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Understanding US Presidential elections

16-10-2020

In August 2020, the two major political parties in the United States (US), the Democrats and the Republicans, formally nominated their respective candidates for the 59th US presidential election, which takes place on Tuesday, 3 November 2020. An initially crowded field of contenders in the Democratic primaries developed into a two-horse race between former US Vice-President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, with Biden declared the Democratic nominee on 18 August. He will now contest the presidential ...

In August 2020, the two major political parties in the United States (US), the Democrats and the Republicans, formally nominated their respective candidates for the 59th US presidential election, which takes place on Tuesday, 3 November 2020. An initially crowded field of contenders in the Democratic primaries developed into a two-horse race between former US Vice-President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, with Biden declared the Democratic nominee on 18 August. He will now contest the presidential election against the Republican candidate, who faced no significant primary challenge, the incumbent US President, Donald Trump. The US President is simultaneously head of state, head of government and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. Presidential elections are therefore a hugely important part of American political life. Although millions of Americans vote in presidential elections every four years, the President is not, in fact, directly elected by the people. Citizens elect the members of the Electoral College, who then cast their votes for the President and Vice-President. While key elements of the presidential election are spelled out in the US Constitution, other aspects have been shaped by state laws, national party rules and state party rules. This explains why presidential campaigns have evolved over time, from the days when presidential candidates were nominated in the House of Representatives by the 'king caucus', to an almost exclusively party-dominated ‘convention’ system, and finally to the modern system of nominations based very largely on primary elections, introduced progressively to increase the participation of party supporters in the selection process. A number of additional developments have also played an important role in shaping today's presidential elections, notably political party efforts to limit 'front-loading' of primaries; the organisation of the Electoral College system and the changes to the campaign financing system. A previous version of this Briefing, written by Carmen-Cristina Cîrlig and Micaela Del Monte, was published in 2016.

Understanding the European Economic and Social Committee

13-10-2020

The European Social and Economic Committee (EESC), established in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome, is one of the two advisory bodies of the European Union (EU). Composed of representatives of various European economic and social groups and categories, such as employers, workers, producers, farmers, liberal professions and civil society organisations, the EESC assists the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission in the policy-making and legislative process, in an advisory capacity. EESC members ...

The European Social and Economic Committee (EESC), established in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome, is one of the two advisory bodies of the European Union (EU). Composed of representatives of various European economic and social groups and categories, such as employers, workers, producers, farmers, liberal professions and civil society organisations, the EESC assists the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission in the policy-making and legislative process, in an advisory capacity. EESC members are appointed by the Council according to the proposals of national governments and after consulting the European Commission, for a mandate of five years. Since the 2002 Treaty of Nice the maximum number of EESC members has been fixed at 350. With the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU, the 24 UK members of the EESC also left. In the new mandate starting on 21 September 2020, the total number of members is 329. Over time, the EU Treaties have increased the number of policy areas in which the consultation of the EESC is required for the adoption of legislation; however, the EU institutions often request the Committee's opinion beyond these mandatory areas, and even before legislation is proposed, in order to assess the views of civil society on a specific topic. Importantly, the EESC has acquired the right to give its views on any EU-related issue and the Committee's own-initiative opinions and information reports currently account for around 15 to 20 % of the opinions it adopts every year. In addition to the consultative role assigned by the Treaties, the Committee has set for itself the task of communicating the European Union to citizens, reinforcing participatory democracy and providing a forum for civil dialogue between the EU institutions and civil society. For over 20 years, the EESC has organised events on various topics, cooperated with national economic and social committees and, in general, strived to enhance the role of civil society both in Europe and outside. In all its aspects, the EESC has become a bridge between Europe and organised civil society.

Coronavirus and prisons in the EU: Member-State measures to reduce spread of the virus

22-06-2020

The coronavirus crisis has put huge pressure on European prisons, already often affected by chronic overcrowding and poor healthcare services. Ensuring strict sanitary conditions, adequate health monitoring and the necessary distancing to prevent an outbreak in these closed environments − particularly vulnerable to contagion − has been a considerable challenge for most, if not all EU Member States. Starting from March 2020, as lockdowns and states of emergency gradually came into force across Europe ...

The coronavirus crisis has put huge pressure on European prisons, already often affected by chronic overcrowding and poor healthcare services. Ensuring strict sanitary conditions, adequate health monitoring and the necessary distancing to prevent an outbreak in these closed environments − particularly vulnerable to contagion − has been a considerable challenge for most, if not all EU Member States. Starting from March 2020, as lockdowns and states of emergency gradually came into force across Europe, EU Member States have taken a number of containment measures to protect prisoners' health. These measures have consisted mostly of suspending all visits and regular activities in order to limit contacts among detainees and also between detainees and the outside world. Transfers of prisoners between EU countries have been put on hold as well. Improved sanitary measures have been taken in detention centres, in terms of both personal hygiene and cleanliness of premises. At the same time, several Member States have sought to reduce overcrowding, by limiting entries and increasing exits, for instance by postponing the execution of sentences or using alternatives to detention. However, according to the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, at least half the Member States did not seek alternatives to detention. This briefing looks into the various measures adopted by Member States between early March and the end of May 2020 in response to the challenges posed to the Union's prisons by the coronavirus crisis. While, at the time of writing, containment measures in many Member States are gradually being eased, the long-term impact of the pandemic on prison conditions and populations remains to be seen.

EU and UK citizens' rights after Brexit: An overview

18-06-2020

This EPRS paper analyses the implications of Brexit for the rights of both European Union and United Kingdom citizens and provides an overview of the rights protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, which entered into force on 1 February 2020, as well as of the national measures envisaged by the UK and the EU Member States to give effect to the relevant provisions thereof. As a result of the UK leaving the EU and becoming a third country, UK citizens are no longer EU citizens and they will therefore ...

This EPRS paper analyses the implications of Brexit for the rights of both European Union and United Kingdom citizens and provides an overview of the rights protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, which entered into force on 1 February 2020, as well as of the national measures envisaged by the UK and the EU Member States to give effect to the relevant provisions thereof. As a result of the UK leaving the EU and becoming a third country, UK citizens are no longer EU citizens and they will therefore lose a series of rights based on EU citizenship once the transition period provided for in the agreement expires. Currently, UK and EU citizens may still move to the EU and the UK respectively, under the applicable EU rules. Beyond the end of the transition period, the agreement guarantees the rights of EU and UK citizens who had made use of their freedom of movement rights by the end of 2020.

Agreement on the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU

24-01-2020

On 29 January 2020, the European Parliament is set to vote on the recommendation to give consent to the treaty on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU), endorsed in its current version by EU leaders and the UK Prime Minister in October 2019. Parliament's consent, following the completion of the UK's domestic procedures for ratifying the agreement, will allow its entry into force on 1 February 2020. The UK will then cease its 47-year membership of the EU, although ...

On 29 January 2020, the European Parliament is set to vote on the recommendation to give consent to the treaty on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU), endorsed in its current version by EU leaders and the UK Prime Minister in October 2019. Parliament's consent, following the completion of the UK's domestic procedures for ratifying the agreement, will allow its entry into force on 1 February 2020. The UK will then cease its 47-year membership of the EU, although EU law will remain applicable to the UK during an 11 month transition period ending on 31 December 2020. If however Parliament were to deny consent, the UK would leave the EU without a deal on 1 February 2020, absent another extension of the Article 50 period.

The revised Brexit deal: What has changed and next steps?

22-10-2019

Brexit talks between the EU and the UK had reached a standstill in spring 2019, with the House of Commons refusing to vote in favour of the negotiated withdrawal agreement, including a Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. The new UK government led by Boris Johnson, who came into office on 24 July, made a priority of finalising preparations for leaving the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019, unless the EU was willing to renounce the ‘backstop’ included in the Protocol. However, the EU continued ...

Brexit talks between the EU and the UK had reached a standstill in spring 2019, with the House of Commons refusing to vote in favour of the negotiated withdrawal agreement, including a Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. The new UK government led by Boris Johnson, who came into office on 24 July, made a priority of finalising preparations for leaving the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019, unless the EU was willing to renounce the ‘backstop’ included in the Protocol. However, the EU continued to restate its opposition to removing what it considered a legally operational safety net that would prevent a future hard border on the island of Ireland, in the absence of concrete proposals from the UK. At the beginning of October 2019, the UK government sent its proposals on revising the above-mentioned protocol, which were received with a measure of concern by the EU and other stakeholders. Discussions aimed at bridging the gap between the UK and EU positions were stepped up and, after a series of concessions, the EU and UK announced they had reached a revised withdrawal agreement, which was then immediately endorsed by the European Council on 17 October 2019. With only days to go until 31 October 2019, the date on which the UK is set to leave the EU, completing the ratification procedures to allow the withdrawal agreement's entry into force on 1 November is going to be a challenge. Whereas on the EU side no major obstacles are foreseen, in the UK, the House of Commons decided on 19 October to withhold approval for the revised deal until Parliament passes the related implementing legislation. Required by law to send the EU a request for an extension of the Article 50 period until 31 January 2020, the UK Prime Minister is nonetheless still aiming to fulfil all the necessary steps for the ratification of the withdrawal agreement to allow its entry into force on 1 November. This is also the stated aim of the European Union, although if the European Council were to decide in favour of granting an Article 50 extension, following the UK request, that decision would have to be taken before the end of October.

Europol: The EU law enforcement cooperation agency

19-09-2019

Evolving from informal police cooperation in the 1970s to a fully fledged European Union (EU) agency with a strengthened mandate under its new legal basis (Regulation (EU) 2016/794), Europol's mandate is to strengthen EU Member States' competent authorities and ensure their cooperation for the purpose of 'preventing and combating serious crime affecting two or more Member States, terrorism and forms of crime which affect a common interest covered by a Union policy'. The agency is therefore empowered ...

Evolving from informal police cooperation in the 1970s to a fully fledged European Union (EU) agency with a strengthened mandate under its new legal basis (Regulation (EU) 2016/794), Europol's mandate is to strengthen EU Member States' competent authorities and ensure their cooperation for the purpose of 'preventing and combating serious crime affecting two or more Member States, terrorism and forms of crime which affect a common interest covered by a Union policy'. The agency is therefore empowered to tackle more than 30 forms of serious crime and related criminal offences, including terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering, human trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation, trafficking in arms and ammunition. To fulfil its objectives, Europol carries out a series of tasks, including the core activities of performing as the EU criminal information exchange hub and providing operational support and expertise to Member States' criminal investigations. To frame Europol's activities, the Europol Regulation strengthens its data management and data protection rules and provides for enhanced scrutiny: political scrutiny – by a new parliamentary oversight body made up of representatives of the European Parliament and Member States' national parliaments; and scrutiny of its data processing operations – by the European Data Protection Supervisor. Furthermore, the Regulation reforms the framework for Europol's cooperation with partners such as third countries and international organisations, which also allows for an increased role for the Commission and the European Parliament. On the occasion of Europol's 20th anniversary, this briefing provides a timeline of the agency's establishment and consolidation; an overview of its competences, structure and functioning under the current legal framework; as well as some elements related to further developments.

Use of financial data for preventing and combatting serious crime

19-07-2019

On 17 April 2018, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a directive intended to facilitate law enforcement authorities' access to and use of financial information held in other jurisdictions within the EU for investigations related to terrorism and other serious crime. The proposed directive would grant competent authorities direct access to bank account information contained in centralised registries set up in each Member State, according to the Fifth Anti-Money-Laundering Directive. The ...

On 17 April 2018, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a directive intended to facilitate law enforcement authorities' access to and use of financial information held in other jurisdictions within the EU for investigations related to terrorism and other serious crime. The proposed directive would grant competent authorities direct access to bank account information contained in centralised registries set up in each Member State, according to the Fifth Anti-Money-Laundering Directive. The proposal also aims to strengthen domestic and cross-border exchange of information between EU Member States' competent authorities, including law enforcement authorities and financial intelligence units, as well as with Europol. The provisional agreement reached in February 2019 in interinstitutional negotiations was adopted by the European Parliament on 17 April 2019, followed by the Council on 14 June. On 20 June 2019, the directive was signed into law and then published in the Official Journal on 11 July. Member States have until 1 August 2021 to transpose its provisions into national law.

Ratifying the EU-UK withdrawal deal: State of play and possible scenarios

08-04-2019

On 14 November 2018, the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) negotiators announced their approval of the legal agreement on the UK's withdrawal from the EU. At a special European Council meeting on 25 November 2018, EU leaders endorsed the draft withdrawal agreement, as well as the text of a non-binding political declaration setting out the framework for the future EU-UK relationship. While the process of approving the withdrawal deal (the agreement and the political declaration) began ...

On 14 November 2018, the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) negotiators announced their approval of the legal agreement on the UK's withdrawal from the EU. At a special European Council meeting on 25 November 2018, EU leaders endorsed the draft withdrawal agreement, as well as the text of a non-binding political declaration setting out the framework for the future EU-UK relationship. While the process of approving the withdrawal deal (the agreement and the political declaration) began rapidly in both the UK and the EU, it immediately met with significant difficulties in the UK. In particular, the House of Commons' rejection of the withdrawal deal in the 'meaningful vote' of 15 January 2019, led to renewed UK attempts at renegotiation. Although the EU and the UK eventually agreed additional guarantees with respect to the Ireland/Northern Ireland backstop, the withdrawal deal was again voted down on 12 March 2019. Faced with the prospect of a 'no deal exit' on 29 March 2019, the initial Brexit date, the UK government, as instructed by the House of Commons, eventually requested an extension to the Article 50 negotiating period. On 22 March, the European Council extended the UK's EU Membership until 22 May 2019, on the condition that the UK parliament approved the withdrawal agreement by 29 March. As the House of Commons rejected the withdrawal agreement for a third time, the new Brexit date was instead set, under that European Council decision, at 12 April 2019. With a 'no deal' Brexit becoming a highly likely scenario, both sides stepped up their contingency planning. However, other outcomes remain possible, in particular a further Article 50 extension, given the UK Prime Minister's request of 5 April. The EU-27 are set to decide on this within the European Council on 10 April 2019, most likely on the basis of conditions set for the UK. While a parallel process for establishing a majority for an alternative solution to the negotiated deal is under way in Westminster, its outcome remains uncertain. Finally, although rejected by the government, the UK still has the option to unilaterally revoke its notification to withdraw from the EU, or to organise another referendum on the issue (the latter dependent on an extension). Please see also the parallel Briefing, Brexit: Understanding the withdrawal agreement and political declaration, of March 2019 (PE 635.595). And visit the European Parliament homepage on Brexit negotiations.

Brexit: Understanding the withdrawal agreement and political declaration

20-03-2019

In November 2018, the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) endorsed, at leaders’ level, an agreement that would ensure an orderly UK withdrawal from the EU on 30 March 2019, as well as a political declaration setting out the main parameters of the future EU-UK relationship. The withdrawal agreement is an extensive legal document aiming, among other things, to preserve the essential rights of UK nationals living in the EU-27 and EU citizens living in the UK; to ensure that all financial ...

In November 2018, the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) endorsed, at leaders’ level, an agreement that would ensure an orderly UK withdrawal from the EU on 30 March 2019, as well as a political declaration setting out the main parameters of the future EU-UK relationship. The withdrawal agreement is an extensive legal document aiming, among other things, to preserve the essential rights of UK nationals living in the EU-27 and EU citizens living in the UK; to ensure that all financial commitments vis-à-vis the EU undertaken while the UK was a Member State are respected; and to conclude in an orderly manner ongoing processes in various areas (e.g. circulation of goods already on the market and ongoing judicial procedures). Importantly, the agreement establishes a 21-month transition period, extendable once, to help businesses and citizens to adapt to the new circumstances, and the EU and UK to negotiate their future partnership agreements. During this time, the UK will be treated as a Member State, but without any EU decision-making and representation rights. Furthermore, one of the agreement’s three protocols, the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland contains a legally operational ‘backstop’, aiming to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland in the future. It has long been the most contested aspect of the withdrawal deal. The political declaration, by contrast, is a non-binding text, providing the basis for future EU-UK economic and security cooperation, taking into account both sides’ red lines and principles. With just days to go to the Brexit deadline, the procedures to approve the withdrawal deal have still not been finalised, due to continuing opposition within the UK Parliament. While extending the Article 50 negotiating period now appears highly likely, all scenarios are still possible, including the UK leaving the EU without a deal at the end of March 2019.

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