MEPs advocate stronger EU foreign and defence policy | EU Parliament Press

  • Support for EU defence integration
  • In favour of EU defence budget and free movement of member states’ troops
  • Need to speed up Council decision-making on common foreign and security policy

The EU’s foreign and defence policy should proceed with closer EU defence ties and a strong response to international threats, said MEPs on Wednesday.

MEPs welcome the fact that, following their repeated appeals, EU defence integration is getting under way with the launch of a European Defence Fund, an EU operational headquarters, a Permanent Structured Cooperation and an annual review of member states’ defence plans.

They want the European Commission to set up a Directorate-General for Defence (DG Defence), which would coordinate defence initiatives and also facilitate, amongst others, the free movement of troops and equipment within the EU.

MEPs also urge the member states to devote 2% of their GDP to defence within the decade, set up a start-up fund for a fast deployment of operations and suggest establishing an EU defence budget under the next EU long-term budget.

Stronger EU diplomatic response needed

In another resolution reviewing key EU foreign policy choices, MEPs list major challenges that threaten the EU’s security: proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, conflicts in the Eastern and Southern neighbourhood, proxy wars, and hybrid and information warfare.

They deplore Russia’s multiple violations of international law and its hybrid warfare (a combination of conventional, irregular and cyber warfare), hinting that, only once this aggression has ceased and agreements already committed to have been complied with, can doors for deeper EU-Russia ties be opened.

All these challenges should be met with a strong EU diplomatic response and swifter action in the face of developing crises, MEPs add. To this end, they also advocate speeding up Council decision-making on common foreign and security policy, by switching from unanimity to qualified majority voting.

The resolution on Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) was adopted by 408 votes to 132, and 102 abstentions.

The resolution on Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) was adopted by 368 votes to 237, and 61 abstention.


Parliament’s rapporteur on CSDP Michael Gahler (EPP, DE) said: “We have ‘white smoke’ on EU defence after eight years. The launch of the Permanent Structured Cooperation is a major step in the EU’s policy. This is a clear sign to citizens that the EU is willing and able to act in the area of security and defence policies.”

EP rapporteur on CFSP David McAllister (EPP, DE) said: “65 percent of Europeans are in favour of a common European foreign policy, while 75 percent are in favour of a common security and defence policy. The EU has to deliver on the expectations of its citizens and to focus its actions on the ‘three Cs’: coordination of threat assessment, consolidation of the European project and cooperation within coalitions and institutions delivering security.”

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Main results of the General Affairs Council, 12th of December (Art. 50/Negotiations with the UK) | EU Council Press

Main results

The Council, in EU27 format, was informed by the EU Brexit Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, on the state of play of the negotiations with the UK. Ministers took note of the Commission’s assessment of the progress achieved in the first phase of negotiations, as reflected in the communication from the Commission and the joint report by the EU and the UK negotiators on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The EU heads of states or governements will now decide whether sufficient progress has been made to advance to the second phase.

Ministers then finalised the preparations for the European Council (Article 50) on 15 December 2017 with a discussion on the draft guidelines for further negotiations with the UK.

The agreement last Friday is an essential milestone in the Brexit negotiations. It provides certainty to 4,5 million citizens, enables us to seek solutions to the Irish border question and provides clarity on the financing of common commitments that we have undertaken with the UK. It is at the same time important to note that any further progress requires full respect of the commitments in the first phase.

Sven Mikser, Estonian Minister for Foreign Affairs

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EVENT HIGHLIGHTS | Cyber Skills Gap: can gender balance fill the void?

On the 7th of November, PubAffairs Bruxelles hosted a debate on cyber skills gap and whether a more gender-balanced workforce could fill the substantial skills shortage affecting the cybersecurity field. Mr Rodrigo Ballester, Cabinet Member of Commissioner Navracsics, European Commission, Ms Silvia Merisio, Digital Economy and Skills, DG CONNECT, European Commission, Ms Lyndsay Turley, Head of Comms & Public Affairs EMEA, ISC2, Ms Jacky Fox, Director – Cyber Risk , Deloitte, and Ms Emma Mohan-Satta, Fraud Prevention Consultant, Kaspersky Lab were all present as speakers.

The debate was moderated by Magnus Franklin, Chief Correspondent, MLex.

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Does Europe really need Fiscal and Political Union? | Project Syndicate

Greece’s combative former finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, and his nemesis, former German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, were at loggerheads on Greek debt throughout Varoufakis’s term in office. But they were in full agreement when it came to the central question of the eurozone’s future. Monetary union required political union. No middle way was possible. This is one of the interesting revelations in Varoufakis’s fascinating account of his tenure as finance minister. “You are probably the one [in the Eurogroup] who understands that the eurozone is unsustainable,” Varoufakis quotes Schäuble as telling him. “The eurozone is constructed wrongly. We should have a political union, there is no doubt about it.”Of course, Schäuble and Varoufakis had different ideas regarding the ends that political union would serve. Schäuble saw political union as a means to impose strong fiscal discipline on member states from the centre, tying their hands and preventing “irresponsible” economic policies. Varoufakis thought political union would relax creditors’ stranglehold on his economy and create room for progressive politics across Europe.

Read the full Article here

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EVENT HIGHLIGHTS | What role for ‘Local Energy Communities’ in the EU energy transition?

On the 17th of October, PubAffairs Bruxelles hosted a debate on ‘Local Energy Communities’ (LECs) as a new model of energy production and consumption and their role in the EU energy transition with Mr Siim Meeliste, Counsellor for Energy from the Estonian Permanent Representation to the EU, Mr Antonio Lopez-Nicolas, Deputy Head of Unit, Renewable Energy and CCS Policy, European Commission, Dr Jan Ole Voss, Legal Advisor, European Renewable Energy Federation, Mr Josh Roberts, Advocacy Officer,, and Mr Luis Arturo Hernández, Innovation Team Lead, Decentralised Energy Systems, E.ON.

The debate was moderated by Hughes Belin, freelance journalist.

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European Parliament | The Week Ahead 11 – 17 December 2017

Sakharov Prize Award. The democratic opposition in Venezuela will be awarded the European Parliament’s 29th Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought at a ceremony in the chamber on Wednesday at noon. European Parliament President Antonio Tajani will hold a press conference with the winners after the ceremony, at around 12.30.

EU summit/Brexit. On Wednesday morning, MEPs will discuss migration, defence and social policies with EU Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, as well as the progress of Brexit negotiations with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, ahead of the European summit to be held on 14 and 15 December. (Debate and vote Wednesday)

PANA recommendations. Parliament will vote on its recommendations to stamp out practices enabling tax evasion and optimisation, as exposed by the “Panama Papers”. Wrapping up 18 months’ work, the PANA committee calls for better regulation of financial intermediaries, better protection of whistle-blowers and a single definition of tax havens. A press conference is scheduled for Wednesday at 14:30. (Debate Tuesday, vote Wednesday)

More investment funding. The European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI), which has helped economic recovery, will be prolonged until 2020 and topped up with extra money to finance more projects that promise the best economic and social returns in the EU member states, under a new law to be discussed and put to the vote on Tuesday.

EU farm policy. Reforms designed to simplify farm policy rules, boost farmers’ bargaining power against supermarkets and better equip them to face risks, will be debated on Monday and put to the vote on Tuesday.

Meat additives. Parliament will decide on Tuesday whether to veto an EU Commission proposal to allow phosphate additives in kebab meat out of health concerns.

Cross-border online TV. Parliament will vote to approve a mandate for its negotiators to start talks with the Council on new rules making it easier for broadcasters to make their news and current affairs programmes available online for consumers in other EU countries.

Foreign affairs. MEPs will discuss the recent pledge by US President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the persecution of Rohingya people, the Iran nuclear deal, abuse of migrants in Libya and the situation in Afghanistan, with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Dimitri Avramopoulos on Tuesday afternoon.

President’s diary. EP President Antonio Tajani will chair the EU summit preparatory debate on Wednesday morning. At 11:30 he will meet the laureates of the 29th Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and chair the awards ceremony in the Hemicycle at noon, followed by a press conference. He will attend the EU summit on Thursday at 15:00 and hold a press conference immediately afterwards.

Pre-session press briefing. The EP Press Service will hold a press briefing at 16.30 on Monday. (Daphne Caruana Galizia Press conference room, Strasbourg)

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Joint report from the negotiators of the EU and the UK Government on progress during phase 1 of negotiations under Article 50 | European Commission Commission

This report is put forward with a view to the meeting of the European Council (Article 50) of 14-15 December 2017. Under the caveat that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, the joint commitments set out in this joint report shall be reflected in the Withdrawal Agreement in full detail. This does not prejudge any adaptations that might be appropriate in case transitional arrangements were to be agreed in the second phase of the negotiations,and is without prejudice to discussions on the framework of the future relationship.
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EU and Japan finalise Economic Partnership Agreement | EU commission Press

The EU and Japan reached this morning an agreement on the final details of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The deal has now been endorsed by Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and welcomed in a joint statement by President Juncker and Prime Minister of Japan Abe. President Jean-Claude Juncker and Prime Minister Abe agree that: “The finalisation of the negotiations on the EU-Japan EPA demonstrates the powerful political will of Japan and the EU to continue to keep the flag of free trade waving high, and sends a strong message to the world. Beyond its considerable economic value, this Agreement is also of strategic importance.  It sends a clear signal to the world that the EU and Japan are committed to keeping the world economy working on the basis of free, open and fair markets with clear and transparent rules fully respecting and enhancing our values, fighting the temptation of protectionism. The EU-Japan EPA is one of the largest and most comprehensive economic agreements that either the EU or Japan have concluded so far. This EPA will create a huge economic zone with 600 million people and approximately 30 percent of the world GDP, and it will open up tremendous trade and investment opportunities and will contribute to strengthening our economies and societies. It will also strengthen economic cooperation between Japan and the EU and reinforce our competitiveness as mature yet innovative economies.” The conclusion todaybuilds on the political agreement in principle reached during the EU-Japan Summit on 6 July 2017. Following a legal check and translation into all EU languages, the Commission will submit the text agreed today for the approval of the European Parliament and EU Member States. The aim is to have the agreement in place before the end of the current mandate of the European Commission in 2019. For more information please see the full statement and press release issued today, the recording of the press conference by Commissioner Malmström held today in Brussels and a dedicated website.

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EU-Turkey High-level Economic Dialogue | EU Commission Press

The EU-Turkey High-Level Economic Dialogue is taking place today in Brussels, co-chaired by Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, and Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek. The purpose of the Dialogue is to contribute to strengthening economic relations between the two partners, and to create a platform to bring business circles together. Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, responsible for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, and Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, responsible for Trade, will also participate in the High-level Economic Dialogue. The Turkish Deputy Prime Minister will be accompanied by Minister for Economy Nihat Zeybekci, and Minister for Customs and Trade Bülent Tüfenkc. Representatives of EU and Turkey’s business associations will also participate in the discussions. Vice-President Katainen and Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek will hold a press point at the VIP corner at 13.30 which you can follow on EbS. At the conclusion of the Dialogue, a press release will be available online.

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Agreement on Commission proposal to tighten rules for safer and cleaner cars | EU Commission Press

Yesterday, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission have reached a political agreement to fully overhaul the EU framework for type-approval and testing of vehicles. The new rules will lead to higher quality and independence of type-approvals and vehicle testing; increased checks of cars already on the EU market; and stronger European oversight. Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, commented: “With tighter rules which are policed more strictly, the car industry has the chance to regain consumers’ trust. Just a few weeks after the Commission’s clean mobility proposals, the agreement marks yet another milestone in the EU’s wider efforts to reinforce our car industry’s global leadership in clean and safe vehicles.” Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, responsible for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: “Dieselgate has revealed the weaknesses of our regulatory and market surveillance system. We know that some car manufacturers were cheating and many others were exploiting loopholes. To put an end to this, we are overhauling the whole system. After almost two years of negotiations, I welcome that the key elements of our proposal have been upheld, including real EU oversight and enforcement powers. In the future, the Commission will be able to carry out checks on cars, trigger EU-wide recalls, and impose fines of up to €30,000 per car when the law is broken.” Under current rules, the EU sets the legal framework but national authorities are fully responsible for checking car manufacturers’ compliance. Following the Volkswagen revelations in September 2015, the Commission therefore proposed a far-reaching reform in January 2016. This reform plays into the overall efforts by the Commission to support the transition to safer and cleaner cars – be it new and improved car emissions tests or proposals for new CO2 emissions targets. More in detail information is available in a press release on yesterday’s agreement and FAQs on the Commission proposal

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