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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.

States of emergency in response to the coronavirus crisis: Situation in certain Member States III

17-06-2020

The spread of the coronavirus pandemic has prompted countries to take extensive and far-reaching measures to tackle the consequences of the outbreak. Apart from curbing the spread of the disease, these measures have also posed legal and economic challenges, significantly affecting people's lives. Due to the nature of the virus, citizens' rights and freedoms have been curtailed, inter alia affecting their freedom of movement and assembly, as well as the right to conduct economic activities. Whilst ...

The spread of the coronavirus pandemic has prompted countries to take extensive and far-reaching measures to tackle the consequences of the outbreak. Apart from curbing the spread of the disease, these measures have also posed legal and economic challenges, significantly affecting people's lives. Due to the nature of the virus, citizens' rights and freedoms have been curtailed, inter alia affecting their freedom of movement and assembly, as well as the right to conduct economic activities. Whilst the measures are currently being relaxed, there is debate in some Member States over whether the measures were justified and proportionate. Some Member States resorted to declaring a 'state of emergency', whilst others did not, either because they have no such mechanism in their constitutional framework or because they chose a different path, giving special powers to certain institutions or using and modifying existing legislation. In either case, democratic scrutiny over the situation has been highly important, making parliamentary oversight crucial to ensure the rule of law and respect for fundamental democratic principles. This briefing covers the following countries: Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Sweden. It focuses on three key aspects: i) the constitutional framework of the state of emergency or legitimation of the emergency legislation; ii) the specific measures adopted; and iii) the extent of parliamentary oversight exercised on the adopted measures. This briefing is the third in a series aimed at providing a comparative overview of Member States' institutional responses to the coronavirus crisis. The first in the series gives an overview of the responses in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Spain, while the second covers Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Malta, Romania and Slovenia.

States of emergency in response to the coronavirus crisis: Situation in certain Member States

04-05-2020

With the first case of unknown pneumonia reported in the province of Wuhan (People's Republic of China) on 31 December 2019, within few weeks the coronavirus (Covid-19) was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 30 January 2020. Since then it has spread to most corners of the globe. While the health threat it poses and the challenge it represents for human health is paramount, no less important is the strain it puts on the legal order. For most of the affected countries, in particular ...

With the first case of unknown pneumonia reported in the province of Wuhan (People's Republic of China) on 31 December 2019, within few weeks the coronavirus (Covid-19) was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 30 January 2020. Since then it has spread to most corners of the globe. While the health threat it poses and the challenge it represents for human health is paramount, no less important is the strain it puts on the legal order. For most of the affected countries, in particular in the EU, this outbreak is posing unprecedented institutional challenges and has obliged institutions and governments to adopt strict measures affecting citizens' rights in a way unparalleled since the Second World War. While some Member States' constitutions include mechanisms allowing for recourse to a 'state of emergency' or the entrustment of special powers to specific institutions, other Member States' legal orders do not, either for historic reasons or owing to institutional tradition. Crucial aspects of the exercise of public powers under a pandemic threat include not only the extent of the measures adopted, but also their legitimacy, raising the question of their duration and of the degree of parliamentary oversight. This briefing is the first in a series intended to offer a comparative overview of the institutional responses adopted in different Member States, in the light of i) the constitutional framework for the state of emergency or legitimation of the emergency legislation ii) the specific measures adopted, iii) the extent of the parliamentary oversight exercised over the measures adopted. This first briefing, therefore, offers an overview of the responses to the coronavirus pandemic in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Spain.

US federal and state travel limits and quarantine measures

24-04-2020

Like many other countries around the world, the US federal government has taken measures in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Moreover, reflecting events in the European Union, the individual states and local authorities have taken additional measures to protect the health, safety, and welfare of citizens within their respective jurisdictions. Under the US federal system, in public health emergencies US states may impose quarantine and isolation measures. The differing emergency ...

Like many other countries around the world, the US federal government has taken measures in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Moreover, reflecting events in the European Union, the individual states and local authorities have taken additional measures to protect the health, safety, and welfare of citizens within their respective jurisdictions. Under the US federal system, in public health emergencies US states may impose quarantine and isolation measures. The differing emergency measures developed by the 50 states raise both practical issues for citizens wishing to cross state borders and legal questions as to the extent to which the states are entitled to limit constitutional freedoms. Mapping the various measures is meanwhile a complex business.

Remote voting in the European Parliament and national parliaments

25-03-2020

In the words of Parliament’s President, David Sassoli, the 'European Parliament must remain open, because a virus cannot bring down democracy'. Ways have therefore had to be found to enable Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to exercise their public duties should it become impossible for them to attend committees or plenary sessions in person. The need to keep parliaments functioning in emergency situations has been on Member States' agendas too. The European Parliament’s Bureau has taken ...

In the words of Parliament’s President, David Sassoli, the 'European Parliament must remain open, because a virus cannot bring down democracy'. Ways have therefore had to be found to enable Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to exercise their public duties should it become impossible for them to attend committees or plenary sessions in person. The need to keep parliaments functioning in emergency situations has been on Member States' agendas too. The European Parliament’s Bureau has taken the unprecedented decision to provide for remote voting during the extraordinary plenary session on 26 March so as to allow for the rapid adoption of EU legislation to tackle the socio-economic consequences of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Commission as 'caretaker administration'

24-10-2019

The hearings of the Commissioners-designate before the European Parliament’s committees took place between 30 September and 8 October 2019. The plenary vote on the entire Commission was originally planned for 23 October in Strasbourg, after a presentation by the Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen of the full College and its programme. However, three Commissioners-designate did not successfully complete the hearings process, making it necessary for three Member States to nominate new ...

The hearings of the Commissioners-designate before the European Parliament’s committees took place between 30 September and 8 October 2019. The plenary vote on the entire Commission was originally planned for 23 October in Strasbourg, after a presentation by the Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen of the full College and its programme. However, three Commissioners-designate did not successfully complete the hearings process, making it necessary for three Member States to nominate new candidates and for committees to carry out new hearings. The new Commission will not, therefore, now be able to enter into office on 1 November, as scheduled. The outgoing Commission will thus remain in office until the formal appointment of its replacement, although questions arise as to its powers in that period.

United States Congress: Facts and Figures

19-12-2017

Congress is the legislative branch of the US system of government and is divided into two chambers: the House of Representatives (lower chamber) and the Senate (upper chamber). The formal powers of Congress are set out in Article 1 of the US Constitution, and include making laws, collecting revenue, borrowing and spending money, declaring war, making treaties with foreign nations, and overseeing the executive branch. Elections to the US Congress occur in November every second year, with the Congress ...

Congress is the legislative branch of the US system of government and is divided into two chambers: the House of Representatives (lower chamber) and the Senate (upper chamber). The formal powers of Congress are set out in Article 1 of the US Constitution, and include making laws, collecting revenue, borrowing and spending money, declaring war, making treaties with foreign nations, and overseeing the executive branch. Elections to the US Congress occur in November every second year, with the Congress convening the following January. The current, 115th, Congress was elected in November 2016 and was convened in January 2017. The US has a long-standing two-party system, which means that nearly all members of Congress belong to either the Republican or Democratic Parties, while independent members (if any) generally align or sit with one of the two main parties. At the most recent US Congressional and Presidential elections, in November 2016, the Republican Party retained its majority in both houses of Congress, as well as winning the White House. This EPRS Briefing is designed to provide key facts and figures about the US Congress as an institution, including relevant comparisons with the European Parliament (EP). The back page contains a map showing the location of the various Congressional buildings on Capitol Hill, home to the Congress in Washington DC.

US Presidential executive action

31-03-2017

Since Donald Trump took office as President of the United States in January 2017, he has fulfilled several of his campaign promises by signing executive orders (EOs) and memoranda. These executive actions have raised questions, including what actions the President may legally and unilaterally take, for what purposes the President may use his executive authority, and what he can actually do without passing through Congress. Although the data are not comprehensive, as not all presidential actions have ...

Since Donald Trump took office as President of the United States in January 2017, he has fulfilled several of his campaign promises by signing executive orders (EOs) and memoranda. These executive actions have raised questions, including what actions the President may legally and unilaterally take, for what purposes the President may use his executive authority, and what he can actually do without passing through Congress. Although the data are not comprehensive, as not all presidential actions have to be published, a historical perspective may help to give insight into how US Presidents have used their executive authority. It appears that since George Washington, all Presidents have, to different extents, made use of their executive authority to advance their policy views and organise their administration. Unilateral Presidential policy-making has raised tensions, in particular with Congress, to which the US Constitution confers all legislative powers. President Barack Obama was heavily criticised by his opponents for advancing his policy goals without Congress and by signing executive orders (making policy with the 'stroke of a pen'). Despite a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, President Trump appears to be following the same pattern. He signed two executive orders on the day of his inauguration and other presidential actions have followed, including a presidential memorandum to withdraw the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). However, to date, the most controversial EO introduced temporary measures restricting entry to the country for refugees and citizens from seven countries defined as of 'particular concern' on national security grounds. The order led to massive protests in the US and across the world, was challenged in court, and was finally temporarily put on hold nationwide by a federal judge. On 6 March, President Trump signed a new EO revoking the contested one and introducing new measures, limiting immigration from six of the countries. But this EO too has run into legal hurdles.

How Congress and President shape US foreign policy

30-03-2017

The United States Constitution regulates the conduct of American foreign policy through a system of checks and balances. The Constitution provides both Congress and the President, as the legislative and executive branches respectively, with the legal authority to shape relations with foreign nations. It recognises that only the federal government is authorised to conduct foreign policy; that federal courts are competent in cases arising under treaties; and declares treaties the supreme law of the ...

The United States Constitution regulates the conduct of American foreign policy through a system of checks and balances. The Constitution provides both Congress and the President, as the legislative and executive branches respectively, with the legal authority to shape relations with foreign nations. It recognises that only the federal government is authorised to conduct foreign policy; that federal courts are competent in cases arising under treaties; and declares treaties the supreme law of the land. The Constitution also lists the powers of Congress, including the 'power of the purse' (namely the ability to tax and spend public money on behalf of the federal government), the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, the power to declare war and the authority to raise and support the army and navy. At the same time, the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the United States (US) army and navy and, although Congressional action is required to declare war, it is generally agreed that the President has the authority to respond to attacks against the US and to lead the armed forces. While the President’s powers are substantial, they are not without limits, due to the role played by the legislative branch. In light of the discussion of the foreign policy options of the new administration under President Donald Trump, this briefing specifically explores the powers conferred to conclude international agreements, to regulate commerce with foreign nations, to use military force and to declare war. It also explains how Congress performs its oversight – or ‘watchdog’ – functions with regard to foreign policy, the tools at its disposal, and the role of committees in the process.

The incoming US Congress's powers to overturn regulations of the previous administration

13-01-2017

During the election campaign, President-elect Donald Trump stated his intention to repeal or amend regulations issued by the Obama administration. Following the 2016 elections in the USA, as well as the White House the Republicans will hold the majority in both chambers of the 115th Congress. It is thus likely that the legislative branch will work closely with the executive to achieve common objectives. Congress can always introduce and pass legislation that modifies regulations made by agencies. ...

During the election campaign, President-elect Donald Trump stated his intention to repeal or amend regulations issued by the Obama administration. Following the 2016 elections in the USA, as well as the White House the Republicans will hold the majority in both chambers of the 115th Congress. It is thus likely that the legislative branch will work closely with the executive to achieve common objectives. Congress can always introduce and pass legislation that modifies regulations made by agencies. However, passing new legislation can be a cumbersome process, and there are tactics for the opposition to delay action, such as making points of order and tabling certain motions. As an alternative, under certain circumstances and within a specific timeframe, Congress could use an expedited procedure, laid down in the Congressional Review Act (CRA) of 1996, to overturn federal regulations passed in the closing months of the outgoing administration.

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02-07-2020
EPRS online Book Talk | Has the EU become a regulatory superpower?
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06-07-2020
Geopolitical implications of the COVID-19 crisis - online hearing
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AFET
06-07-2020
Follow-up of OLAF case files, fighting fraud, corruption and other irregularities
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