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What future for the social economy?

11-11-2020

Traditionally the social economy is considered to be an ever-growing set of private, formally organised enterprises and networks that build on multiple types of resources and cooperation, with local anchorage and democratic and participatory decision-making processes. Its primary aim is not to make profit but to meet the needs of its members and that of the wider society. The social economy is active in an increasing number of sectors, and while some of its actors are small non-profit organisations ...

Traditionally the social economy is considered to be an ever-growing set of private, formally organised enterprises and networks that build on multiple types of resources and cooperation, with local anchorage and democratic and participatory decision-making processes. Its primary aim is not to make profit but to meet the needs of its members and that of the wider society. The social economy is active in an increasing number of sectors, and while some of its actors are small non-profit organisations, others are large organisations with international outreach. It generates 6 to 8 % of the European Union's gross domestic product (GDP). However, it is a driver not only of economic activity but also of normative values, such as solidarity and inclusion. Since its conception in the 19th century, it has taken on board innovation in social relations and in societal and community spheres, human development targets and socio-political empowerment. In the first two decades of the 21st century, with new risks and opportunities arising owing to the twin digital and green transformations there is an emerging debate, rethinking economic growth theories with more focus on inclusion and combatting inequality, and exploring the relevance of traditional welfare state models. This debate has intensified in the wake of the 2008 crisis, and now also as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and crisis. The social economy can play a central role in this context. While it has been badly affected by these crises, it also has the potential to mitigate some of the negative impacts. The social economy's values-based approach to the economy can enable it to generate new elements in the ecosystems in which it exists and be an important 'engine' in the immediate recovery and the longer-term possible restructuring of the economy towards more resilience, fairness and sustainability. For the social economy to be able to reach its full potential across the Member States and help to achieve green and inclusive growth with renewed welfare state models, it needs to be supported simultaneously at all levels. EU action can contribute to this. The main areas of EU intervention are: facilitating access to finance and markets, including the digital single market; creating better framework conditions, including for cooperation and cross-border activity; supporting innovation, including new business models; and developing international relations. The Commission action plan on the social economy expected in 2021 might address many of these issues.

Intra-African Migration

28-10-2020

This study provides a broad perspective of the main trends in intra-African migration, emphasising its regional variations and complex drivers. The analysis is focussed on mapping and describing the structures – routes, hubs, settlements and sites of migration within the continent – as well as identifying the relevant infrastructures that facilitate these movements – ranging from road, railway and transportation networks to social connectivities and brokerage. The analysis not only of spaces and ...

This study provides a broad perspective of the main trends in intra-African migration, emphasising its regional variations and complex drivers. The analysis is focussed on mapping and describing the structures – routes, hubs, settlements and sites of migration within the continent – as well as identifying the relevant infrastructures that facilitate these movements – ranging from road, railway and transportation networks to social connectivities and brokerage. The analysis not only of spaces and flows, but also of infrastructure within these networks shows that there is a multiplicity of interrelations, interconnections and interdependences that need to be captured and understood in order to address both the potential and problems for intra-African migration. By grasping the ‘big picture’ of intra-African migration, policies and activities generated by both the African Union and the European Union will be capable of providing comprehensively integrated and tailored responses. Recommendations are directed towards: improving knowledge of the many structures and infrastructures, along with their articulations and functioning; identifying the negative and positive aspects of migration conducive to sustainable development; and addressing the present Africa-Europe polarisation of views through diplomacy and monitoring.

Parlamendiväline autor

Cristina UDELSMANN RODRIGUES, Jesper BJARNESEN

Four EU scenarios for governance in a post Covid-19 world

26-10-2020

Scarcity of medical equipment during the COVID-19 crisis, and the ensuing discussion on ‘reshoring’ certain industries back to Europe, have brought back an old dilemma. Namely, countries wish to be strategically independent while depending on products and resources from other countries to fulfil their economic needs. This reflects the debate about whether markets or governments are better at delivering solutions. We can also define this debate as a choice between ‘competitive capitalism’ and ‘strategic ...

Scarcity of medical equipment during the COVID-19 crisis, and the ensuing discussion on ‘reshoring’ certain industries back to Europe, have brought back an old dilemma. Namely, countries wish to be strategically independent while depending on products and resources from other countries to fulfil their economic needs. This reflects the debate about whether markets or governments are better at delivering solutions. We can also define this debate as a choice between ‘competitive capitalism’ and ‘strategic autonomy’. Calls for strategic autonomy have increased since the COVID-19 crisis, at national and EU level. However, strategic autonomy conflicts with the achievements of international cooperative governance. This introduces another dilemma: the choice between interests and values. Pursuing interests alone leads to a vicious cycle of increased competition between markets and between states, ultimately deteriorating into imperialism. Developing value-oriented actions at government and market level can break that vicious cycle. Value-oriented concepts already form part of many EU policies, which place substantial emphasis on environmental and social rights. When ethical values become an integral part of business and government decisions, this is called ‘due diligence’. We can define value-oriented international cooperation between governments as ‘cooperative governance’. Similarly, we can define ethical and value oriented action by private actors — whether NGOs or businesses — as ‘ethical capitalism’. Putting the two dichotomies on a grid creates a model of four possible scenarios for action which can aid our understanding of ongoing discussions on governance in a post COVID-19 world. EU policy makers could also use these scenarios as alternative ways of shaping EU and foreign policy. The management of natural resources, ranging from water, land, forests, energy resources and metals to rare earths, shows a counter-clockwise development through the scenarios. Moving away from unregulated markets, extraction and use were gradually regulated by national governments, who competed against each other in an imperialist setting. The transnational nature of economic and environmental problems has increasingly brought them into the scope of international cooperative governance. Ethical capitalism (changing market forces from within) is a relatively new development complementing government action. Progress through the scenarios is not always sequential: actors face pressures to switch between them. We can draw lessons for governance in a post COVID-19 world from the experiences of natural resources management. This study is the first on ´global trends in external policies´, aiming to develop forward-looking and strategic analyses.

World Food Programme: Food for peace

15-10-2020

On 9 October 2020, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) 'for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict'. Adding to a worrying rise in food insecurity, the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have pushed millions more people to the brink of famine. The WFP's ...

On 9 October 2020, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) 'for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict'. Adding to a worrying rise in food insecurity, the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have pushed millions more people to the brink of famine. The WFP's expertise on emergencies, often in conflict areas, has provided relief to the most fragile populations. The EU supports the WFP through funding, knowledge-sharing, and protecting its vessels from piracy in certain waters.

International Agreements in Progress - After Cotonou: Towards a new agreement with the African, Caribbean and Pacific states

12-10-2020

The Cotonou partnership agreement between the European Union (EU) and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) states is due to expire at the end of 2020. The then ACP Group of States – which later became the Organisation of the ACP States (OACPS) – and the EU adopted their negotiating mandates in May and June 2018 respectively, thus starting negotiations for a 'post-Cotonou' agreement in September 2018. The main challenge for the EU is to maintain its cooperation with the three OACPS sub-regions ...

The Cotonou partnership agreement between the European Union (EU) and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) states is due to expire at the end of 2020. The then ACP Group of States – which later became the Organisation of the ACP States (OACPS) – and the EU adopted their negotiating mandates in May and June 2018 respectively, thus starting negotiations for a 'post-Cotonou' agreement in September 2018. The main challenge for the EU is to maintain its cooperation with the three OACPS sub-regions and to continue to promote the values enshrined in the EU Treaties. At the same time, the new partnership should take into account the United Nations' sustainable development goals, the redefinition of European strategies in the concerned regions, the new ambitions of the ACP states and the changing balance of power at the global level. Both the EU and the OACPS have agreed on the principle of a common foundation complemented by three regional protocols. These multi-level negotiations and the ongoing discussions on the next EU multiannual budget prevented the new agreement from being finalised by February 2020, the initial expiry date set in the Cotonou Agreement. Thus, in order to avoid a legal vacuum in relations, the provisions of the latter have been extended until the end of 2020. Negotiations are now in their final stages, however some complex issues remain to be solved, among which the institutional setting of the partnership, including the future of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly. Fifth edition. The ‘International Agreements in Progress’ briefings are updated at key stages throughout the process, from initial discussions through to ratification. To view earlier editions of this briefing (in French), please see the EPRS blog, https://epthinktank.eu/2018/07/09/le-futur-partenariat-de-lunion-europeenne-avec-les-pays-dafrique-des-caraibes-et-du-pacifique-international-agreements-in-progress/.

Plenary round-up – Brussels, September 2020

18-09-2020

The September 2020 plenary session was the sixth conducted with Members participating remotely, using the alternative voting procedure put in place in March by Parliament's Bureau, although a majority were again present in Brussels. As well as the Commission President's traditional State of the Union address, Parliament held a joint debate on the risk of breach of the rule of law and LGBTI-free zones in Poland. Parliament also debated European Commission statements on the preparation of the special ...

The September 2020 plenary session was the sixth conducted with Members participating remotely, using the alternative voting procedure put in place in March by Parliament's Bureau, although a majority were again present in Brussels. As well as the Commission President's traditional State of the Union address, Parliament held a joint debate on the risk of breach of the rule of law and LGBTI-free zones in Poland. Parliament also debated European Commission statements on the preparation of the special European Council focusing on Turkey's actions in the eastern Mediterranean, on the consequences for the single market of EU coordination of sanitary measures in the ongoing pandemic, on combatting sexual abuse and exploitation of children, and on the need for a humanitarian EU response to the situation in the Moria refugee camp. Parliament also debated statements from the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borell, on the situation in Belarus, in Lebanon and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. Parliament also voted on legislative proposals and resolutions, including on arms exports, the Union Civil Protection Mechanism, the EU Association Agreement with Georgia, protecting world forests, EU-African security cooperation in the Sahel, type approval of motor vehicles and the importance of urban and green infrastructure.

Impact investing in the framework of business and human rights

31-07-2020

Impact investments are an emerging sustainable investment strategy and represent a small and medium enterprise-led approach to development. Impact investments are executed only when a positive financial return can be achieved alongside a measurable positive impact on an individual or societal level. Impact investors thus go beyond more established sustainable investment strategies such as exclusion or integration by explicitly aiming at impact, investing in business models that directly address social ...

Impact investments are an emerging sustainable investment strategy and represent a small and medium enterprise-led approach to development. Impact investments are executed only when a positive financial return can be achieved alongside a measurable positive impact on an individual or societal level. Impact investors thus go beyond more established sustainable investment strategies such as exclusion or integration by explicitly aiming at impact, investing in business models that directly address social issues. Most impact investment funds invest in areas such as healthcare, education or employment and thus improve the situation of the target group. At the same time, however, there is no explicit human rights perspective integrated into the investment process yet. Given the rather small scale of investments which is usually in the range of EUR 200 000 to EUR 5 million per transaction, unintended negative consequences can occur, if only to a very limited extent. This in-depth analysis discusses the impact investing industry in the context of sustainable finance and analyses central aspects of the concept such as financing instruments, the impact measurement process or the impact logic of the investors. The analysis also discusses the limitations impact investing faces such as commercial boundaries of business models, and illustrates modified concepts to mitigate these challenges which are summarised as social finance.

Parlamendiväline autor

Dr. Barbara SCHECK, Dr. Wolfgang SPIESS-KNAFL.

EU civil protection capabilities

29-07-2020

Civil protection is the protection of people, the environment and property against natural and man-made disasters. The Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) is a highly visible and tangible promise by the European Union (EU) to its citizens to protect them when in need, and to act in solidarity in times of extraordinary suffering. It is a distinctively civilian approach to the problem. On the basis of Articles 196 and 222 (the 'solidarity clause') of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European ...

Civil protection is the protection of people, the environment and property against natural and man-made disasters. The Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) is a highly visible and tangible promise by the European Union (EU) to its citizens to protect them when in need, and to act in solidarity in times of extraordinary suffering. It is a distinctively civilian approach to the problem. On the basis of Articles 196 and 222 (the 'solidarity clause') of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), it relies on a voluntary system of mutual assistance and on capacity pre-committed by the Member States. In 2019, this was complemented by dedicated EU capacities via a new tool, called RescEU, and improvements in risk prevention and preparedness. However, the current coronavirus crisis has shown that the current structures and processes might still not be fit for purpose or in the required state of readiness. The EU needs to broaden and increase its capabilities. This paper explores the issue and identifies potential initiatives to further improve the structural and capability components of EU crisis response. They include options for streamlining civilian and military crisis response and management, improving cooperation with industry, enhancing foresight, war-gaming, international exercises and cyber capabilities, and the development of capability goals, readiness monitoring, and ensured mobility of urgently needed assets.

Will distributed energy resources (DERs) change how we get our energy?

16-07-2020

Decentralised energy resources (DERs) may signal a paradigm shift for electricity production. By 2050, a majority of households in the EU could potentially be suppliers as well as consumers of energy. Energy communities, peer-to-peer trading and interoperable smart grids are emerging trends. This can fit well with the European Green Deal.

Decentralised energy resources (DERs) may signal a paradigm shift for electricity production. By 2050, a majority of households in the EU could potentially be suppliers as well as consumers of energy. Energy communities, peer-to-peer trading and interoperable smart grids are emerging trends. This can fit well with the European Green Deal.

EU development cooperation and ethical certification schemes: impact, transparency and traceability

15-07-2020

‘Transparency’, ‘Traceability’, ‘Sustainable standards’, ‘good agricultural practices’ and ‘zero-deforestation’ are all fine terms which [alongside many others] have emerged in connection with the cocoa sector’s certification process. But does the reality of this process justify using such terms? Our initial conclusions in this study, based on an analysis of existing research over recent years, revealed that a considerable number of investigations had been commissioned by the certification schemes ...

‘Transparency’, ‘Traceability’, ‘Sustainable standards’, ‘good agricultural practices’ and ‘zero-deforestation’ are all fine terms which [alongside many others] have emerged in connection with the cocoa sector’s certification process. But does the reality of this process justify using such terms? Our initial conclusions in this study, based on an analysis of existing research over recent years, revealed that a considerable number of investigations had been commissioned by the certification schemes themselves. Key findings presented by the various studies all conveyed a positive tone. However, on closer inspection we felt that smallholders covered by the programmes were ‘following party lines’ rather than speaking freely. This suspicion was well-founded. Having built up trust in the villages during several years of field-work, we eventually gained access to exclusive data held by the cooperatives and certification programmes. We have used this evidence in order to draw a comparison between the virtual world portrayed by certification schemes’ narrative and the real world being faced by cocoa producers. Certification schemes claim that they give a sense of trust within the value chain, particularly in regard to produce traceability. They also claim to assist farmers, by way of training, various inputs (fertilisers etc.) and credit schemes. In reality, these ‘advantages’ are not visible at farm level. Budgets prepared by cooperatives to justify the use of premiums reflect structural flaws in certification and access to information. Serious questions arise surrounding deforestation, child labour and the payment of premiums. Social investment is minimal and consumers’ perception diverges from the reality. In conclusion, we make a number of key proposals and suggestions based on stakeholders’ complaints and recommendations.

Parlamendiväline autor

Enrique URIBE LEITZ, François RUF

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