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The ‘general escape clause’ within the Stability and Growth Pact: Fiscal flexibility for severe economic shocks

27-03-2020

An important element of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic will come from European Union (EU) Member States in the form of fiscal intervention. At the same time, Member States are constrained by the fiscal rules in place at both EU and national level. The Stability and Growth Pact contains two clauses allowing Member States to undertake appropriate budgetary measures, within the Pact, in the face of exceptional circumstances. The first is known as the 'unusual events clause', while the second ...

An important element of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic will come from European Union (EU) Member States in the form of fiscal intervention. At the same time, Member States are constrained by the fiscal rules in place at both EU and national level. The Stability and Growth Pact contains two clauses allowing Member States to undertake appropriate budgetary measures, within the Pact, in the face of exceptional circumstances. The first is known as the 'unusual events clause', while the second is termed the 'general escape clause'. In essence, the clauses allow deviation from parts of the Stability and Growth Pact's preventive or corrective arms, either because an unusual event outside the control of one or more Member States has a major impact on the financial position of the general government, or because the euro area or the Union as a whole faces a severe economic downturn. As the current crisis is outside governments' control, with a major impact on public finances, the European Commission noted that it could apply the unusual events clause. However, it also noted that the magnitude of the fiscal effort necessary to protect European citizens and businesses from the effects of the pandemic, and to support the economy in the aftermath, requires the use of more far-reaching flexibility under the Pact. For this reason, the Commission has proposed to activate the general escape clause. With the Council having endorsed the Commission communication, a deviation from the medium-term budgetary objective or from the appropriate adjustment path towards it may be allowed for Member States, during both the assessment and the implementation of Stability or Convergence Programmes. In the corrective arm of the Pact, the clause will allow an extension of the deadline for the Member States to correct their excessive deficits under the excessive deficit procedure, provided those Member States take effective action as recommended by the Council.

Plenary round-up – Brussels, March II 2020

27-03-2020

The need to observe strict sanitary measures, in view of the COVID-19 contagion, requires a flexible response from everyone. Consequently, the European Parliament organised and conducted its March II plenary session with new precautionary measures, allowing it to act rapidly to carry out its essential legislative function during the crisis. Parliament's Bureau put in place an alternative voting procedure for the 26 March extraordinary plenary session. The new procedure meant that all Members – with ...

The need to observe strict sanitary measures, in view of the COVID-19 contagion, requires a flexible response from everyone. Consequently, the European Parliament organised and conducted its March II plenary session with new precautionary measures, allowing it to act rapidly to carry out its essential legislative function during the crisis. Parliament's Bureau put in place an alternative voting procedure for the 26 March extraordinary plenary session. The new procedure meant that all Members – with most unable to be present in Brussels – could vote from a distance, sending their voting papers to Parliament’s Secretariat by e-mail. Parliament has adjusted its calendar, replacing the regular plenary part-sessions with shortened sessions until the summer. The temporary voting procedure will be available until 31 July 2020, unless extended by Bureau decision. Moreover, the Secretariat is working to put in place a more advanced remote voting system, which would enable more complex votes to be held among Members, in both committee and plenary, thus ensuring Parliament can carry out its essential budgetary and legislative functions throughout the ongoing public health crisis. The session focused on three urgent legislative proposals responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Parliament adopted its positions on temporary suspension of EU rules on airport slots, creation of a Corona Response Investment Initiative and extension of the EU Solidarity Fund, almost unanimously, less than two weeks after the European Commission tabled its proposals. With the Council also agreed on the three texts, the measures can now be adopted in the coming days. Members also heard from the Commission and Council on the coordination of the European response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Financial assistance for countries seriously affected by a major public health emergency

24-03-2020

With much of Europe in the grip of the novel coronavirus, the European Commission announced a series of measures on 13 March 2020 to help countries cope with the socio-economic impact of the crisis. As part of this package, the Commission proposes extending the scope of the EU Solidarity Fund to include major public health emergencies, providing valuable additional support. The proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council is due to be voted during the extraordinary plenary ...

With much of Europe in the grip of the novel coronavirus, the European Commission announced a series of measures on 13 March 2020 to help countries cope with the socio-economic impact of the crisis. As part of this package, the Commission proposes extending the scope of the EU Solidarity Fund to include major public health emergencies, providing valuable additional support. The proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council is due to be voted during the extraordinary plenary session organised on 26 March to enable the adoption of this and two other specific measures.

Is the current “fit and proper” regime appropriate for the Banking Union?

24-03-2020

EU rules on fit and proper are a patchwork of high-level principles and national law. Deep cross-country differences affect both the assessment process and the criteria used. New Level 1 measures are required to impose common requirements on knowledge, experience, good repute, independence and conflicts of interest, and to unify procedural aspects across Member States. Meanwhile, the ECB should assign a public score to individual board members and disclose the motivations behind its fit and proper ...

EU rules on fit and proper are a patchwork of high-level principles and national law. Deep cross-country differences affect both the assessment process and the criteria used. New Level 1 measures are required to impose common requirements on knowledge, experience, good repute, independence and conflicts of interest, and to unify procedural aspects across Member States. Meanwhile, the ECB should assign a public score to individual board members and disclose the motivations behind its fit and proper assessments.

Külső szerző

Andrea RESTI

The rise of e-commerce and the cashless society

19-03-2020

Sales in the EU still predominantly take place offline – in bricks and mortar shops – and purchases are still predominantly made with cash. However, thanks to the level of convenience they offer, both online shopping and cashless electronic payments are booming and are among the key drivers of the digital transformation taking place in our economy and society. The real-time accessibility of e commerce products and their availability 24 hours a day, together with the ease of making electronic payments ...

Sales in the EU still predominantly take place offline – in bricks and mortar shops – and purchases are still predominantly made with cash. However, thanks to the level of convenience they offer, both online shopping and cashless electronic payments are booming and are among the key drivers of the digital transformation taking place in our economy and society. The real-time accessibility of e commerce products and their availability 24 hours a day, together with the ease of making electronic payments, are disrupting many aspects of traditional consumer shopping behaviour, which is also increasingly driven by widespread use of mobile devices and apps. Online sales hit a record high in 2019. At the international level, China is leading in both e-commerce transactions and mobile cashless payments. However, the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has put countries across the world, starting with China, into extraordinary conditions, with citizens staying at home; and some sellers trying to extract the highest profit possible from the situation. In the EU, a large majority of internet users, particularly those under the age of 45, shop online. Clothes, sports goods, travel and online content such as games, videos and music are among the most popular items. This trend is also driven by the increase in cashless payments, which have become very popular in some countries. The numerous different cashless payment methods in existence are often highly localised. One such example, the e-wallet, is gaining particular importance, driven by the over 2 billion users it enjoyed in 2019. On the other hand, e-commerce and the cashless society are facing a host of challenges related to cybercrime, fraud, privacy, the digital divide and pollution, among others. The coronavirus outbreak is also posing various challenges to e-commerce supply chains, many of which are based in the hardest-hit countries. However, the opportunities that e-commerce and cashless transactions afford in terms of convenience, efficiency and affordability will help them gain further ground in the years to come; their popularity among younger generations and strong EU-level policy support for digital transformation are also helping boost their prospects.

Digital taxation: State of play and way forward

19-03-2020

The digitalisation of the economy and society poses new tax policy challenges. One of the main questions is how to correctly capture value and tax businesses characterised by a reliance on intangible assets, no or insignificant physical presence in the tax jurisdictions where commercial activities are carried out (scale without mass), and a considerable user role in value creation. Current tax rules are struggling to cope with the emerging realities of these new economic models. The European Union ...

The digitalisation of the economy and society poses new tax policy challenges. One of the main questions is how to correctly capture value and tax businesses characterised by a reliance on intangible assets, no or insignificant physical presence in the tax jurisdictions where commercial activities are carried out (scale without mass), and a considerable user role in value creation. Current tax rules are struggling to cope with the emerging realities of these new economic models. The European Union (EU) and other international bodies have been discussing these issues for some time. In March 2018, the EU introduced a 'fair taxation of the digital economy' package. It contained proposals for an interim and long-term digital tax. The European Parliament supported both proposals, widening their scope and coverage and backing integration of digital tax into the proposed Council framework on corporate taxation. However, there was no immediate political agreement in the Council. As finding a global solution at Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) level or a coordinated EU approach was not yet feasible, some Member States started implementing or designing national digital taxes. As an indication of difficulties around this issue, the introduction of these taxes in France heightened trade tensions between the EU and the United States of America, with the latter favouring a 'voluntary' tax system – a position which may prevent a global agreement. Over the last few years, the OECD has nevertheless made progress on developing a global solution and proposed a two-pillar system: while the first pillar (unified approach) would grant new taxation rights and review the current profit allocation and business location-taxation rules, the second (GloBE) aims to mitigate risks stemming from the practices of profit-shifting to jurisdictions where they can be subjected to no, or very low, taxation. The EU is committed to supporting the OECD's work, but if no solution is found by the end of 2020, it will again make a proposal for its own digital tax.

Outcome of the video-conference call of EU Heads of State or Government on10 March 2020

13-03-2020

Given the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak and the potential EU-wide ramifications, Heads of State or Government of the 27 EU Member States welcomed the initiative to hold a special meeting by video-conference on 10 March 2020. European Council President Charles Michel expressed his sympathy for all those citizens affected by the disease and, in particular, for Italy, the country most affected so far. The Member States discussed the COVID-19 outbreak and agreed on four ...

Given the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak and the potential EU-wide ramifications, Heads of State or Government of the 27 EU Member States welcomed the initiative to hold a special meeting by video-conference on 10 March 2020. European Council President Charles Michel expressed his sympathy for all those citizens affected by the disease and, in particular, for Italy, the country most affected so far. The Member States discussed the COVID-19 outbreak and agreed on four lines of action to contain the spread of the disease. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, the President of the Eurogroup, Mario Centeno, and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, also took part in the discussion.

European Semester 2020 – Employment aspects

05-03-2020

The European Semester sets a timetable and framework for EU countries to discuss economic policy coordination. The European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) adopted its report on the employment and social aspects in the 2020 Annual Sustainable Growth Survey on 20 February 2020. Parliament is expected to discuss an own initiative resolution at the March I plenary part-session.

The European Semester sets a timetable and framework for EU countries to discuss economic policy coordination. The European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) adopted its report on the employment and social aspects in the 2020 Annual Sustainable Growth Survey on 20 February 2020. Parliament is expected to discuss an own initiative resolution at the March I plenary part-session.

Banking union – Annual report 2019

04-03-2020

The European Parliament's own-initiative report on the banking union in 2019 is due to be debated during the March I plenary part-session. It touches on emerging challenges and actual risks for the European banking sector, stressing its role in funding the real economy, and addresses prudential and resolution rules. The report also restates the need to complete the banking union by establishing a fiscal backstop and a European deposit insurance scheme, and advocates greater active involvement for ...

The European Parliament's own-initiative report on the banking union in 2019 is due to be debated during the March I plenary part-session. It touches on emerging challenges and actual risks for the European banking sector, stressing its role in funding the real economy, and addresses prudential and resolution rules. The report also restates the need to complete the banking union by establishing a fiscal backstop and a European deposit insurance scheme, and advocates greater active involvement for the Parliament in the process.

Annual report on EU competition policy

04-03-2020

During the March I plenary part-session, the European Parliament is expected to discuss the annual report on EU competition policy (2019), adopted by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. The report highlights the growing importance of the international dimension of competition policy in a globalised world and the challenges stemming from the digitalisation of the economy. It also points to issues related to the effectiveness of competition policy instruments, as well as how they may support ...

During the March I plenary part-session, the European Parliament is expected to discuss the annual report on EU competition policy (2019), adopted by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. The report highlights the growing importance of the international dimension of competition policy in a globalised world and the challenges stemming from the digitalisation of the economy. It also points to issues related to the effectiveness of competition policy instruments, as well as how they may support the European Green Deal.

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