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Common rules for gas pipelines entering the EU internal market

27-05-2019

In November 2017, the European Commission adopted a legislative proposal to fully apply key provisions of the 2009 Gas Directive to gas pipelines between the European Union (EU) and third countries. Member States would need to cooperate with third countries to ensure full compliance with EU rules. The revised directive was seen by many observers as a part of the broader EU response to the Gazprom-led Nord Stream 2 project, which the European Commission publicly opposes. The Parliament adopted its ...

In November 2017, the European Commission adopted a legislative proposal to fully apply key provisions of the 2009 Gas Directive to gas pipelines between the European Union (EU) and third countries. Member States would need to cooperate with third countries to ensure full compliance with EU rules. The revised directive was seen by many observers as a part of the broader EU response to the Gazprom-led Nord Stream 2 project, which the European Commission publicly opposes. The Parliament adopted its position on the gas directive in plenary on April 2018, whereas the Council adopted its general approach on 8 February 2019. This was swiftly followed by a single trilogue meeting on 12 February 2019 at which the EU institutions reached a provisional agreement. The agreed text was later formally adopted by Parliament and Council, and entered into force on 23 May 2019. Fourth edition. The ‘EU Legislation in Progress’ briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

Connectivity in Central Asia: Reconnecting the Silk Road

02-04-2019

Despite being strategically located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Central Asia has long been poorly connected: remote, landlocked, cut off from the main population centres of Europe and Asia by empty steppes and rugged mountains. As well as physical barriers, regulatory obstacles and political repression often inhibit the free flow of people, goods, services and ideas. However, in 2013 China announced its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), one of whose aims is to revive the historic Silk Road ...

Despite being strategically located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Central Asia has long been poorly connected: remote, landlocked, cut off from the main population centres of Europe and Asia by empty steppes and rugged mountains. As well as physical barriers, regulatory obstacles and political repression often inhibit the free flow of people, goods, services and ideas. However, in 2013 China announced its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), one of whose aims is to revive the historic Silk Road trade route connecting Europe to the Far East via Central Asia. Uzbekistan's more open foreign policy since 2016 also favours improved connectivity. The Belt and Road Initiative has provided impetus for a major transport infrastructure upgrade. Central Asian countries are also dismantling barriers to trade and travel. Many problems still remain – the poor state of physical infrastructure, limited digital connectivity, and regulatory obstacles. Progress has been uneven. In Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, improved connectivity is driving increased trade and investment, while Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are lagging behind. Given the importance of connectivity for Central Asia, it is key to the EU's relations with the region. The EU is making a difference, for example, by supporting educational exchanges and helping to dismantle trade barriers, but its role has not attracted the same attention as China's BRI. The EU's 2018 Connecting Europe and Asia strategy aims to redress the balance by setting out the values that underpin its own vision of sustainable, rules-based connectivity. For the strategy, connectivity is about more than infrastructure, and includes tackling non-physical (e.g. regulatory) barriers to movement. The EU has also expressed concerns about some aspects of the BRI, seen as prioritising China's interests over those of partner countries. However, given Beijing's growing influence, the EU needs to co-exist not only with China but also Russia, which is also a major connectivity player in the region through its Eurasian Economic Union.

The INF Treaty and European defence [What Think Tanks are thinking]

22-02-2019

The United States has announced its withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, sparking fears of a fresh nuclear arms race between Russia, the United States and China. The collapse of the 1987 agreement, which bans land-based missiles with a range of between 500 kilometres and 5 500 kilometres, has further exacerbated existing concerns about European security caused by the uncertain commitment of US President Donald Trump to the NATO military alliance. President Trump’s approach ...

The United States has announced its withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, sparking fears of a fresh nuclear arms race between Russia, the United States and China. The collapse of the 1987 agreement, which bans land-based missiles with a range of between 500 kilometres and 5 500 kilometres, has further exacerbated existing concerns about European security caused by the uncertain commitment of US President Donald Trump to the NATO military alliance. President Trump’s approach to security, coupled with Russia’s assertive behaviour, have prompted the European Union to put forward initiatives to increase its military capabilities. President Trump started a six-month process of withdring from the Treaty in February 2019, blaming the decision on Russian violations. Hopes are not high that an agreement can be negotiated during this period. Furthermore, during the 2019 Munich Security Conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on China to join the INF Treaty, but China has argued that this would place unfair limits on its military, and refused. This note offers links to commentaries and studies on the collapse of the INF Treaty, and on European defence. Earlier papers on defence can be found in a previous edition of ‘What Think Tanks are Thinking’, published in July 2018.

Ukraine's presidential election 2019

19-02-2019

Ukrainians will be heading to the polls twice in 2019, five years after Ukrainians toppled the pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovich, demanding a functioning democracy and an end to kleptocracy. On 31 March, Ukrainians will cast their ballot in the first round of the first presidential election since the Euromaidan revolution. In October, they will elect a new parliament. Amid Russia's ongoing hybrid war against Ukraine, the elections are a test case for the country's democracy, its unprecedented ...

Ukrainians will be heading to the polls twice in 2019, five years after Ukrainians toppled the pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovich, demanding a functioning democracy and an end to kleptocracy. On 31 March, Ukrainians will cast their ballot in the first round of the first presidential election since the Euromaidan revolution. In October, they will elect a new parliament. Amid Russia's ongoing hybrid war against Ukraine, the elections are a test case for the country's democracy, its unprecedented reform process and its European path.

Ukraine: Religion and (geo-)politics: Orthodox split weakens Russia's influence

18-02-2019

Five years after the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople – widely seen as the spiritual leader (primus inter pares) of the Eastern Orthodox world – granted the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) 'autocephaly' on 5 January 2019, formalising a split from the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). The move follows an intensified Ukrainian campaign to obtain religious independence and thereby reduce the influence of the ROC, which plays a key role in the Kremlin's identity ...

Five years after the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople – widely seen as the spiritual leader (primus inter pares) of the Eastern Orthodox world – granted the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) 'autocephaly' on 5 January 2019, formalising a split from the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). The move follows an intensified Ukrainian campaign to obtain religious independence and thereby reduce the influence of the ROC, which plays a key role in the Kremlin's identity politics in the region. This development could have wide-reaching implications. Such a blow to the ROC undermines the Kremlin's 'soft' spiritual influence. The Kremlin views the development as a question of national security and is unlikely to accept the defeat without resistance. The issue is expected to play a prominent role in the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine. In a wider context — reflecting Moscow's nexus between geopolitics and religion — the decision of the ROC to sever ties with Constantinople in response to the decision to grant the OCU autocephaly could mark the beginning of a wider rift in the Orthodox world. Moscow appears to be exerting pressure on other Orthodox patriarchates to sever ties with Constantinople.

The end of the INF Treaty? A pillar of European security architecture at risk

04-02-2019

The US administration announced on 1 February 2019 that it was suspending its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, with effect from 2 February 2019, and that it was giving Russia six months' notice of complete withdrawal. Russia reacted by announcing that it was also suspending its obligations under the Treaty. Both parties said they would begin developing new nuclear-capable missiles banned by the treaty. The 1987 INF Treaty is a landmark nuclear-arms-control treaty ...

The US administration announced on 1 February 2019 that it was suspending its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, with effect from 2 February 2019, and that it was giving Russia six months' notice of complete withdrawal. Russia reacted by announcing that it was also suspending its obligations under the Treaty. Both parties said they would begin developing new nuclear-capable missiles banned by the treaty. The 1987 INF Treaty is a landmark nuclear-arms-control treaty between the United States (US) and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) that eliminated and prohibited ground-launched intermediate ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5 500 km. The US announcement follows years of allegations that the Russian Federation has acted in breach of the agreement. Russia, for its part, has also accused the US of violating the treaty. Both deny the allegations. Moreover, both parties consider that the agreement puts their countries at a strategic disadvantage vis-à-vis other nuclear powers, especially China. The parties' announcements undermine a cornerstone of the European security order. The signing of the INF Treaty in 1987 led to the removal and destruction of nearly 3 000 US and Soviet short-, medium- and intermediate-range nuclear-capable missiles stationed in or aimed at Europe. The EU has called on the US to consider the consequences of its possible withdrawal from the INF for its own security, the security of its allies and that of the whole world. The EU has also called on both the US and Russia to remain engaged in constructive dialogue to preserve the INF Treaty, and on Russia to address the serious concerns regarding its compliance with the treaty. NATO considers Russia to be in violation of the INF Treaty, and the alliance has called on Russia to return urgently to full and verifiable compliance with the agreement. Any redeployment of intermediate-range missiles will put Europe once more in the line of fire of strategic nuclear weapons. If the INF Treaty is abrogated, Europeans will be faced with stark choices all carrying inherent security risks, including engaging in a deployment race with Russia, or refusing re-deployment of US missiles on European soil, potentially leaving European countries exposed to Russian intimidation. Efforts over the next six months will focus on preserving the INF Treaty against all odds.

The EU's new Central Asia strategy

30-01-2019

Central Asia is an often overlooked region, but one that is gradually becoming more important for the European Union. Although the Central Asian countries are less of a priority than those of the Eastern Neighbourhood, the EU has steadily intensified diplomatic relations with the region, at the same time as ramping up development aid. European trade and investment, above all in Kazakhstan, have made the EU the main economic player in Central Asia, ahead of Russia and China. However, former overlord ...

Central Asia is an often overlooked region, but one that is gradually becoming more important for the European Union. Although the Central Asian countries are less of a priority than those of the Eastern Neighbourhood, the EU has steadily intensified diplomatic relations with the region, at the same time as ramping up development aid. European trade and investment, above all in Kazakhstan, have made the EU the main economic player in Central Asia, ahead of Russia and China. However, former overlord Russia does not seem to resent European influence in Central Asia as much as in eastern Europe, and the region has avoided becoming a zone of geopolitical confrontation. The EU's 2007 Central Asia strategy defines the priorities for EU development aid and diplomatic activity in the region. These include responding to security threats, protecting human rights, promoting economic development, developing transport and energy links, and ensuring environmental protection. Since then, progress in these areas has been uneven. Nevertheless, the issues identified in 2007 are still highly relevant today, and will probably remain at the heart of future EU policy in Central Asia. However, there have also been several major developments since the strategy was adopted: China's Belt and Road Initiative is reviving overland trade routes connecting Europe and Asia via the region; in Uzbekistan, a more conciliatory foreign policy under the country's new president has eased regional tensions and opened the door to cooperation between formerly hostile neighbours. At the same time, Central Asian countries are becoming more interested in engaging with Afghanistan. A new strategy, expected for mid-2019, will therefore need to spell out how the EU responds to these new dynamics.

Foreign policy and defence challenges [What Think Tanks are thinking]

18-01-2019

The European Union will face increasingly serious foreign policy and defence challenges in 2019. The current Administration in the United States seems to be abandoning its traditional role of ‘benign protector’ of the rules-based international order. Russia, according to many analysts, continues to try to undermine the democratic process in many Western countries, and China’s foreign policy is becoming more and more assertive, notably in the economic field. Furthermore, migration, Brexit and cybersecurity ...

The European Union will face increasingly serious foreign policy and defence challenges in 2019. The current Administration in the United States seems to be abandoning its traditional role of ‘benign protector’ of the rules-based international order. Russia, according to many analysts, continues to try to undermine the democratic process in many Western countries, and China’s foreign policy is becoming more and more assertive, notably in the economic field. Furthermore, migration, Brexit and cybersecurity, as well as a lack of EU unity on certain issues, also feature amongst key challenges. This note offers links to recent selected commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on EU foreign and defence policies. Links to more reports on President Donald Trump’s policies, Russia, EU-China relations and NATO are available in previous items in this series, published last year.

Uzbekistan comes in from the cold: A new era of reforms

17-12-2018

Until recently, Uzbekistan was one of the most repressive countries in the world. Under its long-time leader Islam Karimov, human rights abuses included torture, child and forced adult labour, as well as severe restrictions on religious freedom, the media and civil society. Following Karimov's death in 2016, his successor Shavkat Mirziyoyev has launched an ambitious reform programme. Some of the worst human rights abuses (such as torture and forced labour) have been phased out, or at least diminished ...

Until recently, Uzbekistan was one of the most repressive countries in the world. Under its long-time leader Islam Karimov, human rights abuses included torture, child and forced adult labour, as well as severe restrictions on religious freedom, the media and civil society. Following Karimov's death in 2016, his successor Shavkat Mirziyoyev has launched an ambitious reform programme. Some of the worst human rights abuses (such as torture and forced labour) have been phased out, or at least diminished. Judges have become more independent, and the parliament has gained new powers. Steps have been taken to make the country's civil service more accountable to citizens. Media and civil society now have slightly more freedom to operate. Political reforms have been flanked by economic liberalisation. Barriers to trade and investment are being lifted, including by floating the som, the Uzbek currency, and by cutting red tape for businesses. On foreign policy, Uzbekistan has repaired ties with all its main international partners, from the US and EU to Russia and China. The most dramatic change has been the shift from Karimov-era confrontation with neighbours, such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, to regional cooperation. These are highly positive changes, but Uzbekistan still has a long way to go. The economy remains largely state-controlled and uncompetitive, and liberalising reforms need to continue. On the political front, the system remains fundamentally authoritarian, and transition to genuine multiparty democracy seems unlikely.

Societal costs of “Fake news” in the Digital Single Market

14-12-2018

This in-depth analysis explores the mechanisms of “fake news” and its societal costs in the Digital Single Market. It describes the risks to the integrity of information and to the integrity of elections. It highlights the roles of the various actors involved in the production and amplification of such information disorders. Finally, it outlines responses that are being tested in different parts of Europe to deal with the issue. The document has been provided by Policy Department A at the request ...

This in-depth analysis explores the mechanisms of “fake news” and its societal costs in the Digital Single Market. It describes the risks to the integrity of information and to the integrity of elections. It highlights the roles of the various actors involved in the production and amplification of such information disorders. Finally, it outlines responses that are being tested in different parts of Europe to deal with the issue. The document has been provided by Policy Department A at the request of the European Parliament Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection.

Externí autor

Prof. Dr. Divina Frau-Meigs

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