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United States Congress: Facts and Figures

14-02-2020

The 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 the 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 ...

The 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 the 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, 116th, Congress was elected in November 2018 and was convened in January 2019. 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 simultaneous US Congressional and Presidential elections, back in November 2016, the Republicans won majorities in both houses of Congress, as well as winning the White House. However, the Democrats gained a majority in the House of Representatives at the November 2018 mid-term elections. 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.

Religion and the EU's external policies: Increasing engagement

12-02-2020

Religion has been emerging as a new dimension in the EU's external policies. This paper provides an overview of the principles, institutional set-up and policies underpinning the EU's approach to religious issues in third countries. Nine case studies meanwhile serve to illustrate the important role played by religion in the foreign policies of a number of different countries worldwide.

Religion has been emerging as a new dimension in the EU's external policies. This paper provides an overview of the principles, institutional set-up and policies underpinning the EU's approach to religious issues in third countries. Nine case studies meanwhile serve to illustrate the important role played by religion in the foreign policies of a number of different countries worldwide.

US 'Peace Plan' for the Middle East

07-02-2020

On 28 January 2020, United States President Donald Trump released his administration's 'vision for Israeli-Palestinian peace'. The White House Plan, coupled with earlier Trump administration moves, marks a distinct departure from past US policy on the Middle East Peace Process. Key elements are illegal under international law, as they advocate the annexation of occupied territory. Israeli leaders have welcomed the plan, seen as meeting Israel's key demands. The leadership of the Palestinian Authority ...

On 28 January 2020, United States President Donald Trump released his administration's 'vision for Israeli-Palestinian peace'. The White House Plan, coupled with earlier Trump administration moves, marks a distinct departure from past US policy on the Middle East Peace Process. Key elements are illegal under international law, as they advocate the annexation of occupied territory. Israeli leaders have welcomed the plan, seen as meeting Israel's key demands. The leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas have been united in rejecting the proposal, and the PA has since cut ties with Israel and the USA. The plan is meant to serve as the basis for future direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, to stretch over four years. However, the Israeli government has announced plans to implement parts of it unilaterally in the near future.

Constitutional and political change in Russia

07-02-2020

In January 2020, Vladimir Putin proposed sweeping constitutional amendments. These have been widely seen as preparing the way for him to retain political influence after the end of his fourth and probably final presidency in 2024. Putin's announcement was followed by the resignation of the government. Dmitry Medvedev, who has been Prime Minister since 2012, has made way for Mikhail Mishustin. While these changes open up new possibilities for Putin's post-2024 future, his actual intentions are still ...

In January 2020, Vladimir Putin proposed sweeping constitutional amendments. These have been widely seen as preparing the way for him to retain political influence after the end of his fourth and probably final presidency in 2024. Putin's announcement was followed by the resignation of the government. Dmitry Medvedev, who has been Prime Minister since 2012, has made way for Mikhail Mishustin. While these changes open up new possibilities for Putin's post-2024 future, his actual intentions are still unclear.

Azerbaijan ahead of the parliamentary elections

06-02-2020

Azerbaijan is an authoritarian country in the southern Caucasus. Part of the Eastern Partnership, Azerbaijan has attempted to keep a pragmatic balance between the European Union (EU) and Russia. Rich in oil and natural gas, Baku's poor human rights record and consistent failure to hold free and fair elections have continued to hamper its ties with the EU. The 9 February 2020 snap elections in the wake of abrupt top-down reforms in late 2019 are not expected to substantially change the country's leadership ...

Azerbaijan is an authoritarian country in the southern Caucasus. Part of the Eastern Partnership, Azerbaijan has attempted to keep a pragmatic balance between the European Union (EU) and Russia. Rich in oil and natural gas, Baku's poor human rights record and consistent failure to hold free and fair elections have continued to hamper its ties with the EU. The 9 February 2020 snap elections in the wake of abrupt top-down reforms in late 2019 are not expected to substantially change the country's leadership or its overall (geo-)political orientation.

The 2019 ESPAS Conference: Some useful take-aways

31-01-2020

What are the probable and less probable developments of ageing? How should university deal with the disrespect for facts? Will we see a multipolar or poly-nodal world? What will be the main causes of inequality? What can government do to prevent undesired futures? The 2019 ESPAS Conference was devoted to foresight, the disciplined exploration of alternative futures and had some useful take-aways in these questions

What are the probable and less probable developments of ageing? How should university deal with the disrespect for facts? Will we see a multipolar or poly-nodal world? What will be the main causes of inequality? What can government do to prevent undesired futures? The 2019 ESPAS Conference was devoted to foresight, the disciplined exploration of alternative futures and had some useful take-aways in these questions

Political institutions in Indonesia: Democracy, decentralisation, diversity

28-01-2020

Until his downfall in 1998, General Suharto ruled Indonesia with an iron fist. Since then, a series of reforms have transformed his authoritarian 'New Order' into the world's third largest democracy (and largest Muslim democracy). Indonesia has a presidential system in which a directly elected president serves as both head of state and of government. A maximum two-term limit on the presidency helps to ensure a peaceful alternation of power. Also directly elected, the House of Representatives (the ...

Until his downfall in 1998, General Suharto ruled Indonesia with an iron fist. Since then, a series of reforms have transformed his authoritarian 'New Order' into the world's third largest democracy (and largest Muslim democracy). Indonesia has a presidential system in which a directly elected president serves as both head of state and of government. A maximum two-term limit on the presidency helps to ensure a peaceful alternation of power. Also directly elected, the House of Representatives (the lower house of the bicameral People's Consultative Assembly) has asserted itself as a strong and independent institution. There are nine parliamentary parties, none of which holds a majority, obliging the government to seek support from a broad coalition. Despite the success of Indonesia's political reforms, its commitment to democratic values cannot be taken for granted. Although Indonesia has traditionally been a tolerant, multicultural society, a rising tide of Islamic populism threatens to disrupt the delicate balance between the country's Muslim majority and minorities such as Christians and Buddhists. The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has had some success in tackling endemic graft in the country's courts, local governments and Parliament; however, the latter recently voted to weaken the KPK's powers. While trust in democratic institutions declines, the military – whose commitment to democratic values has often been questionable – is becoming increasingly influential.

Bolivia: A test for democracy

16-01-2020

Bolivia's Evo Morales was probably the most successful among the presidents belonging to the left-wing movements that swept across the Latin American region in the early 2000s. However, his insistence on clinging to power in defiance of the Constitution and the will of the majority of Bolivians, including many of his former supporters, ultimately led to his demise and sparked political conflict. Nevertheless, the agreement reached between all parties to call new elections gives hope for the future ...

Bolivia's Evo Morales was probably the most successful among the presidents belonging to the left-wing movements that swept across the Latin American region in the early 2000s. However, his insistence on clinging to power in defiance of the Constitution and the will of the majority of Bolivians, including many of his former supporters, ultimately led to his demise and sparked political conflict. Nevertheless, the agreement reached between all parties to call new elections gives hope for the future and could be an example for other countries in the region to emulate.

Escalating US-Iran conflict: The EU's priorities

16-01-2020

On 3 January 2020, a United States (US) strike outside Baghdad killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the leader of the al-Qods force within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IGRC), and arguably the second most important man in Iran after Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The assassination was a reaction to an escalation in the growing conflict between the USA and Iran. Iran retaliated on 8 January 2020, by attacking two US bases in Iraq with missiles; luckily – or intentionally – without ...

On 3 January 2020, a United States (US) strike outside Baghdad killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the leader of the al-Qods force within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IGRC), and arguably the second most important man in Iran after Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The assassination was a reaction to an escalation in the growing conflict between the USA and Iran. Iran retaliated on 8 January 2020, by attacking two US bases in Iraq with missiles; luckily – or intentionally – without casualties. Although both the USA and Iran have refrained from any further action, few expect this to mark the end of tensions between the USA and Iran in the region. The EU reaction to the assassination has been to try to de-escalate the situation to prevent all-out war, to focus on stabilising Iraq, and to limit damage to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The EU and Latin America and the Caribbean: towards a stronger partnership?

13-01-2020

In the course of the past two and a half years, the European Parliament, the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the Council of Ministers have presented strategic documents on the EU's relations with Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and the direction they should take in the coming years. This in-depth analysis aims to present the main points of view of the three EU institutions and the Member States on the future of EU-LAC ...

In the course of the past two and a half years, the European Parliament, the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the Council of Ministers have presented strategic documents on the EU's relations with Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and the direction they should take in the coming years. This in-depth analysis aims to present the main points of view of the three EU institutions and the Member States on the future of EU-LAC relations. Its second half includes a critical assessment of some aspects of the bi-regional relationship as it has developed in recent years, particularly the institutional links and trade issues, and the challenges it may face in the coming years. Here, the focus is on the political divisions in the LAC region, the uncertainty about regional cooperation and integration and the possible challenges to multilateral policies.

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