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Posted on 22-10-2020

Coronavirus: The second wave [What Think Tanks are thinking]

22-10-2020

A resurgence in the number of coronavirus infections since the summer has evidently turned into a second wave of the pandemic, which has now hit many European Union countries. The pandemic is putting renewed pressure on European health systems, and authorities are introducing stringent but targeted preventive measures in a bid to cushion the negative economic impacts while preserving people's health and ensuring hospitals are not once again overwhelmed. An increasing number of EU countries are clamping ...

A resurgence in the number of coronavirus infections since the summer has evidently turned into a second wave of the pandemic, which has now hit many European Union countries. The pandemic is putting renewed pressure on European health systems, and authorities are introducing stringent but targeted preventive measures in a bid to cushion the negative economic impacts while preserving people's health and ensuring hospitals are not once again overwhelmed. An increasing number of EU countries are clamping down on travel and imposing strict social distancing measures, such as night-time curfews in major cities and limits on social contacts, although most schools and businesses remain open throughout Europe. The International Monetary Fund said in its October World Economic Outlook (WEO) that global growth in 2020 is projected at -4.4 per cent owing to the pandemic, a less severe contraction than forecast in the June 2020 WEO. The revision reflects better than anticipated second quarter GDP outturns – mostly in advanced economies, where activity bounced back sooner than expected following the scaling back of national lockdowns in May and June – as well as indications of a stronger recovery in the third quarter. This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on pandemic related issues. Earlier think tank studies on the issue can be found in the 'What Think Tanks are Thinking' of 25 September.

Monitoring, reporting and verification of CO2 emissions from maritime transport

22-10-2020

In February 2019, the Commission adopted a proposal to revise the EU system for monitoring, reporting and verification of CO2 emissions from maritime transport, in order to align it with the global data collection system introduced by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The existing EU system requires ships above 5 000 gross tonnes using European ports to monitor and report fuel consumption and CO2 emissions per voyage and on an annual basis, starting with the year 2018. The system entered ...

In February 2019, the Commission adopted a proposal to revise the EU system for monitoring, reporting and verification of CO2 emissions from maritime transport, in order to align it with the global data collection system introduced by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The existing EU system requires ships above 5 000 gross tonnes using European ports to monitor and report fuel consumption and CO2 emissions per voyage and on an annual basis, starting with the year 2018. The system entered into force on 1 March 2018, and reporting starts with the year 2019. The proposed revision aims to facilitate the simultaneous application of the two systems, while preserving the objectives of the current EU legislation. The Council’s mandate for negotiations with the Parliament was adopted on 25 October 2019. In the European Parliament, the ENVI committee has appointed Jutta Paulus (Greens/EFA, Germany) as rapporteur for the file. On 16 September 2020, the Parliament adopted its position and gave ENVI the mandate to start trilogue negotiations. Second edition. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

Towards a mandatory EU system of due diligence for supply chains

22-10-2020

The growth of international supply chains has undoubtedly brought enormous benefits to developing countries, but at the same time it has had certain negative impacts, relating for instance to violations of human and labour rights, including forced labour and child labour, environmental damage, land grabbing, and corruption. Multinational companies have gained unprecedented power, creating asymmetries in relation to weak regulation and enforcement in developing countries. For several decades, multinational ...

The growth of international supply chains has undoubtedly brought enormous benefits to developing countries, but at the same time it has had certain negative impacts, relating for instance to violations of human and labour rights, including forced labour and child labour, environmental damage, land grabbing, and corruption. Multinational companies have gained unprecedented power, creating asymmetries in relation to weak regulation and enforcement in developing countries. For several decades, multinational companies have been encouraged to take responsibility for their supply chains on a voluntary basis. Whereas in some sectors, where violations have been most egregious, particularly in the extractive industries or in timber extraction, mandatory frameworks have already been adopted at EU level, for others it was hoped that the voluntary approach, guided by several international frameworks, would suffice. The evidence available, however, from academic research, civil society organisations, implementation of the EU Non-financial Reporting Directive, and studies commissioned by the EU institutions, has made it clear that the voluntary approach is not enough. Against this background, many voices consider that the EU should adopt mandatory due diligence legislation. Human rights and the environment stand out as two areas where such legislation would be both most needed and most effective. Beyond its expected intrinsic positive impact, such legislation would have important advantages, such as creating a level playing field among all companies operating on the EU market, bringing legal clarity, and establishing effective enforcement and sanction mechanisms, while possibly improving access to remedy for those affected, by establishing civil and legal liability for companies. The European Commission has undertaken some preliminary steps, including publishing a study and conducting public consultations, towards a possible legislative initiative on mandatory due diligence, but such an initiative has not been included in its 2021 work programme.

Posted on 21-10-2020

Decarbonising maritime transport: The EU perspective

21-10-2020

International maritime transport is the backbone of the global economy. However, vessels release emissions that pollute the air and contribute significantly to global warming. As shipping is forecast to grow, reducing these emissions is urgent, in order not to undermine emissions-reducing efforts in other areas, to keep humans healthy, preserve the environment and limit climate change. Although international shipping was not explicitly mentioned in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, efforts to make ...

International maritime transport is the backbone of the global economy. However, vessels release emissions that pollute the air and contribute significantly to global warming. As shipping is forecast to grow, reducing these emissions is urgent, in order not to undermine emissions-reducing efforts in other areas, to keep humans healthy, preserve the environment and limit climate change. Although international shipping was not explicitly mentioned in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, efforts to make shipping cleaner and greener have since progressed. International rules to reduce air-polluting emissions from ships have been agreed in the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Their impact, in particular the application of stricter limits for sulphur content in marine fuels since 1 January 2020, is yet to be evaluated. Parallel efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from maritime shipping have resulted in the setting of rules on collecting data on fuel oil consumption and the first collected data becoming available. In 2018, the IMO adopted an initial strategy for reducing GHG emissions, aimed at cutting shipping GHG emissions by at least 50 % by 2050, compared to 2008 levels. While concrete steps are yet to be agreed, achieving this goal will require both short-term emission-reducing measures and longer-term measures to make shipping switch to alternative fuels. Short-term guidance from the IMO is expected in 2020. On the EU front, the European Commission announced in the European Green Deal that GHG from EU transport should be cut by 90 % by 2050 and outlined how this would involve shipping. Initial measures are to be proposed by the end of 2020. This briefing reviews the existing international and EU rules on shipping emissions and their application, looks into the short-term measures under discussion and maps the landscape of marine fuels and technologies that could help decarbonise shipping in the long term.

Sustainable consumption: Helping consumers make eco-friendly choices

21-10-2020

Household consumption in the EU has major environmental impacts, which in a number of cases exceed planetary boundaries. Two thirds of consumers in the EU realise that their consumption habits have negative effects on the environment, and the solution that they mention most often is to change consumption habits and production patterns. However, a number of studies have shown a gap between consumers' good intentions and their actual behaviour. This happens because sustainability is not the only thing ...

Household consumption in the EU has major environmental impacts, which in a number of cases exceed planetary boundaries. Two thirds of consumers in the EU realise that their consumption habits have negative effects on the environment, and the solution that they mention most often is to change consumption habits and production patterns. However, a number of studies have shown a gap between consumers' good intentions and their actual behaviour. This happens because sustainability is not the only thing consumers consider when choosing what to buy; they are also influenced by price, availability and convenience, habits, values, social norms and peer pressure, emotional appeal, and the feeling of making a difference. Consumers also use their consumption patterns to communicate who they are to themselves and to others. Studies on the impacts of consumption show that these are influenced mainly by people's income. The European Union has a number of policies that are relevant for consumers' sustainable choices. These include environmental product requirements, information and labelling requirements, rules on product guarantees, climate legislation that attempts to build the price of CO2 emissions into production expenses, and waste legislation that makes it easier to recycle. The European Commission now plans to add a legislative initiative to empower consumers for the green transition. The European Parliament has long been a supporter of making consumption in the EU more sustainable, and has recently called for measures to ensure that consumers are provided with transparent, comparable and harmonised product information, especially when it comes to the durability and reparability of products and their environmental footprint.

Posted on 19-10-2020

Outcome of the European Council meeting of 15-16 October 2020

19-10-2020

Without reaching any new decisions, the European Council meeting of 15-16 October 2020 addressed a series of important issues, including the coronavirus pandemic, EU-United Kingdom relations and climate change. It also discussed numerous external relations issues, notably relations with Africa, the EU's southern neighbourhood, Belarus and Turkey. In the context of rising Covid-19 infections across all Member States, the European Council expressed its very serious concern about the developing pandemic ...

Without reaching any new decisions, the European Council meeting of 15-16 October 2020 addressed a series of important issues, including the coronavirus pandemic, EU-United Kingdom relations and climate change. It also discussed numerous external relations issues, notably relations with Africa, the EU's southern neighbourhood, Belarus and Turkey. In the context of rising Covid-19 infections across all Member States, the European Council expressed its very serious concern about the developing pandemic situation and agreed to intensify overall coordination at EU level and between Member States. Regarding the negotiations on future EU-UK relations, EU leaders expressed their concern about the lack of progress and called on the UK to make the necessary moves. They stressed that the Withdrawal Agreement and its Protocols needed to be implemented in a full and timely manner.

Amending the European Fund for Sustainable Development

19-10-2020

The EU is in the process of adapting its budgetary instruments to respond to the consequences of the coronavirus crisis, in particular in raising the established ceilings for some financial instruments. The proposed adjustments include, among other things, measures aimed at helping the most fragile third countries recover from the consequences of the pandemic. In particular, on 28 May 2020, the European Commission put forward a proposal concerning the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD ...

The EU is in the process of adapting its budgetary instruments to respond to the consequences of the coronavirus crisis, in particular in raising the established ceilings for some financial instruments. The proposed adjustments include, among other things, measures aimed at helping the most fragile third countries recover from the consequences of the pandemic. In particular, on 28 May 2020, the European Commission put forward a proposal concerning the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD) in order to expand its coverage and raise the funds dedicated to leverage private investment for sustainable development and the guarantees to de-risk such investment. On 21 July 2020, the European Council rejected the draft amending budget that would have provided increased EFSD funding for the current year.

Minimum wage in the EU

19-10-2020

In 2020, most European Union (EU) Member States have a statutory minimum wage (21 of 27), while six others have wage levels determined though collective bargaining. Expressed in euros, monthly minimum wages vary widely across the EU ranging from €312 in Bulgaria to €2 142 in Luxembourg (July 2020). The disparities are significantly smaller when price level differences are eliminated. Expressed in purchasing power standard, the minimum wage ranges from PPS 547 in Latvia to PPS 1 634 in Luxembourg. ...

In 2020, most European Union (EU) Member States have a statutory minimum wage (21 of 27), while six others have wage levels determined though collective bargaining. Expressed in euros, monthly minimum wages vary widely across the EU ranging from €312 in Bulgaria to €2 142 in Luxembourg (July 2020). The disparities are significantly smaller when price level differences are eliminated. Expressed in purchasing power standard, the minimum wage ranges from PPS 547 in Latvia to PPS 1 634 in Luxembourg. The question of setting a minimum wage is one of the most analysed and debated topics in economics. Over recent years and in the context of the economic and social crisis engendered by the Covid 19 outbreak, the creation of a European minimum wage is increasingly considered as a useful instrument to ensure fair wages and social inclusion. In November 2017, the EU institutions jointly proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights, setting out the European Union's commitment to fair wages for workers. Since then, the European Commission has shown its willingness to address this issue. In particular, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated in her political guidelines that she will propose a legal instrument to ensure that every worker in the Union has a fair minimum wage. Such minimum wages should be set according to national traditions, through collective agreements or legal provisions. On 14 January 2020, the Commission launched the first phase of consultation with social partners on fair minimum wages for workers in the EU, to gather social partners' views on the possible direction of EU action. Based on the replies received, the Commission concluded that there is a need for EU action. The second phase of consultation was launched on 3 June 2020; with a deadline of 4 September 2020 for social partners to provide their opinion. A Commission proposal is expected by the end of 2020. The European Trade Union Confederation welcomed the European Commission's initiative and called for the Commission to propose a directive. Conversely, employers' organisations believe wage-setting should be left to social partners at national level. In their view, if the Commission wished to act, only an EU Council recommendation would be acceptable. The European Parliament has often debated the issue of low income and minimum income over the last decade, advocating a more inclusive economy.

Posted on 16-10-2020

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.

Posted on 13-10-2020

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.

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