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Posted on 23-06-2017

Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC)

Briefing - 23-06-2017

On 14 September 2016, the European Commission proposed an updated regulation on the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC) as part of its wider telecoms package. The new proposal aims at transforming BEREC into a single fully fledged agency. The Commission proposes allocating new tasks to BEREC and granting it legally binding powers. New tasks include providing guidelines for national regulatory authorities (NRAs) on geographical surveys, developing common approaches to meet end-user interests, but also developing common approaches to deliver peer-reviewed opinions on draft national measures (e.g. radio spectrum assignments) and on cross-border disputes. Stakeholders have been divided over the Commission’s review as regards the effectiveness and powers of BEREC. While the role of NRAs is widely acknowledged, some stakeholders stressed that the institutional set-up at EU and BEREC levels should be adjusted (e.g. a clearer division of powers, accountability issues, transparency in decision-making). Second edition The ‘EU Legislation in Progress’ briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure. Please note this document has been designed for on-line viewing.

Cleaner air for Europe: EU efforts to fight air pollution

Briefing - 23-06-2017

Air pollution knows no borders. Wind can carry pollutants over thousands of kilometres. Poor air quality impacts negatively on human health, ecosystems, crop yields and buildings. It is one of the main environmental causes of premature death, having claimed 5.5 million lives globally and over 430 000 in the EU in 2013. The European Commission estimates the cost of air pollution linked to the degradation of health in European society to amount to €330 billion to €940 billion per year. Developed since 1970 in the wake of acid rain fall that had been destroying European forests and polluting freshwaters, EU air quality policy, in combination with technological change, has contributed to reducing air pollution substantially.

Macro-financial assistance

Briefing - 23-06-2017

Macro-financial assistance (MFA) is an instrument designed to provide loans and grants from the EU to candidate, potential candidate and neighbourhood countries in acute balance of payments crises. An MFA operation is exceptional and temporary, based on economic and political conditions, and linked to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) adjustment programme. In addition to solving short term balance of payments problems, MFA is designed to stabilise public finances and to encourage structural reforms. Since 1990, there have been more than 60 MFA operations and the evaluation of the instrument is largely positive.

Start of Brexit negotiations [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Briefing - 23-06-2017

Formal negotiations on the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union under Article 50 TEU got under way on 19 June, as both sides agreed in principle how to organise the talks and underlined their mutual goodwill. The talks began nearly a year after the UK referendum (on 23 June 2016) resulted in the vote to leave the EU, and less than two weeks after a general election that left the ruling Conservative Party without a majority in the House of Commons. This note offers links to recent commentaries and reports published by major international think tanks on the UK’s plans to leave the EU and the wider implications of Brexit.

New rules on security of gas supply

Briefing - 23-06-2017

In February 2016, the European Commission proposed a new regulation on security of gas supply as part of its sustainable energy security package, in order to develop a stronger collective response to future supply risks. Major innovations in the Commission proposal include a solidarity principle that prioritises households and essential social services during an emergency situation; mandatory regional preventive action and emergency plans based on new templates; fewer exemptions on bidirectional capacity, in order to facilitate reverse gas flows; an increase in the scope of contractual information relating to security of supply that is provided to the Commission and national authorities; and further involvement of the contracting parties of the Energy Community in security of gas supply measures. The ITRE Committee approved its report in October 2016, while the Council adopted a general approach in December 2016. Trilogue negotiations started in February 2017 and agreement was reached in April. The agreed text was approved by the ITRE committee on 30 May and is scheduled for a vote in the September 2017 plenary.

Control of the acquisition and possession of weapons

Briefing - 23-06-2017

In the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks, in November 2015 the European Commission presented a package of measures aiming to tighten control on the acquisition and possession of firearms in the European Union, improve traceability of legally held firearms and enhance cooperation between Member States, as well as ensure that deactivated firearms are rendered inoperable. The proposal to amend the current 'Firearms Directive' (Directive 91/477/EEC) was part of this package. It aimed to ban some semi-automatic firearms for civilian use, as well as to include some previously excluded actors (collectors and brokers) and blank-firing weapons within the scope of the Directive. Parliament and Council reached agreement on the proposal in December, and formally adopted it in March and April respectively. The new directive reduces the number of weapons categories and changes the classification of certain types of weapons, while strictly defining exceptions for civilian use of the most dangerous weapons. It entered into force on 13 June 2017, with the deadline for transposition of most provisions set at 14 September 2018. This updates a briefing of January 2017, drafted by Jana Valant: PE 595.875.

Rights and empowerment of women in the Western Balkans

Briefing - 23-06-2017

Gender equality – recognised by the United Nations as a human right, and enshrined in the EU Treaties – is among the requirements with which Western Balkan candidates and potential candidates for EU accession (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia) have to comply. In recent years, these six countries have taken steps to advance women's rights. They have adopted or amended their relevant legislation (for instance, criminal and labour laws), elaborated national strategies and action plans, and established institutional mechanisms to carry out and monitor the policies in the area. Despite these formal efforts, however, promoting gender equality is often seen as a low-priority task, the main focus being centred on political and economic issues. In practice, women in the region still share similar challenges of increased personal, economic, and social insecurity. Traditional stereotypes place them in a subordinate position, and public awareness of their rights is low. Moreover, even though laws on gender equality exist, the institutions responsible for implementing them are weak and enjoy little public trust. Widespread domestic violence, limited labour market opportunities and unequal access to participation in high-level politics (despite existing quotas) are palpable issues concerning women still waiting to be tackled. As the Western Balkan governments' response to the above challenges is largely seen as inadequate, there have been calls to dedicate greater attention to them, including in the framework of EU accession, and for an increase in civil society involvement. For its part, civil society has repeatedly called for stricter monitoring, more consistent implementation and public awareness-raising as part of the national agenda.

Research for AGRI Committee - CAP implementation: Flexibility given to Member States - state of play and perspectives

Study - 15-05-2017

This study discusses flexibility of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) from various angles. The current flexibility does not create major conflicts with the objectives of the CAP. It makes decision-making more dispersed over the Member States, but also more effective. There may be small adverse effects on the level playing field. On the positive side, flexibility allows Member States to address specific problems and pursue heterogeneous and/or geographically bound goals. This should be regarded as bounded targeting, not renationalisation.

Skills development and employment: Apprenticeships, internships and volunteering

Study - 14-04-2017

This study discusses participation, outcomes, quality and challenges of apprenticeships, internships/traineeships and volunteering schemes. Though important, all three forms face challenges that need attention in the related existing and planned EU-level initiatives (such as the planned Quality Framework for Apprenticeships). Issues concern, for example, providing clarity on the employment status (mainly for apprenticeships) and on fair remuneration, thus limiting the risk of being sources for cheap labour. The note was prepared by Policy Department A at the request of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) to support the Committee’s work on the New Skills Agenda.

Posted on 22-06-2017

The Brexit negotiations: Issues for the first phase

In-Depth Analysis - 22-06-2017

Negotiations on the arrangements for the UK's withdrawal from the EU started on 19 June 2017. The European Commission is negotiating on behalf of the EU, on the basis of the European Council guidelines and the mandate given to it by the Council. The European Parliament, for its part, has laid down key principles and conditions for its approval of a UK withdrawal agreement. Three key priorities are set to dominate the first phase of the negotiations (with the future relationship between the EU and the UK being left to a second phase). These are: citizens' rights for EU-27 citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU-27; the settlement of the UK's financial obligations; and ensuring the Northern Ireland peace process is not compromised. This paper looks at the EU negotiating position and the major issues raised under those three priorities to date.

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