42

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State of play of EU-China relations

21-01-2019

EU-China relations are increasingly affected by growing Sino-United States strategic competition. The Trump Administration considers China a strategic competitor to confront, rather than a country with which to engage. The EU, on the contrary, refers to China as a strategic partner and, despite persistent and considerable differences in position in some areas, continues to engage. The United States’ current preference for bi and unilateralism, and withdrawal from multilateral arrangements, which ...

EU-China relations are increasingly affected by growing Sino-United States strategic competition. The Trump Administration considers China a strategic competitor to confront, rather than a country with which to engage. The EU, on the contrary, refers to China as a strategic partner and, despite persistent and considerable differences in position in some areas, continues to engage. The United States’ current preference for bi and unilateralism, and withdrawal from multilateral arrangements, which the EU considers vital elements of a rules-based international order, create openings for China to fill the gap. For the EU, this implies the need to seek issue-based alliances and to strengthen strategic cooperation with China on issues of common interest to reach and uphold multilateral solutions to global and regional challenges. Since 2013, the 2003 EU-China comprehensive strategic partnership has been broadened and deepened in line with the EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation. This has led to a high degree of institutionalisation of EU-China ties, with an ever-growing number of dialogue formats that cover political, economic and people-to-people relations, but whose tangible results vary significantly. Notwithstanding the frequency of political exchanges and successful cooperation on key global challenges, such as the nuclear deal with Iran and climate change, the economic pillar has remained the core of the relationship. As China is rapidly climbing the value-added ladder, trade is an area of cooperation where complementarity is shifting fast towards competition. Friction is unavoidable as two fundamentally different economic systems interact, and each side has its own understanding of what 'free' trade, 'fair' trade, 'reciprocity' and a 'level playing field' means. Given the wide diversity of EU Member States' interests and perceptions, which third countries may easily exploit for their own gains, the EU has struggled to come forward with a unified response to China-led initiatives. The European Parliament resolution on the state of play of EU-China relations adopted in September 2018 includes a critical assessment of China's foreign and domestic policies, including human rights, as well as of progress on the implementation of the EU-China strategic partnership.

Rule of law and human rights in Cuba and Venezuela and EU engagement

11-12-2018

The European Parliament (EP) has consistently followed the situation in Cuba and Venezuela. It has expressed its support for defenders of human rights and democracy with the award of the Sakharov prize to Cuban activists on three occasions (2002, 2005, 2010), and to Venezuela’s Democratic Opposition in 2017. In line with this engagement, a workshop on human rights and rule of law in both countries was held on 6 September 2018, in Brussels, at the request of the EP’s Subcommittee on Human Rights ( ...

The European Parliament (EP) has consistently followed the situation in Cuba and Venezuela. It has expressed its support for defenders of human rights and democracy with the award of the Sakharov prize to Cuban activists on three occasions (2002, 2005, 2010), and to Venezuela’s Democratic Opposition in 2017. In line with this engagement, a workshop on human rights and rule of law in both countries was held on 6 September 2018, in Brussels, at the request of the EP’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI). Dr. Par Engstrom (University College London) presented the first draft of an independent study analysing the main human rights developments in Cuba and Venezuela since 2014 and the EU’s response. The paper, which focused specifically on the Sakharov laureates, was discussed with Members and other experts, including from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European External Action Service and the European Commission. During the lively discussion, there was broad agreement with the description of major trends in the human rights situation in the two countries. Critical comments and controversial issues related to the impact of the government’s repression of the Venezuelan opposition, the need to consider not only civil and political but also economic and social rights, the effectiveness of sanctions against Venezuela and the potential role of the Sakharov Prize. Observations and comments made during the workshop fed into the final version of the study, which is also included in this report.

External author

Par ENGSTROM; Giulia BONACQUISTI

Action for damages against the EU

07-12-2018

Most legal systems, both of states and of international organisations, provide for the liability of public administrations for damage done to individuals. This area of the law, known as 'public tort law', varies considerably from country to country, even within the European Union (EU). The EU Treaties have, from the outset, provided for liability of the EU for public torts (wrongs), in the form of action for damages against the EU, now codified in the second and third paragraphs of Article 340 of ...

Most legal systems, both of states and of international organisations, provide for the liability of public administrations for damage done to individuals. This area of the law, known as 'public tort law', varies considerably from country to country, even within the European Union (EU). The EU Treaties have, from the outset, provided for liability of the EU for public torts (wrongs), in the form of action for damages against the EU, now codified in the second and third paragraphs of Article 340 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). However, these rules are notoriously vague and brief, and refer to the 'general principles common to the laws of the Member States' as the source for the rules of EU public tort law. Since the laws of the Member States on public torts differ significantly, the reference has been treated by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) as empowerment to develop EU public tort law in its own case law. The rules developed by the CJEU have been criticised by some academics as being very complex, non-transparent and unpredictable. Experts have also pointed out that the threshold of liability is set so high that actions for damages prove successful in very few cases only. According to the data available, from the establishment of the EU until 2014, the Court only actually granted compensation to applicants in 39 cases. As a result, some scholars have even pointed out that the principle of EU liability for public torts is 'illusory' and that action for damages is not an effective means of protecting fundamental rights. Other academics add that the question of establishing the principles of EU public tort law is not merely a technical issue, but a political one, as it touches upon fundamental questions of distributive justice and the form of government in the Union, and therefore should be the subject of democratic debate. This Briefing is one in a series aimed at explaining the activities of the CJEU.

Inequality [What Think Tanks are thinking]

23-11-2018

Inequality has diminished on a global scale in the past 30 years, as more than 2 billion people have been lifted out of poverty in countries such as China or India. However, in the United States and, to a lesser extent, western Europe and other developed regions, inequality within individual countries has often increased in recent years after decades of general growth in prosperity. Many analysts attribute this phenomenon both to globalisation and to inadequate policy responses to the pace of technological ...

Inequality has diminished on a global scale in the past 30 years, as more than 2 billion people have been lifted out of poverty in countries such as China or India. However, in the United States and, to a lesser extent, western Europe and other developed regions, inequality within individual countries has often increased in recent years after decades of general growth in prosperity. Many analysts attribute this phenomenon both to globalisation and to inadequate policy responses to the pace of technological change. This note brings together commentaries, analyses and studies by major international think tanks and research institutes on economic and social inequality. Reports on gender and racial inequalities will be covered in greater detail in a future edition in the series.

Commission work programme 2019

19-11-2018

This briefing is intended as a background overview for parliamentary committees planning their activities in relation to the European Commission's work programme 2019. It gives a brief description of the content of the work programme concentrating on the Commission's communication COM(2018)800 and its annexes.

This briefing is intended as a background overview for parliamentary committees planning their activities in relation to the European Commission's work programme 2019. It gives a brief description of the content of the work programme concentrating on the Commission's communication COM(2018)800 and its annexes.

Finding the right balance across EU FTAs: benefits and risks for EU economic sectors

17-10-2018

Globally, anti-trade sentiment is on the rise, meaning it is incumbent upon policymakers to explore and explain the benefits of free and open trade. This study examines the costs and benefits of various free trade agreements (FTAs) that the EU has completed, will complete, or is contemplating. With regard to completed FTAs, the EU has seen benefits in terms of consumer choice but has a much larger and positive impact on its partners (although not as much as ex-ante modelling would suggest). For forthcoming ...

Globally, anti-trade sentiment is on the rise, meaning it is incumbent upon policymakers to explore and explain the benefits of free and open trade. This study examines the costs and benefits of various free trade agreements (FTAs) that the EU has completed, will complete, or is contemplating. With regard to completed FTAs, the EU has seen benefits in terms of consumer choice but has a much larger and positive impact on its partners (although not as much as ex-ante modelling would suggest). For forthcoming or contemplated FTAs, the issue of non-tariff barriers must be considered for FTAs with developed economies to be a success, while comprehensive liberalisation with emerging markets improves trade and other outcomes for both the EU and its partner. Across all FTAs, trade and economic metrics are improved by an agreement while indirect effects (human rights, environment) are less likely to change. We conclude that the EU must continue its focus on comprehensive liberalisation, incorporating NTBs effectively into new agreements, while tempering expectations of influence on human rights.

External author

Christopher HARTWELL, Veronika MOVCHAN

Brazil ahead of the 2018 elections

05-10-2018

On 7 October 2018, about 147 million Brazilians will go to the polls to choose a new president, new governors and new members of the bicameral National Congress and state legislatures. If, as expected, none of the presidential candidates gains over 50 % of votes, a run-off between the two best-performing presidential candidates is scheduled to take place on 28 October 2018. Brazil's severe and protracted political, economic, social and public-security crisis has created a complex and polarised political ...

On 7 October 2018, about 147 million Brazilians will go to the polls to choose a new president, new governors and new members of the bicameral National Congress and state legislatures. If, as expected, none of the presidential candidates gains over 50 % of votes, a run-off between the two best-performing presidential candidates is scheduled to take place on 28 October 2018. Brazil's severe and protracted political, economic, social and public-security crisis has created a complex and polarised political climate that makes the election outcome highly unpredictable. Pollsters show that voters have lost faith in a discredited political elite and that only anti-establishment outsiders not embroiled in large-scale corruption scandals and entrenched clientelism would truly match voters' preferences. However, there is a huge gap between voters' strong demand for a radical political renewal based on new faces, and the dramatic shortage of political newcomers among the candidates. Voters' disillusionment with conventional politics and political institutions has fuelled nostalgic preferences and is likely to prompt part of the electorate to shift away from centrist candidates associated with policy continuity to candidates at the opposite sides of the party spectrum. Many less well-off voters would have welcomed a return to office of former left-wing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2010), who due to a then booming economy, could run social programmes that lifted millions out of extreme poverty and who, barred by Brazil's judiciary from running in 2018, has tried to transfer his high popularity to his much less-known replacement. Another part of the electorate, appalled by growing public-security issues and endemic corruption, but also disappointed with democracy more broadly, appears to be strongly attracted by the simple and unconventional answers to complex challenges posed by far-right populist rhetoric. The latter – worryingly – glorifies Brazil's dictatorship (1964-1985). As candidates with unorthodox political approaches appear to be an emerging norm, Brazilians may opt for a populist turn as well. If so, EU-Brazil relations may become more complex in the future.

World Bank support for investment in EU and Western Balkan transport

01-10-2018

Over the six decades during which the World Bank has been active in Europe, its engagement has evolved hand in hand with the development of the continent. Initially supporting reconstruction efforts after World War II, it later shifted the focus of its action to development support. In the past, as today, it has provided financing, knowledge and assistance to countries seeking to join the European Union. As a starting point in providing a deeper insight into how the World Bank contributes to the ...

Over the six decades during which the World Bank has been active in Europe, its engagement has evolved hand in hand with the development of the continent. Initially supporting reconstruction efforts after World War II, it later shifted the focus of its action to development support. In the past, as today, it has provided financing, knowledge and assistance to countries seeking to join the European Union. As a starting point in providing a deeper insight into how the World Bank contributes to the development of European countries today, this briefing first looks at the Bank's complex structure, the functioning of its different parts and the types of investment and assistance it offers its clients. Then, leaving aside the many other areas of the Bank's activity, the focus narrows to its support for transport in the EU and its Western Balkan partners. As the World Bank is one of several international institutions that are active in the Western Balkans, the briefing also looks into how the Bank links with the development-support efforts of the European Commission and the financial landscape of the Western Balkans Investment Framework.

China [What Think Tanks are thinking]

28-09-2018

China is a major strategic partner for the European Union, despite divergences on human rights issues, as well as on some economic and foreign policies. At their 20th EU-China summit in July, the two sides agreed to further develop their partnership and to seek to avoid global trade wars, which many analysts fear could be triggered by US President Donald Trump’s protectionist policies. They agreed, in principle, to support reform of the World Trade Organization, which has been snubbed by President ...

China is a major strategic partner for the European Union, despite divergences on human rights issues, as well as on some economic and foreign policies. At their 20th EU-China summit in July, the two sides agreed to further develop their partnership and to seek to avoid global trade wars, which many analysts fear could be triggered by US President Donald Trump’s protectionist policies. They agreed, in principle, to support reform of the World Trade Organization, which has been snubbed by President Trump. However, China’s increasingly close military ties with Russia cause concern in the EU. Trade, security and connectivity will be important topics of the 12th ASEM (EU-Asia) summit in October, which will gather heads of state or government of 51 European and Asian countries. This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on China, its ties with the EU and related issues. More studies on the topics can be found in a previous edition of 'What Think Tanks are thinking', published in March 2018. One of the forthcoming publications in this series will be devoted to wider EU-Asia relations.

The future partnership between the European Union and the United Kingdom: Negotiating a framework for relations after Brexit

25-09-2018

Following the European Council's additional guidelines of March 2018, the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) have started discussions on their future relationship after Brexit. The aim is to agree on a political framework for their future partnership by autumn 2018, to be adopted alongside the withdrawal agreement. Conclusion of a treaty or treaties establishing future EU-UK relations will only take place after the UK leaves the Union and becomes a third country. Both parties have expressed ...

Following the European Council's additional guidelines of March 2018, the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) have started discussions on their future relationship after Brexit. The aim is to agree on a political framework for their future partnership by autumn 2018, to be adopted alongside the withdrawal agreement. Conclusion of a treaty or treaties establishing future EU-UK relations will only take place after the UK leaves the Union and becomes a third country. Both parties have expressed the desire to remain in a close partnership, which would cover several areas including trade and economic matters, internal security, foreign and security policy, and cooperation on defence. This study looks at the respective aims for, and principles underpinning, the negotiations, as expressed publicly to date by each party, and analyses some of the legal constraints and existing practices or precedents shaping EU cooperation with third-country partners. This allows assessment of the possibilities and limits of any future EU-UK partnership, in light of the stated objectives and 'red lines' officially announced, leading to the conclusion that, notwithstanding several common aims, significant divergences still persist with respect to the means of achieving the stated objectives.

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