Index 
Texts adopted
Wednesday, 7 October 2020 - BrusselsProvisional edition
Approval of the allocation of new responsibilities of Executive Vice-President of the Commission Valdis Dombrovskis
 Approval of the appointment of Mairead McGuinness as a Member of the European Commission
 The establishment of an EU Mechanism on Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights
 Implementation of the common commercial policy – annual report 2018

Approval of the allocation of new responsibilities of Executive Vice-President of the Commission Valdis Dombrovskis
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European Parliament decision of 7 October 2020 on the allocation of new responsibilities to Executive Vice-President of the Commission Valdis Dombrovskis (2020/2203(INS))
P9_TA-PROV(2020)0249

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 17(6) of the Treaty on European Union and Article 248 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

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

–  having regard to point 7 of the Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission(1),

–  having regard to the letter of the President of the Commission of 14 September 2020,

–  having regard to the hearing of Valdis Dombrovskis on 2 October 2020, led by the Committee on International Trade, with the association of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Development, the Committee on Budgets and the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, and to the evaluation letter drawn up following that hearing,

–  having regard to the examination by the Conference of Committee Chairs at its meeting on 5 October 2020, and to the examination by the Conference of Presidents at its meeting on 6 October 2020,

–  having regard to Rule 125 of, and Annex VII to, its Rules of Procedure,

1.  Approves the allocation of new responsibilities to Executive Vice-President of the Commission Valdis Dombrovskis for the remainder of the Commission's term of office until 31 October 2024;

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

(1) OJ L 304, 20.11.2010, p. 47.


Approval of the appointment of Mairead McGuinness as a Member of the European Commission
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European Parliament decision of 7 October 2020 on the appointment of Mairead McGuinness as a Member of the Commission (C9-0295/2020 - 2020/0803(NLE))
P9_TA-PROV(2020)0250

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 246, second paragraph, of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

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

–  having regard to point 6 of the Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission(1),

–  having regard to the resignation of Phil Hogan as a Member of the Commission,

–  having regard to the Council's letter of 14 September 2020, whereby the Council consulted Parliament on a decision, to be taken by common accord with the President of the Commission, on the appointment of Mairead McGuinness as a Member of the Commission (C9-0295/2020),

–  having regard to the letter of the President of the Commission of 14 September 2020,

–  having regard to the hearing of Mairead McGuinness on 2 October 2020, led by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, and to the evaluation letter drawn up following that hearing,

–  having regard to the examination by the Conference of Committee Chairs at its meeting on 5 October 2020, and the examination by the Conference of Presidents at its meeting on 6 October 2020,

–  having regard to Rule 125 of, and Annex VII to, its Rules of Procedure,

1.  Approves the appointment of Mairead McGuinness as a Member of the Commission for the remainder of the Commission’s term of office until 31 October 2024;

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

(1) OJ L 304, 20.11.2010, p. 47.


The establishment of an EU Mechanism on Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights
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Resolution
Annex
European Parliament resolution of 7 October 2020 on the establishment of an EU Mechanism on Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights (2020/2072(INI))
P9_TA-PROV(2020)0251A9-0170/2020

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 295 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard, in particular, to Article 2, Article 3(1), the second subparagraph of Article 3(3), Article 4(3) and Articles 5, 6, 7 and 11 of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to the articles of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union relating to the respect for, and the protection and promotion of, democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in the Union, including Articles 70, 258, 259, 260, 263 and 265 thereof,

–  having regard to Protocol No 1 on the role of national parliaments in the European Union and Protocol No 2 on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

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

–  having regard to the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Copenhagen criteria and the body of Union rules that a candidate country must fulfil if it wishes to join the Union (the acquis),

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

–  having regard to the United Nations instruments on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the recommendations and reports of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review, as well as the case law of the United Nations treaty bodies and the special procedures of the Human Rights Council,

–  having regard to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders of 8 March 1999,

–  having regard to the recommendations and reports of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the High Commissioner on National Minorities, the Representative on Freedom of the Media and other bodies of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe,

–  having regard to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the European Social Charter, the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and the European Committee of Social Rights, and the conventions, recommendations, resolutions and reports of the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers, the Human Rights Commissioner, the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, the Steering Committee on Anti-Discrimination, Diversity and Inclusion, the Venice Commission and other bodies of the Council of Europe,

–  having regard to the Memorandum of Understanding between the Council of Europe and the European Union of 23 May 2007,

–  having regard to the United Nations Convention against Corruption,

–  having regard to the agreement establishing the Group of States against Corruption,

–  having regard to the Rule of Law Checklist adopted by the Venice Commission at its 106th Plenary Session on 18 March 2016,

–  having regard to the Council of Europe’s toolkit for Member States ‘Respecting democracy, rule of law and human rights in the framework of the COVID-19 sanitary crisis’ of 7 April 2020,

–  having regard to the 2020 Annual Report by the partner organisations to the Council of Europe Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 17 July 2019 entitled ‘Strengthening the rule of law within the Union - A blueprint for action’ (COM(2019)0343),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 29 January 2020 containing the Commission Work Programme 2020 (COM(2020)0037) and the adjusted Commission Work Programme of 27 May 2020 (COM(2020)0440),

–  having regard to the EU Justice Scoreboard 2020,

–  having regard to the European Economic and Social Committee Opinion of 19 June 2019 entitled ‘Further strengthening the Rule of Law within the Union. State of play and possible next steps’, which proposed the establishment of an annual Forum on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law,

–  having regard to the report of the European Economic and Social Committee’s Group on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law of June 2020 entitled ‘National developments from a civil society perspective, 2018-2019’,

–  having regard to the report of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights entitled ‘Challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU’, published on 17 January 2018, and to its other reports and data,

–  having regard to the report of the European Institute for Gender Equality entitled ‘Beijing +25: the fifth review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action in the EU Member States’, published on 5 March 2020,

–  having regard to the conclusions of the Council of the European Union and the Member States meeting within the Council on ensuring respect for the rule of law of 16 December 2014,

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2016 with recommendations to the Commission on the establishment of an EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights(1),

–  having regards to its resolution of 19 April 2018 on the need to establish a European Values Instrument to support civil society organisations which promote fundamental values within the European Union at local and national level(2),

–  having regard to its legislative resolution of 17 April 2019 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the Rights and Values programme(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 November 2018 on the need for a comprehensive EU mechanism for the protection of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 January 2019 on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union in 2017(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 February 2019 on experiencing backlash in women’s rights and gender equality in the EU(6),

–  having regard to its resolution of 28 March 2019 on the situation of rule of law and fight against corruption in the EU, specifically in Malta and Slovakia(7),

–  having regard to its resolution of 18 December 2019 on public discrimination and hate speech against LGBTI people, including LGBTI free zones(8),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 January 2020 on human rights and democracy in the world and the European Union’s policy on the matter – annual report 2018(9),

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 January 2020 on ongoing hearings under Article 7(1) of the TEU regarding Poland and Hungary(10),

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 April 2020 on EU coordinated action to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences(11),

–  having regard to the joint civil society organisation recommendations entitled 'From blueprint to footprint: Safeguarding media freedom and pluralism through the European Rule of Law Mechanism' of April 2020,

–  having regard to the report of the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions entitled 'The Rule of Law in the European Union' of 11 May 2020,

–  having regard to the Human Rights and Democracy Network Working Group on EU Internal Human Rights Policy’s submission of 4 May 2020 to the European Commission in the framework of the stakeholder consultation for the Rule of Law Report,

–  having regard to its European added value assessment accompanying the legislative initiative report on an EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights of October 2016,

–  having regard to the Parliament’s Preliminary Assessment on the European added value of an EU mechanism on democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights of April 2020,

–  having regard to Rules 46, 54 and 148 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the opinions of the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Committee on Constitutional Affairs,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A9-0170/2020),

A.  whereas the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, as set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU); whereas those values are values which are common to the Member States and to which all Member States have freely subscribed; whereas democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights are mutually reinforcing values;

B.  whereas the Union has codified in its accession criteria that Union membership requires that a candidate country has achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities; points out, however, that the Union lacks effective tools to enforce those criteria once a country has become part of the Union;

C.  whereas the preceding decade has seen brazen attacks against Union values in several Member States; whereas Parliament has addressed those worrying developments repeatedly in its resolutions since 2011, including the activation of Article 7 TEU in 2018; whereas Parliament has been calling since 2016 for a comprehensive, preventive and evidence-based monitoring in this field via an EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights;

D.  whereas vulnerable groups such as women, persons with disabilities, Roma, LGBTI persons and elderly persons continue not having their rights fully respected in some Member States and are not fully protected from hate and discrimination, in breach of Union values as provided for in Article 2 TEU and of the right to non-discrimination provided for in Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the Charter); whereas emergency measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have further strained fundamental rights and democratic checks and balances;

E.  whereas approximately 10 % of Union citizens belong to a national minority; whereas respecting the rights of minorities is an integral part of the values of the Union as set out in Article 2 TEU; whereas minorities contribute to the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Union; whereas there is currently no Union legal framework to guarantee and monitor minority rights;

F.  whereas breaches of the values referred to in Article 2 TEU, without proper response and consequences at Union level, weaken the cohesion of the European project, the rights of all Union citizens and mutual trust among the Member States;

G.  whereas corruption poses a serious threat to democracy, the rule of law and the fair treatment of all citizens;

H.  whereas independent journalism and access to pluralistic information are key pillars of democracy; whereas the worrying state of media freedom and pluralism in the Union has not been addressed in a sufficiently vigorous manner; whereas civil society is essential for any democracy to thrive; whereas the shrinking space for civil society contributes to violations of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights; whereas Union institutions are to maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society at all levels;

I.  whereas the independence, quality and efficiency of national justice systems are crucial for the achievement of effective justice; whereas the availability of legal aid and the level of court fees can have a major impact on access to justice; whereas the Charter has the same legal value as the Treaties; whereas, in accordance with the guidance of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Charter is applied by Member States’ judicial authorities only when implementing legal acts of the Union, it is, however, important for the fostering of a common legal, judicial and rule of law culture that the rights as enshrined in the Charter be always taken into account;

J.  whereas the Commission published its 2020 Rule of Law Report on 30 September 2020 (COM (2020)0580), to be followed by the renewed Strategy for the Implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Democracy Action Plan;

K.  whereas a regulation on the protection of the Union’s budget in case of generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in the Member States, once adopted, would become an indispensable tool in safeguarding the rule of law within the Union;

L.  whereas any monitoring mechanism must closely involve stakeholders active in the protection and promotion of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights, including civil society, the Council of Europe and United Nations bodies, the Organization for Security and Co-operation, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, national human rights institutions, relevant authorities and professional associations supporting judiciaries in the independent delivery of justice; whereas, therefore, adequate Union funding is necessary for civil society, particularly through the Justice Programme and the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme;

M.  whereas it is necessary to strengthen and streamline existing mechanisms and develop an effective mechanism to ensure that the principles and values enshrined in the Treaties are upheld throughout the Union;

N.  whereas Parliament, the Commission and the Council (the ‘three institutions’) share political responsibility for upholding Union values, within the limits of the powers conferred on them by the Treaties; whereas an interinstitutional agreement based on Article 295 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) would ensure the necessary arrangements to facilitate the cooperation of the three institutions in that regard; whereas, pursuant to Article 295 TFEU, any of the three institutions may propose such an agreement;

1.  Emphasises the urgent need for the Union to develop a robust, comprehensive and positive agenda for effectively protecting and reinforcing democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights for all its citizens; insists that the Union must remain a champion of freedom and justice in Europe and the world;

2.  Warns that the Union is facing an unprecedented and escalating crisis of its founding values, which threatens its long-term survival as a democratic peace project; is gravely concerned by the rise and entrenchment of autocratic and illiberal tendencies, further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession, as well as corruption, disinformation and state capture, in several Member States; underlines the dangers of this trend for the cohesion of the Union’s legal order, the protection of the fundamental rights of all its citizens, the functioning of its single market, the effectiveness of its common policies and its international credibility;

3.  Recalls that the Union remains structurally ill-equipped to tackle democratic, fundamental rights and rule of law violations and backsliding in the Member States; regrets the inability of the Council to make meaningful progress in enforcing Union values in ongoing Article 7 TEU procedures; notes that the Council’s failure to apply Article 7 TEU effectively is in fact enabling continued divergence from the values provided for in Article 2 TEU; notes with concern the disjointed nature of the Union’s toolkit in that field and calls for it to be streamlined and properly enforced;

4.  Welcomes the Commission’s work on its annual Rule of Law Report; welcomes the fact that corruption and media freedom is part of the annual assessment; notes, however, that it fails to encompass the areas of democracy and fundamental rights; particularly regrets that freedom of association and the shrinking space for civil society are not part of the annual assessment; underlines with concern that vulnerable groups, including women, persons with disabilities, Roma, LGBTI persons and elderly persons, continue not seeing their rights fully respected in some Member States and are not fully protected from hate and discrimination, in breach of Union values as provided for in Article 2 TEU; recalls that Parliament has repeatedly called for a monitoring mechanism to cover the full scope of Article 2 TEU; reiterates the need for a an objective and evidence-based monitoring mechanism enshrined in a legal act binding the three institutions to a transparent and regularised process, with clearly defined responsibilities, so that the protection and promotion of all Union values becomes a permanent and visible part of the Union agenda;

5.  Proposes the establishment of an EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights (the ‘Mechanism’), building on Parliament’s 2016 proposal and the Commission’s annual Rule of Law Report, to be governed by an interinstitutional agreement between the three institutions, consisting of an Annual Monitoring Cycle on Union values, covering all aspects of Article 2 TEU and applying equally, objectively and fairly to all Member States, while respecting the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality;

6.  Underlines that the Annual Monitoring Cycle must contain country-specific clear recommendations, with timelines and targets for implementation, to be followed up in subsequent annual or urgent reports; stresses that failure to implement the recommendations must be linked to concrete Union measures, including procedures under Article 7 TEU, infringement proceedings and budgetary conditionality once in force; points out that recommendations should not only be aimed at redressing violations but should also promote policies enabling citizens to benefit from Union rights and values;

7.  Points out that the Mechanism should consolidate and supersede existing instruments to avoid duplication, in particular the Commission’s annual Rule of Law Report, the Commission’s Rule of Law Framework, the Commission’s annual reporting on the application of the Charter, the Council’s Rule of Law Dialogue and the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), while increasing complementarity and coherence with other available tools, including procedures under Article 7 TEU, infringement proceedings and budgetary conditionality once in force; considers that the three institutions should use the findings from the Annual Monitoring Cycle in their assessment for the purposes of triggering Article 7 TEU and of budgetary conditionality once in force; stresses that the roles and prerogatives of each of the three institutions must be respected;

8.  Underlines that judicial independence is integral to judicial decision making and is a requirement resulting from the principle of effective legal protection set out in Article 19 TEU; is worried that recent attacks on the rule of law have mainly consisted of attempts to jeopardise judicial independence and stresses that every national court is also a European court; urges the Commission to use all the instruments at its disposal against any attempt by governments of Member States to endanger the independence of national courts and to inform Parliament of any such situation in a timely manner;

9.  Recalls that the accession of the Union to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is a legal obligation provided for under Article 6(2) TEU; reiterates the need for a swift conclusion of the accession process in order to ensure a consistent framework for human rights protection throughout Europe and to further strengthen the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms within the Union; calls therefore on the Commission to step up efforts to fully implement the Treaties and conclude the accession process without undue delay;

10.  Recalls the indispensable role to be played by civil society, national human rights institutions, equality bodies and other relevant actors in all stages of the Annual Monitoring Cycle, from providing input to facilitating implementation and monitoring; underlines the need to provide human rights defenders and reporting actors with protection at both national and Union level, including against abuses of court actions where necessary, along with adequate funding at all levels; calls in that regard for the creation of a statute for European cross-border associations and non-profit organisations after a thorough impact assessment; stresses the contribution of whistleblowers to safeguarding the rule of law and fighting corruption; calls on the Commission to closely monitor the transposition and application of 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(12); points out that the accreditation status of national human rights institutions and the space for civil society may themselves serve as indicators for assessment purposes; encourages national parliaments to hold public debates and adopt positions on the outcome of the monitoring cycle; highlights that training of justice professionals is essential for the proper implementation and application of Union law and thus for the strengthening of a common legal culture throughout the Union; considers that the upcoming European judicial training strategy must put additional focus on promoting the rule of law and judicial independence and include training on skills and non-legal issues to make judges better prepared to resist undue pressure; encourages the Commission and the Member States to further promote and facilitate the dialogue between courts and legal practitioners by fostering the regular exchange of information and best practices in order to strengthen and advance a Union area of justice based on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights; stresses the need to ensure adequate funding for the sectoral Justice Programme and Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme in the upcoming Multiannual Financial Framework, as those programmes aim to protect and promote Union values and develop a Union area of justice based on the rule of law and to support civil society;

11.  Points to the complementarity that should exist between the EU Justice Scoreboard, which allows for a comparison between Member States’ judicial systems, and the Mechanism; notes that according to the 2020 EU Justice Scoreboard there are still significant differences among Member States regarding the number of pending cases and that the building up of backlogs has increased in some Member States, that not all Member States offer training on ICT skills aimed at adapting to digitalisation and facilitating access to justice, that legal aid has become less accessible in some Member States over the years and that gender equality has not yet been ensured in the judicial systems in most Member States

12.  Reaffirms the role of Parliament, in accordance with Article 7 TEU, in monitoring compliance with Union values; reiterates the call for Parliament to be able to present its reasoned proposal to the Council and to attend Article 7 hearings when it is Parliament that initiated the procedure, respecting the prerogatives of each of the three institutions and the principle of sincere cooperation; calls on the Council to keep Parliament regularly informed and closely involved and to work in a transparent manner; believes that the Mechanism, underpinned by an interinstitutional agreement, will provide the necessary framework for better coordination;

13.  Is of the view that, in the long-term, strengthening the Union’s ability to promote and defend its constitutional core might require Treaty change; looks forward to the reflection and conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe in that regard; stresses that the effectiveness of the Article 7 TEU procedure should be enhanced by revising the majority necessary for action and reinforcing the sanctioning mechanism; invites the Conference on the Future of Europe to consider strengthening the role of the Court of Justice of the European Union in protecting the Union’s founding values; calls for a revision of Council Regulation (EC) No 168/2007 of 15 February 2007 establishing a European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights(13), following a thorough impact assessment, with a view to strengthening and enlarging its mandate to cover all the values referred to in Article 2 TEU;

14.  Strongly believes that addressing the crisis of Union values, including through the proposed Mechanism, is a precondition for re-establishing mutual trust among Member States, thus enabling the Union as a whole to sustain and further all common policies;

15.  Regrets that the European Council, in its conclusions of 21 July 2020, weakened the budgetary conditionality mechanism proposed by the Commission; reiterates its call to ensure that systemic breaches of the values referred to in Article 2 TEU are made incompatible with Union funding; stresses the need to employ reverse qualified majority for the protection of the Union’s budget, without which the effectiveness of the new budgetary conditionality mechanism would be under threat; demands that the application of budgetary conditionality be accompanied by measures aimed at mitigating any potential impact on individual beneficiaries of Union funding, including civil society organisations; underlines that the budgetary conditionality mechanism cannot be substituted by the proposed Annual Monitoring Cycle alone; urges the European Council to act on its promise made in the Sibiu Declaration of 9 May 2019 to protect democracy and the rule of law;

16.  Invites the Commission and the Council to enter without delay into negotiations with Parliament on an interinstitutional agreement in accordance with Article 295 TFEU; considers the proposal set out in the Annex hereto to constitute an appropriate basis for such negotiations;

17.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution and the accompanying proposal to the Commission and the Council.

ANNEX TO THE RESOLUTION:

Proposal for an Interinstitutional Agreement on Reinforcing Union Values

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION,

Having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and in particular Article 295 thereof,

Whereas:

(1)  According to Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities (‘Union values’).

(2)  Pursuant to Article 49 TEU, respect for and commitment to promoting Union values is a fundamental condition of Union membership. In accordance with Article 7 TEU, the existence of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of Union values can lead to the suspension of the voting rights of the representative of the government of that Member State in the Council. Respect for Union values forms the basis of a high level of confidence and mutual trust between Member States.

(3)  The European Parliament, the Council and the Commission (the ‘three institutions’) recognise the importance of respect for Union values. Respect for Union values is necessary for the good functioning of the Union and the achievement of its objectives as set out in Article 3 TEU. The three institutions are committed to mutual sincere cooperation with the aim of promoting and ensuring respect for Union values.

(4)  The three institutions recognise the need for streamlining and strengthening the effectiveness of existing tools designed to foster compliance with Union values. A comprehensive and evidence-based interinstitutional mechanism, respecting the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, should therefore be established in order to improve coordination between the three institutions and consolidate initiatives taken previously. In accordance with the Conclusions of the Justice and Home Affairs Council of 6 and 7 June 2013, such a mechanism should operate in 'a transparent manner, on the basis of evidence objectively compiled, compared and analysed and on the basis of equality of treatment as between all Member States'.

(5)  The three institutions agree that an Annual Monitoring Cycle on Union Values is necessary to reinforce the promotion and respect for Union values. The Annual Monitoring Cycle should be comprehensive, objective, impartial, evidence-based and applied equally and fairly to all Member States. The primary objective of the Annual Monitoring Cycle should be to prevent violations of and non-compliance with Union values and to highlight positive developments and exchange best practices, while providing a shared basis for other actions by the three institutions. The three institutions also agree to use this Interinstitutional Agreement to integrate existing instruments and initiatives relating to the promotion of and respect for Union values, in particular the Commission’s annual Rule of Law Report, the Council’s annual Rule of Law Dialogue and the Commission’s Rule of Law Framework, in order to avoid duplication and strengthen overall effectiveness.

(6)  The Annual Monitoring Cycle should consist of a preparatory stage, the publication of an annual monitoring report on compliance with Union values including country-specific recommendations, and a follow-up stage including the implementation of recommendations. The Annual Monitoring Cycle should be conducted in a spirit of transparency and openness with the involvement of citizens and civil society and should be protected from disinformation.

(7)  The three institutions share the view that the Annual Monitoring Cycle should replace Commission Decisions 2006/928/EC(14) and 2006/929/EC(15) and fulfil, inter alia, the objectives of those Decisions. This Interinstitutional Agreement is without prejudice to the 2005 Act of Accession, in particular Articles 37 and 38 thereof.

(8)  The Annual Monitoring Cycle should also be complementary to and coherent with other instruments relating to the promotion and strengthening of Union values. In particular, the three institutions commit to using the findings of the annual monitoring reports in their assessment of whether there is a clear risk of a serious breach or existence of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of Union values in the context of Article 7 TEU. Similarly, the Commission has committed to using the findings of the annual monitoring report as part of its assessment of whether an infringement procedure should be launched and whether there are generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in the Member States, in accordance with Article 5 of Regulation (EU) 2020/xxxx of the European Parliament and of the Council(16). The three institutions agree that the annual monitoring reports should more generally guide their actions with respect to Union values.

(9)  In accordance with Article 295 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), this Interinstitutional Agreement lays down arrangements only for the facilitation of cooperation between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission and, in accordance with Article 13(2) TEU, those institutions are to act within the limits of the powers conferred on them by the Treaties and in conformity with the procedures, conditions and objectives set out therein. This Interinstitutional Agreement is without prejudice to the prerogatives of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the authentic interpretation of Union law,

HAVE AGREED AS FOLLOWS

I.  OBJECTIVES

1.  The three institutions hereby agree to promote and strengthen respect for Union values, in accordance with Article 2 TEU, through coordination and cooperation.

II.  ANNUAL MONITORING CYCLE

2.  The three institutions agree to organise in sincere and mutual cooperation an Annual Monitoring Cycle on Union Values, covering issues and best practices in all areas of Union values. The Annual Monitoring Cycle shall consist of a preparatory stage, the publication of an annual monitoring report on Union values (‘Annual Report’) including recommendations, and a follow-up stage.

3.  The three institutions agree to establish a permanent Interinstitutional Working Group on Union Values (‘Working Group’). The Working Group shall facilitate coordination and cooperation among the three institutions in the Annual Monitoring Cycle. The Working Group shall periodically inform the public about its work.

4.  A panel of independent experts shall advise the Working Group and the three institutions. In cooperation with the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, the panel of independent experts shall identify the main positive and negative developments in each Member State in an impartial manner and contribute to the development of a methodology for the Annual Report. The three institutions may consult the panel at any stage of the Annual Monitoring Cycle.

Preparatory stage

5.  On an annual basis, the Commission shall organise a targeted stakeholder consultation to collect information for the Annual Report. The stakeholder consultation shall take place in the first quarter of each year. The consultation shall be transparent and based on a clear and rigorous methodology adopted by the Working Group. The methodology shall, in any event, encompass in an appropriate form benchmarks such as those listed in the Annexes to Commission Decisions 2006/928/EC and 2006/929/EC.

6.  The stakeholder consultation shall give an opportunity to civil society organisations, national human rights institutions and equality bodies, professional associations and networks, bodies of the Council of Europe and other international organisations, Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies and the Member States, including relevant national authorities, to contribute to the Annual Report. The Commission shall incorporate the information provided by stakeholders in the Annual Report. The Commission shall publish contributions to the consultation on its website prior to the publication of the Annual Report.

7.  The Commission shall draw on all information at its disposal when preparing the Annual Report on the basis of the methodology agreed by the Working Group. Of particular relevance in that regard are reports and data from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights and other Union bodies, offices and agencies, the Council of Europe, including the Venice Commission and the Group of States against Corruption, and other international organisations that produce relevant studies and assessments. Where the Annual Report as drafted by the Commission diverges from the findings of the panel of independent experts, the European Parliament and the Council may request the Commission to explain its reasons to the Working Group.

8.  Designated representatives of any of the three institutions, after coordinating within the Working Group, shall have the possibility to conduct fact-finding visits to the Member States for the purpose of obtaining additional information and clarification about the state of Union values in the Member States concerned. The Commission shall incorporate the findings in the Annual Report.

9.  The Commission shall regularly inform the Working Group of the progress made throughout the preparatory stage.

Annual Report and recommendations

10.  The Commission shall draft the Annual Report based on information gathered during the preparatory stage. The Annual Report should cover both positive and negative developments relating to Union values in the Member States. The Annual Report shall be impartial, based on objectively compiled evidence and respect equality of treatment between all Member States. The depth of reporting should reflect the gravity of the situation in question. The Annual Report shall include a section on infringement procedures concerning Union values.

11.  The Annual Report shall contain recommendations specific to each Member State with the aim of strengthening the protection and promotion of Union values. The recommendations shall specify concrete targets and timeframes for implementation and take due account of any concerns expressed in reasoned proposals adopted under Article 7(1) TEU. The recommendations shall take account of the diversity of Member States’ political and legal systems. Implementation of the recommendations shall be assessed in subsequent Annual Reports or urgent reports, as appropriate.

12.  The Annual Report including its recommendations shall be published in September each year. The publication date shall be coordinated among the three institutions in the Working Group. Prior to its publication, the Commission shall present the draft Annual Report to the Working Group.

Follow-up

13.  No later than two months from its publication date, the European Parliament and the Council shall discuss the content of the Annual Report. The discussions shall be made public. The Parliament and the Council shall adopt positions on the Annual Report by means of resolutions and conclusions. As part of the follow-up, the European Parliament and the Council shall assess and reflect on the extent to which previous recommendations have been implemented by the Member States, including implementation of relevant rulings of the Court of Justice of the European Union. The three institutions shall make use of their respective powers under the Treaties with a view to contributing to an effective follow-up. The three institutions shall endeavour to promote debate on the Annual Report in the Member States, in particular in national parliaments, in a timely manner.

14.  On the basis of the findings of the Annual Report, the Commission shall, either on its own initiative or upon request by the European Parliament or the Council, enter into a dialogue with one or several Member States, including relevant authorities, with the aim of facilitating implementation of the recommendations. The Commission shall regularly report on the progress of the dialogue to the European Parliament and to the Council. The Commission may, at any time, including at the request of the Member State concerned, provide technical assistance to the Member States through different activities. The European Parliament shall organise, in cooperation with national parliaments, an interparliamentary debate on the findings of the Annual Report.

15.  The three institutions should consider the findings of the Annual Report in the determination of funding priorities. In particular, the Commission should include targeted support for national actors contributing to the protection and promotion of Union values, such as civil society and media organisations, when establishing relevant annual work programmes for the disbursement of Union funds under both shared and direct management.

16.  Without prejudice to the powers of the Commission under Article 258 TFEU and Article 5 of Regulation (EU) 2020/xxxx and the right of one third of Member States, the European Parliament and the Commission to submit to the Council a reasoned proposal in accordance with Article 7(1) TEU, the three institutions agree that the Annual Reports should guide their actions concerning Union values.

17.  The European Parliament and the Council may request the Commission to develop additional guidelines and indicators to address relevant horizontal issues that emerge from the Annual Monitoring Cycle.

Urgent report

18.  Where the situation in one or several Member States portends imminent and serious damage to Union values, the Commission may, either on its own initiative or upon request by the European Parliament or the Council draft an urgent report on the situation. The Commission shall prepare the report in consultation with the Working Group. The Commission shall draft the urgent report without delay and make it public no later than two months following a request by the European Parliament or the Council. The findings of the urgent report shall be incorporated in the next Annual Report. The urgent report may specify recommendations aimed at addressing the imminent threat to Union values.

III.  COMPLEMENTARITY WITH OTHER INSTRUMENTS

19.  The three institutions acknowledge the complementary nature of the Annual Monitoring Cycle and other mechanisms for the protection and promotion of Union values, in particular the procedure laid down in Article 7 TEU, infringement procedures and Regulation (EU) 2020/xxxx. The three institutions commit to take account of the objectives of this Interinstitutional Agreement in Union policies.

20.  Where the Annual Report identifies systemic deficiencies with respect to one or several Union values, the three institutions commit to take appropriate action, without delay, within their respective powers as conferred on them by the Treaties. The three institutions agree that the findings of the Annual Report shall serve as a basis for deciding whether to activate the procedure provided for in Article 7 TEU and launching infringement procedures concerning the protection of Union values. The three institutions shall consider, inter alia, whether Union policies requiring a high level of mutual trust can be sustained in light of systemic deficiencies identified in the Annual Report.

21.  The Annual Monitoring Cycle established by this Agreement shall replace the mechanism for cooperation and verification of progress in Romania to address specific benchmarks in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption established by Commission Decision 2006/928/EC and the mechanism for cooperation and verification of progress in Bulgaria to address specific benchmarks in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption and organised crime established by Commission Decision 2006/929/EC and shall fulfil, inter alia, the objectives pursued by those Decisions. The Commission therefore undertakes to repeal those Decisions at an appropriate time.

Common arrangements for Article 7 TEU

22.  The three institutions agree to use the findings of the Annual Report in their assessment of whether there is a clear risk of a serious breach or existence of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of Union values under Article 7 TEU.

23.  In order to strengthen the transparency and efficiency of the procedure laid down in Article 7 TEU, the three institutions agree to ensure that the institution initiating a proposal under Article 7(1) TEU shall be able to present the proposal in the Council and be fully informed and involved at all stages during the procedure. The three institutions agree to consult each other regularly in the Working Group regarding existing and potential procedures launched under Article 7 TEU.

24.  The three institutions agree to work out modalities aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of the procedure laid down in Article 7 TEU. Such new modalities may include a regularised schedule of hearings and state-of-play sessions, recommendations aimed at redressing concerns expressed in the reasoned proposal and timelines for implementation.

Common arrangements for budgetary conditionality

25.  The three institutions agree to use the findings of the Annual Report in their assessment of whether there are generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in the Member States, in accordance with Article 5 of Regulation (EU) 2020/xxxx, as well as in any other relevant assessment for the purposes of existing and future budgetary tools. Where the Annual Report identifies that a generalised deficiency as regards the rule of law in a Member State affects or risks affecting the principles of sound financial management or the protection of the financial interests of the Union, the Commission shall send a written notification to that Member State in accordance with Article 5(1) of Regulation (EU) 2020/xxxx.

IV.  FINAL PROVISIONS

26.  The three institutions shall take the necessary steps to ensure that they have the means and resources required for the proper implementation of this Interinstitutional Agreement.

27.  The three institutions shall monitor the implementation of this Interinstitutional Agreement jointly and continuously, at both the political level through regular discussions and the technical level in the Working Group.

28.  This Agreement shall enter into force on the day of its signature.

(1) OJ C 215, 19.6.2018, p. 162.
(2) OJ C 390, 18.11.2019, p. 117.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0407.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0456.
(5) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0032.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0111.
(7) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0328.
(8) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2019)0101.
(9) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0007.
(10) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0014.
(11) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0054.
(12) OJ L 305, 26.11.2019, p. 17.
(13) OJ L 53, 22.2.2007, p. 1.
(14) Commission Decision of 13 December 2006 establishing a mechanism for cooperation and verification of progress in Romania to address specific benchmarks in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption (OJ L 354, 14.12.2006, p. 56).
(15) Commission Decision of 13 December 2006 establishing a mechanism for cooperation and verification of progress in Bulgaria to address specific benchmarks in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption and organised crime (OJ L 354, 14.12.2006, p. 58).
(16) [instead of xxxx insert number of 2018/136(COD) in the text (also in points 16, 19 and 25) and the footnote and correct OJ reference in footnote] Regulation (EU) .../… of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of the Union's budget in case of generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in the Member States OJ C ..., ....., p. ....


Implementation of the common commercial policy – annual report 2018
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European Parliament resolution of 7 October 2020 on the implementation of the common commercial policy – annual report 2018 (2019/2197(INI))
P9_TA-PROV(2020)0252A9-0160/2020

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission’s report of 14 October 2019 on implementation of free trade agreements, 1 January 2018 - 31 December 2018 (COM(2019)0455),

–  having regard to the Commission Staff Working Document (SWD(2019)0370) of 14 October 2019, accompanying the Commission’s report on the implementation of free trade agreements, 1 January 2018 - 31 December 2018 (COM(2019)0455),

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

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 29 January 2020 entitled ‘Commission Work Programme 2020: A Union that strives for more’ (COM(2020)0037),

–  having regard to the Political Guidelines for the European Commission 2019-2024 of 16 July 2019,

–  having regard to its resolution of 30 May 2018 on the annual report on the implementation of the Common Commercial Policy(1),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 11 December 2019 on the European Green Deal (COM(2019)0640),

–  having regard to the Joint Communication of 8 April 2020 on the global EU response to COVID-19 (JOIN(2020)0011),

–  having regard to its resolution of 29 November 2018 on WTO: the way forward(2),

–  having regard to the Joint Communication of 9 March 2020 entitled ‘Towards a comprehensive strategy with Africa’ (JOIN(2020)0004),

–  having regard to the joint statement of 25 January 2019 by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on electronic commerce,

–  having regard to the G20 Trade Ministers’ statements of 30 March and 14 May 2020,

–  having regard to the joint US-EU statement of 25 July 2018,

–  having regard to the joint statement of 14 January 2020 of the Trilateral Meeting of the Trade Ministers of Japan, the United States and the European Union,

–  having regard to the Commission Staff Working Document of 20 December 2019 on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in third countries (SWD(2019)0452),

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report of 27 March 2019 on trade defence instruments (COM(2019)0158),

–  having regard to the Special Eurobarometer published in November 2019 entitled ‘Europeans’ attitude on Trade and EU trade policy’,

–  having regard to the joint communication on ‘EU-China – A strategic outlook’ adopted by the Commission and the European External Action Service on 12 March 2019 (JOIN(2019)0005),

–  having regard to the joint communication on ‘Connecting Europe and Asia - building blocks for an EU strategy’ adopted by the Commission and the European External Action Service on 19 September 2018 (JOIN(2018)0031),

–  having regard to the Commission’s report of 26 June 2019 on trade and investment barriers,

–  having regard to its resolution of 18 May 2017 on the implementation of the free trade Agreement between the EU and the Republic of Korea(3),

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

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

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 July 2016 on social and economic standards, human rights and corporate responsibility(5),

–  having regard to Articles 2 and 21 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and to Chapter V, Title II of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), as well as to Article 218 TFEU,

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 June 2015 on the EU strategy for equality between women and men post 2015(6),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 March 2018 on gender equality in trade agreements(7),

–  having regard to the Commission’s gender equality strategy of March 2020,

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the Generalised Scheme of Preferences covering the period 2018-2019(8),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 22 November 2018 entitled ‘The Single Market in a changing world: A unique asset in need of renewed political commitment’ (COM(2018)0772),

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

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on International Trade (A9-0160/2020),

A.  whereas Parliament’s resolution of 30 May 2018 on the implementation of the Common Commercial Policy obtained wide support for its approach favouring a rules-based, value-based and predictable trade system; whereas new developments since 2018, notably the implementation of the EU-Canada trade agreement and most recently the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on trade, make it necessary to undertake a thorough update of the previous report;

B.  whereas the EU is the world’s leading commercial power and largest trading bloc, acting as a major driver of economic prosperity; whereas it is also the largest trader of manufactured goods and services; whereas the latest indicators reveal that in 2019 EU exports of goods rose to EUR 2 132,3 billion, amounting to an increase of 3,5 % on the previous year; whereas despite the current global challenges the EU’s main trading partners are the US and China; whereas between 2007 and 2017 global GDP increased by more than 70 %; whereas if one compares the EU’s increase of 17 % to the figures for countries like the US (60 %), India (80 %) and China (315 %), it is clear that the EU is falling behind in global competitiveness;

C.  whereas on 14 October 2019 the Commission published its third report on the implementation of EU free trade agreements (FTAs), which shows that in 2018 33 % of EU exports and 29 % of EU imports were traded with FTA partners; whereas in 2018 the EU had a trade surplus of EUR 84,6 billion with FTA partners compared to its overall trade deficit of EUR 24,6 billion; whereas according to a recent Commission report, exports to the EU from developing countries on the basis of special trade preferences (GSP) grew by 16,2 % between 2016 and 2018, with an increase in value from EUR 158 billion in 2016 to EUR 183,6 billion in 2018; whereas world trade is expected to fall by between 13 % and 32 % in 2020 due to the effects of COVID-19; whereas extra-EU27 exports of goods and services are expected to decline by 9,2 % and extra-EU27 imports by 8,8 %, while the IMF expects EU GDP to decrease by 7,5 %;

D.  whereas the common commercial policy is an exclusive competence of the Union implemented by the Commission, the Council and Parliament, which requires the Union to speak with one voice in trade matters with the Commission as its negotiator; whereas in 2015 the Commission adopted a communication entitled ‘Trade for All: Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy’; whereas the Commission has launched a trade policy review aiming at improving the trade toolbox following the COVID-19 crisis;

E.  whereas Article 207 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU and Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union stipulate that the common commercial policy shall be conducted in the context of the principles and objectives of the Union's external action, including the promotion of human rights, democracy, the rule of law and sustainable development; whereas in December 2019 the Commission adopted the European Green Deal, which provides that all EU actions and policies will have to contribute to its objectives;

F.  whereas EU trade and investment policy also provides investors with market access and investment protection through legal certainty and a stable, predictable and properly regulated environment in which to conduct their economic activities;

G.  whereas recent Eurobarometer figures show that around 60 % of EU citizens believe that they benefit from international trade; whereas part of public opinion is highly informed about trade policy and trade agreements; whereas half of those surveyed suggest that the priorities of EU trade policy should be to create jobs in the EU and to defend environmental and health standards; whereas the Commission and the Member States must continue to develop a proper communication strategy on trade policy and trade agreements, which aims to tackle fake news on trade and to transmit as much information as possible, while targeting specific stakeholders and raising economic operators’ awareness about trade agreements;

H.  whereas the common commercial policy, composed of trade agreements and legislative measures, should serve the objective of creating a stable, predictable and fair trading environment in which EU businesses can thrive and the interests of EU citizens are asserted, and should ensure that the EU continues to safeguard its existing social and regulatory model, while using trade policy to promote its values around the world; whereas the EU should step up its efforts to promote fair competition, ensuring a level playing field and addressing contemporary trade issues; whereas fulfilling these objectives requires a sound orientation of Union trade policy and full and efficient implementation and monitoring thereof, in a fairer and more transparent manner; whereas EU trade agreements should represent opportunities for growth through market access and the lifting of trade barriers; whereas it is of fundamental importance that negotiations are conducted in a spirit of mutual benefit, in order to tackle unfair trade practices and secure compliance with EU rules and standards;

I.  whereas on 30 April 2020 the EU, together with 18 WTO members, formally notified the ‘Multi-party interim appeal arbitration arrangement’ (MPIA) to the WTO; whereas this notification marks the start of the application of the MPIA to disputes arising between the participating WTO members in view of the stalemate of the Appellate Body (AB);

J.  whereas the COVID-19 outbreak has caused a multifaceted crisis with long-term consequences and has exposed the lack of resilience of the global value chains for certain key products, including medical equipment and devices; whereas the crisis has shown the need for more robust and resilient production chains, as well as the need to invest in strategic areas to increase the resilience of EU supply chains; whereas science-based reports point to growing risks of worldwide outbreaks of pandemics and of climate change-related phenomena impacting international relations; whereas G20 trade ministers have committed to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on international trade and investment by continuing to work together to deliver a free, fair, non‑discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and by keeping our markets open to ensure the continued flow across borders of vital medical supplies and equipment, critical agricultural products, and other essential goods and services;

K.  whereas on 14 March 2020 the Commission adopted Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/402(9) under an urgency procedure to make the export of personal protective equipment (PPE) subject to export authorisation in line with Regulation (EU) 2015/479, as a temporary measure that serves to help the EU face the surge in demand and prepare its operational capacity to help out third countries;

L.  whereas the EU has negotiated comprehensive agreements governing trade relations with nearly all of Latin America and the Caribbean, with the exception of Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela;

M.  whereas Parliament has stressed the need for a gender perspective in EU international trade policy in 2015(10), and the need for gender equality in trade agreements in 2018(11); whereas 36 million jobs in the EU, of which 13,7 million are occupied by women, depend on exports to outside the EU; whereas women are largely under-represented in extra-EU trade in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors; whereas only one in five exporting companies in the EU is led (i.e. owned and/or managed) by a woman and women account for 30 % or less of the total workforce in the export sector;

N.  whereas many countries impose tariffs on medical devices including patient monitors, diagnostic equipment and common medicines like antibiotics, painkillers, or insulin, and virtually all countries charge import tariffs on soap; whereas tariffs have been exacerbated by the decision of the US to impose additional duties on USD 370 billion worth of imports from China which include some aspects of PPE;

O.  whereas science-based reports point to growing risks of worldwide outbreaks of pandemics and of climate change-related phenomena impacting international relations, and conclude that our economic models have to be deeply reformed, notably in accordance with the Paris climate agreement;

Global context

1.  Notes that significant aspects of the global context have been shifting and have proven to be unpredictable, with tensions occurring in the last two years; reiterates its support for an open, free, rules-based, predictable and fair multilateral trading system that needs to be safeguarded and promoted; points out that despite the difficult global economic climate, the EU recorded a surplus of EUR 84,6 billion (in 2018) in trade in goods with its trade agreement partners, compared to its overall trade deficit with the rest of the world of about EUR 24,6 billion; recalls that over 36 million jobs are being supported by exports to outside the EU;

2.  Notes that since the Commission adopted its latest trade strategy in 2015, entitled ‘Trade for all’, the EU has concluded and started applying a number of new trade agreements, notably the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the EU-Singapore and EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreements (FTAs),

3.  Insists that the EU trade strategy must continue to promote the Union’s interests and values when contending with new challenges worldwide, increase the competitiveness of EU industry, and generate economic growth in line with the European Green Deal objectives; considers, therefore, that an ambitious multilateral, plurilateral and bilateral agenda, the conclusion of trade agreements that are fair and fruitful for both parties, ensuring a strict reciprocity and respecting Europe’s high norms and standards in sensitive sectors, human rights and their effective protection, the elimination of unjustified trade barriers, and the use of trade defence tools where necessary constitute the best way to make the EU more competitive in a globalised world;

4.  Stresses that our relationship with the two other trade superpowers, China and the US, which represent approximately 30 % of our trade exchanges, are key when it comes to driving EU trade policy; insists, however, that the EU should reinforce its relationships with other parts of the world, diversify and improve its trade relations with all partners, including developing countries and LDCs, and work towards a multipolar world order; underlines the need to avoid overdependence of the EU economy on supply chains of a few major trading partners;

5.  Stresses the need to enhance exchange of information between the Member States; calls for further exchange of good practices, between Member States and between Member States and the Commission, with a view to achieving synergies and improving outcomes; in this regard, also stresses the need to improve assessment strategies on agreements, and considers that the Commission should ensure a better impact assessment for each trade agreement, to be carried out in due time and conducted by independent bodies;

6.  Welcomes the increase of transparency in trade policy; welcomes the decision of the Council to publish the mandate on the negotiations of Economic Partnership Agreements with the ACP regions on 19 December 2019; expresses satisfaction with the recent efforts of the new Commission to inform Parliament more regularly about the state of play of ongoing negotiations, thus making the work of the Commission more transparent, such as making available detailed reports on the specialised committees set up under CETA and the agreement with South Korea;

7.  Stresses that the Commission and the Member States must work on a better communication strategy with regard to the benefits of EU trade policy and awareness-raising in order to effectively engage with society and stakeholders; recalls that roadmaps provide the opportunity for the Commission to communicate and explain the reasons behind a particular initiative and its objectives, as well as to engage with society and stakeholders and receive feedback; considers that the Commission should ensure the full transparency of roadmaps and other consultation activities in order to maximise their impact and guarantee the involvement of stakeholders;

8.  Regrets the serious impact of the COVID-19 virus and the consequent lockdown of economies as regards global trade, with both imports to and exports from the EU being reduced and value chains interrupted and halted as a result; highlights that the EU must learn from the current pandemic in order to reduce its vulnerability, especially for certain strategic sectors; believes that the EU and its Member States need to act swiftly to use trade policy as a tool to enable the recovery of the global economy and mitigate recession; is of the firm belief that the EU must improve its open strategic autonomy while ensuring rules-based trade in time of crisis, and must avoid measures that restrict and/or distort trade, and similarly challenge such measures from third countries, all of which should be specifically addressed in the Trade Policy Review;

9.  Calls for progressing on the current negotiations and in particular revamping negotiations for a swift conclusion of a plurilateral agreement on free circulation of medical equipment; strongly encourages all countries to join the WTO Pharmaceutical Tariff Elimination Agreement (Zero for Zero) and believes its scope should be extended to all pharmaceutical and medicinal products to ensure worldwide cross-border trade; calls on WTO members to make this topic a priority on the agenda of the next WTO Ministerial Meeting, considering trade agreements as a way to help companies diversify their sources;

10.  Stresses that the EU must ensure open trade flows and sustained global value chains, and must therefore refrain from export restrictions such as on PPE, for which the EU is depending on trade partners in third countries; urges those Member States which restrict the flow of critical goods on the internal market to immediately lift their export restrictions, and calls on the Commission to apply zero tolerance to such breaches of the rules of the single market; takes the view that the EU must carefully assess and identify critical sectors and societal vulnerabilities where the Union needs to secure its supply of products, and must seek effective and proportionate remedies in trade policy;

11.  Laments the economic losses due to the disruption of international trade and global value chains as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have a particularly severe impact on developing countries; calls on the Commission to ensure that its trade provisions with developing countries support access to medicines and medical equipment;

12.  Highlights the need to help rural and coastal producers to adapt to the crisis market conditions arising from the COVID-19 outbreak and devise swift coronavirus adaptation and resilience strategies so as to maintain subsistence income levels, while ensuring the sustainable management of agricultural, forest, marine and biodiversity-rich ecosystems;

WTO and plurilateral cooperation

13.  Stresses that this is a critical moment for promoting open, fair, balanced, sustainable, and values-based multilateralism and fostering the global trading system; deeply regrets the impasse of the WTO, which requires active steps and commitments from all WTO members; reiterates its commitment to defend the rules-based multilateral trading system;

14.  Underlines the primary political and economic importance of the multilateral system and calls on the international trading partners to work towards the achievement of a well-functioning dispute settlement system at the WTO and to carry forward an ambitious reform led by the EU; urges the Commission, in this respect, to negotiate new rules to fight trade-distorting phenomena relating to non-market policies and practices, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and industrial subsidies, that lead to overcapacity, forced technology transfer policies and practices, and intellectual property theft; encourages WTO members to reach an ambitious and balanced agreement on the long-standing issue of fishery subsidies during the ministerial conference to be held in 2021, and to send out a clear signal that the WTO is still able to deliver on its negotiating function;

15.  Welcomes the multi-party interim appeal arbitration arrangement (MPIA), a new system that will allow the EU, together with other participating WTO members, to overcome the current paralysis of the WTO’s Appellate Body and will permit the participating members to preserve a functioning two-step dispute settlement system at the WTO should there be disputes between them;

16.  Notes the progress made during ongoing sectoral and plurilateral negotiations, notably on domestic regulation of services, e-commerce and investment facilitation; underlines that these sectoral negotiations are Joint Communication-based undertakings which should be conducted with a view to finding a cross-cutting consensus of all participants;

17.  Welcomes the progress made on negotiations for the Multilateral Investment Court (MIC); notes that the International Court System (ICS) is intended to be a stepping-stone towards the MIC; regrets the extremely slow progress of Member States in dismantling intra-EU bilateral investment treaties (BITs), and urges the Commission to take action where appropriate;

18.  Expresses its strong support for the trilateral cooperation under way between the EU, the US and Japan on limiting market-distorting practices worldwide; welcomes in this regard the joint statement of 14 January 2020 on industrial subsidies;

United States

19.  Deeply regrets the significant change of direction in US trade policy over the past three years, and is concerned at the increase in unilateral trade measures and the rise of protectionist measures, including recent decisions by the US Department of Commerce to launch further section 232 investigations; regrets the formal notification by the US on 4 November 2019 of its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, and recalls that the EU’s common commercial policy should contribute to promoting the realisation of that agreement; stresses the importance of relaunching the EU-US talks to resolve pending problems, including disputes; stresses the importance of keeping agriculture outside the scope of the negotiations as well as ensuring proper monitoring and protection of the fisheries sector;

20.  Recalls that the EU should continue to work with the US as a partner with whom it has to find solutions to trade issues of common interest and also to threats and to trade frictions, including the extraterritorial application of laws adopted by the US which are contrary to international law; stresses that the EU should continue to engage in efforts to restore mutual trust and close trade relations while ensuring that European standards are respected; is of the view that a limited trade agreement with the US could be considered as an important stepping-stone;

21.  Invites the Commission to engage its US counterparts to find ways to de-escalate transatlantic trade tensions, including finding negotiated solutions with the US on the issue of civil aircraft subsidies, in particular with regard to the ongoing Airbus-Boeing dispute, and to reach a deal to end the illegal imposition of US steel and aluminium tariffs and illegal anti-subsidies and anti-dumping measures on agri-food products, including those on ripe olives; urges the Commission to increase its efforts for a coordinated and unified EU response; welcomes the negotiations between the EU and the US on mutual acceptance of the results of the conformity assessment; encourages the Commission to accelerate cooperation in other areas of joint interest, such as standards and other non-tariff barriers, in order to make trade easier, reduce bureaucratic obstacles and slash costs;

22.  Regrets that the current administration is considering withdrawing from the General Procurement Agreement; urges the administration to remain a party to that agreement;

China

23.  Notes that China represents a market of opportunities because of its size and growth, being the EU’s second biggest trading partner, but that there are many barriers for EU businesses when it comes to accessing and operating in that market, due to the state-led and state-subsidised nature of the Chinese economy, where state-owned businesses benefit from exclusive or dominant market access; condemns all types of discriminatory measures facing EU companies in China; considers that fair competition between EU and Chinese companies would lead to more opportunities and greater innovation, and calls on the Commission to constantly monitor the persistent acts of discrimination and work with the Chinese authorities in order to dismantle such acts and barriers; takes note of the withdrawal by China in May 2019 of its complaint at the WTO against the EU regarding the non-market economy treatment in anti-dumping; welcomes the outcome of the dispute settlement case between the EU and China which marks the end of China’s status as a market economy, in line with Parliament’s position of May 2016(12);

24.  Welcomes the conclusion on 6 November 2019 of the negotiations for an EU-China Geographical Indications Agreement as a positive step towards improving the protection of EU GI products in China, and calls for its swift ratification, as well as for updated legislation and stronger enforcement; insists that this EU-China Geographical Indications Agreement must not be infringed upon by the US-China Phase 1 trade deal; calls on the Commission to monitor the situation of market access for European products during implementation of this agreement; notes that, according to the most recent report on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPRs), more than 80 % of seizures of counterfeit and pirated goods concern goods originating from China, and that this was the case in both 2018 and 2019; calls on the Commission to explore further tools to address these issues and guarantee the full protection of IPRs;

25.  Encourages the Commission to conclude negotiations on an ambitious investment agreement with China, with an effective Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapter, which removes all barriers to market openness in China; looks forward to the conclusion of the negotiations by the end of 2020 as agreed in the EU-China Summit in 2019; firmly believes, however, that the substance of the agreement should be prioritised over the speed of its conclusion;

26.  Is appalled by the report of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute released in February 2020, which shows evidence of exploitation of Uyghur workers in Chinese factories, including in factories belonging to EU companies’ value chains; is deeply concerned at the reported impacts of the Belt and Road Initiative on human rights in China and Pakistan; calls on the Commission to use all available means to end the exploitation of Uyghurs; calls on European companies to stop any form of implication in China’s human rights violations; insists that Uyghur forced labour must be excluded from the supply chains of products imported into the single market;

New partnership with Africa

27.  Welcomes the publication of the Joint Communication for a comprehensive EU-Africa Strategy; calls for the EU to engage more with African countries in order to create an effective and solid partnership, in line with the trade-related aspects of the Agenda 2063 African Development Strategy, that would promote sustainable economic development, growth and food security in the African continent; stresses that the figures of the recent report of 10 February 2020 on the General Scheme of Preferences (GSP) covering the period 2018-2019 show an increase in the utilisation rate of the preferences by the countries benefiting from the scheme; calls on the Commission to increase its technical and economic support via aid-for-trade measures between the EU and African countries as well as among African countries themselves; notes in this regard that aid-for-trade should be a key component in trade relations with Africa in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis;

28.  Welcomes the progress made towards implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), which aims to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of people and investment; welcomes the EU’s support in setting up the new African Union Trade Observatory; calls for continued EU support for ACFTA in line with the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investments and Jobs; calls for proper enforcement and deepening of the existing Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the aim of boosting trade and investment; welcomes the entry into force of the ESA and SADC EPAs and the interim EPAs with Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, and regrets the lack of progress in ratification of the remaining regional EPAs; expresses its support for the vision set out in the 2018 State of the Union address of a continent-to-continent trade agreement that should be an economic partnership between equals which would create mutual benefits and serve to further the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and support the development of competitive local and regional value chains and resilient fiscal systems;

29.  Stresses, moreover, that it is important that EPAs are jointly monitored, with the support of local partners and civil society organisations; calls on the Commission to carry out an in-depth analysis of the current EPAs on matters such as local economies, labour markets, biodiversity loss, deforestation and land-grabbing, in order to determine whether changes are needed;

Developing countries

30.  Emphasises that trade can be an important tool for achieving the SDGs by helping to reduce poverty; to this end, highlights the need to focus on mutually beneficial FTAs, export diversification, value addition and micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs); points out that the EU is committed to a robust, effective and credible commercial policy which will form the basis of a fair, open, rule-based, multilateral and inclusive commercial system constituting a global level playing field in the interest of all countries, including developing ones, which is essential for the further integration of developing countries into global value chains; recalls that EU trade and development policy should contribute to regional integration and the incorporation and rise of developing countries within global value chains;

31.  Highlights that developing countries are the most affected by the phenomenon of tax evasion, which deprives states of billions of euros in public revenues every year; calls for the inclusion in trade agreements with developing countries of provisions to help combat illicit financial flows and tax evasion on the part of corporations and multinationals, with the aim of ensuring that taxes are paid where profits and real economic value are created and eliminating base erosion and profit-shifting;

Japan, Singapore and Vietnam

32.  Welcomes the entry into force of the EU-Japan FTA of 1 February 2019, and notes that, according to the first elements given after one year of implementation(13), EU exports to Japan went up by 6,6 % compared to the same period the year before;

33.  Welcomes the entry into force of the EU-Singapore trade agreement of 21 November 2019; welcomes the progress towards implementation of the EU-Vietnam agreement and calls for continued speedy progress, notably in the establishment of joint institutions and the ratification of outstanding core ILO conventions and commitments on human rights issues, urging the Commission to ensure their concrete enforcement in liaison with the EEAS; calls on the Member States to proceed with ratification of the EU-Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement (EVIPA) so that it can, together with the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), enter into force as soon as possible; notes that in 2018 the EU exported around EUR 13,8 billion worth of goods to Vietnam, and points out that the rules-based free trade agreements (FTAs) and investment protection agreements (IPAs) will ensure predictability and rule of law for investors, as well as positively increasing exports in both ways and creating stability and trust for SMEs; views these agreements as a step towards concluding an FTA with the entire Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region;

34.  Stresses that the above three agreements consolidate the strategic dynamic of the European Union in a key area of the world characterised by a rapid growth of population and incomes, with significant opportunities for our operators; considers furthermore that by its stronger presence the EU could create an alternative to Chinese domination in the area;

Latin America and the Caribbean

35.  Highlights the importance of strengthening mutually beneficial trade and political relations with Latin America; recalls that the European Union and Latin America maintain close cooperation based on their historical, cultural and economic ties, with the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region representing the EU's fifth largest trade partner; believes that the EU's presence in the region is fundamental in terms of enhancing cooperation based on shared values, as well as being a vector for pursuing the EU's external action policy, notably in terms of strengthening the multilateral rules-based trade system; invites the Commission to clarify its intention concerning future trade and association agreements on the issue of the split of the text;

36.  Stresses the importance of the recently concluded modernisation of the EU-Mexico association agreement and the conclusion of the Mercosur association agreement, which both have the potential to deepen our strategic partnership with Latin America, to create additional opportunities in our trade relations with those countries, and to help diversify supply chains for the European economy; considers that the association agreement between the EU and Mercosur represents the largest ‘bloc to bloc’ deal of its kind and has the potential to create a mutually beneficial open market area encompassing approximately 800 million citizens; points out that this agreement, like all EU trade agreements, must ensure fair competition and guarantee that European production standards and methods are upheld; points out that the agreement contains a binding chapter on sustainable development that must be applied, implemented and fully assessed, as well as specific commitments on labour rights and environmental protection, including the implementation of the Paris climate agreement and the relevant implementing rules; emphasises that the EU-Mercosur agreement cannot be ratified as it stands;

37.  Is convinced that the modernisation of the association agreement with Chile will serve to further boost the EU's presence in the wider region and help promote an international trade agenda based on sustainable development, stronger protection for environmental and labour standards and respect for human rights; calls on the Commission to ensure that the ongoing negotiations deliver on these principles and that an agreement can be reached in a timely manner;

Ongoing FTA negotiations

38.  Calls for an ambitious agenda to be pursued when it comes to negotiating FTAs, in particular with Australia and New Zealand, Tunisia, Morocco and Indonesia and in line with the Green Deal, bearing in mind the sensitive nature of certain agricultural products such as beef, sheepmeat, dairy products and fruit; reiterates its call for the swift opening of investment negotiations with Taiwan, and invites the Commission to open a scoping exercise;

39.  Takes a pragmatic approach towards the issue of trade relations with UK, which should be comprehensive and ambitious, aiming at zero tariffs and zero quotas, and should be based on the principles regarding trade, investment and competitiveness that are set out in its recommendation of 18 June 2020 on the negotiations for a new partnership with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland(14); notes that the Political Declaration of 17 October 2019, supported by the UK, states that the future economic partnership will be underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition, especially if no agreement is reached before the end of 2020; points out that the EU Member States are net exporters to the UK and that finding a solution that satisfies both parties must be a priority aiming to ensure the respect and protection of the interests of EU exporters and investors; calls on the Commission to enhance competitiveness for EU companies and SMEs;

40.  Encourages the Commission to seize the momentum caused by the UK’s withdrawal to streamline our EU policies, cut red tape and enhance competitiveness for EU companies and SMEs; stresses that the FTA with the UK should aim to allow for the closest possible market access and trade facilitation, in order to minimise trade disruptions and ensure a level playing field;

Implementation of FTAs

41.  Acknowledges the outcome presented in the Commission’s report regarding the implementation of free trade agreements (FTAs), in particular with South Korea, Central America/Latin America, Canada and the Eastern partners; stresses that EU trade agreements have a clear track record of, in most cases, reaching their primary objective of creating significant opportunities for EU exporters on third-country trade markets; stresses, however, that Commission estimates point to an increased negative economic impact of trade and investment barriers as a result of the protectionist trend; asks the Commission to continue with carrying out ex post impact assessment, including on sustainability, of the impact of trade agreements on our economy;

42.  Encourages the Commission to continuously search for ways to enhance trade relations and further deepen economic integration with the Eastern Partnership countries, particularly in the case of the three associated countries;

43.  Recalls the positive developments concerning the EU-Canada trade agreement (CETA); notes that during its first full calendar year of implementation, bilateral trade in goods, including agri-food products, grew by 10,3 %, compared to the average of the previous three years; recalls that the EU’s trade surplus with Canada rose by 60 % and created additional opportunities for our exporters; also recalls that since the provisional entry into force of the agreement the two parties have created a solid partnership by accompanying the original text with important recommendations on trade, climate action and the Paris agreement, trade and gender, and SMEs, and considers this to be proof of the dynamic of a trade agreement in its implementation; invites the Commission to transmit to Parliament more recent data relating to exports by EU SMEs and the overall sustainability of the agreement; recalls the importance of strengthening implementation and follow-up of the TSD chapter;

44.  Reiterates its concern over the low preference utilisation rate on EU exports reported by some of the EU’s preferential partners, which denotes the limited benefits of the strategy of trade bilateralism for smaller economic operators; notes in particular a large divergence in utilisation of preferences on the Union’s exports to different trade partners and little divergence in utilisation of preferences on EU imports from different trade partners; calls on the Commission to further analyse preference utilisation and come up with new innovative tools and practical solutions; highlights the importance of flexible, streamlined and uncomplicated rules of origin in this regard; calls on the Commission, together with the Member States, to streamline work towards more effective trade promotion and communication strategies and to use the full potential of the EU Delegations around the world;

45.  Points out that the large number of trade and non-trade barriers and the current divergences in the level and quality of controls, customs procedures and sanctions policies at the EU’s points of entry into the Customs Union, often result in distortion of trade flows, which puts at risk the integrity of the single market; therefore urges the Commission to address this issue to ensure that companies can compete fairly on a level playing field;

46.  Underlines that the protection of geographical indications is one of the Union’s offensive points in trade agreement negotiations, and highlights the importance of the EU’s partners complying with the provisions concerned; calls on the Commission to secure greater compliance with those provisions in existing and future trade agreements;

47.  Calls on the Commission to specifically look into the cumulative effects of EU FTAs on trade diversion, for the EU as well as for its partner countries, and to compare the results to the individual impact assessments and to actual figures;

48.  Highlights the importance of involving the national parliaments, civil society and the private sector of all parties in trade negotiations in particular; calls for greater participation and consultation of social partners and civil society in the negotiation and implementation of trade agreements, notably within the remit of domestic advisory groups, whose monitoring role could be extended to all parts of trade agreements, and not limited solely to TSD chapters;

Trade and sustainable development

49.  Recalls its position expressed in its previous report on the implementation of the common commercial policy; underlines that the 15-point action plan of 27 February 2018 set out by the Commission’s services represents a good basis for reflection in order to improve TSD chapter implementation; points out that the new-generation agreements include human rights clauses and sustainable development chapters, to be implemented comprehensively and in their entirety in order to safeguard and promote the observance of human rights, the Union’s values and high labour, social and environmental standards; notes the evaluation of the sustainable development chapters included in the Commission report on implementation of FTAs, and calls for a timely implementation of existing TSD provisions; asks the Commission to develop a precise and specific methodology for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of these chapters, given that such an evaluation cannot be made on the basis of quantitative data only; calls on the Commission to present proposals on how to strengthen the enforcement of the sustainable development chapter in trade agreements;

50.  Takes note of the initiative launched by the Commission’s DG JUST for mandatory due diligence for companies, including its consideration in EU trade agreements, as well as a mechanism that ensures effective implementation; points out that the proposal on mandatory due diligence should ensure that these measures will not add an extra burden for European SMEs or lower their competitiveness;

51.  Reiterates its call on the Commission and the Member States to engage constructively in the negotiations for a legally binding UN treaty on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, with the aim of ensuring access to justice for victims of human rights violations and enabling them to seek redress;

52.  Welcomes the Commission’s initiative for a European Green Deal, and underlines that it should be actively supported by an EU trade strategy that is ecologically, economically and socially balanced; welcomes the Commission’s commitment to make compliance with the Paris climate agreement an ‘essential clause’ in trade agreements;

53.  Observes that the current approach already contributes to addressing issues of non-compliance with obligations; however, calls on the Commission to be more attentive and to learn from its previous experience as seen in the establishment of a panel at the request of the EU under the EU-Korea FTA, following South Korea’s failure to ratify International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions on workers’ rights, notably on freedom of association and collective bargaining;

54.  Recalls that the early efforts of the Commission and Parliament in the trade negotiations with Mexico and Vietnam successfully encouraged the ratification by both countries, respectively in November 2018 and June 2019, of ILO Convention 98 on the right to organise and collective bargaining; congratulates both countries for such an important step; calls on the Commission to monitor the progress made with respect to the implementation of other ILO conventions, and to set up without delay the interparliamentary committee as agreed under the EVFTA, paying special attention to the prohibition of child labour; deplores the fact that Vietnam has not ratified ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association; calls on the Commission to monitor the situation closely and to request consultations with the Vietnamese government should it fail to make continued and sustained efforts towards ratifying, as foreseen by the agreement;

55.  Recalls the need for an effective action plan to implement the goal of zero tolerance of child labour in FTAs, by building a strong partnership with NGOs and national authorities in order to develop strong social and economic alternatives for families and workers, in coherence with actions taken under the EU development policy;

56.  Believes that TSD chapters in trade agreements should be one of the drivers of the external dimension of the European Green Deal; underlines that any new carbon adjustment mechanism should be compatible with WTO rules as well as EU FTAs; stresses that EU companies should not be put at a competitive disadvantage;

57.  Notes that EU trade and investment policy should be used as leverage towards responsible management of supply chains, which includes ensuring that businesses uphold human rights, labour rights and environmental standards and that there is access to justice; takes note of the commitments from the Commission that it will present a legislative proposal by 2021;

58.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that human rights conditions linked to unilateral trade preferences such as GSP or GSP+ are effectively implemented and monitored; stresses that EU trade policy should help to combat illegal trade, deforestation and forest degradation;

59.  Considers that the trade dimension of the COP15 of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity should be fully taken into account; recalls its resolution of 16 January 2020 on the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity,(15) calling on the Commission and the Member States to actively engage with third countries, particularly through their external action instruments, such as the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI), in order to promote and set targets for biodiversity protection, conservation and restoration measures and governance, in particular in all multilateral and trade agreements, as well as measures against non-compliance; consequently, calls on the Commission to include enforceable TSD chapters in all future trade agreements;

60.  Demands that beside the usual fundamental ILO conventions, the EU should urge its economic partners to ratify and implement Conventions 189 on domestic workers, 156 on workers with family responsibilities and 190 on violence and harassment;

Defending EU trade interests

61.  Recalls that the efforts to maintain rules-based trade must play a crucial role in our trade strategy, and in this context welcomes the adoption of the modernisation package of trade defence instruments in 2018, and the new foreign direct investment (FDI) screening mechanism; underlines that this screening mechanism aims at cooperation and potential restriction regarding foreign investments in strategic sectors with a view to protecting the Union and its Member States; calls on the Commission to ensure the effective enforcement of trade defence instruments (TDIs) so as to protect European industry from unfair market practices, and to evaluate and strengthen the safeguard instruments in order to make them more responsive to extraordinary circumstances and better adapted to reinforce European industry by effectively anticipating market disruptions from trade flow; stresses the need for strong screening and cooperation in the post COVID-19 context, in which some of the EU strategic sectors could be subjected to pressure; stresses, however, that the new FDI screening mechanism should never be used as a protectionist measure; welcomes the White Paper on foreign subsidies, and calls on the Commission to come forward with a legislative proposal as appropriate should current tools prove to be insufficient;

62.  Notes that there is currently a massive increase in steel imports from China and other third countries, which severely affects the European industry and endangers a large number of jobs; highlights that the review process of the current safeguard measures on imports of steel products needs to include reducing the existing quotas in accordance with the imported overcapacities, and to abolish the possibility of transferring unused quotas;

63.  Welcomes the announcement by the Commission of the appointment early in 2020 of a Chief Trade Enforcement Officer (CTEO) to monitor and improve compliance with the EU’s trade agreements; notes that rules under EU trade agreements should be properly enforced in order to ensure their effectiveness and address market distortions; underlines the need for this newly created post to focus on implementation and enforcement of our trade agreements, as well as on breaches of market access and trade and sustainable development commitments; is of the opinion that the CTEO should not only monitor and enforce environmental and labour protection obligations under the EU trade agreements with third countries, but also focus on implementation of all chapters of trade agreements in order to guarantee that these are used to their full potential; calls on the Commission to further clarify this role;

64.  Calls on the Council to ensure a rapid and swift agreement on the International Procurement Instrument, in order to provide legal security, reciprocity and a level playing field for EU operators; calls for the inclusion of a global catalogue of essential emergency healthcare products, to avoid future abuses by third-country providers in international trade during a global pandemic; notes that the Union’s public procurement markets are the most open in the world and that certain third countries have very limited access to such markets; stresses the importance of promoting reciprocity and mutual benefit in the area of access to markets and public procurement, to the benefit of EU companies;

65.  Emphasises the necessity of having in place adequate investment screening mechanisms in all Member States to protect against risks regarding security and public order; encourages Member States that do not yet have screening mechanisms to put in place temporary solutions, and invites the Commission to actively support such efforts;

66.  Underlines that foreign direct investment into the EU and the acquisition of healthcare and other key infrastructure by foreign investors has the potential to harm EU efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe; welcomes in this regard the Commission’s communication on Guidance to the Member States ahead of the application of the FDI Screening Regulation; urges those Member States which have not yet established a screening mechanism to do so urgently; further calls on all Member States to use all available tools to ensure that effective mechanisms are in place to assess potential investment and acquisitions in relation to threats to critical health infrastructure in the EU, and to take mitigating or blocking measures as needed;

67.  Reiterates the need to level the playing field between European industries that implement ambitious climate, environmental, ecological and social standards, and those trade partners that do not pursue the same high standards; considers, therefore, that a WTO-compatible Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism that enhances global climate action and protects European industries from unfair competition is urgently needed;

68.  Calls on EU leaders and the Commission to take bold decisions regarding the reform of the EU’s own resources system, including the introduction of a basket of new own resources; reaffirms its position, as set out in the interim report on the multiannual financial framework (MFF), regarding the list of potential candidates for new own resources: a common consolidated corporate tax base, digital services taxation, a financial transaction tax, income from the emissions trading scheme, a plastics contribution and a WTO-compatible carbon border adjustment mechanism(16);

69.  Is concerned at the continuous expansion of arbitration mechanisms between investors and states through investment agreements; recalls that such parallel judicial systems are designed to favour corporate interests and rights but not companies’ duties and responsibilities, and can put states’ policy space and legitimate right to regulate at risk; denounces the fact that law firms have begun promoting advice on how foreign investors could bring suits in arbitration as a result of COVID-related government measures; calls for a moratorium on all arbitration claims related to measures targeting health, economic, and social dimensions of the pandemic and its effects;

70.  Calls for a relaunch of negotiations for an Environmental Goods Agreement, and calls on the Commission to propose unilateral modifications of the tariffs applied on ‘green goods’ if these can be identified as contributing to reaching the targets of the European Green Deal;

71.  Calls for the external dimension of circular economy initiatives(17) to be scaled up in the EU’s relations with third countries through regulatory cooperation and dialogue;

Trade in services and digital trade

72.  Welcomes the ongoing plurilateral negotiations over key areas of trade in services, notably domestic regulation of services and investment facilitation; notes that having a commercial presence in a third country is the dominant mode of supply for trading services and for e-commerce;

73.  Stresses that the EU is by far the world’s biggest exporter of services and that services represent about 70 % of its GDP; highlights in particular the relative resilience of trade in services during the COVID-19 crisis, and underlines its role in the economic recovery in Europe;

74.  Underlines the need to facilitate international recovery efforts through open and fair trade, including digital trade, which necessitates a moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions; supports the WTO Joint Statement on Electronic Commerce advocating global rules in this field; calls for openness to a meaningful outcome to facilitate the flow of data across borders and address unjustified barriers to trade by electronic means, in full conformity with EU privacy and data protection law, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and for use to be made of the flexibility offered by the negotiating directives; welcomes the fact that these negotiations bring together a very large number of WTO members, and calls for them to be kept as open and inclusive as possible;

SMEs

75.  Notes that SMEs account for approximately 30 % of the value of EU goods exports and more than 80 % of all EU enterprises exporting goods, and yet only 5 % of SMEs are active on the international front, meaning that a large majority depend on the vibrancy of the internal market; supports the idea that a specific chapter on SMEs should be part of all proposed FTAs, as is the case in the EU-Japan agreement and the modernised agreement with Mexico, and that SMEs should be included when revising existing FTAs; notes that trade barriers and bureaucracy are especially burdensome for SMEs; calls on the Commission to continue its efforts to support micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), with specific focus on and measures for those which are women-led; calls on the EU and its Member States to pay particular attention to the special circumstances of women-led MSMEs when establishing export helpdesks, to take advantage of the possibilities created by FTAs, and to strengthen services, technologies and infrastructures (such as internet access) that are of particular importance for the economic empowerment of women and women-led MSMEs;

76.  Asks the Commission, in collaboration with Member States, business, and stakeholders, to facilitate the use and understanding of rules of origin for SMEs; reminds the Commission of its objective of launching in early 2020 a dedicated rules of origin self-assessment tool for SMEs on the Access2Market platform, to help companies assess whether a product can benefit from preferences under a given EU trade agreement, in order to facilitate SMEs’ utilisation of preferences under EU trade agreements, and so that SMEs ultimately enjoy the full benefits of trade agreements and access to foreign markets, via the provision of user-friendly, up-to-date and practical information on trade policy and in particular on FTAs; reiterates its call on the Commission to monitor the effects of its trade policy on SMEs, as they play a vital role in international trade, recalling that owing to their size and limited resources administrative costs and bureaucracy affect SMEs disproportionately;

Gender and trade

77.  Stresses the opportunity for EU free trade agreements to promote gender equality and strengthen the economic position of women in third countries, and calls on the Commission to combat the exploitation of women; calls on the Commission and the Council to propose negotiating a specific gender chapter in EU trade and investment agreements; supports the recommendations on gender and trade issued by the EU-Canada Joint Committee, setting out a platform that can promote understanding on how trade agreements can contribute to gender equality;

78.  Notes that the 26 sustainability impact assessments completed as of June 2017 did not include any specific statistics on trade and gender and that the 2018 implementation report does not provide any data either; insists on the need to start collecting gender- disaggregated data, and expects the next report to contain comprehensive data on the impact of FTAs in accordance with the commitment made by the Commission; flags in that respect the gender-based assessment carried out by Canada as a best practice worth implementing;

79.  Calls on the Commission to make sure that the composition of the Domestic Advisory Groups (DAGs) is gender-balanced and that a Trade and Gender committee is established under each FTA to identify shortcomings and that, as is the case with the Canada-Israel FTA, the dispute settlement mechanism applies to gender issues;

o
o   o

80.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the national parliaments of the Member States, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0230.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0477.
(3) OJ C 307, 30.8.2018, p. 109.
(4) OJ C 101, 16.3.2018, p. 30.
(5) OJ C 101, 16.3.2018, p. 19.
(6) OJ C 407, 4.11.2016, p. 2.
(7) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0066.
(8) https://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2020/february/tradoc_158619.pdf
(9) OJ L 771, 15.3.2020, p. 1.
(10) European Parliament resolution of 9 June 2015 on the EU strategy for equality between women and men post 2015.
(11) European Parliament resolution of 13 March 2018 on gender equality in EU trade agreements.
(12) European Parliament resolution of 12 May 2016 on China’s market economy status (OJ C 76, 28.2.2018, p. 43).
(13) https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_161
(14) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0152.
(15) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0015.
(16) See European Parliament resolution of 15 May 2020 on the new multiannual financial framework, own resources and the recovery plan (Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0124).
(17) https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:52020DC0098&from=EN?

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