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Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, February 2020

14-02-2020

Highlights of the February session included debates on a review of economic governance; the revised enlargement methodology proposed by the Commission; a breach of Council Decision 2017/2074 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Venezuela; the current situation in Syria; on fighting against antisemitism, racism and hatred across Europe; as well as on the ongoing threat to the rule of law in Poland. Members also adopted a resolution on the illegal trade in companion animals. ...

Highlights of the February session included debates on a review of economic governance; the revised enlargement methodology proposed by the Commission; a breach of Council Decision 2017/2074 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Venezuela; the current situation in Syria; on fighting against antisemitism, racism and hatred across Europe; as well as on the ongoing threat to the rule of law in Poland. Members also adopted a resolution on the illegal trade in companion animals. They debated the state of play in the EU's fight against money laundering (in light of the Luanda Leaks); the humanitarian situation of refugees at EU external borders; and the coronavirus outbreak. Members also voted on a resolution on EU priorities for the 64th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Parliament's right of legislative initiative

12-02-2020

The European Commission has a near monopoly on legislative initiative in the European Union (EU), with special initiative rights for other institutions applying only in certain specific cases. However, the European Parliament and the Council may invite the Commission to submit legislative proposals. Whilst this 'indirect' initiative right does not create an obligation on the Commission to propose the legislation requested, the Treaty of Lisbon codified the Commission's obligation to provide reasons ...

The European Commission has a near monopoly on legislative initiative in the European Union (EU), with special initiative rights for other institutions applying only in certain specific cases. However, the European Parliament and the Council may invite the Commission to submit legislative proposals. Whilst this 'indirect' initiative right does not create an obligation on the Commission to propose the legislation requested, the Treaty of Lisbon codified the Commission's obligation to provide reasons for any refusal to follow a parliamentary initiative. Against this backdrop, some argue that Parliament could take the Commission to the Court of Justice of the EU if it fails to justify a negative decision. Others see Parliament's increasing participation in overall political planning – particularly through negotiations on the Commission's annual work programme (CWP) – as a further channel for Parliament to increase its influence on EU legislation. It is thus argued that the increased role of Parliament in the legislative procedure should have reduced the need for its Members to make use of legislative initiatives. Notwithstanding that, there is a trend towards greater use of formal parliamentary legislative initiatives to assert greater influence on the political process. Most recently, in her inaugural address in July 2019 and in her Political Guidelines, the then newly elected President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, pledged to strengthen the partnership with the European Parliament, inter alia, by responding with a proposal for a legislative act whenever Parliament, acting by a majority of its members, adopts a resolution requesting that the Commission submit legislative proposals. She added that this commitment would have to be in full respect of the proportionality, subsidiarity and better law-making principles. President von der Leyen also declared herself supportive of moves towards recognition of a right for Parliament of legislative initiative. This briefing is an update of a European Parliament Library briefing from 2013, by Eva-Maria Poptcheva.

Clash of Cultures: Transnational Governance in Cold War Europe - EPRS Annual Lecture 2019

06-02-2020

Wolfram Kaiser, a non-resident Visiting Fellow with the European Parliamentary Research Service, delivered the EPRS annual lecture in Brussels on 6 November 2019. In his lecture, he argued that the EU has been profoundly shaped by three main notions and practices of transnational governance: the struggle for executive autonomy, practices of neo-corporatist concertation and consensus-seeking, and the vision to Europeanise parliamentary democracy by 'constitutionalising' what is now the EU. He sought ...

Wolfram Kaiser, a non-resident Visiting Fellow with the European Parliamentary Research Service, delivered the EPRS annual lecture in Brussels on 6 November 2019. In his lecture, he argued that the EU has been profoundly shaped by three main notions and practices of transnational governance: the struggle for executive autonomy, practices of neo-corporatist concertation and consensus-seeking, and the vision to Europeanise parliamentary democracy by 'constitutionalising' what is now the EU. He sought to show how each has impacted on attempts to create transnational European democracy, and how they might actually have facilitated the far more aggressive contestation of European union (with a small 'u').

External author

This briefing has been written by Professor Dr Wolfram Kaiser of the University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom, at the request of the Directorate-General for Parliamentary Research Services (EPRS) of the Secretariat of the European Parliament.

Digital democracy: Is the future of civic engagement online?

05-02-2020

Digital innovation is radically transforming democratic decision-making. Public administrations are experimenting with mobile applications (apps) to provide citizens with real-time information, using online platforms to crowdsource ideas, and testing algorithms to engage communities in day-to-day administration. The key question is what technology breakthrough means for governance systems created long before digital disruption. On the one hand, policy-makers are hoping that technology can be used ...

Digital innovation is radically transforming democratic decision-making. Public administrations are experimenting with mobile applications (apps) to provide citizens with real-time information, using online platforms to crowdsource ideas, and testing algorithms to engage communities in day-to-day administration. The key question is what technology breakthrough means for governance systems created long before digital disruption. On the one hand, policy-makers are hoping that technology can be used to legitimise the public sector, re-engage citizens in politics and combat civic apathy. Scholars, on the other hand, point out that, if the digitalisation of democracy is left unquestioned, the danger is that the building blocks of democracy itself will be eroded. This briefing examines three key global trends that are driving the on-going digitalisation of democratic decision-making. First are demographic patterns. These highlight growing global inequalities. Ten years from now, in the West the differentials of power among social groups will be on the rise, whereas in Eastern countries democratic freedoms will be at risk of further decline. Second, a more urbanised global population will make cities ideal settings for innovative approaches to democratic decision-making. Current instances of digital democracy being used at local level include blockchain technology for voting and online crowdsourcing platforms. Third, technological advancements will cut the costs of civic mobilisation and pose new challenges for democratic systems. Going forward, democratic decision-makers will be required to bridge digital literacy gaps, secure public structures from hacking, and to protect citizens' privacy.

The 2019 ESPAS Conference: Some useful take-aways

31-01-2020

What are the probable and less probable developments of ageing? How should university deal with the disrespect for facts? Will we see a multipolar or poly-nodal world? What will be the main causes of inequality? What can government do to prevent undesired futures? The 2019 ESPAS Conference was devoted to foresight, the disciplined exploration of alternative futures and had some useful take-aways in these questions

What are the probable and less probable developments of ageing? How should university deal with the disrespect for facts? Will we see a multipolar or poly-nodal world? What will be the main causes of inequality? What can government do to prevent undesired futures? The 2019 ESPAS Conference was devoted to foresight, the disciplined exploration of alternative futures and had some useful take-aways in these questions

Plenary round-up – Brussels, January II 2020

31-01-2020

The highlights of the January II plenary session included discussion and the vote on the agreement on the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, the ceremony to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and a debate on the von der Leyen Commission’s first work programme, for 2020. Parliament also debated the coronavirus outbreak, the humanitarian situation on Greek islands, the strategy for sustainable mobility and transport, and the EU’s response to devastation following floods in Spain. It ...

The highlights of the January II plenary session included discussion and the vote on the agreement on the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, the ceremony to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and a debate on the von der Leyen Commission’s first work programme, for 2020. Parliament also debated the coronavirus outbreak, the humanitarian situation on Greek islands, the strategy for sustainable mobility and transport, and the EU’s response to devastation following floods in Spain. It also debated statements on the rights of indigenous peoples and India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019. Finally, Members adopted Parliament’s calendar of part-sessions for 2021 and 2022.

The von der Leyen Commission's priorities for 2019-2024

28-01-2020

In her statements to the European Parliament in July and November 2019, as candidate for European Commission President and President-elect respectively, Ursula von der Leyen outlined the six political priorities that would shape the working programme of the European Commission over the next five years. While the former Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, had claimed to lead a 'political Commission', his successor, Ursula von der Leyen, has pledged to lead a 'geopolitical Commission'. Such ...

In her statements to the European Parliament in July and November 2019, as candidate for European Commission President and President-elect respectively, Ursula von der Leyen outlined the six political priorities that would shape the working programme of the European Commission over the next five years. While the former Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, had claimed to lead a 'political Commission', his successor, Ursula von der Leyen, has pledged to lead a 'geopolitical Commission'. Such a Commission will have a political agenda in which reinforcing the EU's role as a relevant international actor, and trying to shape a better global order through reinforcing multilateralism, is to become a key priority ('A stronger Europe in the world'). The other main political priorities of the Commission are brought together under five broad headings: 'A European Green Deal', 'A Europe fit for the digital age', 'An economy that works for people', 'A new push for European democracy', and 'Promoting the European way of life'. Together they define the framework within which the Commission will act in the coming five years. The structure and working methods announced by von der Leyen show that her Commission will differ from its predecessors in a number of ways.

Financing the EU's administration: Heading 7 of the 2021-2027 MFF

24-01-2020

In May 2018, the European Commission published its proposal for the EU's long-term budget for 2021-2027, known as the multiannual financial framework (MFF). The proposed next MFF is structured in 7 headings, encompassing 17 policy clusters. The Commission has proposed a total budget of €1 134 583 million in current prices. The vast majority of these funds – over 93 % – is dedicated to a variety of EU programmes, and is invested primarily in Member States, as well as partially in partner countries ...

In May 2018, the European Commission published its proposal for the EU's long-term budget for 2021-2027, known as the multiannual financial framework (MFF). The proposed next MFF is structured in 7 headings, encompassing 17 policy clusters. The Commission has proposed a total budget of €1 134 583 million in current prices. The vast majority of these funds – over 93 % – is dedicated to a variety of EU programmes, and is invested primarily in Member States, as well as partially in partner countries as external spending. The remaining funds cover the administrative expenses of the EU, an underlying cost of all EU activities. In the current MFF for 2014-2020, Heading 5 covers administration, while in the proposed 2021-2027 MFF, administrative costs will be funded under Heading 7, entitled 'European public administration'. While in other policy areas there is more significant restructuring, the heading that covers EU administrative costs is comparable to that of the current MFF in size and structure. In its proposal for the future Heading 7, the Commission upholds its view that, to ensure the smooth functioning of the Union, the EU budget must finance its administration adequately, particularly in view of the fact that the EU civil service has undergone two successive and substantial reforms within a short time frame, in 2004 and 2014. The Commission proposal aims to ensure that the EU can rely on a highly qualified administrative service, which respects a geographical and gender balance. The proposal has been backed by the European Parliament. On the other hand, in its first draft 'negotiating box' including figures from December 2019, the Council proposed a 2.6 % cut to the allocations in the Commission proposal and Parliament's position.

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.

Brexit: The final countdown [What Think Tanks are thinking]

24-01-2020

It is now clear that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union on 31 January 2020. It will do so on the basis of the revised Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between the EU-27 and the UK by Boris Johnson after he became Prime Minister last year. Both sides will then start negotiations on future relations, including on trade, which will run during the transitional period, currently due to end on 31 December 2020. The UK government has said it will set out its hopes for the future partnership ...

It is now clear that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union on 31 January 2020. It will do so on the basis of the revised Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between the EU-27 and the UK by Boris Johnson after he became Prime Minister last year. Both sides will then start negotiations on future relations, including on trade, which will run during the transitional period, currently due to end on 31 December 2020. The UK government has said it will set out its hopes for the future partnership after Brexit has happened. This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from international think tanks on numerous challenges facing the UK, EU and their future ties after their divorce.

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