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News from Parliaments

Please find here the latest news.

Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies, new IPEX Board Chair

24/05/2016
The Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies has officially taken over the Chairmanship of the IPEX Board form the Italian Senate and Chamber of Deputies, at the end of the Conference of Speakers of the European Union Parliaments.

According to the IPEX Guidelines, the one-year mandate of the IPEX Chair spans the periode between two consecutive EUSC meetings, following a rotating principle, based of the second semester presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The new IPEX Board is composed by representatives of the national Parliaments and chambers of Italy (Chamber of Deputies and Senate), The Netherlands (Chamber of Deputies and Senate), Slovakia (National Council), Austria (National Council and Federal Council), Belgium (Chamber of Deputies and Senate), Denmark (Folketing), France (National Assembly and Senate), Germany (Bundestag), Poland (Sejm and Senate), Greece (Hellenic Parliament), Portugal (Assembly of the Republic), Rumania (Chamber of Deputies and Senate), the United Kingdom (House of Commons) and the European Parliament.

Source: IPEX

Hearing at the German Bundestag on the proposals made by the European Commission to regulate online sales

24/05/2016
On 11 May 2016, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Consumer Protection held a public hearing on two proposals made by the European Commission to regulate online sales. The Commission had already presented the proposals for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on certain aspects concerning contracts for the supply of digital content (COM(2015)634 final) and for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on certain aspects concerning contracts for the online and other distance sales of goods (COM(2015)635 final) in December 2015 in the framework of measures to strengthen the Digital Single Market.

At the beginning of the hearing, a representative from the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers informed the Members of the Bundestag about the aims of the proposals and the background to them.

Following that, seven legal experts gave their assessments of the proposals. They expressed a range of concerns about the content of the planned directives; the need for introducing such provisions at all was also called into question and the timing of the directives criticised.

The following points in particular were made at the hearing:
• Data as a currency: on the one hand, the improvements to customer rights were welcomed; at the same time, however, the right to retrieval of the data was viewed as difficult to enforce. Regulating these interests in the framework of data protection legislation was viewed as more sensible.
• Legal guarantees: criticism centred on the fact that different guarantee provisions would apply depending to online, as opposed to offline, purchases.
• Goods and digital content: the idea of regulating the two areas of goods and digital content separately was viewed as problematic. It was seen as unclear, for example, which of the directives would apply to products with built-in software.
• Extension of the reversal of the burden of proof to two years: the duration of the reversal of the burden of proof, which is six months in most Member States, was seen as completely adequate. Attention was drawn, however, to the positive experiences with a longer period in Portugal.

Most of the experts viewed language barriers, and people’s lack of confidence in the smooth processing of orders and the enforcement of their consumer rights in other countries as the real problems behind the low rates of cross-border sales. They felt that these problems would continue to exist even with a harmonised legal framework.
The statements of the experts and further information (in German) are available on the Bundestag’s website.

Source: The German Bundestag

Exchange of views with EP rapporteur on ETS System

20/05/2016
The new regulations of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) were debated at a meeting of Austrian Parliamentarians and the competent rapporteur of the European Parliament‘s ITRE-Committee, Frederick Federley, on May12. He informed the Austrian Parliament that he would like to present a first draft in its meeting on May 23.
This setting of an interparliamentary meeting took place in the Austrian Parliament for the first time. For a better mutual exchange of information it will be continued in order to debate other important EU projects.
 
The reform of the ETS shall contribute to the EU climate protection goal to reduce the industrial greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. Federley underlined that the reformed ETS needs to be organised more tightly. He explained that the reallocation's aim of free allowances from 2021  will focus on the distribution to those sectors which operate efficiently and are  deemed to be exposed to a significant risk of carbon leakage. This is the case especially for the steel industry, Federley said.

The Austrian delegates concentrated on questions on the prior functioning of the ETS, on competitiveness, the promotion of innovation, the pricing and the market observation. Federley, in closing, emphasized his special interest in the national parliaments' opinions and stressed that all EU-member states should participate actively in the discussion – especially regarding the question of subsidiarity.

For further Information see the press release

Source: The Austrian Parliament

Austrian Federal Council's EU Committee debates Energy Union and CETA - no majority for "green card" proposal of French National Assembly

20/05/2016
The Energy Union and the Free Trade Agreement with Canada (CETA ) were debated during the last meeting of the Federal Council's EU Committee on May 11. CETA debate was adjourned in order to continue the debate after the clarification of legal issues inter alia by expert opinion of the Legal, Legislative and Research Services of the Austrian Parliament.

After the debate about the communication on the EU Strategy for liquefied natural gas and gas storage, the Committee decided to resume the debate about the EU Strategy on Heating and Cooling in the next meeting. The delegates were of the opinion that this strategy would have an impact on the Austrian federal provinces and intend to issue a communication on this topic.

Concerning the EC's proposal for a directive on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons, the Committee issued a Communication expressing its concern about the already very strict Austrian law and the question of proportionality.
Also the "green card proposal of the French National Assembly concerning a directive on corporate social responsibility was put on the agenda again but did not reach a majority.

For further Information see the press release


Source: The Austrian Parliament

German Bundestag calls for legislative proposal from the EU Commission on the involvement of publishers in claims for remuneration

11/05/2016
On 28 April 2016 the German Bundestag adopted draft legislation implementing Directive 2014/26/EU on the collective management of copyright and related rights and multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online use in the internal market. In doing so, it passed a resolution requesting that the European Commission present a draft bill that would enable publishers to become involved in existing legal claims for remuneration by the copyright holder. This form of involvement is an established practice both in Germany and other EU Member States. The European Court of Justice’s ruling of 12 November 2015 (Case C-572/13) had led to considerable legal uncertainty in this context regarding whether publisher involvement in claims for remuneration is still permitted. A legal basis at European level enabling the continuation of this practice would thus be welcomed by the German Bundestag.

The corresponding Bundestag printed paper can be accessed here (see page 5, No b)) in German.

Source: The German Bundestag

COM/2016/0128 under the scrutiny of national Parliaments

10/05/2016
More than two-thirds of the EU national Parliaments and chambers have scrutinized the Europeans Comission's proposal COM/2016/0128 for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL amending Directive 96/71/EC of The European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 1996 concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services.

Following consistent debates, 14 national Parliaments and chambers, representing 11 Members States, have issued reasoned opinions signaling the breach of the subsidiarity principle, representing 22 votes and thus setting in motion the Early Warning Mechanism ("yellow card").

The so-called "yellow card" procedure,  as laid down in Protocol 2 of the Treaty of Lisbon, art. 6. and 7, par.1. and 2., will have to be evaluated and officially acknowledged by the European Commission in the coming days, after which it will have to decide on maintaining, amending or withdrawing the legislative proposal, including a timetable for action.

The scrutinizied proposal, as well as the positions of the national Parliaments, can be found here

IPEX will follow and update this dossier closely.

Source: IPEX


CETA: Austrian National Council's EU Standing Subcommittee sceptical about preliminary implementation of Free Trade Agreement with Canada

22/04/2016
In its meeting on 13 April 2016 the National Council's EU Standing Subcommittee concentrated the debate on the Free Trade Agreement with Canada, CETA. Furthermore two proposals concerning the energy sector were discussed.

The negotiated CETA text is being translated at the moment into all Member State languages. It will then be submitted again to the Member States for further handling. This will likely happen in June. For the Committee members the main topic was the question of the preliminary implementation of the agreement. As it is, from the viewpoint of Austria and most of the EU Member States, a so-called mixed agreement would be implemented preliminarily with only those parts of the agreement, that fall under the exclusive competence of the EU. This was explained by Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Economic Affairs, Reinhold Mitterlehner. The European Commission still has to present this proposal.

Areas of national competence can be implemented only after ratification by the national Parliaments. Minister Mitterlehner made clear, however, that for a preliminary implementation the approval of the European Parliament is needed. He moreover reminded the Committee that this procedure, defined in accordance with the Treaty of Lisbon, has already been applied to other free trade agreements. Mitterlehner further pointed out that the contentious area of investment protection would not be included in a preliminary implementation.

In the controversial debate, the delegates in particular the plan to implement an agreement like CETA preliminarily, without waiting for ratification by the national parliaments. The negotiations, and with it several requests by the opposition, were adjourned in order to continue the debate after the clarification of legal issues. The Committee therefore decided to ask the President of the National Council to engage the Legal, Legislative and Research Services for an expert opinion. It should especially clarify all questions in regards to the delimitation of the Union law competences and the national competences as well as the preliminary implementation.

For further Information see the press releases 386/16 and 367/16.

Source: The Austrian National Council

Austrian Federal Council's EU Committee issues reasoned opinion on gas supply and communication on contracts for digital content and for online commerce; Austrian National Council's EU Standing Subcommittee debates national security agenda and EU electoral reform

14/04/2016
In its last meeting the EU Committee of the Federal Council debated a wide range of topics. Besides the new proposal for a directive on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons, which will be on the agenda again in May, the Committee issued a reasoned opinion on the proposal for a regulation concerning measures to safeguard the security of natural gas supply. Especially with regard to the guidelines for risk assessment of the regions, the Committee members saw no sufficient accordance with the principle of subsidiarity.

Furthermore the Committee debated and finally issued a communication regarding two drafts for a directive on certain aspects concerning contracts for the supply of digital content and concerning contracts for the online and other distance sales of goods, in which the members expressed their concern regarding warranty consumer protection and laws.
Also the "Green Card" proposal of the French National Assembly concerning a proposal for a directive on corporate social responsibility was debated and will again be put on the agenda of the next meeting.

In the previous meetings the Federal Council's EU Committee issued a reasoned opinion on the proposal on a directive on waste saying that besides the lack of clarity in some definitions the proposal is likely to cause an increased administrative burden and additional costs. Furthermore it issued a communication to the European institutions concerning competitiveness: In their discussions about the establishment of national committees for competiveness in the Eurozone, the Committee members rejected the EC's proposal. Concerning counterterrorism the Federal Council's EU Committee issued a communication saying that the planned EU measures aimed at coherent, comprehensive and consistent legislation and prosecution will be supported.

In its last meeting the National Council's EU Standing Subcommittee concentrated its debate firstly on the EC communication concerning the implementation of the EU Security Agenda against illegal trade in weapons. The Interior Minister, Johanna Mikl-Leitner mentioned key points, such as the control of the acquisition of illegal firearms and explosives, improvements in operative cooperation internally as well as with third countries, and improvements in data exchange. Following the terror attacks in Paris, Copenhagen and Brussels a regulation package on the securing of EU external borders was discussed, which aims at a better data reconciliation and the systematic checking of EU citizens as well as at the creation of the European Agency for Border and Coast Guard.

Finally, after a short debate, it was decided to assign the European Parliament's resolution on the reform of the electoral law of the European Union for further discussion to the Constitutional Committee. Among other points the EP's proposal contains the implementation of a transnational electoral constituency with a common obligatory threshold for attaining a mandate, the placing of the European Party on the ballot paper and a synchronized closing time for the polling stations in all Member States.

For further Information see the press releases:
20/2016, 304/2016, 306/2016, 323/2016

Source: The Austrian Parliament

Exchange of views on TTIP: EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, TTIP US chief negotiator Bryant P. Trick, and EC Director Rupert Schlegelmilch (DG Trade) visit the Austrian Parliament

21/03/2016
During the last weeks several meetings have taken place between international guests and members of the Austrian National Council and Federal Council on the ongoing negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union.

On 22 February 2016 the Austrian National Council's EU Standing Subcommittee welcomed EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström to discuss the state of play of the negotiations over the TTIP. At the start the commissioner referred to the progress already made in the negotiations, on the one hand concerning transparency and on the other hand concerning investment protection. Malmström underlined that it would remain central to maintain and also further strengthen the achieved level of transparency. She pointed out that the negotiating mandate, the EU draft texts, as well as proposed amendments and background papers are now accessible online. Governments and parliamentarians also have the opportunity to access the consolidated treaty drafts in EU reading rooms. Malmström also pointed out that due to a US veto as well as the confidentiality rules, such reading rooms could not be established in national parliaments.

Other significant progress has also been made concerning the EU's proposal for a resolution mechanism for investment disputes. Malmström underlined the need to reform the arbitral system and also stressed the establishment of an international investment court, staffed with independent judges, as central innovation. In case of a conflict three judges would be selected from a pool of EU- US- and third-country judges. Furthermore, Commissioner Malmström emphasized that TTIP would not result in any reduction in national protection standards. Rather it is about the reduction of administrative burden for companies through mutual recognition of those standards in certain domains. Also, the commissioner explicitly ruled out any weakening in the protection level for Austria’s agricultural sector. The big winners should be small- and medium-sized enterprises, which is also a decisive point for Austria.

The following debate centred around the topics of investment protection and also the dispute resolution mechanism. Particular concerns were raised regarding the level of protection in agriculture, environment and labour law. Moreover, the question of services of general interest and public procurement as well as the real chances of SMEs were addressed. On the part of the delegates there was much criticism concerning the strict confidentiality rules and the fact that there would be no reading room in the Austrian Parliament. On the side-lines of the debate the further schedule for the free trade agreement with Canada (CETA) was also discussed.

In March this meeting was followed by visits to the Austrian Parliament by Bryant P. Trick, Deputy Assistant USTR and TTIP US chief negotiator responsible for industrial goods market access, and Rupert Schlegelmilch, Director within the DG Trade of the European Commission. Both discussions centred around the 12th TTIP negotiation round.

Trick focused on the strategic and economic point of view of the negotiations and emphasized that the agreement would strengthen the strategic and economic bonds between the United States and the European Union. He repeatedly stressed that there would be no US plan to create a transatlantic internal market, but rather to remove unnecessary trade barriers between the US and the EU, in order to stimulate investments. There would be no danger to Austrian standards protection. Rupert Schlegelmilch in his briefing illustrated the European Commission's side of the ongoing discussion. During the discussion he clarified that there would be only an upward harmonisation of standards. Other central points during the discussions were the protection of environment and labour law standards in the European Union as well as the reform proposal for the Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS).

For further Information see the press releases: 145/16 and 194/16

Source: The Austrian Parliament

Struggle against social dumping - Benelux debate - Flemish Parliament (Brussels)

17/03/2016
On 18 March 2016, the Benelux Parliamentary Assemblee organises in the Flemish Parliament (Brussels) a debate on the struggle against social dumping. EU Commissioner Marianne Thyssen will open the session.

Source : Belgian House of Representatives
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