News from Parliaments

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German Bundestag: No renegotiations of Withdrawal Agreement

On December 13th 2018 the German Bundestag decided after a plenary debate on a
motion concerning the state of play with regard to Brexit. The German Bundestag
rejected any renegotiations of the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the
European Atomic Energy Community. (Find the decision here)

All parliamentary groups except the “Alternative für Deutschland” expressed
concerns with regard to an unregulated withdrawal of the United Kingdom from
the European Union. The parliamentarians underlined that Great Britain will
remain an important partner in Europe and that the future relationship should be
as close as possible. Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas stressed the
indispensability of the regulation agreed on by both sides concerning the backstop
to avoid tensions between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Northern Ireland. During Parliamentary Question Time on
December 12th 2018 Chancellor Angela Merkel underscored the strong support of
the Federal Government for the Withdrawal Agreement. She pointed out, that the
Federal Government has also taken steps for the eventuality of an unregulated

Source: German Bundestag

Italian Senate: Reasoned Opinion on EU Asylum Agency Proposal

On 12 December 2018 the Italian Senate Committee on European Union policies issued a resolution on the amended proposal for a regulation on the European Union Agency for Asylum (COM(2018) 633). The document includes a reasoned opinion lamenting a violation of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles.

The opinion highlights some critical issues about the interpretation of article 16, par. 1.e, of the proposal insofar as it seems to allow concrete measures to be taken by the EU Agency for Asylum without a previous request by the member State involved. It also pointed out that, under article 22 of the original 2016 proposal (COM(2016) 271), the Agency intervention can be carried out regardless of the member State's acceptance and would nevertheless imply a duty of co-operation.

The resolution laments both a possible breach of member States' sovereignty and a violation of spirit and aims of article 78 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union.

This reasoned opinion was the first to have been adopted by the EU Policies Committee under the terms of the revised Italian Senate Rules of procedure, entered into force in 2018.

The text of the resolution is available on the IPEX website.

Source: The Italian Senate

The Austrian delegate informs the Austrian Parliament of the Brexit negotiations

After a first meeting in April 2018, Austria's ambassador to Luxemburg and Austrian delegate to the Brexit Ad Hoc Working group, Mr. Gregor Schusterschitz came to Vienna for two meetings with Austrian members of the National and Federal Council.
Because of the fast moving state of the negotiations, regular meetings have been organised. The first was held on 27 September and the second right after the Special meeting of European Council (25 November) on 29 November.

The first meeting focussed mainly on technical issues of the withdrawal agreement. Indeed, the final obstacles to the compromise were presented and explained by the Ambassador. These were in particular the questions around the Irish border, the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the EU, the role of the European Court of Justice and the EU citizens’ rights after the Brexit. He also detailed the proposal made then by the British government and known as the checkers plan.

The second meeting focused on more political aspects, on the different possible scenarios of the Brexit, depending in particular on the vote in the British Parliament on 11 December 2018, as well as the preparations put in place on the European Union side. In addition, the Ambassador addressed the latest challenges related to fisheries issues and Gibraltar's territory. The upcoming transition period, in case of the approval of the withdrawal agreement, had also been discussed at length. Finally, he exposed the key points of the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the Future Relationship between the UK and the EU beyond Brexit.

Subsequently, the members of the National and Federal Council discussed various issues, like the likelihood of a second referendum and the real risk of a no-deal and the consequences that would result from it. They mentioned also other topics regarding consumer protection, Brexit financing, the impact on businesses in Austria and possible future cooperation on security and the fight against terrorism. In general, the delegates mainly welcomed the discussion and considered the meeting as very useful and informative.

Source: The Austrian Parliament

Italian Parliament: Prime Minister's Statement on the European Council

On 11 December 2018, the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, gave a statement to the Parliament on the upcoming European Council, to be held on 13 and 14 December.

A debate took place and resolutions were approved in both Houses of Parliament.

At the Chamber of Deputies resolution n. 6–00035 (D'Uva and Molinari) was approved whereas three further were rejected (n. 6–00034, Delrio; n. 6–00036, Fornaro; n. 6–00037, Occhiuto; n. 6–00038, Lollobrigida). For details see the minutes of the Chamber of Deputies.

At the Senate, resolution n. 6-00033 (Romeo, Patuanelli) was approved whereas four further texts were rejected (6-00034, Marcucci; 6-00035, De Petris; 6-00036, Ciriani; 6-00037, Bernini). For details, see the minutes of the Senate meeting.

The Senate Research Service and the EU Affairs Department of the Chamber of deputies published a joint Dossier before the event.

Source: The Italian Parliament

The Estonian Riigikogu received an overview of the Government’s European Union policy

At the plenary sitting on 11 December 2018, the Estonian Parliament heard Prime Minister Jüri Ratas’s overview of the Government’s European Union policy. The Prime Minister said that control had been gained over mass migration flows with purposeful efforts both in the European Union and in cooperation with third countries. “Estonia continues to consider it important that all countries should contribute to the wider assistance to those in need, but redistribution must be voluntary and it must be one of the possible measures in a crisis situation,” the Prime Minister said.

In regard to the withdrawal agreement with the United Kingdom, at the moment, the Union is waiting for the primary political assessment of the British parliament, Ratas said. Estonia holds the position that it is necessary to maintain strong ties with its close ally and to sustain the possibility that Brexit is still reversible in a long-term perspective.
The head of Government confirmed support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and the further steps taken by the UN, the European Union and NATO. “Estonia is ready to support supplementation, extension or strengthening of European Union’s restrictive measures against Russia,” Ratas said.

The European Commission starting its term of office after the 2019 elections will definitely have to pay even more attention to European security, including to creating as close a security relationship with the United Kingdom as possible, in the opinion of the Prime Minister.

Ratas said that Estonia’s positions in European Union policy issues were formed in the cooperation and with the unanimity of the Government and the Riigikogu. Ratas also stressed that he, and supposedly also the heads and members of the future Governments, were always ready to come before the Riigikogu and the committees to discuss Estonia’s European Union policy.

In his report, the Chairman of the European Union Affairs Committee Toomas Vitsut underlined that it was up to the Riigikogu to bring the European Union issues closer to the citizens, in order to ensure the legitimacy of European Union decisions.

Vitsut suggested that, in order to raise the level of the proceedings on European Union affairs in the Riigikogu, appointment of lead presenters for EU initiatives could be considered. “The tasks of the rapporteur would be a deep analysis of specific EU initiatives, and acting as a spokesperson in shaping the positions handed by the Riigikogu to the Government before the negotiations.”

In Vitsut’s opinion, in order to make the work of the parliament with European Union affairs more visible, Estonia could also begin to hold formal discussions following the European Councils at the plenary sittings of the parliament in cooperation with the Prime Minister.

Vitsut stressed that the obligation to explain the European Union policy objectives to their citizens lied with national parliaments, and the ongoing parliamentary election campaign and the upcoming European Parliament election campaign provided a good opportunity for that. “I call on my good colleagues to use this opportunity for the sake of our better future.”

The Chairman of the European Union Affairs Committee said that the Union’s energy policy was one of the sectors where the impact of the Estonian presidency of the Council of the European Union could still be felt. Among the major breakthroughs, Vitsut pointed out the agreements on increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy, which had been achieved this June. A political agreement on synchronising the Baltic power systems with the frequency of continental Europe was also reached this summer.

Vitsut said that the European Union was a model in the fight against climate change, and part of the solution lied in innovation and new approaches. “Estonia has been one of the most vocal supporters of digital society in the EU. We must make every effort to hold on to this position in the future,” Vitsut said.

During the debate, Taavi Rõivas took the floor on behalf of the Reform Party Faction, and stressed how important it was that Estonian Government members participate in high-level meetings of the EU. Referring to a Eurobarometer poll, he said that the people of Estonia considered European Union membership very important, but not many of them believed that Estonia’s voice counted in the Union. Rõivas said that Estonia had to re-instate itself among the core European Union decision-makers.

Marianne Mikko said that the Social Democratic Party was of the opinion that the Prime Minister should give the Riigikogu plenary assembly an overview after every sitting of the European Council. Mikko also proposed on behalf of her faction that, upon appointment of new European Commissioners, all European Union Member States could nominate a male and a female candidate for Commissioner, and the European Parliament would then make the final choice among them.

Mart Nutt spoke on behalf of the Faction Isamaa, and said that it was in Estonia’s interests that the European Union would persist and be strong. He said that the European Union had to remain a union of nation states, where all member states could have their say in the Union affairs. As a weakness of the Union, he highlighted the lack of sufficient unity in several foreign and security policy positions, for example, in the issues connected with the recent Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Andres Herkel, who spoke on behalf of the Free Party Faction, expressed concern about the security situation, and the crumbling of the liberal values of democracy and human rights. Herkel said that the people did not perceive that their own rights were discussed when human rights were discussed. Therefore, in Herkel’s words, it is necessary to focus on the fundamental things, that is, that there would be no political prisoners and there would be no torturing in the countries.

Jaak Madison, who spoke on behalf of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction in the debate, said that the European Union had continued to move towards federalism even more vigorously. Estonia’s sovereignty is more important than the Union subsidies, Madison said. He said that NATO had been the main defence organisation for European countries, and it had to remain so, in order to maintain good allied relationships with the United States of America.

Source: The Estonian Riigikogu

Finnish Parliament: Acceptability of decision-making in economic policy best implemented through national parliaments

The Grand Committee of the Finnish Parliament emphasises that the democratic acceptability of decision-making and the citizens’ support in matters related to Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) are most directly realised through national parliaments. EU-level arrangements are not able to replace any of the decision-making of national parliaments in the fields of economic and financial policy.

On Wednesday, 28 November, the Grand Committee approved the statements on EU regulation proposals regarding the establishment of a Reform Support Programme and a European Investment Stabilisation Function, agreeing with the Government’s position.

Reform Support Programme

The Reform Support Programme, proposed by the European Commission and amounting to a total of EUR 22.18 billion, aims to strengthen the enforcement of country-specific recommendations issued in connection with the steering period by offering monetary incentives for the implementation of structural reforms and adding resources for the technical assistance of structural reforms. The programme would include a Reform Delivery Tool, a Technical Support Instrument and a Convergence Facility designed for EU countries outside the euro.

The Grand Committee has a positive approach to the proposal’s objectives of supporting the structural reforms of EU member states by means of cohesion politics and strengthening the functionality of the European steering period.
However, according to the committee, structural reforms can be supported in a more meaningful and efficient manner than the proposed means by improving the conditionality of cohesion funding and the effectiveness of the use of the funds as well as by directing cohesion funds to promote the healthy adjustment of economic structures.

According to the Grand Committee, a centralised steering model like the one proposed would transfer some of the power of economic policy away from national political decision-making to the European Commission. The committee finds that such a shift in authority could potentially weaken the functioning of the democratic system of responsibility in decision-making related to financial policy.

Comprehensive, national-level political discussion must be enabled on structural reforms in the future as well, and their implementation must enable even multiple corrective measures to ensure the best possible end result. In that case, the member state also bears the responsibility in the most direct manner, should they neglect to reform their economic structures.

The Grand Committee finds that the proposals on the Reform Delivery Tool and the Convergence Facility should be rejected in their proposed form. If the objective is to advance their negotiations, the regulations must be adjusted so that the primary goals and measures of the proposals are clearly related to the goals of cohesion policy and the funding is more clearly connected to the compensation of actual costs created by the measures.

The statement of the committee was approved with 20 in favour and 3 against.

Investment Stabilisation Function

The Commission proposes the establishment of a EUR 30-billion Investment Stabilisation Function to supplement the national financial policies of member states. The objective of the proposal is securing the level of public investments in a member state targeted by an extensive asymmetrical shock. The scope of the function would cover the member states included in the eurozone and participating in the Exchange Rate Mechanism ERM II. Countries with high and rising unemployment rates would be entitled to support in the form of a loan paid from the stabilisation function. The function would also include interest subsidy funded from outside of the EU budget with fees collected from the member states through a separate convention.

The Grand Committee has a positive approach to the objectives set for the stabilisation function, including the promotion of financial, social and regional sense of community and reducing the pro-cyclicality of financial politics.

However, the committee finds the proposed function unnecessary and the proposal problematic. The primary clients of the stabilisation function would be member states with such weakened economy that their access to market-based funding has been hindered. In such a situation, taking out a loan and increasing the recovery of financial policy are not the primary challenge for the country; reinstituting the trust of the market should be the first priority.

According to the Grand Committee, EMU should be developed so that the member states retain the authority in financial and economic policy and the relations of responsibility are not obscured. Should the proposal be approved in its proposed form, it would change the relations of authority between the member states and the Commission by giving the Commission the type of power that might have financial consequences throughout the member states. The committee also finds the legal basis related to the proposed cohesion policy problematic.

According to the Grand Committee, the objective of the negotiations concerning the stabilisation function should be rejecting the Commission’s proposal and the related convention.

Source: The Finnish Parliament

Mr. Angel Tîlvâr , Chairman of Romanian Chamber of Deputies EAC, at LX COSAC

The Chairman of the Committee on European Affairs of the Romanian Chamber of Deputies, Mr Angel Tîlvâr participated at the sessions of the LX COSAC meeting.

Addressing the subject of the IV session – A transparent European Union closer to its citizens in light of the upcoming elections to the European Parliament, Mr Angel Tîlvâr presented Romania’s position, stating that “our country remains committed towards a positive and pro-European approach and we will support, commonly and inclusively, the efforts of consolidating the European project”.

The debate gave to the Romanian official the opportunity to underline the idea that “we are ready to act, together with our European partners, in order to identify the best ways to reduce the economic and social divisions and disparities between Member States”.

“Unfortunately, the eurosceptic discourse gained ground in many European countries. Besides honest speeches, we need tangible results of the European action, countering the offer of movements and populist and extremist parties” said Mr Tîlvâr at the end of his speech.

Source: Romanian Chamber of Deputies

European Cultural Heritage - debate with national parliaments

Members will discuss cultural heritage and identity in the context of the European Year of cultural heritage, during an inter-parliamentary meeting on Monday.

On 19-20 November, Members of the Culture and Education Committee will meet Members of national parliaments as well as representatives of the Council of Europe and UNESCO and other stakeholders to discuss current and future legislative aspects of our common heritage, its benefits and challenges, as well as actions to protect and promote European cultural heritage.

Commissioner Tibor Navracsics and Elisabeth Kornfeind, Austrian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium, for the Austrian Presidency of the Council, will also take part in the event.

On Monday, participants will take part in three different working sessions on Culture and identity; Preservation, Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage; and Cultural Heritage and Education. They will then discuss in a plenary session on Tuesday common challenges, good practices, opportunities and future actions in this field, in order to ensure the long-term legacy of the European Year of Cultural Heritage (EYCH).

Prior to the debates, Petra Kammerevert (S&D, DE), Chair of Culture and Education Committee, said:

"Culture is the most effective way to reach a large number of EU citizens and obtain answers on the question of the future of Europe, whilst responding to a lack of identity within the European Union. In our conference today, we would like to discuss with our colleagues from national parliaments how we can make use of the positive drive from the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 for future policies. Raising awareness of the value and benefits of safeguarding cultural heritage must have a lasting influence on European and national cultural policies. A particular concern for me is the connection between cultural education and cultural heritage. It is imperative that there are greater efforts at international and national level to promote cultural education. If future generations fail to properly acknowledge in time the cultural value of any goods or services, they won't be able to preserve and to protect them for further generations."

2018 was declared the European Year of Cultural Heritage (EYCH) and all EU member states and institutions have been organising events, conferences and meetings, and have been allocating funds to preserve and promote all forms of cultural heritage.

Further information can be found here

Source: The European Parliament

Annual IPEX national Correspondents meeting in Tallinn

On 22 and 23 November, the Estonian Parliament will host the annual IPEX national Correspondents meeting, in Tallinn.

On the first day of the meeting, the national Correspondents will undergo trainings on latest developments within the IPEX website. The second day will start with a plenary session and will continue with 3 workshops on topics related to the development of the IIPEX Work Programme 2017 - 2020: Enhancing the exchange of information between IPEX Correspondents, Promoting and supporting the work of IPEX Correspondents and on a Digital Strategy for IPEX.

More information and the meeting materials can be found here

The meeting will be web-streamed here

Source: IPEX

EP LIBE ICM on "Fundamental rights aspects of Roma inclusion and fighting anti-Gypsyism"

The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, with the support of the Directorate for relations with National Parliaments, is organising an Interparliamentary Committee meeting (ICM) on "Fundamental rights aspects of Roma inclusion and fighting anti-Gypsyism". The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, 18 October 2018, from 14.30 to 18.00, in the European Parliament premises in Brussels.

The inter-parliamentary committee meeting aims to promote an exchange of views between European and national Parliamentarians on barriers to Roma inclusion and possibilities to overcome them. The meeting envisages the participation of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), the United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR), as well as presentations from NGOs, bringing the global and the non-institutional perspective into the discussions.

The meeting will be webstreamed here

Source: The European Parliament
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