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Understanding the European Committee of the Regions

17-03-2021

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR or 'the Committee') is one of two European Union (EU) advisory bodies, the other being the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). The CoR was established by the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht, following a period when regional and local interests had been demanding greater involvement in the European decision-making process. The CoR was set up as an advisory body of the Council and the European Commission, made up of local and regional representatives, ...

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR or 'the Committee') is one of two European Union (EU) advisory bodies, the other being the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). The CoR was established by the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht, following a period when regional and local interests had been demanding greater involvement in the European decision-making process. The CoR was set up as an advisory body of the Council and the European Commission, made up of local and regional representatives, independent in the performance of their duties. With the various Treaty changes, the CoR has managed to consolidate its position in the EU landscape, although some of its longstanding ambitions have yet to materialise – such as its recognition as a fully fledged EU institution with co-decision power over certain territorial matters. In particular, in addition to other reforms, the Treaties have increased the number of policy areas where the Council and the Commission (and since 1999, the European Parliament as well) have an obligation to consult the CoR during the legislative process, also affirming its budgetary and administrative autonomy. Significantly, the Lisbon Treaty gave the CoR the right to bring proceedings before the EU Court of Justice for infringement of the principle of subsidiarity in the fields of mandatory consultation or in the event of a breach of CoR prerogatives. Despite obvious progress over the years in terms of expanding its competences and adapting its way of work, views are divided over the CoR's influence in the EU decision-making process. Its opinions are not binding and other factors limit its impact on legislation and policy, particularly when compared with the co-legislators, Parliament and Council. Nevertheless, as the main point of confluence for subnational interests at EU level, the CoR is far from irrelevant. This briefing looks at the evolution and organisation of the European Committee of the Regions and describes its advisory work and its other activities, beyond the formal role assigned it by the Treaties.

EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement: An analytical overview

02-02-2021

This EPRS publication seeks to provide an analytical overview of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK), which was agreed between the two parties on 24 December and signed by them on 30 December 2020, and has been provisionally applied since 1 January 2021. The European Parliament is currently considering the Agreement with a view to voting on giving its consent to conclusion by the Council on behalf of the Union. The paper analyses many ...

This EPRS publication seeks to provide an analytical overview of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK), which was agreed between the two parties on 24 December and signed by them on 30 December 2020, and has been provisionally applied since 1 January 2021. The European Parliament is currently considering the Agreement with a view to voting on giving its consent to conclusion by the Council on behalf of the Union. The paper analyses many of the areas covered in the agreement, including the institutional framework and arrangements for dispute settlement, trade in goods, services and investment, digital trade, energy, the level playing field, transport, social security coordination and visas for short-term visits, fisheries, law enforcement and judicial coordination in criminal matters, and participation in Union programmes. It looks at the main provisions of the Agreement in each area, setting them in context, and also gives an overview of the two parties' published negotiating positions in the respective areas.

Policing in national parliaments: How parliaments organise their security

02-02-2021

National parliaments organise their security in a variety of ways. Whereas in some cases the principles of separation of powers or of parliamentary autonomy prevent police forces from entering parliamentary premises − meaning that these legislative chambers rely on in-house security services – in others the security of parliaments is ensured exclusively by the police or other state forces with responsibilities in the area of security, defence or civil protection. Other national parliaments exhibit ...

National parliaments organise their security in a variety of ways. Whereas in some cases the principles of separation of powers or of parliamentary autonomy prevent police forces from entering parliamentary premises − meaning that these legislative chambers rely on in-house security services – in others the security of parliaments is ensured exclusively by the police or other state forces with responsibilities in the area of security, defence or civil protection. Other national parliaments exhibit a mixed model, whereby parliamentary security departments are supplemented by national police or military units. This briefing provides an overview of the structures responsible for maintaining security and order in and around the parliaments of 11 EU Member States, namely Belgium, Germany, Spain, Estonia, France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Finland, and also 3 non-EU countries − Canada, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US). It focuses on the competences and tasks assigned to the services responsible for the security of each national parliament and highlights modes of cooperation with other external state forces. Furthermore, the briefing indicates, for each parliament, the ultimate authority in charge of the services responsible for maintaining order and security on and off the premises.

Article 50 TEU in practice: How the EU has applied the 'exit' clause

17-11-2020

The United Kingdom's 2016 referendum on EU membership triggered the first ever application of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), the withdrawal clause. However, as Article 50 TEU had never been tested, some aspects of the procedure had to be defined in real time, a process that was not without controversy. This EPRS In-depth Analysis looks at how the EU has applied the 'exit clause' that sets out the conditions and procedure to be followed in the event of a Member State wishing to ...

The United Kingdom's 2016 referendum on EU membership triggered the first ever application of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), the withdrawal clause. However, as Article 50 TEU had never been tested, some aspects of the procedure had to be defined in real time, a process that was not without controversy. This EPRS In-depth Analysis looks at how the EU has applied the 'exit clause' that sets out the conditions and procedure to be followed in the event of a Member State wishing to leave the Union. Looking first at the origins and the main features of the withdrawal clause, the paper then emphasises the way in which the Union filled in certain gaps left open in the drafting of Article 50 TEU and took the lead in establishing the main parameters for the withdrawal negotiations with the UK. It also analyses the European Parliament's success in forging a more substantial role in the withdrawal negotiations than that originally assigned to it by the Treaties.

Understanding US Presidential elections

16-10-2020

In August 2020, the two major political parties in the United States (US), the Democrats and the Republicans, formally nominated their respective candidates for the 59th US presidential election, which takes place on Tuesday, 3 November 2020. An initially crowded field of contenders in the Democratic primaries developed into a two-horse race between former US Vice-President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, with Biden declared the Democratic nominee on 18 August. He will now contest the presidential ...

In August 2020, the two major political parties in the United States (US), the Democrats and the Republicans, formally nominated their respective candidates for the 59th US presidential election, which takes place on Tuesday, 3 November 2020. An initially crowded field of contenders in the Democratic primaries developed into a two-horse race between former US Vice-President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, with Biden declared the Democratic nominee on 18 August. He will now contest the presidential election against the Republican candidate, who faced no significant primary challenge, the incumbent US President, Donald Trump. The US President is simultaneously head of state, head of government and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. Presidential elections are therefore a hugely important part of American political life. Although millions of Americans vote in presidential elections every four years, the President is not, in fact, directly elected by the people. Citizens elect the members of the Electoral College, who then cast their votes for the President and Vice-President. While key elements of the presidential election are spelled out in the US Constitution, other aspects have been shaped by state laws, national party rules and state party rules. This explains why presidential campaigns have evolved over time, from the days when presidential candidates were nominated in the House of Representatives by the 'king caucus', to an almost exclusively party-dominated ‘convention’ system, and finally to the modern system of nominations based very largely on primary elections, introduced progressively to increase the participation of party supporters in the selection process. A number of additional developments have also played an important role in shaping today's presidential elections, notably political party efforts to limit 'front-loading' of primaries; the organisation of the Electoral College system and the changes to the campaign financing system. A previous version of this Briefing, written by Carmen-Cristina Cîrlig and Micaela Del Monte, was published in 2016.

Understanding the European Economic and Social Committee

13-10-2020

The European Social and Economic Committee (EESC), established in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome, is one of the two advisory bodies of the European Union (EU). Composed of representatives of various European economic and social groups and categories, such as employers, workers, producers, farmers, liberal professions and civil society organisations, the EESC assists the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission in the policy-making and legislative process, in an advisory capacity. EESC members ...

The European Social and Economic Committee (EESC), established in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome, is one of the two advisory bodies of the European Union (EU). Composed of representatives of various European economic and social groups and categories, such as employers, workers, producers, farmers, liberal professions and civil society organisations, the EESC assists the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission in the policy-making and legislative process, in an advisory capacity. EESC members are appointed by the Council according to the proposals of national governments and after consulting the European Commission, for a mandate of five years. Since the 2002 Treaty of Nice the maximum number of EESC members has been fixed at 350. With the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU, the 24 UK members of the EESC also left. In the new mandate starting on 21 September 2020, the total number of members is 329. Over time, the EU Treaties have increased the number of policy areas in which the consultation of the EESC is required for the adoption of legislation; however, the EU institutions often request the Committee's opinion beyond these mandatory areas, and even before legislation is proposed, in order to assess the views of civil society on a specific topic. Importantly, the EESC has acquired the right to give its views on any EU-related issue and the Committee's own-initiative opinions and information reports currently account for around 15 to 20 % of the opinions it adopts every year. In addition to the consultative role assigned by the Treaties, the Committee has set for itself the task of communicating the European Union to citizens, reinforcing participatory democracy and providing a forum for civil dialogue between the EU institutions and civil society. For over 20 years, the EESC has organised events on various topics, cooperated with national economic and social committees and, in general, strived to enhance the role of civil society both in Europe and outside. In all its aspects, the EESC has become a bridge between Europe and organised civil society.

Coronavirus and prisons in the EU: Member-State measures to reduce spread of the virus

22-06-2020

The coronavirus crisis has put huge pressure on European prisons, already often affected by chronic overcrowding and poor healthcare services. Ensuring strict sanitary conditions, adequate health monitoring and the necessary distancing to prevent an outbreak in these closed environments − particularly vulnerable to contagion − has been a considerable challenge for most, if not all EU Member States. Starting from March 2020, as lockdowns and states of emergency gradually came into force across Europe ...

The coronavirus crisis has put huge pressure on European prisons, already often affected by chronic overcrowding and poor healthcare services. Ensuring strict sanitary conditions, adequate health monitoring and the necessary distancing to prevent an outbreak in these closed environments − particularly vulnerable to contagion − has been a considerable challenge for most, if not all EU Member States. Starting from March 2020, as lockdowns and states of emergency gradually came into force across Europe, EU Member States have taken a number of containment measures to protect prisoners' health. These measures have consisted mostly of suspending all visits and regular activities in order to limit contacts among detainees and also between detainees and the outside world. Transfers of prisoners between EU countries have been put on hold as well. Improved sanitary measures have been taken in detention centres, in terms of both personal hygiene and cleanliness of premises. At the same time, several Member States have sought to reduce overcrowding, by limiting entries and increasing exits, for instance by postponing the execution of sentences or using alternatives to detention. However, according to the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, at least half the Member States did not seek alternatives to detention. This briefing looks into the various measures adopted by Member States between early March and the end of May 2020 in response to the challenges posed to the Union's prisons by the coronavirus crisis. While, at the time of writing, containment measures in many Member States are gradually being eased, the long-term impact of the pandemic on prison conditions and populations remains to be seen.

EU and UK citizens' rights after Brexit: An overview

18-06-2020

This EPRS paper analyses the implications of Brexit for the rights of both European Union and United Kingdom citizens and provides an overview of the rights protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, which entered into force on 1 February 2020, as well as of the national measures envisaged by the UK and the EU Member States to give effect to the relevant provisions thereof. As a result of the UK leaving the EU and becoming a third country, UK citizens are no longer EU citizens and they will therefore ...

This EPRS paper analyses the implications of Brexit for the rights of both European Union and United Kingdom citizens and provides an overview of the rights protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, which entered into force on 1 February 2020, as well as of the national measures envisaged by the UK and the EU Member States to give effect to the relevant provisions thereof. As a result of the UK leaving the EU and becoming a third country, UK citizens are no longer EU citizens and they will therefore lose a series of rights based on EU citizenship once the transition period provided for in the agreement expires. Currently, UK and EU citizens may still move to the EU and the UK respectively, under the applicable EU rules. Beyond the end of the transition period, the agreement guarantees the rights of EU and UK citizens who had made use of their freedom of movement rights by the end of 2020.

Agreement on the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU

24-01-2020

On 29 January 2020, the European Parliament is set to vote on the recommendation to give consent to the treaty on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU), endorsed in its current version by EU leaders and the UK Prime Minister in October 2019. Parliament's consent, following the completion of the UK's domestic procedures for ratifying the agreement, will allow its entry into force on 1 February 2020. The UK will then cease its 47-year membership of the EU, although ...

On 29 January 2020, the European Parliament is set to vote on the recommendation to give consent to the treaty on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU), endorsed in its current version by EU leaders and the UK Prime Minister in October 2019. Parliament's consent, following the completion of the UK's domestic procedures for ratifying the agreement, will allow its entry into force on 1 February 2020. The UK will then cease its 47-year membership of the EU, although EU law will remain applicable to the UK during an 11 month transition period ending on 31 December 2020. If however Parliament were to deny consent, the UK would leave the EU without a deal on 1 February 2020, absent another extension of the Article 50 period.

The revised Brexit deal: What has changed and next steps?

22-10-2019

Brexit talks between the EU and the UK had reached a standstill in spring 2019, with the House of Commons refusing to vote in favour of the negotiated withdrawal agreement, including a Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. The new UK government led by Boris Johnson, who came into office on 24 July, made a priority of finalising preparations for leaving the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019, unless the EU was willing to renounce the ‘backstop’ included in the Protocol. However, the EU continued ...

Brexit talks between the EU and the UK had reached a standstill in spring 2019, with the House of Commons refusing to vote in favour of the negotiated withdrawal agreement, including a Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. The new UK government led by Boris Johnson, who came into office on 24 July, made a priority of finalising preparations for leaving the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019, unless the EU was willing to renounce the ‘backstop’ included in the Protocol. However, the EU continued to restate its opposition to removing what it considered a legally operational safety net that would prevent a future hard border on the island of Ireland, in the absence of concrete proposals from the UK. At the beginning of October 2019, the UK government sent its proposals on revising the above-mentioned protocol, which were received with a measure of concern by the EU and other stakeholders. Discussions aimed at bridging the gap between the UK and EU positions were stepped up and, after a series of concessions, the EU and UK announced they had reached a revised withdrawal agreement, which was then immediately endorsed by the European Council on 17 October 2019. With only days to go until 31 October 2019, the date on which the UK is set to leave the EU, completing the ratification procedures to allow the withdrawal agreement's entry into force on 1 November is going to be a challenge. Whereas on the EU side no major obstacles are foreseen, in the UK, the House of Commons decided on 19 October to withhold approval for the revised deal until Parliament passes the related implementing legislation. Required by law to send the EU a request for an extension of the Article 50 period until 31 January 2020, the UK Prime Minister is nonetheless still aiming to fulfil all the necessary steps for the ratification of the withdrawal agreement to allow its entry into force on 1 November. This is also the stated aim of the European Union, although if the European Council were to decide in favour of granting an Article 50 extension, following the UK request, that decision would have to be taken before the end of October.

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