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Posted on 27-03-2020

The impact of coronavirus on Schengen borders

27-03-2020

The 26 countries of the Schengen Area are only meant to reintroduce border controls between themselves in specific circumstances, and for strictly limited periods of time. In recent weeks, many of the Schengen states have reintroduced border controls, notifying them to the European Commission on the grounds of an immediate threat to public policy as a result of the spread of coronavirus. This infographic shows the latest situation in respect of border controls put in place at internal borders within ...

The 26 countries of the Schengen Area are only meant to reintroduce border controls between themselves in specific circumstances, and for strictly limited periods of time. In recent weeks, many of the Schengen states have reintroduced border controls, notifying them to the European Commission on the grounds of an immediate threat to public policy as a result of the spread of coronavirus. This infographic shows the latest situation in respect of border controls put in place at internal borders within the Schengen Area.

The ‘general escape clause’ within the Stability and Growth Pact: Fiscal flexibility for severe economic shocks

27-03-2020

An important element of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic will come from European Union (EU) Member States in the form of fiscal intervention. At the same time, Member States are constrained by the fiscal rules in place at both EU and national level. The Stability and Growth Pact contains two clauses allowing Member States to undertake appropriate budgetary measures, within the Pact, in the face of exceptional circumstances. The first is known as the 'unusual events clause', while the second ...

An important element of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic will come from European Union (EU) Member States in the form of fiscal intervention. At the same time, Member States are constrained by the fiscal rules in place at both EU and national level. The Stability and Growth Pact contains two clauses allowing Member States to undertake appropriate budgetary measures, within the Pact, in the face of exceptional circumstances. The first is known as the 'unusual events clause', while the second is termed the 'general escape clause'. In essence, the clauses allow deviation from parts of the Stability and Growth Pact's preventive or corrective arms, either because an unusual event outside the control of one or more Member States has a major impact on the financial position of the general government, or because the euro area or the Union as a whole faces a severe economic downturn. As the current crisis is outside governments' control, with a major impact on public finances, the European Commission noted that it could apply the unusual events clause. However, it also noted that the magnitude of the fiscal effort necessary to protect European citizens and businesses from the effects of the pandemic, and to support the economy in the aftermath, requires the use of more far-reaching flexibility under the Pact. For this reason, the Commission has proposed to activate the general escape clause. With the Council having endorsed the Commission communication, a deviation from the medium-term budgetary objective or from the appropriate adjustment path towards it may be allowed for Member States, during both the assessment and the implementation of Stability or Convergence Programmes. In the corrective arm of the Pact, the clause will allow an extension of the deadline for the Member States to correct their excessive deficits under the excessive deficit procedure, provided those Member States take effective action as recommended by the Council.

The EUCO as crisis manager the COVID 19 pandemic: Similarities and differences to previous crises

27-03-2020

The COVID-19 outbreak confronts the European Union with a severe crisis, affecting both individual EU citizens’ lives and society as a whole. Due to its role and centrality in the EU's institutional framework, the European Council is once again called upon to exercise its crisis-management role. Similarities can be drawn with past crises as regards both short and long-term responses. The main difference to previous crises, for instance, in the economy or on migration, which impacted a limited number ...

The COVID-19 outbreak confronts the European Union with a severe crisis, affecting both individual EU citizens’ lives and society as a whole. Due to its role and centrality in the EU's institutional framework, the European Council is once again called upon to exercise its crisis-management role. Similarities can be drawn with past crises as regards both short and long-term responses. The main difference to previous crises, for instance, in the economy or on migration, which impacted a limited number of EU policies, is that the COVID-19 crisis touches the entire spectrum of policies at both European and national level, making a common response more challenging, as competences are divided between the different strata of the EU's multi-level governance system. Ultimately, this crisis has the potential to reshape EU policies, leading to increased cross-policy cooperation and possibly a centrally coordinated response mechanism.

Artificial Intelligence: Opportunities and Challenges for the Internal Market and Consumer Protection

16-03-2020

Developing appropriate policies and regulations for AI is a priority for the European Union. AI has become a powerful driver of social transformation, reshaping individual lives and interactions as well as economical and political organisations. AI brings huge opportunities for development, sustainability, health and knowledge, as well as significant risks of unemployment, discrimination, exclusion, etc. Multiple areas are affected by AI, such as data protection (lawful and proportionate processing ...

Developing appropriate policies and regulations for AI is a priority for the European Union. AI has become a powerful driver of social transformation, reshaping individual lives and interactions as well as economical and political organisations. AI brings huge opportunities for development, sustainability, health and knowledge, as well as significant risks of unemployment, discrimination, exclusion, etc. Multiple areas are affected by AI, such as data protection (lawful and proportionate processing of personal data, subject to oversight), fair algorithmic treatment (not being subject to unjustified prejudice resulting from automated processing), transparency and explicability (knowing how and why a certain algorithmic response has been given or a decision made), protection from undue influence (not being misled, manipulated, or deceived). This collection of studies presents research resulting from ongoing interest of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection in improving functioning of the Digital Single Market and developing European digital and AI related policy based on scientific evidence and expertise.

Posted on 26-03-2020

Coronavirus: Impact and reaction [What Think Tanks are thinking]

26-03-2020

Governments around the world are introducing increasingly harsh measures to contain the highly contagious coronavirus, which causes the often lethal COVID-19 disease. In many countries, borders have been shut, schools, restaurants and non-food shops closed, and a ban on public and sometimes private meetings has been introduced. According to news media reports, as of 24 March, confirmed coronavirus cases around the world exceeded 377 000 across 194 countries and territories, with more than 16 500 ...

Governments around the world are introducing increasingly harsh measures to contain the highly contagious coronavirus, which causes the often lethal COVID-19 disease. In many countries, borders have been shut, schools, restaurants and non-food shops closed, and a ban on public and sometimes private meetings has been introduced. According to news media reports, as of 24 March, confirmed coronavirus cases around the world exceeded 377 000 across 194 countries and territories, with more than 16 500 of them having been fatal. This note offers links to recent commentaries and reports from international think tanks on the coronavirus and related issues. Earlier publications on the topic can be found in the previous item in the series, published on 18 March.

Posted on 23-03-2020

Solidarity in EU asylum policy

23-03-2020

The unprecedented arrival of refugees and irregular migrants in the EU in 2015 exposed a number of deficiencies in EU external border, asylum and migration policy, sparking EU action through various legal and policy instruments. While the EU has been relatively successful in securing external borders, curbing irregular migrant arrivals and increasing cooperation with third countries, Member States are still reluctant to show solidarity and do more to share responsibility for asylum-seekers. International ...

The unprecedented arrival of refugees and irregular migrants in the EU in 2015 exposed a number of deficiencies in EU external border, asylum and migration policy, sparking EU action through various legal and policy instruments. While the EU has been relatively successful in securing external borders, curbing irregular migrant arrivals and increasing cooperation with third countries, Member States are still reluctant to show solidarity and do more to share responsibility for asylum-seekers. International cooperation and solidarity is key in helping to manage migration to and between states. Under international law, countries have certain legal obligations to assist and protect refugees that they accept on their territory, but the legal duties of other states to help and share that responsibility are less clear. At EU level, the principle of solidarity is set out in Article 80 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), however there is currently no consensus on whether it can be used as a stand-alone or joint legal basis for secondary legislation. Furthermore, the notions of 'solidarity' and 'fair sharing of responsibilities' for refugees or asylum-seekers are not defined in EU law. This has prompted EU institutions, academics and other stakeholders to propose different ways to resolve the issue, such as sharing out relevant tasks and pooling resources at EU level, compensating frontline Member States financially and through other contributions – such as flexible solidarity – and changing the focus of the European Court of Justice when interpreting EU asylum law. In recent years, the EU has provided the Member States most affected by migrant arrivals with significant financial and practical support, notably through the EU budget and the deployment of personnel and equipment. Nevertheless, the continued failure to reform the EU asylum system, as well as the implementation of temporary solidarity measures based on ad-hoc solutions, has exposed a crisis of solidarity that shows no signs of being resolved. The von der Leyen Commission has made it clear that the new EU asylum system 'should include finding new forms of solidarity and should ensure that all Member States make meaningful contributions to support those countries under the most pressure'.

Outcome of the video-conference call of EU Heads of State or Government on 17 March 2020

23-03-2020

On 17 March, the members of the European Council held a video-conference concerning the measures taken to fight the COVID-19 outbreak. European leaders felt the need for a coordinated approach, as individual They followed up on the four lines of action to contain the spread of the disease agreed at their video-meeting on 10 March, and discussed more in depth the EU’s external and internal border management.

On 17 March, the members of the European Council held a video-conference concerning the measures taken to fight the COVID-19 outbreak. European leaders felt the need for a coordinated approach, as individual They followed up on the four lines of action to contain the spread of the disease agreed at their video-meeting on 10 March, and discussed more in depth the EU’s external and internal border management.

Posted on 20-03-2020

Spending at EU level saves at national level … and more

20-03-2020

The European Union (EU) budget is often portrayed as a cost for net contributors to the EU, and it is revealing how redistribution to other Member States is presented as having little value for contributing states. Conversely, while critical of a number of areas of expenditure, the academic literature generally considers the EU budget to be far too small to contribute effectively to the demands made upon it. Studies of the optimum distribution of competences and finance, following the theories of ...

The European Union (EU) budget is often portrayed as a cost for net contributors to the EU, and it is revealing how redistribution to other Member States is presented as having little value for contributing states. Conversely, while critical of a number of areas of expenditure, the academic literature generally considers the EU budget to be far too small to contribute effectively to the demands made upon it. Studies of the optimum distribution of competences and finance, following the theories of fiscal federalism, call for a considerable expansion of the EU budget and competences. There is no doubt that there are many ways to improve and expand the EU budget based on comparisons with federal states. However, as the EU is not a federal state, it does not have the capacity to rearrange its competences in this way (the EU Treaty is hard to amend), and any proposal for change would have to remain within the EU's Treaty limitations. The EU's supranational nature, bringing sovereign nations together voluntarily in a complex single market that requires some pooling of competences, makes it a unique budgetary entity. Reality therefore complicates explanations of the EU budget, the value it adds and the consequent savings for Member States.

External author

This paper was drafted as a contribution to the EPRS expert seminar on 'EU Budget 2021-27: Challenges and opportunities', held on 28 January 2020. Its author is Jorge Núñez Ferrer, associate senior research fellow, CEPS.

A new package for finance and expenditure in the EU budget

20-03-2020

Every time a new multiannual financial framework (MFF) is negotiated, there is a call for the EU to invest in new policies that provide added-value. What would this mean? Firstly, that EU investment is cost effective and that it is cheaper to run a single EU expenditure policy even in a policy such as agriculture than as 27 or 28 different national expenditure polices. Secondly, that there are cross-border benefits, efficiently linking areas of opportunity between the Member States. Erasmus+, Horizon ...

Every time a new multiannual financial framework (MFF) is negotiated, there is a call for the EU to invest in new policies that provide added-value. What would this mean? Firstly, that EU investment is cost effective and that it is cheaper to run a single EU expenditure policy even in a policy such as agriculture than as 27 or 28 different national expenditure polices. Secondly, that there are cross-border benefits, efficiently linking areas of opportunity between the Member States. Erasmus+, Horizon 2020, or the Connecting Europe Framework are examples of this. Thirdly, it is the ability to afford expensive investment in the collective good that any one Member State alone would not be able to afford. Examples include Galileo and the nuclear fusion ITER programme. These three types of added-value are the basis for the case of reform of the budget. They always face challenges from the Member States concerned either to maximise their economic benefit, or to minimise the cost for their Treasuries. Others simply call for a lower budget, even if most of them recognise the collective benefits of added-value. Moreover, some Member States in the face of expenditure reductions, move to salvage their benefits in agricultural or cohesion expenditure. The predictable results in negotiating the MFFs in 2006 and 2013 were somewhat smaller budgets. These contained less of an increase in added-value expenditure than originally proposed, and smaller reductions than anticipated for agricultural and cohesion expenditure, against a backdrop of net balance or juste retour calculations by Member States. The question is how to break this logjam. In 2013, the Parliament accepted a package deal of expenditure reductions in exchange for significantly more flexibility in the budget, a full scale review of the MFF in 2016-17 and the establishment of a High Level Group on Own Resources to investigate new sources of finance for the budget (Benedetto 2019). The flexibility and the mid-term review may have allowed for a larger real terms budget to have taken effect despite the reduction in commitments and payments in the official figures. In turn, the paper will focus on the European Commission’s proposal of 2018 for the new MFF, the challenge of net balances, funds and instruments outside the EU budget, and possible packages for reform.

External author

This paper was drafted as a contribution to the EPRS expert seminar on 'EU Budget 2021-27: Challenges and opportunities', held on 28 January 2020. Its author is Giacomo Benedetto, Jean Monnet chair in European Union politics, Royal Holloway, University of London.

Benefits outweigh costs of flexibility in EU multiannual financial framework

20-03-2020

Budget flexibility can be defined as the capacity to reorient resources quickly to meet changed circumstances, unexpected events or new policy priorities. There are three different ways of introducing flexibility in the budgetary process: by relaxing constraints on annual budgets and enhancing the capacity of legislative bodies to set annual spending priorities (legislative flexibility), by giving more discretion to executive units on how to execute their allocations (executive flexibility), and ...

Budget flexibility can be defined as the capacity to reorient resources quickly to meet changed circumstances, unexpected events or new policy priorities. There are three different ways of introducing flexibility in the budgetary process: by relaxing constraints on annual budgets and enhancing the capacity of legislative bodies to set annual spending priorities (legislative flexibility), by giving more discretion to executive units on how to execute their allocations (executive flexibility), and by setting up specific mechanisms to deal with large, unforeseen expenditure needs (e.g. contingency reserves for natural disasters and crises). A comparison of flexibility practices at the national and EU level reveals that the EU budget suffers from both limited legislative flexibility (little discretion given to the Council and the Parliament to set annual spending priorities) and executive flexibility (limited capacity conferred on the European Commission to adjust allocations according to needs and circumstances). Debates on EU budget flexibility tend to focus on the first problem and underestimate the second. Any attempt to enhance EU legislative budget flexibility requires reconsideration of the structural aspects of the multiannual financial framework (MFF). To date, focus has been on changing the rules related to the use of budgetary margins, but there are other ways to give EU budgetary authorities more capacity to set annual spending priorities, such as shortening the duration of the MFF, reconsidering the length of spending programmes, allowing for some adjustment of annual ceiling on payments or institutionalising a MFF mid-term review. Enhancing executive budget flexibility demands changes to the design of EU spending programmes, particularly the establishment of less detailed allocation rules and the creation of in-programme flexibility tools (such as performance or programme reserves). Finally, any discussion about enhancing EU budget flexibility must take into account the possible implications or 'costs' in terms of budgetary control and budgetary stability.

External author

This paper was drafted as a contribution to the EPRS expert seminar on 'EU Budget 2021-27: Challenges and opportunities', held on 28 January 2020. Its author is Eulalia Rubio, Institut Jacques Delors.

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The content of all documents contained in the Think Tank website is the sole responsibility of the author and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily represent the official position of the European Parliament. It is addressed to the Members and staff of the EP for their parliamentary work.

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