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EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Youth empowerment

28-06-2019

The proportion of young people (15-29 years old) in the general EU population is declining. On the whole, young people have a higher level of education than older adults, and youth unemployment rates have begun to decrease. Nevertheless, young people are still more exposed to poverty and social exclusion than other sections of the population. They are less prone to put their health at risk than previous generations. For instance, fewer young people smoke, get drunk, or become involved in a road accident ...

The proportion of young people (15-29 years old) in the general EU population is declining. On the whole, young people have a higher level of education than older adults, and youth unemployment rates have begun to decrease. Nevertheless, young people are still more exposed to poverty and social exclusion than other sections of the population. They are less prone to put their health at risk than previous generations. For instance, fewer young people smoke, get drunk, or become involved in a road accident than previously, but young people are still over-represented among those who are injured in road accidents. Obesity due to bad eating habits and lack of physical exercise is still an issue. Young people are also less likely to vote, or stand for election than older adults, but in recent years there has been a slight increase in interest in politics, political action and volunteering. Almost 80 % of young Europeans identify themselves as European citizens. In a Eurobarometer survey published in 2018 they placed education, skills and the environment at the top of a list of priorities for the EU. The European Union is engaged in helping Member States address young people's needs and aspirations through a youth strategy which covers areas such as employment, entrepreneurship, social inclusion, participation, education, training, health, wellbeing, voluntary activities, the global dimension, creativity and culture. The strategy is backed by a number of funding programmes that are specifically focused on young people, most notably the Youth Employment Initiative, Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps. It also draws from funds directed at other specific policy areas. EU action in the area of youth empowerment is best known for the mobility opportunities it has created, in particular through Erasmus. Future challenges include reaching a wider spectrum of young people, especially those from disadvantaged and hard-to-reach groups, making the results of the consultative process, known as youth dialogue, more tangible, and improving synergies between policy areas for greater effectiveness. This is an update of an earlier briefing issued in advance of the 2019 European elections.

EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Security and defence

28-06-2019

Security and defence policy in the European Union is predominantly a competence of the Member States. At the same time, a common security and defence policy, which could progressively lead to a European defence union, is enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty. Since 2016, there has been significant progress in that direction, with several initiatives in the area of security and defence having been proposed and initiated under the 2014-2019 mandate of the Commission and the European Parliament. The idea that ...

Security and defence policy in the European Union is predominantly a competence of the Member States. At the same time, a common security and defence policy, which could progressively lead to a European defence union, is enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty. Since 2016, there has been significant progress in that direction, with several initiatives in the area of security and defence having been proposed and initiated under the 2014-2019 mandate of the Commission and the European Parliament. The idea that the European Union should deliver in the area of security and defence has become more and more popular with EU citizens. The crises in the EU's eastern and southern neighbourhoods, such as the occupation of Crimea and conflicts in the Middle East, have created an environment of insecurity in which the EU is called upon to do more. Following the Council decision of 2013 and particularly since the launch of the EU global strategy in 2016, the EU has been working to respond to these needs predominantly by implementing in full the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty. In recent years, it has begun the implementation of ambitious initiatives in the area of security and defence, such as permanent structured cooperation (PESCO), the European defence action plan, including a new defence fund to finance research and development of EU military capabilities, closer and more efficient cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a plan to facilitate military mobility within and across the EU, and revision of the financing of its civilian and military missions and operations to make them more effective. These new initiatives are illustrated in the relevant proposals for the new multiannual financial framework (2021-2027) and the accompanying off-budget instruments. Given EU leaders' support in the recent past for further initiatives in EU security and defence policy, important debates are likely to take place in future on the possible progressive framing of a European defence union. This is an update of an earlier briefing issued in advance of the 2019 European elections.

EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Foreign policy

28-06-2019

European Union (EU) action beyond its borders often requires a combination of approaches. The EU Treaties differentiate between common foreign and security policy (CFSP), common security and defence policy (CSDP), external action, and the external dimension of internal policies, but in the field, issues are so intertwined that more often than not a single tool is not sufficient. For example, population displacement triggered by a conflict over natural resources has to be addressed by humanitarian ...

European Union (EU) action beyond its borders often requires a combination of approaches. The EU Treaties differentiate between common foreign and security policy (CFSP), common security and defence policy (CSDP), external action, and the external dimension of internal policies, but in the field, issues are so intertwined that more often than not a single tool is not sufficient. For example, population displacement triggered by a conflict over natural resources has to be addressed by humanitarian aid, itself secured by a CSDP mission, and its effects mitigated by adequate migration and development policies, while peace talks are conducted. Coordination between all stakeholders is challenging but vital, not only as a response but also for prevention. To address new challenges such as climate change, rising insecurity or new migration patterns, the EU has put forward concrete solutions to shape synergy between the actors, in order to use shared expertise more effectively, and to find new sources of funding. The new foreign policy framework (EU global strategy) is intended to map the tools and resources best designed to help society as a whole, in the EU and partner countries, to withstand natural and manmade shocks more effectively. This means making connections between actors and between traditionally separate policy areas. Budgetary constraints and the will to depart from a donor/recipient relationship have also resulted in innovative financing tools, using EU funds to leverage private investments. While, since its launch, the global strategy has proved to be a coherent vision, sturdy, comprehensive external action nevertheless requires coordination at all levels. In the years to come, global instability is expected to rise; the challenge for the EU will be to ensure security while upholding the core values of the Treaties – human rights, democracy and the fight against poverty – as its primary objectives on the global stage. This is an update of an earlier briefing issued in advance of the 2019 European elections.

EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Agriculture

28-06-2019

The common agricultural policy (CAP) is one of the oldest common policies in the EU. Its significance is reflected in the proportion of the EU's budget devoted to it, representing approximately 40 % of the total. Developed at a time when Europe was unable to meet most of its own food needs, it was necessary to encourage farmers to produce food by means of guaranteed prices. The policy has undergone regular reform and has evolved over the years. These reforms have sought to improve the competitiveness ...

The common agricultural policy (CAP) is one of the oldest common policies in the EU. Its significance is reflected in the proportion of the EU's budget devoted to it, representing approximately 40 % of the total. Developed at a time when Europe was unable to meet most of its own food needs, it was necessary to encourage farmers to produce food by means of guaranteed prices. The policy has undergone regular reform and has evolved over the years. These reforms have sought to improve the competitiveness of the agricultural sector, promote rural development and address new challenges in areas such as the environment and climate change. Evidence from a series of Eurobarometer surveys indicates that EU citizens have a high level of awareness of this policy area. There is a recognition that the policy is succeeding in meeting citizens' expectations in terms of delivering healthy high-quality food as well as contributing to the protection of the environment. When it comes to agriculture, Parliament's eighth term focused on taking forward not only implementation of the last CAP reform in 2013 but also a series of significant legislative achievements. The areas covered include, for example, unfair trading practices, animal health, plant health and the organic sector, as well as a range of policy-related simplification measures. On the non-legislative front, Parliament pursued its scrutiny role rigorously. Other substantial issues it considered during the last legislature included the future policy direction of the CAP for the post-2020 period, establishing its position on the next multiannual financial framework (MFF), including the overall budgetary allocation for the future CAP and the associated legislative framework. In the case of the latter, this has not been the subject of a plenary vote. This is an update of an earlier briefing issued in advance of the 2019 European elections.

EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Energy supply and security

28-06-2019

Energy policy is a competence shared between the EU and its Member States. Whereas the EU has responsibility under the Treaties to ensure security of supply, Member States are responsible for determining the structure of their energy supply and their choice of energy sources. EU legislation on security of supply focuses on natural gas and electricity markets, and is closely related to other EU objectives: consolidating a single energy market, improving energy efficiency, and promoting renewable energy ...

Energy policy is a competence shared between the EU and its Member States. Whereas the EU has responsibility under the Treaties to ensure security of supply, Member States are responsible for determining the structure of their energy supply and their choice of energy sources. EU legislation on security of supply focuses on natural gas and electricity markets, and is closely related to other EU objectives: consolidating a single energy market, improving energy efficiency, and promoting renewable energy sources to decarbonise the economy and meet the Paris Agreement goals. The 2014-2019 legislature saw numerous initiatives in connection with security of supply. The EU institutions reached agreement on a revised regulation on security of gas supply, a revised regulation on security of electricity supply, a revised decision on intergovernmental agreements in the energy field, a targeted revision of the gas directive to apply its key provisions to pipelines with third countries, and also new targets for energy efficiency and renewables by 2030. Parliament also adopted several own-initiative resolutions in the energy field, including one on the new EU strategy on liquefied natural gas and gas storage, which is key to gas supply security. Meanwhile, EU projects of common interest (PCIs) finance energy infrastructure that improves interconnection and supports security of supply. There is growing expectation among EU citizens that the EU will step up its involvement in energy supply and security. Whereas this view was shared by just over half of EU citizens in 2016 (52 %), it is now expressed by roughly two thirds (65 %). The EU will retain a key role in monitoring security of supply throughout the energy transition from the old system of centralised generation dominated by fossil fuels in national markets, towards a new system characterised by a high share of renewables, more localised production and cross-border markets. However, the EU would need to use a special legislative procedure if it wanted to intervene directly in determining the energy supply of its Member States. This procedure requires decision-making by unanimity in Council and only a consultative role for the Parliament. This is an update of an earlier briefing issued in advance of the 2019 European elections.

EU policies – Delivering for citizens: The fight against tax fraud

28-06-2019

Tax policy, and the fight against tax fraud, have gained particular exposure over the past five years as a result of the light shed by repeated tax leaks and the related journalistic investigations. This has added to the increasing lack of acceptance of damaging tax practices, especially since the recession and the resulting budget constraints. The fight against tax fraud aims at recovering revenue not paid to the public authorities. It also aims at ensuring that fraudsters do not have an advantage ...

Tax policy, and the fight against tax fraud, have gained particular exposure over the past five years as a result of the light shed by repeated tax leaks and the related journalistic investigations. This has added to the increasing lack of acceptance of damaging tax practices, especially since the recession and the resulting budget constraints. The fight against tax fraud aims at recovering revenue not paid to the public authorities. It also aims at ensuring that fraudsters do not have an advantage over compliant taxpayers, thus ensuring tax fairness between taxpayers. Unpaid taxes result in reduced resources for national and European Union (EU) budgets. Though the scale of unpaid taxes is by nature difficult to estimate, available assessments hint at large amounts of resources lost to public finances. Citizens' evaluation of the EU's current involvement in the fight against tax fraud has improved, but the majority of citizens in each Member State still share expectations for even more intensive involvement. Despite this, there is still a considerable gap between citizens' evaluations and expectations of EU involvement. There is still room for improvement in addressing the preferences and expectations of EU citizens. The fight against tax fraud is shared between Member States and the EU. Coming under tax policy, it has remained closely linked to Member State sovereignty, protected by the requirement for unanimity and a special legislative procedure which keeps tax matters firmly under the Council's control. This has been the case since the Union's beginnings, in spite of the proposed limited changes to the tax framework. As shortcomings have been more clearly identified, the discussion has been opened anew in speeches on the State of the Union delivered by the President of the European Commission before the European Parliament. Fighting tax fraud covers not only actions against illegal behaviour, but also the deterrence of fraud and measures to foster compliance. As a result it involves a large reboot of tax provisions, to upgrade them for the scale and features of tax fraud as it is and as it evolves. In spite of the notable deliveries during the 2014-2019 parliamentary term, there remains work ahead, namely because all provisions need to be implemented, enforced, monitored and, if need be, updated, to keep up with the versatility of tax fraud and the pace of digital evolution globally. This is an update of an earlier briefing issued in advance of the 2019 European elections.

Is transparency the key to citizens’ trust?

11-04-2019

Trust in political institutions is a key element of representative democracies. Trust in the rule of law is also the basis for democratic participation of citizens. According to the spring 2018 Eurobarometer survey of public awareness of the EU institutions, 50 % of respondents indicated they trust the European Parliament, which represents a 34 % increase since the beginning of the 2014-2019 legislative term. A transparent political decision-making processes has become a common objective to help ...

Trust in political institutions is a key element of representative democracies. Trust in the rule of law is also the basis for democratic participation of citizens. According to the spring 2018 Eurobarometer survey of public awareness of the EU institutions, 50 % of respondents indicated they trust the European Parliament, which represents a 34 % increase since the beginning of the 2014-2019 legislative term. A transparent political decision-making processes has become a common objective to help strengthen citizens’ trust in policy-makers and enhance the accountability of public administrations. In this regard, regulation of lobbying (the exchange between policy makers and stakeholders), and bolstering the integrity of this process, is often considered a vital ingredient. Public expectations for increased transparency of the exchange between policy-makers and interest representatives varies from one political system to the next, but it has increasingly become a topic of debate for parliaments across Europe, and a regular demand during election campaigns.