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Plenary round-up – Brussels, September 2020

18-09-2020

The September 2020 plenary session was the sixth conducted with Members participating remotely, using the alternative voting procedure put in place in March by Parliament's Bureau, although a majority were again present in Brussels. As well as the Commission President's traditional State of the Union address, Parliament held a joint debate on the risk of breach of the rule of law and LGBTI-free zones in Poland. Parliament also debated European Commission statements on the preparation of the special ...

The September 2020 plenary session was the sixth conducted with Members participating remotely, using the alternative voting procedure put in place in March by Parliament's Bureau, although a majority were again present in Brussels. As well as the Commission President's traditional State of the Union address, Parliament held a joint debate on the risk of breach of the rule of law and LGBTI-free zones in Poland. Parliament also debated European Commission statements on the preparation of the special European Council focusing on Turkey's actions in the eastern Mediterranean, on the consequences for the single market of EU coordination of sanitary measures in the ongoing pandemic, on combatting sexual abuse and exploitation of children, and on the need for a humanitarian EU response to the situation in the Moria refugee camp. Parliament also debated statements from the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borell, on the situation in Belarus, in Lebanon and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. Parliament also voted on legislative proposals and resolutions, including on arms exports, the Union Civil Protection Mechanism, the EU Association Agreement with Georgia, protecting world forests, EU-African security cooperation in the Sahel, type approval of motor vehicles and the importance of urban and green infrastructure.

Impact investing in the framework of business and human rights

31-07-2020

Impact investments are an emerging sustainable investment strategy and represent a small and medium enterprise-led approach to development. Impact investments are executed only when a positive financial return can be achieved alongside a measurable positive impact on an individual or societal level. Impact investors thus go beyond more established sustainable investment strategies such as exclusion or integration by explicitly aiming at impact, investing in business models that directly address social ...

Impact investments are an emerging sustainable investment strategy and represent a small and medium enterprise-led approach to development. Impact investments are executed only when a positive financial return can be achieved alongside a measurable positive impact on an individual or societal level. Impact investors thus go beyond more established sustainable investment strategies such as exclusion or integration by explicitly aiming at impact, investing in business models that directly address social issues. Most impact investment funds invest in areas such as healthcare, education or employment and thus improve the situation of the target group. At the same time, however, there is no explicit human rights perspective integrated into the investment process yet. Given the rather small scale of investments which is usually in the range of EUR 200 000 to EUR 5 million per transaction, unintended negative consequences can occur, if only to a very limited extent. This in-depth analysis discusses the impact investing industry in the context of sustainable finance and analyses central aspects of the concept such as financing instruments, the impact measurement process or the impact logic of the investors. The analysis also discusses the limitations impact investing faces such as commercial boundaries of business models, and illustrates modified concepts to mitigate these challenges which are summarised as social finance.

External author

Dr. Barbara SCHECK, Dr. Wolfgang SPIESS-KNAFL.

EU civil protection capabilities

29-07-2020

Civil protection is the protection of people, the environment and property against natural and man-made disasters. The Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) is a highly visible and tangible promise by the European Union (EU) to its citizens to protect them when in need, and to act in solidarity in times of extraordinary suffering. It is a distinctively civilian approach to the problem. On the basis of Articles 196 and 222 (the 'solidarity clause') of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European ...

Civil protection is the protection of people, the environment and property against natural and man-made disasters. The Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) is a highly visible and tangible promise by the European Union (EU) to its citizens to protect them when in need, and to act in solidarity in times of extraordinary suffering. It is a distinctively civilian approach to the problem. On the basis of Articles 196 and 222 (the 'solidarity clause') of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), it relies on a voluntary system of mutual assistance and on capacity pre-committed by the Member States. In 2019, this was complemented by dedicated EU capacities via a new tool, called RescEU, and improvements in risk prevention and preparedness. However, the current coronavirus crisis has shown that the current structures and processes might still not be fit for purpose or in the required state of readiness. The EU needs to broaden and increase its capabilities. This paper explores the issue and identifies potential initiatives to further improve the structural and capability components of EU crisis response. They include options for streamlining civilian and military crisis response and management, improving cooperation with industry, enhancing foresight, war-gaming, international exercises and cyber capabilities, and the development of capability goals, readiness monitoring, and ensured mobility of urgently needed assets.

Will distributed energy resources (DERs) change how we get our energy?

16-07-2020

Decentralised energy resources (DERs) may signal a paradigm shift for electricity production. By 2050, a majority of households in the EU could potentially be suppliers as well as consumers of energy. Energy communities, peer-to-peer trading and interoperable smart grids are emerging trends. This can fit well with the European Green Deal.

Decentralised energy resources (DERs) may signal a paradigm shift for electricity production. By 2050, a majority of households in the EU could potentially be suppliers as well as consumers of energy. Energy communities, peer-to-peer trading and interoperable smart grids are emerging trends. This can fit well with the European Green Deal.

EU development cooperation and ethical certification schemes: impact, transparency and traceability

15-07-2020

‘Transparency’, ‘Traceability’, ‘Sustainable standards’, ‘good agricultural practices’ and ‘zero-deforestation’ are all fine terms which [alongside many others] have emerged in connection with the cocoa sector’s certification process. But does the reality of this process justify using such terms? Our initial conclusions in this study, based on an analysis of existing research over recent years, revealed that a considerable number of investigations had been commissioned by the certification schemes ...

‘Transparency’, ‘Traceability’, ‘Sustainable standards’, ‘good agricultural practices’ and ‘zero-deforestation’ are all fine terms which [alongside many others] have emerged in connection with the cocoa sector’s certification process. But does the reality of this process justify using such terms? Our initial conclusions in this study, based on an analysis of existing research over recent years, revealed that a considerable number of investigations had been commissioned by the certification schemes themselves. Key findings presented by the various studies all conveyed a positive tone. However, on closer inspection we felt that smallholders covered by the programmes were ‘following party lines’ rather than speaking freely. This suspicion was well-founded. Having built up trust in the villages during several years of field-work, we eventually gained access to exclusive data held by the cooperatives and certification programmes. We have used this evidence in order to draw a comparison between the virtual world portrayed by certification schemes’ narrative and the real world being faced by cocoa producers. Certification schemes claim that they give a sense of trust within the value chain, particularly in regard to produce traceability. They also claim to assist farmers, by way of training, various inputs (fertilisers etc.) and credit schemes. In reality, these ‘advantages’ are not visible at farm level. Budgets prepared by cooperatives to justify the use of premiums reflect structural flaws in certification and access to information. Serious questions arise surrounding deforestation, child labour and the payment of premiums. Social investment is minimal and consumers’ perception diverges from the reality. In conclusion, we make a number of key proposals and suggestions based on stakeholders’ complaints and recommendations.

External author

Enrique URIBE LEITZ, François RUF

Climate Change and Migration

15-07-2020

This study, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the LIBE Committee, examines legal and policy responses to environmental migration and displacement. Following a review of international, regional and national initiatives and legal instruments, it offers recommendations on ways to better address root causes and consequences of the climate change-migration nexus in Europe and beyond.

This study, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the LIBE Committee, examines legal and policy responses to environmental migration and displacement. Following a review of international, regional and national initiatives and legal instruments, it offers recommendations on ways to better address root causes and consequences of the climate change-migration nexus in Europe and beyond.

External author

Albert KRALER, Danube University Krems Caitlin KATSIAFICAS, International Centre for Migration Policy Development Martin WAGNER, International Centre for Migration Policy Development

Challenges for environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights in the Amazon region

30-06-2020

The present analysis examines the environmental and human rights challenges in the Amazon region. It finds that the Amazonian countries pursue development policies in the region based on the exploitation on an industrial scale of natural and non-renewable resources that have caused and continue to cause deforestation, loss of biodiversity and engender human rights violations in particular affecting indigenous peoples. The analysis acknowledges the measures taken by the Amazonian countries to establish ...

The present analysis examines the environmental and human rights challenges in the Amazon region. It finds that the Amazonian countries pursue development policies in the region based on the exploitation on an industrial scale of natural and non-renewable resources that have caused and continue to cause deforestation, loss of biodiversity and engender human rights violations in particular affecting indigenous peoples. The analysis acknowledges the measures taken by the Amazonian countries to establish protected areas and support indigenous territories and their rights but concludes that the laws need strengthening and effective enforcement. The analysis argues that the protection of the Amazon biome is an essential part of the global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and concurs with the view of some scientists that there is an urgency to stop forest loss. The analysis further notes that the most effective guardians of the Amazonian forest and its biodiversity are its indigenous peoples. The analysis concludes by arguing that the European Union has an interest in contributing to the protection of the Amazon and its indigenous peoples. It recommends, among other things, that the EU strengthen its direct support to Amazonian indigenous peoples and environmental defenders and develop effective measures which target EU-based companies whose activities cause deforestation.

External author

Dr. Julian BURGER

A Comprehensive EU Strategy for Africa

25-06-2020

The new EU-Africa Strategy presented by the Commission on 9 March puts a reinforced emphasis on the creation of a real partnership with a continent whose relevance for Europe is growing by the day. The three briefings focus on different aspects of this new partnership, the first one dealing with the implications for the political dialogue with a focus on (good) governance and the even bigger challenge of security and migration. The second briefing has a look at more ‘traditional’ aspects of this ...

The new EU-Africa Strategy presented by the Commission on 9 March puts a reinforced emphasis on the creation of a real partnership with a continent whose relevance for Europe is growing by the day. The three briefings focus on different aspects of this new partnership, the first one dealing with the implications for the political dialogue with a focus on (good) governance and the even bigger challenge of security and migration. The second briefing has a look at more ‘traditional’ aspects of this relationship, development and humanitarian aid, complemented with the rising challenge of climate change. The new approach is also illustrated by the emphasis put on the promotion of bilateral trade and investment relations, the topic of the third briefing. All these briefings also try to incorporate first elements on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the bilateral relationship.

External author

Morten BØÅS, Ondřej HORKÝ-HLUCHÁŇ,Ainhoa MARIN-EGOSCOZABAL

A Comprehensive EU Strategy for Africa - Development, Humanitarian Aid and Climate Change

25-06-2020

The new EU Strategy for Africa attempts to reflect the continent’s growing relevance within a partnership rather than through a donor-recipient framework. However, this leads to a prioritisation of the formal, productive and technology sectors as well as climate mitigation at the expense of agriculture, informal sector, human development and climate adaptation. With such skewed priorities, this Strategy is ill-adapted for the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. Institutionally, political will is ...

The new EU Strategy for Africa attempts to reflect the continent’s growing relevance within a partnership rather than through a donor-recipient framework. However, this leads to a prioritisation of the formal, productive and technology sectors as well as climate mitigation at the expense of agriculture, informal sector, human development and climate adaptation. With such skewed priorities, this Strategy is ill-adapted for the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. Institutionally, political will is needed to ensure that the continent-to-continent approach is not hampered by parallel, contradictory and fragmenting forces within the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) and the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) governance frameworks. Financially, mutual accountability must be strengthened by joint funding of joint actions. An inclusive institutional mechanism is also needed to promote political and civil society participation as well as policy coherence for sustainable development beyond migration and climate. More generally, the Strategy advances a government-to-government type of partnership at the expense of a more people-centred approach that is more in line with the ‘principled pragmatism’ of the EU.

External author

Ondřej HORKÝ-HLUCHÁŇ

Towards a new EU strategy with Africa: A renewed focus on outreach

12-06-2020

Africa has been put at the core of the Commission's geopolitical work programme. In March 2020, the European Commission and the High Representative of the EU for Foreign and Security Policy proposed to build a new and comprehensive partnership with Africa. Although the proposal mainly builds on existing frameworks, its high profile and clear commitment to the African Union (AU) make it an important milestone in a partnership effort initiated several years ago. In order to preserve its own economic ...

Africa has been put at the core of the Commission's geopolitical work programme. In March 2020, the European Commission and the High Representative of the EU for Foreign and Security Policy proposed to build a new and comprehensive partnership with Africa. Although the proposal mainly builds on existing frameworks, its high profile and clear commitment to the African Union (AU) make it an important milestone in a partnership effort initiated several years ago. In order to preserve its own economic and security interests in the face of increased geopolitical competition, the EU intends to continue to be an important player on the African continent. The EU and the AU have converging interests in a number of areas, such as the fight against climate change and the promotion of a sustainable, job-creating African economy. However, they still have to find common ground on migration, security management, and fundamental values. The comprehensiveness of the proposed strategy is challenged by the gaps and overlaps of the current variable-geometry partnerships. The coronavirus outbreak will probably lead to a redefinition of the strategy's priorities even before it is adopted. At the same time, it shows the need to strengthen the links between the two continents in order to tackle the most urgent global issues.

Upcoming events

28-09-2020
Seventh meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group (JPSG) on Europol
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LIBE
29-09-2020
EPRS online Book Talk | Working for Obama and Clinton on Europe [...]
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EPRS
30-09-2020
EPRS online policy roundtable: Plastics and the circular economy
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EPRS

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