Tag Archives: European Parliament

Pesticides: EU to set up special committee

The European Parliament political leaders green-lighted a special committee to look into the EU’s authorisation procedure for pesticides.

The full House will take the final decision on the proposal by the Conference of Presidents (Parliament’s President and political group leaders) at its session in February. The special committee is a response to concerns raised about the risk posed by the herbicide substance glyphosate. The herbicide had its marketing licence renewed by EU member states for five years in November last year.

The term of the special committee, which will have 30 members, is to be nine months from its first meeting. It will deliver a final report of its factual findings and recommendations, to be approved by the full house.

EU guidelines for sales farmland

EU Member States have the right to restrict sales of farmland to preserve agricultural communities and promote sustainable agriculture.

The European Commission has issued guidance to help Member States protect agricultural land from threats such as excessive price speculation and ownership concentration.  But in doing so they must comply with EU law, in particular rules on free movement of capital. In 2015, the Commission launched infringement procedures against Member States that discriminate against investors from other EU countries and create disproportionate restrictions on cross-border investment. In today’s Communication, the Commission provides indications to Member States on what they can do to regulate the sale of farmland, based on case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union. Today’s Communication responds to a call in March by the European Parliament, which asked the Commission to set a clear and comprehensive set of criteria for land market regulations to ensure a level playing field in compliance with EU law.

Consumer protection in the digital age: EU presidency to strengthen EU-wide cooperation

The Maltese presidency reached a preliminary agreement with European Parliament representatives to strengthen cooperation between EU national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws.

“Trust in e-commerce by citizens and companies is an essential condition for making the digital single market more attractive and dynamic. The safeguarding of consumers’ rights and interests will be better preserved, including for shopping online, thanks to this new harmonised framework”, said Chris Cardona, the Maltese Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business.

The agreement, which has still to be endorsed by the Council and the Parliament, aims at modernising cooperation mechanisms to further reduce the harm caused to consumers by cross-border infringements to EU consumer law.

In particular, effective consumer protection has to respond to the challenges of the digital economy and the development of cross-border retail trade in the EU.

Fight against cross-border infringements

This revision of the existing Consumer Protection Cooperation framework will give more powers to national authorities, particularly in the context of the digital single market.

In case of EU-wide breaches of consumer rights, national enforcement authorities and the Commission will coordinate their action to stop these practices, in particular in cases of widespread infringements with an EU-dimension which are likely to harm consumers across a large part of the Union.

Consumer trust in e-commerce

Ineffective enforcement of cross-border infringements, in particular in the digital environment, enables traders to evade enforcement by relocating within the Union, giving rise to a distortion of competition for law-abiding traders operating either domestically or cross-border, and thus directly harming consumers and undermining consumer confidence in the single market.

An increased level of harmonisation setting effective and efficient enforcement cooperation among public enforcement authorities is therefore necessary to detect, investigate and stop intra-Union infringements and widespread infringements.

In order to further harmonise practices across the EU, the new regulation will set out a number of minimum investigation and enforcement powers that every national competent authority will have to be able to exercise in order to coordinate properly in the fight against infringements.

These powers will strike a balance between the interests protected by fundamental rights such as a high level of consumer protection, the freedom to conduct business and freedom of information.

The mutual assistance mechanism between administrations will be strengthened to establish whether an intra-EU infringement has occurred and to bring about the cessation of that infringement.

An improved alert mechanism will allow a competent authority to notify without delay the Commission and other competent authorities of any reasonable suspicion that an intra-Union infringement or widespread infringement is taking place on its territory that may affect consumers’ interests in other member states.

Competent authorities will also be able to open investigations on their own initiative if they become aware of intra-Union infringements or widespread infringements by means other than individual consumer complaints.

Catching up with the digital economy

On 25 May 2016, the Commission presented the proposal to modernise consumer protection cooperation as part of a broader package including proposals on cross-border parcel deliveries and on tackling unjustified geo-blocking.

At present, regulation 2006/2004 provides for harmonised rules and procedures to facilitate cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of cross-border consumer protection laws.

The scope of the 2004 regulation covers 18 pieces of consumer legislation, including: provisions to protect consumers from unfair and misleading commercial communication; ensuring that consumers are adequately informed before making purchasing decisions; providing appropriate protection when entering contracts with businesses; as well as complaint and redress mechanisms and access to justice.

However, following a review on the effectiveness of regulation 2006/2004, the Commission concluded that it no longer effectively addresses the challenges of the digital single market.

Republic of Moldova: Council agrees to €100 million financial assistance

On 12 April 2017, EU ambassadors agreed the Council’s negotiating stance on macro-financial assistance for the Republic of Moldova.

Up to €100 million is proposed in EU assistance, of which €60 million in loans and €40 million in the form of grants. It would supplement resources provided by the IMF and other multilateral institutions.

The assistance would be aimed at supporting the country’s economic stabilisation and structural reform agenda, helping to cover its external financing needs over the coming two years.

Ambassadors asked the presidency to start talks on the proposed decision with the European Parliament, as soon as the Parliament has agreed its own stance.

The Republic of Moldova’s economy was affected by political instability during the period between elections in November 2014 and January 2016. It has also been affected by a banking fraud scandal, weak economic activity and import bans imposed by Russia. Since early 2016, the authorities have adopted a number of reforms, but need to undertake further efforts in implementing them, whilst those responsible for banking frauds need to be brought to justice. Reforms in the financial sector and in the management of public finances have been undertaken in the framework of negotiations on an IMF programme.

In July 2016 the Moldovan authorities and the IMF agreed a three-year extended credit facility and extended fund facility arrangement for $178.7 million. The Republic of Moldova requested complementary assistance from the EU in August 2015 and renewed that request in March 2016.

The EU assistance would be subject to a memorandum of understanding (MOU), including precise and specific conditions, to be agreed by the Republic of Moldova with the Commission.

A precondition would be that the Republic of Moldova respects effective democratic mechanisms, including a multi-party parliamentary system. It would have to respect the rule of law and guarantee respect for human rights. Objectives also include the efficiency, transparency and accountability of public finance management, an effective prevention of corruption and money laundering, and financial sector governance and supervision.

The Commission and the European External Action Service would regularly monitor the fulfilment of these preconditions and objectives.

The decision requires a qualified majority within the Council, in agreement with the Parliament. The legal basis is article 212 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Trudeau to address Europarl

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Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will deliver a formal speech to MEPs on the EU-Canada relationship on Thursday 16 February at 11.00 in the Strasbourg chamber. Mr Trudeau will be the first Canadian Prime Minister to address the European Parliament, Strasbourg.

On Wednesday 15 February, Parliament approved the EU-Canada Comprehensive economic and trade agreedment (CETA).

EP President Antonio Tajani and Prime Minister Trudeau will hold a joint press conference on Thursday, 16 February at 12.00.

Brussels: MEPs approve CETA

BELGIUM-EU-US-CANADA-TRADE-DEMO

The EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which aims to boost goods and services trade and investment flows, was approved by the International Trade Committee on Tuesday. The full House is to vote on the deal in February.

“By approving CETA today we take a significant step forward. In the face of rising protectionism and populism, Parliament is able and willing to act on behalf of European citizens. I stand for a strong and global Europe and for open markets. Ratifying this agreement with Canada will enable trade to continue to bring wealth to both shores of our transatlantic friendship.  The duty of our governments is to ensure that each and every one of us benefits from this wealth”, rapporteur for the CETA agreement Artis Pabriks (EPP, LV) said before the vote.

The draft recommendation was passed by 25 votes to 15 with 1 abstention.

EP VOTES NEW ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING RULES

The ultimate owners of companies and trusts would have to be listed in public registers in EU countries, under updated draft anti-money laundering rules approved by the Economic Affairs and the Justice and Home Affairs committees on Thursday. Casinos are included in the scope of the draft rules, but decisions to exclude other gambling services posing a low risk are left to member states.

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“The outcome of this vote is a big step forward in the fight against tax evasion and a clear call for more transparency. With this vote Parliament has shown, from left to right, that it is in favour of public beneficial ownership registers, and thus sends a strong signal to the Council for forthcoming negotiations on the file. By approving the establishment of beneficial ownership registers, the committees have shown that they are serious in their demand to finally break with the tradition of hidden company ownership”, said Civil Liberties Committee rapporteur Judith Sargentini (Greens/EFA, NL).

“For years, criminals in Europe have used the anonymity of offshore companies and accounts to hide their financial dealings. Creating an EU-wide register of beneficial ownership will help to lift the veil of secrecy from offshore accounts and greatly aid the fight against money laundering and blatant tax evasion”, said Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee rapporteur Krišjānis Kariņš (EPP, LV). “Today is a good day for law-abiding citizens, but a lousy day for criminals”, he added.

FAIL2SUCCEED CAMPAIGN: HOW YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS CAN REBOUND

Fail2Succeed, the first pan-European campaign of its kind, was launched at the European
Parliament on 18th December.

Failure can be overcome !

Failure can be overcome !

ThinkYoung’s survey shows that 50% of young Europeans are convinced that failure will be
perceived negatively by future business partners, but 70% of them would give a second chance
to someone who failed. Failure is perceived as a negative social label, but is regarded as
positive in terms of business capabilities and personal development.

The ThinkYoung proposal to harmonise the bankruptcy legislation in Europe, in line with the
work of the European Commission, is regarded as “extremely effective or very effective” by
80% of respondents.

According to Andrea Gerosa, founder of ThinkYoung, “an entrepreneurship-friendly
environment is the key to overcoming the stigma. Moreover, young Europeans do not blame
governments or institutions.”

The conference, hosted by Pablo Zalba Bidegain and organised by ThinkYoung and CES, will be
a public debate on the preliminary results of the Fail2Succeed research study. In addition,
ThinkYoung’s trailer of a documentary portraying young Europeans who have experienced
entrepreneurial failure will be showcased.

Over the years, we at ThinkYoung have reached the conclusion that cultural barriers, such as
the stigma of failure, need to be overcome in order to boost youth entrepreneurship. The
stigma can be broken down into sub-variables, some qualitative (stigma as fear of being judged
or even refused by peers), some formal (legislative regime and bank procedures for those who
have already faced a failure). We are convinced that entrepreneurs, whether prospective or
experienced, are facing a mix of both social and institutional pressures that cast a shadow over
their future entrepreneurial activities. For this reason, we launched the campaign
“Fail2Succeed” with the goal of changing the perception of business failure and of harmonising
the bankruptcy legislation at the European level.

The campaign consists of:
– a European survey
– an audio-visual study
– the mapping of all the European initiatives on failure
– a series of conferences to be held in 2014
– a policy proposal for the European and national institutions.

thinkyoung.eu

 

€3.5 bilion AID FOR THE MOST DEPRIVED

EU food aid

EU food aid 

The fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) in 2014-2020 will be maintained at €3.5 billion, the same figure as in 2007-2013, under an informal deal concluded by Parliament and Council negotiators.

“The fund is aimed at helping the most deprived in all Member States. Sadly, 40 million people across Europe cannot afford to put basic meal on their table every second day. Four million people are homeless. The fund will seek to alleviate the immediate effects of extreme deprivation and will support the process of bringing people in from the margins of society”, said Parliament’s rapporteur for the FEAD, Emer Costello.

The new programme for 2014 to 2020 is intended to replace the Food Distribution Programme, which was designed to use up food surpluses produced under the Common Agricultural Policy.

The fund’s scope will be expanded to include two operational programmes designed to provide food distribution aid and basic material assistance and also social inclusion measures for the EU’s most deoprived citizens.

FEAD will also support food donations and in particular the collection, transportation and distribution of food, thus helping to reduce food waste. It will also support measures contributing to a healthy diet.

Henry Borzi

CLOUDCOMPUTING: WHAT DOES THE EC TO BOOST IT ?

IBM Cloud Computing

IBM Cloud Computing (Photo credit: IvanWalsh.com)

The European Commission has  set up an expert group to work on safe and fair terms for cloud computing contracts, on the basis of an optional instrument. The objective is to identify best practices for addressing the concerns of consumers and small companies, who often seem reluctant to purchase cloud computing services because contracts are unclear. The Expert Group is part of the Commission’s push to enhance trust in cloud computing services and unlock their potential for boosting economic productivity in Europe. It is one of the key actions under the Commission’s Cloud Computing Strategy, which was adopted last year (IP/12/1025MEMO/12/713) and is meant to tackle cloud-related issues that go beyond the Common European Sales Law currently under negotiation (MEMO/13/792).

“At the European Council last week, EU leaders called for action to help create a single market for cloud computing. The Commission is delivering its bit. Making full use of the opportunities presented by cloud computing could create 2.5 million extra jobs in Europe and add around 1% a year to EU’s Gross Domestic Product by 2020,” said Vice President Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. “We are asking experts to provide a balanced set of contract terms for consumers and small and medium-sized enterprises to use cloud computing services with more confidence. Trust is bankable – citizens need to be able to trust that the services they use are fair and reliable.”

The expert group on cloud computing includes representatives of cloud service providers, consumers and SMEs, academics and legal professionals (see Annex). The first meeting is scheduled for 19-20 November 2013 and the group is expected to report back in spring 2014. The input will feed into a policy paper launching a broad public consultation on possible ways forward on cloud computing contracts for consumers and SMEs.

Background. On 27 September 2012, the European Commission adopted a strategy for “Unleashing the potential of cloud computing in Europe” (IP/12/1025MEMO/12/713). The strategy is designed to increase the use of cloud computing across the economy. The Expert Group is a key part of this strategy and the Commission’s efforts to further boost the Digital Single Market. It builds on other legislative initiatives already put forward such as the EU data protection reform (MEMO/13/923) and the proposed Optional European Sales Law (MEMO/13/792).

The expert group is tasked with helping the Commission to explore ways to improve the legal framework for cloud computing contracts for consumers and SMEs (IP/13/590), so as to strengthen consumers’ and SMEs’ confidence in using cloud computing contracts.

‘Cloud computing’ refers to the storage of data (such as text files, pictures and video) and software on remote computers, which users access over the internet on the device of their choice. This is faster, cheaper, more flexible and potentially more secure than on-site IT solutions. Many popular services such as Facebook, Spotify and web-based e-mail use cloud computing technologies but the real economic benefits come through widespread use of cloud solutions by businesses and the public sector.

The Commission’s Cloud Computing strategy comprises three key actions, one of which aims to identify safe and fair contract terms and conditions for cloud computing contracts. Model contract terms can help to facilitate contractual arrangements between cloud computing service providers and consumers and small firms. They can also facilitate the application of EU data protection rules to the extent that they are relevant to cloud computing contracts.

The European Commission’s data protection reform proposals, which were backed last week by an overwhelming majority in the European Parliament (MEMO/13/923), will also establish a framework that will help encourage the development of cloud computing services. A swift adoption of the data protection reform would support the development of the digital single market, and help ensure that consumers and SMEs will benefit fully from growth in digital services and in cloud computing.

With the proposal for a Common European Sales Law, the Commission has already started to improve the legal framework for cloud computing contracts (MEMO/13/792). A Common European Sales Law will establish an optional EU-wide sales law, including fair and balanced rules, that consumers and SMEs will be able to use when buying digital products like music or software by downloading them from the cloud. The Expert group will do specific complementary work for those issues that lie beyond the Common European Sales Law to make sure that other contractual questions relevant for cloud computing services can be covered as well, by a similar optional instrument.

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