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News from Parliaments

Please find here the latest news.

Public hearing of the German Bundestag’s Committee on the Affairs of the European Union on the European Fund for Strategic Investments

On 28 November 2016, the German Bundestag’s Committee on the Affairs of the European Union held a public hearing on the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI).

One year after EFSI took up its work, experts took stock and reached a mostly positive initial assessment. The representative of the European Investment Bank (EIB), Marjut Santoni, emphasised that EFSI, as a market-oriented instrument, is helping to address the current weak investment in the EU. Demand has been stimulated, she said. Nicholas Jennett, also from the EIB, reported that in Greece EFSI is proving to be a very effective set of instruments and is greatly benefiting the country.

The hearing focused on the following issues:
• Possibilities of regional and sectoral management, in order to counter imbalances in project financing;
• The additionality requirement in the allocation of funding;
• The risk of private investors being crowded out;
• The appropriateness of the market failure criterion for project financing;
• The creation of an EU-wide ombudsman for banks.

The experts took the view that it is too early for a fundamental evaluation of EFSI. They argued that the question of whether the projects financed by EFSI meet the criterion of sustainability can only be answered once the projects have been established over the long term.

A number of Members of the Bundestag underlined that an evaluation is urgently necessary before a meaningful discussion can take place about the Commission’s proposal for EFSI 2.0, published in September 2016. Several Members support the EFSI 2.0 aim of extending the duration of the investment fund beyond 2018 to 31 December 2020. Other changes associated with EFSI 2.0, such as the increase in the capital available, can only be assessed following a fundamental evaluation of EFSI, it was argued. One expert opposed the Commission’s plan to extend EFSI as premature, given that not all information on its effectiveness is yet available.

The Bundestag’s resolution of 21 May 2015, “Helping the European Fund for Strategic Investments to succeed”, is available here.

The statements submitted by the experts are available here.

Source: German Bundestag

Gediminas Kirkilas re-elected as Chair of the Seimas Committee on European Affairs

Gediminas Kirkilas from the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party Political Group was elected as Chair of the Seimas Committee on European Affairs. Mr Kirkilas held this office during the previous legislative period of the Seimas in 2012–2016.

Mr Kirkilas believes that “since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, the influence of the European Parliament and, accordingly, the role of national parliaments in the EU decision-making have gained strength. The Seimas Committee on European Affairs usually adopts the majority of decisions by national consensus in the prevailing unique atmosphere of agreement on general interests of Lithuania.”

Mr Kirkilas is one of the most experienced Lithuanian politicians, especially in foreign and European policy matters. He is among the four Lithuanian politicians who have started the seventh consecutive term in office as Members of the Seimas.

Mr Kirkilas served as Prime Minister in 2006–2008, as Minister of National Defence in 2004–2006, and as Special Representative of the President of the Republic of Lithuania for the Matters Related to Transit Transportation by the Russian Federation to and from the Kaliningrad Region in 2002–2004. In 2003, he was granted the diplomatic rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. He has been a Member of the Seimas since 1992.

Source: The Lithuanian Seimas

Italian Senate: reasoned Opinion on Reception Standards Directive Proposal

On 19 October 2016 the Italian Senate Constitutional affairs Committee issued a resolution on the directive proposal on standards for the reception of applicants for international protection (COM(2016) 465). The document includes a reasoned opinion lamenting a specific violation of the subsidiarity principle.

The opinion points out that the set of legislative documents (directives, regulations and recasts) presented by the European Commission do not seem to be consistent with the core principles on the management of migration flows: solidarity reception, asylum applicants redistribution and repatriation.

Specific qualifications are expressed on articles 17-bis, 19 and 15.

The text of the resolution in Italian and an English translation will soon be published on the IPEX website.

Source: The Italian Senate

Italian Senate: Resolution adopted on Endocrine Disruptors

On 19 October 2016 the Italian Senate Health Committee issued a resolution on endocrine disruptors. The document contains an opinion on the Communication on endocrine disruptors (COM(2016) 350) as well as on the draft Commission acts setting out scientific criteria for defining disruptors.

The Committee expressed a positive opinion with qualifications and the following conditions:
1) the definition of endocrine disruptors should include potential endocrine disruptors, so as to ensure a high level of protection for human health;
2) derogations to the ban of endocrine disruptors in plant protection products should be based on the concept of "negligible exposure".

The Resolution highlights that the effects of multiple exposure to several endocrine disruptors should also be considered.

The text of the resolution in Italian and an English translation will soon be published on the IPEX website.

Source: The Italian Senate

Italian Senate: Reasoned opinion on Dublin Regulation Proposal

On 5 October 2016 the Italian Senate Constitutional affairs Committee issued a resolution on the regulation proposal on the reform of the Dublin system (COM(2016) 270). The document includes a reasoned opinion lamenting a violation of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles.

Specific qualifications are expressed on articles 3, 10, 15, 34 and 35.

The text of the resolution in Italian is published on the IPEX website. A translation into English will soon be available.

Source: The Italian Senate

Polish Sejm on CETA

On 6 October 2016, the Sejm of the Republic of Poland adopted the resolution on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union as well as its Member States. The text of the resolution can be found here

Source: The Polish Sejm

Commissioners’ visits in the Hungarian National Assembly

Commissioner responsible for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Mr Tibor Navracsics held an exchange of views with the Committee on Culture of the Hungarian National Assembly on 26 September 2016. Regarding the education, the representative of the European Commission highlighted the importance of the Erasmus+ programme which will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year. Hungary has been participating in this programme since 1997. Concerning the tasks related to education Mr Navracsics stressed that the primary objective was to establish a cooperation at EU level which provides solutions for the common problems affecting Member States. The New Skills Agenda for Europe aiming to ensure that people develop their skills necessary for the jobs of today and tomorrow was also touched upon. During his exposé the Commissioner mentioned that the cultural diplomacy is part of the EU’s New Global Strategy. The issue of youth unemployment was touched upon numerous occasions during the ensuing debate. The representative of the European Commission underlined that youth unemployment concerns more than 4 million persons while there are 2 million unoccupied workplaces, especially in the field of services and ICT, which raises the issue of education. Regarding the objectives in the field of sport, the need for transparent legal system was stressed. He also highlighted that more financial sources should be ensured for sport and recreation.

On the same day Commissioner responsible for Trade, Ms Cecilia Malmström debated the recent developments regarding the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) as well as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the members of the Committee on European Affairs, the Committee on Foreign Affairs as well as the Committee on Sustainable Development. The representative of the European Commission highlighted that at present 20 free trade negotiations were taking place between the EU and third countries. Ms Malmström went on elaborating that these negotiations are based on values, special attention was attached to the citizens’ opinion and consumer protection. The vast majority of the exchange of views concentrated on the CETA. Ms Malmström stressed that the CETA negotiations had been already completed, the text of the agreement is at the disposal of the public and the signature is scheduled to take place on 27 October 2016. During her exposé the Commissioner characterised the CETA as an ambitious agreement which will open up new opportunities for trade and investment for economic actors on both sides of the Atlantic. The issue of market advantage for producers of traditional European products was also touched upon. Ms Malmström highlighted that many medium-sized and smaller businesses trading in agricultural products will benefit from Canadian market, since the Contracting Parties agreed to protect 143 geographical indications for high-quality European products, such as world-famous Hungarian PICK Original Wintersalami. The representative of the Commission stressed that the CETA will be the first to incorporate the new Investment Court System (ICS) in the context of the Investment Dispute Resolution System. At the ensuing debate the large majority of questions focused on the lack of transparency during the negotiations and the maintenance of GMO free agriculture. During the replies Ms Malmström highlighted that in CETA the EU fully safeguards public services. All imports from Canada will have to satisfy EU rules and regulations (rules on GMO’s). Concerning the provisional application of the agreement she mentioned that this could take place following the unanimous decision of the Council and the consent of the European Parliament, most probably at the beginning of 2017.

The Hungarian National Assembly adopted on 11 October 2016 a resolution empowering the Government of Hungary to sign the CETA agreement on 27 October 2016. The figures of the votes at the Országgyűlés were the following: 102 in favour, 33 against, 33 abstention.

Source: The Hungarian National Assembly

European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Creţu invited to the joint meeting of the Committees on European Affairs of the Romanian Senate and Chamber of Deputies

On Thursday, September 29th, 2016, the Committees on European Affairs of the Romanian Senate and Chamber of Deputies held a joint meeting, with Ms Corina Creţu, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, and addressed essential topics regarding the unity and future of the European Union.

The extremely dynamic and challenged period, in which extremist nationalism and populism are firmly distinguishable, naturally attracts attention over the destiny of the European construction, being capable of inducing a trust crisis within the Union. The trust crisis, which starts from within the Member States, points out the existence of the risk that the European Union, as we know it today, might not be the same anymore. “In the actual specific context, after the referendum from the United Kingdom, Romania pleads for the identification of consensual solutions. Initiatives as the corrective mechanism, which provides 250.000 EUR sanctions for a Member State for every rejected refugee, risking accentuating dissensions at EU level, should not be promoted”, underlined the president of the Committee on European Affairs, Ana Birchall, during the meeting with European Commissioner for Regional Policy.

Another issue that was engaged during the discussion was the issue of structural funds and investments, the Committee on European Affairs being actively involved also by bringing to the same table the decision makers, experts and beneficiaries from the sphere of European funds. “I am worried that Ms Corina Creţu, European Commissioner, confirmed what we said at the Committee on European Affairs since June, namely that Romania didn’t send to the European Commission a payment application regarding regional development funds and cohesion funds for the 2014-2020 period, and, thus, no payment for our country was made, the main reason being that the Management Authorities are not yet accredited. Moreover, the contracting process is still going very slowly, to the dissatisfaction of the beneficiaries. Romania doesn’t need to miss the train of European structural funds for the 2014-2020 budget, money which our country must absorb entirely. European money represent a chance for the development and modernization of Romania, money to which our country is entitled. In this context, substantial reduction of differences between counties and regions must truly be one of the priorities taken into consideration in the field of European funds absorption, also by developing targeted projects with European funding, aiming precisely the regions in which economical difficulties exist. Because the European Funds Minister is still refusing to respond questions addressed by the Committee on European Affairs, we have decided, together with the European Commissioner, that she will send in writing to our Committee the state of play regarding the absorption of European funds in Romania”, stated Ana Birchall.

None the last, the President of the Committee on European Affairs of the Chamber of Deputies wanted to reiterate the importance of a pragmatic Union, but especially cohesive and acting in solidarity. The role of the political players is particularly important in transmitting certain messages with one voice, because only with this kind of approach we can respond to the imperative need of obtaining the support and closeness of the citizens.

Source: The Romanian Chamber of Deputies

ECB President Mario Draghi visits the German Bundestag for talks

On 28 September 2016, the President of the European Central Bank (ECB), Mario Draghi, had a meeting with the President of the Bundestag, Norbert Lammert, followed by a discussion with members of the Committee on the Affairs of the European Union and the Budget and Finance Committees.

The discussion with the committee members centred on the question of the real impacts of the ECB policy and the right time to begin moving away from the policy of low interest rates. Draghi emphasised the effectiveness of the ECB’s measures. He said that they had contributed to economic recovery and helped create jobs in the Eurozone. Yet he also stressed that the ECB was not blind to risks which might arise from a prolonged low-interest-rate policy and that it was closely monitoring the situation.

At an ensuing press conference, the Chairman of the European Affairs Committee, Gunther Krichbaum, praised the ongoing dialogue between the ECB and the German Bundestag. However, he also stressed that the ECB’s policy had the effect of a hidden bailout for the crisis countries in the Eurozone, something which had not been approved by the Members of the German Bundestag. He said that long-term saving schemes were no longer lucrative and that life insurance companies were feeling the pressure, along with German cooperative and savings banks.

There was agreement between the Members of the Bundestag and Draghi that structural reforms were needed in many European countries and that these reforms had to be implemented more vigorously to provide the ECB with the  leeway for it to gradually end loose monetary policy. 

Mr Draghi's speech can be found here

Source: German Bundestag

Hearing on CETA and TTIP in the Austrian Parliament and visit of the Canadian Minister for International Trade

On September 14 the Austrian Parliament held a one-day parliamentary hearing on the Free Trade Agreement with Canada (CETA) and that with the USA (TTIP). It provided an opportunity for a broad parliamentary debate on both FTAs, together with experts and NGOs, and presented a wide range of positions.

After the opening address by the Speaker of the Austrian National Council and addresses by the ambassadors of the USA and Canada to Austria, the Federal Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor, who is also Minister for Economy, presented their points of view. Their speeches were followed by a presentation of legal aspects concerning these two FTAs, especially referring to the rights of participation of the Austrian Parliament, the question of provisional application of mixed agreements and the delimitation of competences. A general debate was introduced by key notes from representatives of Austrian Think Tanks and Universities and the European Commission. The two following panels were dedicated to specific controversial topics such as investment protection, regulatory cooperation, public services and removal of tariff barriers on the one hand, and the question of keeping European standards in the fields of consumer protection, environment and labour law on the other hand. Finally Commissioner Malmström again debated with Austrian parliamentarians and took the opportunity to promote CETA and to elaborate on the European Commission 's point of view.

Just a few days later, focussing on the Canadian point of view, the members of the Austrian National Council continued the debate on CETA with the Canadian Minster for International Trade, Chrystia Freeland. Freeland underlined the common values of Canada and Europe as the basis for the agreement. Referring to the scepticism especially concerning the right to regulate, the investment court system and European standards, she stressed that she would never promote an agreement which infringed upon the democratic electorate and which would curtail the right to regulate. In closing she announced that she and Commissioner Malmström on an interpretative legally binding declaration to clarify some aspects of the agreement and to address the concerns of some EU member states.

For more information in German see the hearing and the meeting with Chrystia Freeland

Source: The Austrian Parliament
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