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News from Parliaments

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60 years of the Treaties of Rome

27/03/2017
A debate was held in the German Bundestag on 23 March 2017 on 60 years of the
Treaties of Rome. Representatives from all parliamentary groups hailed the
European Union as a peace project and a community of shared values. Today,
however, the EU faces huge challenges, in the form of terrorism, international
crises and the rise of nationalist movements, among other things.

Many speakers spoke positively of the European Commission’s white paper on
the future of Europe. It is now, they said, the job of the Members to discuss the
scenarios presented in the paper and to use it to promote Europe to society.
Individual members were critical, saying that the EU, seen as an elitist project,
was at risk of increasingly losing support among the population. It was stressed
that the subsidiarity principle needed to be observed more closely by the
European institutions, and the rule of law principle implemented in all member
states.

The question of whether the aim should be for a multi-speed Europe, a further
increase in the competences of the EU institutions or a reduction of their
responsibilities was a subject of controversial discussion.

Source: The German Bundestag

EU’s future and security discussed in the Seimas while marking the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome

27/03/2017
Gediminas Kirkilas, Deputy Speaker of the Seimas and Chair of the Committee on European Affairs, underlined that instead of rushing into drastic reforms, we should jointly search for new ways to enhance Europe’s resilience. “A transformation and evolution of the European Union need not be feared. After all, it was due to the EU’s evolution that we became members of the EU,” said Mr Kirkilas and noted that the evolutionary change can only be efficient in the framework of the EU treaties. He indicated Lithuania’s support for Ukraine, Georgia and other countries determined to pursue a pro-European path, thus pointing out that despite coming under criticism, the EU remained a vital project for many countries. While recalling the pledge to promote peace and well-being, established in the Treaty of Rome and honoured by the EU to this day, Mr Kirkilas expressed his conviction in that Europe as we know it would be gone if the EU disappeared, since the wheel of history could not be turned back. Hence, we needed to move forward together.

Linas Linkevičius, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, stressed that we must take responsibility for the future of the EU. He said that the EU was our security guarantee; it also granted us the benefits of EU membership. He added that our main focus today should be the search for common interests and consolidation of Member States. “There is no other alternative but assuming responsibility for the future of the EU. Let us draw our inspiration from the EU’s success stories while turning crises into unexplored opportunities. There is a need for clear leadership and a strong connection with society,” Mr Linkevičius said. As he highlighted the contribution towards peace and well-being by a united Europe, the Minister of Foreign Affairs noted the need to effectively address current challenges, particularly in ensuring everyone’s security in the EU, its neighbourhood and beyond.

The conference certainly put strong emphasis on Europe’s future scenarios, which were communicated by the European Commission in its White Paper on 1 March 2017. Participants of the debate agreed that the scenarios should be considered as an input into further discussions for the sake of finding the best common denominator for future action. As he summed up the discussion, Juozas Bernatonis, Chair of the Seimas Committee on Foreign Affairs, noted that the common denominator would probably form the basis of Europe’s future scenario. The latter would become a vision for a strong, viable and prosperous European Union which would be a living organism, reacting flexibly to any geopolitical, political, economic, social, and cultural changes in the EU, its neighbourhood and the rest of the world. Mr Bernatonis stressed that hearing what the 500-million-strong Europe had to say was of vital importance, which required preserving the ability to listen to others.

The debate of the conference also addressed security and defence matters by highlighting that both the EU and NATO were vitally important for Lithuania.



“It is a matter of debate as to where we draw the line in delegating our sovereign rights. However, it is in our best interest to keep both of these organisations strong. And if there are countries forming a nucleus, we have to consider our possibilities of being part of the nucleus, for only our presence in it gives us a chance to be engaged, lay out our interests in a more persuasive manner, and ensure that our concerns are taken account of,” Raimundas Karoblis, Minister of National Defence of Lithuania, pointed out during the conference. When referring to the changed security situation in the region and the world as well as NATO’s and the US’s expectations about the EU’s contribution to collective defence, the Minister of National Defence called for support for all initiatives contributing to the strengthening of defence, boosting of national defence budgets, and reinforcement of defence capabilities of EU Member States.

Participants of the conference unanimously agreed on a long-term strategic goal of the EU, which was to continue joint efforts for the sake of the viability of the European project that was underpinned by solidarity, inner strength, and speaking with one voice.

The English versions of the video recordings of the conference can be accessed here: Panel 1, Panel 2.

Photos of the Office of the Seimas (authors Džoja Gunda Barysaitė and Olga Posaškova). For more photos from the conference, please visit the Seimas Flickr account.

Source: The Lithuanian Seimas

Lithuanian Seimas Speaker: the issue of the Astravyets nuclear power plant should concern the whole EU

08/03/2017
On 3 March 2017, Viktoras Pranckietis, Speaker of the Seimas, met with Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President of the European Commission for the Euro and Social Dialogue, also in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union. It was stressed during the meeting that security of the Astravyets nuclear power plant was an issue of concern to the whole European Union rather than the matter of bilateral relations between Lithuania and Belarus.

“It is important that the EU Member States view the importance of this matter in the same way since the threats linked to the insecurity of this plant endanger not only Lithuania, at whose border the power plant is being constructed, but other EU Member States as well,” said the Speaker of the Seimas.

The Speaker noted that the approaches of the EU and Belarus towards international environmental and nuclear safety standards, safety culture and management of incidents in the Astravyets nuclear power facilities proved to be fundamentally different. “The recurrent incidents in the construction site of the Astravyets NPP, notably with regard to reactor shells, raise even greater concern,” said Mr Pranckietis.
He also raised another issue of great relevance to Lithuania – financing of the decommissioning of the Ignalina nuclear power plant. “Lithuania cannot unilaterally ensure proper closure of the Ignalina nuclear power plant. Therefore, providing adequate EU financial assistance in the next multiannual financial framework is very significant in this regard. It would help to ensure that the Ignalina NPP becomes a success story and a model of the EU’s nuclear safety”, said the Speaker of the Seimas.

The meeting also focussed on the geopolitical and security situation, the economic situation in the EU and Lithuania. Mr Dombrovkis said that, in the EU context, Lithuania’s economy, which was markedly reviving, was positively assessed. It was stated during the meeting that structural reforms were an essential element of the long-term and sustainable economic growth. The Government of the Republic of Lithuania is committed to fiscal discipline and structural reforms necessary for Lithuania. One of such reforms was the implementation of the social model. The expectation was voiced that in spring, when assessing the Stability Programme, the European Commission would recognise this reform as being structural and would flexibly apply the Stability and Growth Pact with regard to it.

Source: The Lithuanian Seimas

EP President Tajani visits National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia

02/03/2017
On Friday 3 March 2017, the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia will host a working visit by the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani and the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.

The visit at the highest parliamentary level represents the strengthening of political alliances in the future development of the European Union, and offers an opportunity to exchange opinions and views on the future of the European Union after Brexit and on further enlargement. The debate will focus on security challenges, the stability of the Western Balkans and other topical issues.

Source: The National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia

ITALIAN SENATE: REASONED OPINION ON SPIRIT DRINKS REGULATION PROPOSAL

02/03/2017
On 1 March 2016 the Italian Senate Committee on Agriculture and Agrifood Production issued a resolution on the regulation proposal on the definition, presentation and labelling of spirit drinks (COM(2016) 750). The document includes a reasoned opinion lamenting a violation of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles.

The opinion points out that the stated aim of the proposal should be to merely align Regulation (EC) No 110/2008 with articles 290 and 291 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), about delegated acts and implementing acts. The proposal nevertheless introduces new provisions on spirit drinks and contains delegations of power which go well beyond the specific limits set out in article 290 of the TFEU.

Specific qualifications are furthermore expressed, inter alia, on the merit of articles 8, 23, 27, 34 and 43.
The text of the resolution in Italian and an English translation will soon be published on the IPEX website.

Source: The Italian Senate

Commissioner for Health and Food Safety visits the Hungarian National Assembly

28/02/2017
Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety held exchange of views with the representatives of Committee on European Affairs, Committee on Agriculture as well as the Committee on Social Welfare of the Hungarian National Assembly on 10 February 2017. In his introductory speech the representative of the European Commission highlighted that new difficulties will appear due to the Brexit, that is why it is crucial that the EU27 have a clear vision regarding the future. Then his portfolio was presented briefly. 
During the ensuing debate different topics were touched upon. It was highlighted that no medical check-up was undertaken regarding the vast majority of migrants arriving in Europe. Concerning the migration related health issues, namely the measures taken against the diseases yet unknown in the EU, Andriukaitis stressed that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) analysed the epidemical picture in 2015 and no new infections were detected in the respective areas at that moment. Then the issue of GMO-free agriculture was discussed. If Hungary can introduce itself as a GMO-free country, this could constitute an important economic advantage for the country. In addition, the representatives of the Hungarian National Assembly underlined that only GMO-free soy can be grown in Hungary. It was added that technology brings up some serious moral and ethical questions, moreover, the consequences of gene manipulation are not known yet. The Members of Parliament emphasized that since Hungary has a good potential in agriculture due to its geographical situation, the necessary measures were taken against the bird flu. The data of the OECD Health Statistics 2016 were also touched upon. Furthermore, the different health protection measures introduced by Hungary (i. e. health-related taxes on foods and beverages) were elaborated during the exchange of views. Finally the African swine fever situation in Europe 2016/2017 was discussed briefly. 
Source: The Hungarian National Assembly

President Juncker visits the Belgian Federal Parliament

17/02/2017
On 21 February 2017 the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude JUNCKER, will visit the Belgian Federal Parliament.

His speech will be web streamed at http://www.lachambre.be 

Source: The Belgian Federal Parliament

Public hearings in the Belgian Federal Parliament on the future of Europe

13/02/2017
On 31 January and 7 February 2017, public hearings on Europe’s future were organized in the Belgian Federal Parliament. The Brexit and its consequences, both for the EU and for Belgium, were also extensively discussed.

Mr Herman Van Rompuy (former President of the European Council), Mr Sven Biscop and Alexandre Mattelaer (Egmont Institute), Mr Jo Coelmont (Brigadier general), H.E. Mrs Alison Rose (Ambassador of the United Kingdom), Mr Hans Geeroms and Luc Dresse (National Bank of Belgium), Mr Olivier Joris (Federation of Enterprises in Belgium) and prof. Ferdi De Ville (University of Ghent) were received by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Belgian House of Representatives. Several members of the Federal Advisory Committee on European Affairs attended those meetings.

A report (in French and Dutch) will be soon available.

Source: The Belgian Federal Parliament

Finnish Grand Committee requires further clarification on the proposed directives reforming the corporate tax base

06/01/2017

The Grand Committee of the Eduskunta requires that the Government provide further clarification on the proposals for directives establishing a common corporate tax base for the EU. If adopted, the directives would significantly affect the structure of Finnish corporate taxation, tax revenues and ultimately affect the core constitutional powers of the Eduskunta.

The so-called CCTB and CCCTB directive proposals contain proposals on the calculation of taxable profits and on the consolidation of tax bases of multinational groups (CCTB) as well as the apportionment of the tax base among companies’ home Member States (CCCTB).

The Committee requires that the Government acts to remove concerns about the conformity of the proposals with the subsidiarity and proportionality principles. The Government is obliged to ensure that the Eduskunta can influence Finland’s negotiation positions in their entirety before Finland signals its approval of the proposals. The Grand Committee considers that the apportionment formula for tax profits in the CCCTB directive proposal is not acceptable.

At its meeting on 21 December the Committee unanimously adopted the statements (SuVL 8/2016, SuVL 9/2016). The Grand Committee received statements on the draft directives from the Finance Committee. In addition, the subject is being scrutinised by the Commerce Committee, which will evaluate the proposals’ effects on business.

The objectives of the directives are acceptable

The common tax base would be obligatory for corporations that belong to a multinational group, the size of which exceeds a certain threshold. The common tax base would be optional for other companies.

In line with the Finance Committee’s view, the Grand Committee supports the general objectives of the directives, but considers that it cannot yet take a final position on the acceptability of the proposals.

Referring to the statement of the Finance Committee the Grand Committee considers that e.g. the effects of the compulsory nature of CCTB regime on Member States’ competence in corporate taxation as well as Member States’ future ability to use corporate taxation as a means of tax and economic policy need to be assessed during in further deliberations. Likewise, the rules on the tax base have to be examined in more detail, the effect of the rules on tax revenues and the impact of the proposal in Finland has to be clarified.

The Grand Committee considers that the proposed apportionment formula for tax revenues is not acceptable. As noted by the Finance Committee, the tax base apportionment formula in the CCCTB directive proposal deviates from the principles of international taxation that have been agreed within the framework of the OECD. According to the statement of the Finance Committee, the apportionment formula does not allocate tax revenues to those states where the real added value of the multinational group is generated. In its statement of reasons the Grand Committee insists that the effects of the apportionment formula on Finland’s tax revenue be assessed in the further deliberation of the proposal.

Reservations regarding subsidiarity are best resolved in the EU Council

The Grand Committee considers that the compatibility of certain provisions in the proposals with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality is dubious. The Committee does, however, not consider that initiating a subsidiarity procedure would be useful.

The Grand Committee in a previous statement (SuVM 1/2014 vp) explained why the subsidiarity procedure is a singularly ineffective means for parliaments to influence legislative outcomes. The Committee observes that Governments are obliged by treaty to insist on adherence to the subsidiarity principle in the Council and its working groups.

The Committee believes that the subsidiarity principle is not meant for dealing with details of proposals that in themselves pass the subsidiarity test. The Committee considers that the most effective way to have its reservations on details of the proposals resolved is by instructing the Government to argues these points in the Council. The Committee observes that the adoption of the proposals requires unanimity in the Council and thus they cannot be adopted without Finland’s consent.

Source: The Finnish Parliament

Lithuanian Committee on Foreign Affairs: offering the prospect of EU membership to aspiring Eastern Partnership countries must remain on the political agenda of EU institutions and Member States

19/12/2016
At its meeting of 7 December 2016, the Committee on Foreign Affairs discussed the 2016 Communication on EU Enlargement Policy published by the European Commission on 9 November 2016; the accompanying progress reports on the countries seeking EU membership (Albania, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Serbia, and Turkey) and the position of the Ministry on Foreign Affairs on these matters.

The Committee adopted by consensus the opinion concerning the key aspects of the EU enlargement process. The opinion stressed that the Committee adhered to the provision established in the Global Strategy for the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy, which provided that a credible enlargement policy represented a strategic investment in Europe’s security and prosperity, and simultaneously contributed to democratic reforms in candidate countries. The Committee underlined that active EU’s policy must also be guided by the same principles and actively enforced in the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood, which consisted of the countries that linked their future with the Euro-Atlantic integration. The Committee called for continuing discussions on granting the EU perspective to the countries of the Eastern Partnership working towards EU membership and for constantly maintaining the issue on the agenda of EU institutions, parliaments and governments of Member States.
When assessing the progress reports of the countries seeking EU membership, the Committee expressed its view that Turkey was a key partner for the EU and a participant in the EU enlargement process; and that it was crucial to continue dialogue and cooperation with it. However, as a candidate country, Turkey had to comply with the fundamental standards related to the rule of law and respect for human rights and freedoms underpinning the existence of the EU itself and its external relations. The Committee welcomed the progress achieved by the western Balkan countries, namely Albania, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Serbia, and called the countries to pool their efforts and political will for further reforms in the areas specified for each country by the European Commission. The Committee also underlined that the countries aspiring for EU membership had to consistently and to full extent coordinate the implementation of their foreign policies with the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, in particular when decisions were made in response to the violations of EU fundamental values and principles, as was the case with Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. The Committee also welcomed Albania and Montenegro, which consistently aligned their foreign policies with the common EU policy. The Committee, however, believed that Serbia’s efforts in this regard were unsuccessful since its record of alignment with the EU positions was decreasing (with 59 % in 2016, compared to 65 % in 2015).

Source: The Lithuanian Seimas
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