workers have a clear understanding of, full information about and unhindered access to their contracts, rights and obligations before departure and that these contracts are made available to labour protection entities within their area of employment; calls on the Member States to enhance the capacity of labour inspectorates and to prioritise sectors where workers are at risk;

6.  Calls on the Commission to monitor the implementation of its guidelines on the free movement of workers during the COVID-19 outbreak and, in particular, to issue new specific guidelines for cross-border and seasonal workers and cross-border entrepreneurs and self-employed persons, employers and Member States in the context of COVID-19, specifically as regards exercising free and fair movement, decent housing, the applicable working and employment conditions, and health and safety requirements including the need to ensure social distancing during transport, in housing and in the workplace, social security protection and coordination, access to and the provision of healthcare, the provision of information such as written instructions and display notices at the workplace to workers in a language they can understand, and the exchange of best practices thereof; underlines that social partners must be fully involved in drafting these guidelines;

7.  Calls on the Member States to ensure quality housing for cross-border and seasonal workers, which should be decoupled from their remuneration and ensure decent facilities, tenant privacy and written tenancy contracts enforced by labour inspectorates, and to establish standards in this regard;

8.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that the ELA becomes fully operational as a matter of priority and works to provide relevant information on the rights and obligations of individuals in cross-border labour mobility situations, including through a single EU-wide website, which should serve as a portal for accessing information sources and services at EU and national levels; identifies the lack of a harmonised process to signal abuses and problems; therefore calls on the ELA, in coordination with the relevant Member State authorities, to create a European facility for cross-border workers to anonymously report abuse and to implement Article 8(1) of Regulation (EU) 2019/1149 with a view to carrying out joint or concerted inspections into cases of possible abuse brought to its attention;

9.  Calls on the Commission to propose long-term solutions to deal with abusive subcontracting practices and safeguard seasonal and cross-border workers employed along the subcontracting and supply chain;

Promoting fair mobility and strengthening the internal market

10.  Calls on the Member States and the Commission to prepare for possible future waves of COVID-19, and calls once again for the coordination of national border measures and the development of safety measures for mobile workers, including safe shelter; notes that standing mobility contingencies must be put in place, with the identification and maintaining of ‘green corridors’, complete with safety measures and well-established and communicated travel conditionalities and conditions; highlights, in this regard, the key role for regional and local authorities and existing cross-border institutions, including in maintaining and regularly updating the records of all cross-border and seasonal workers registered in the municipalities where they have their housing; underlines that the guiding principles for any measure taken in view of the crisis and the road to recovery should be the health and safety of all workers, and the respect for and effective enforcement of all applicable working conditions, recognising the particularly vulnerable situation of cross-border and mobile workers during the COVID-19 outbreak and its aftermath;

11.  Recalls the importance of and need for good cooperation with third countries where there are a high number of cross-border workers, such as those in the European Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland and the United Kingdom;

12.  Underlines the need for good cooperation between the Member States regarding the collection of data on cross-border and seasonal workers in order to bridge gaps in national practices, gain better access to available information, and create a predictable and accessible internal labour market; calls on the ELA to take an active role in collecting and coordinating data for the purposes of carrying out analysis on labour mobility and risk assessments in accordance with its tasks as set out in its founding regulation;

13.  Believes that in order to protect cross-border and seasonal workers, employers also need clear rules and legal clarity; invites the Member States to collect and keep updated information regarding all such rules, including those relating to COVID-19 and travel restrictions, on the websites of their relevant national institutions; invites the Commission to examine the possibility of creating a portal or mobile application which would be able to collate data from the Member States in order to offer EU citizens accurate and real-time travel restriction information, complete with travel options and available routes in the event that emergency measures were partially or completely reintroduced;

14.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that cross-border workers, in particular frontier workers and self-employed persons affected by the crisis and including those teleworking from their country of residence, have access to applicable social security, labour rights and tax regimes, and certainty as regards the competent authority for their coverage, can benefit from short-time work schemes under the same conditions as other employees, and are not negatively impacted in their tax or social security rights owing to the duration of their stay in their Member State of residence as a result of the pandemic; requests that time worked as teleworking abroad should be classified as if it were undertaken in the country of work;

Resilience, going digital and ensuring transparency

15.   Calls on the Commission to undertake an urgent study of the general situation of the employment and health and safety conditions of cross-border and seasonal workers, including the role of temporary work agencies, recruiting agencies, other intermediaries and subcontractors, with a view to identifying protection gaps and the possible need to revise the existing legislative framework, such as the legislative framework for health and safety at work, Directive 2014/36/EU on seasonal workers and Directive 2008/104/EC on temporary agency work, as well as pandemic-proofing; stresses that not only are the lessons learnt valid with regard to the COVID-19 crisis, they should also strengthen evidenced-based policymaking with a view to addressing the shortcomings of EU and national legislations in times of crises and normality;

16.  Underlines that the Member States are responsible for ensuring that their social security systems are stable, reliable and crisis-proof and that the EU provides common rules to protect social security rights when moving within Europe; calls on the current and future Council Presidencies and the Member States to engage with Parliament to find a swift and balanced agreement on the proposed revision of Regulations (EC) No 883/2004 and (EC) No 987/2009 on social security coordination in order to deliver modernised and fit-for-purpose rules which foster fair mobility and social protections for all EU citizens, while effectively combating social fraud and the abuse of mobile workers’ social rights; calls on the Member States, in this regard, to implement all components of the Electronic Exchange of Social Security Information (EESSI) system as a matter of urgency in order to ensure more effective cooperation between social security institutions and a faster, digitised processing of individual cases for the benefit of persons in cross-border situations;

17.  Calls on the Commission to update its webpages in the light of COVID-19 and to promote them accordingly, offering information on workers’ rights and on the relevant national legislation for cross-border and seasonal workers, as well as details on national and regional labour protection authorities, and to establish, in cooperation with the Member States, accessible awareness-raising information campaigns aimed at cross-border and seasonal workers, with the involvement of social partners and CSOs so as to further disseminate the information;

18.  Reiterates the importance of proper whistle-blower protection in the Member States, including for cross-border and seasonal workers; encourages the Member States to go beyond the minimum requirements set out in Directive 2019/1937 for all workers irrespective of their status and to examine ways to apply national whistle-blower protection legislation to cross-border or seasonal workers who signal abuses; stresses the need for transparent inclusion of available options to signal abuses and receive support in labour contracts without fear of reprisal; stresses that access to trade unions and CSOs, including in the host country, must be ensured for these workers;

19.  Considers that establishing a digital and dynamic system for data exchange between the Member States could help to facilitate the fight against abuses of and issues with cross-border and seasonal workers’ rights and undeclared work, and help to determine the coverage of the responsible social security system; calls on the Commission, in this context, to prepare an exhaustive impact assessment on the introduction of a digital European Social Security Number with a view to launching a proposal; underlines that any personal data must be used only for the specific purpose intended and only by the competent authorities for social security, in line with the General Data Protection Regulation(19);

20.  Calls on the Member States to transpose the revised Posting of Workers Directive in a correct, timely and ambitious manner, ensuring full equal treatment and protection of posted workers, in particular so as to respect the obligation under Article 3(7) of the directive of the employer to reimburse posted workers for allowances paid in reimbursement of expenditure actually incurred on account of the posting, such as travel, board and lodging expenses, in accordance with the national law and/or practice applicable to the employment relationship;

21.  Identifies the need for the Commission, together with the Member States, to address the lack of clear provisions for the establishment of temporary work and recruitment agencies aimed at cross-border and seasonal workers in the EU; recalls existing good practices where such companies are subject to clear transparency licences by specific administrative bodies;

22.  Urges the Commission to make sure that the Farm to Fork Strategy and the upcoming revision of the common agricultural policy deliver for agricultural workers in Europe, including seasonal, migrant and other mobile workers;

23.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to combat the negative image of seasonal and cross-border workers where this occurs; notes that Member States of residence have a responsibility to provide adequate access, labour and social security information for cross-border and seasonal workers; highlights the importance of support for cross-border and seasonal workers in the case of work-related accidents and assistance for repatriation and reintegration, while ensuring that their rights are respected by recruiting agencies, subcontractors and other intermediaries operating within their territory;

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24.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the European Council and the Commission.

(1) OJ L 128, 30.4.2014, p. 8.
(2) OJ L 141, 27.5.2011, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 94, 28.3.2014, p. 375.
(4) OJ L 327, 5.12.2008, p. 9.
(5) OJ L 186, 11.7.2019, p. 21.
(6) OJ L 284, 30.10.2009, p. 1.
(7) OJ L 166, 30.4.2004, p. 1.
(8) OJ L 393, 30.12.1989, p. 1.
(9) OJ L 18, 21.1.1997, p. 1.
(10) OJ L 173, 9.7.2018, p. 16.
(11) OJ L 159, 28.5.2014, p. 11.
(12) OJ L 262, 17.10.2000, p. 21.
(13) OJ L 305, 26.11.2019, p. 17.
(14) OJ L 168, 30.6.2009, p. 24.
(15) OJ L 186, 11.7.2019, p. 105.
(16) OJ L 343, 23.12.2011, p. 1.
(17) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0054.
(18) OJ C 334, 19.9.2018, p. 88.
(19) 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 repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation) and on the free movement of such data (OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 1).

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