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120,000 refugee relocation target still on the table

FT / Brussels Blog - Sun, 13/09/2015 - 21:13

A Syrian refugee receives assistance near Hungary's border with Austria

UPDATE: The late-night meeting of EU ambassadors wrapped up early (when you consider the EU’s penchant for working through the night), at 10.30pm.

While most of Brussels was getting ready for bed on Sunday night, diplomats from across the EU were locked in a room hammering out a rough agreement on how to deal with the mounting refugee crisis ahead of the crunch meeting of interior ministers on Monday. Brussels Blog saw the draft conclusions the ambassadors from the 28 EU member took into their session, and it’s a bit of a mix for the ambitious and the political.

Ministers are likely to agree on the European Commission’s new target of divvying up 120,000 extra refugees, on top of the 40,000 EU countries have already agreed to relocate. There is, however, no mention of the word “mandatory” or “compulsory” in the draft document, as the commission had demanded.

Earlier on Sunday, the language in draft communiqué on the relocation targets read like this: “In light of the current exceptional emergency situation, the Council has committed to relocate an additional 120,000 persons in need of international protection from Member States exposed to massive migratory flows.” Officials will decide on the details of how those migrants in Greece, Italy and Hungary will be distributed sometime in the next month, aiming to get it adopted at the next meeting of interior ministers, which is on October 8.

There is, however, one major problem: Hungary. While other once-reluctant central European countries have agreed to back the scheme – on the condition that it is voluntary – Hungary threatened to oppose the measures altogether. Despite Hungary being one of the beneficiaries of the scheme, along with Italy and Greece, Budapest is not happy with the terms of the policy, the manner of its introduction, or…well…anything to do with the refugee crisis, really.

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Categories: European Union

Remarks by J. Dijsselbloem following the Eurogroup meeting of 12 September 2015

European Council - Sat, 12/09/2015 - 16:28

Good afternoon and welcome to this press conference. We briefly discussed the economic situation in the Eurozone, I will let Commissioner Moscovici say more about that. We had a follow-up discussion on the issue of structural reforms, in particular on the tax wedge on labour, which is becoming a test case for us on how we can strengthen our cooperation in the field of structural reforms, how can we push the reform agenda jointly in the Eurozone.

Today we discussed and have decided to develop the instrument of benchmarking for the tax burden on labour to follow and stimulate developments in countries of the Eurozone on this issue.

It has to do with competitiveness and the functioning of the labour market, and there is a lot of potential there for us to improve. We will both benchmark on the EU average and also closely follow how we do in relation to the OECD average. There is a statement which will be distributed to you on the issue of benchmarking structural reforms and specifically on the tax wedge on labour, so I will refer for time's sake to that statement.

On Greece, we took stock of latest developments, we were informed by our Greek colleague, who is of course part of the caretaker government. He confirmed that preparatory work of the caretaker government is thus continuing and that implementation, for as far as it does not require further parliamentary decisions, will continue. All of that, of course, in order to lose as little time as possible. From our perspective we can of course only respect the democratic process and will await the election results. Timely implementation of reforms and next steps to take, after the election, is of course crucial and time is limited.

Then on Cyprus, the institutions briefed us on the positive outcome of the seventh review. We all welcomed the progress. Economic recovery is under way in Cyprus and it's actually stronger than was expected at the beginning of the year, picking up quite strong fiscal outturns also above forecast, and the determined reform implementation by the Cypriot government is bearing its fruit.

We endorsed in principle an updated MoU and the eighth ESM disbursement, perhaps Klaus can say more on that. National procedures can be launched on this and hopefully we will have formal approval early in October.

Finally on the Banking Union, the Commission very sternly spoked to us on the implementation process of both BRRD and the IGA. Luckily, all ministers could report progress on this. Progress is being made in different countries; only last week in the Netherlands, parliament agreed to the BRRD, and the IGA was also ratified in the senate, so we are also doing our part. This is also the case in other member states and it's crucial of course because these elements need to be fully operational on the 1st of January 2016.

Those were the key issues for me for now. Thanks for your attention and I pass the floor to Commissioner Moscovici and MD Regling.

Categories: European Union

Eurogroup statement on Cyprus

European Council - Sat, 12/09/2015 - 15:04

The Eurogroup welcomes the successful conclusion of the seventh review mission in the context of Cyprus' macroeconomic adjustment programme, which took place in July. The fiscal developments continue to exceed expectations, the financial situation of the banks is showing signs of gradual improvement and some progress has been noted on important growth-enhancing reforms. The Eurogroup is encouraged that the economic recovery in Cyprus is gaining strength, the labour market showing signs of stabilization, although unemployment remains at a high level, and that the economy showed overall resilience in the past months. 

The Eurogroup recalls that addressing the excessive level of non-performing loans remains a top priority for Cyprus in order to reignite credit growth and ensure that banks continue to improve their resilience. In this regard, we stress the importance of an effective implementation of the recently enacted insolvency legislation and of the enhanced foreclosure framework, together with other measures adopted recently to speed up the reduction of arrears. The determined pursuit of financial sector reforms, including legislation to facilitate the sale of loans, remains necessary to secure a decisive reversal of the non-performing loan trend.

The Eurogroup commends the Cypriot authorities for the progress that has been made to date, and calls on them to keep up the reform momentum. The timely implementation of the growth-enhancing reform agenda, including privatisation and public administration reform, is essential in order to restore Cyprus' growth potential, while safeguarding the protection of the most vulnerable groups.

The Eurogroup agrees to endorse in principle the updated Memorandum of Understanding as well as the disbursement of the next tranche of financial assistance to Cyprus. We consider that the necessary elements are now in place to launch the relevant national procedures, paving the way to the formal approval by the ESM governing bodies of a disbursement of EUR 500 million in October. Concurrently, the IMF Executive Board is expected to decide on the disbursement of about EUR 125 million.

Categories: European Union

Eurogroup statement on structural reform agenda - thematic discussions on growth and jobs: benchmarking the tax burden on labour

European Council - Sat, 12/09/2015 - 14:56

Following our agreement in September 2014 on common principles guiding euro area Member States' reforms to reduce the tax wedge on labour, the Eurogroup has discussed benchmarking as a tool to further inform and support reforms in this area.

The Eurogroup recalls that lowering the tax burden on labour has the potential to boost growth and support employment, as well as contributing to the smooth functioning of the EMU. The reforms undertaken recently in this area are steps in the right direction, and additional efforts should be pursued. Against this background, the Eurogroup considers benchmarking to be a useful tool for highlighting the possible need and scope for reform in this field in individual Member States and in the euro area as a whole.

The Eurogroup has agreed to benchmark euro area Member States' tax burden on labour against the GDP-weighted EU average, relying in the first instance on indicators measuring the tax wedge on labour for a single worker at average wage and a single worker at low wage. We will also relate this to the OECD average for purposes of broader comparability. This benchmark fulfils a number of criteria which should be met for a benchmark to be effective. It is simple, measurable and under the control of policy makers.

This benchmarking exercise, together with a continued exchange of best practices within the Eurogroup, can provide valuable support for further labour tax reform initiatives at the national level where applicable, thus giving fresh impetus for carrying reforms forward in euro area Member States. The benchmarking exercise will take place within the context of existing processes and surveillance mechanisms, in particular the European semester monitoring. The Eurogroup will also take stock of the state of play in the reduction of the tax burden on labour when discussing the draft budgetary plans of euro area Member States.

As the tax burden on labour interacts with other labour market features, monitoring needs to be part of a more comprehensive approach, examining the level of labour taxation in its full country-specific policy context, in line with the common principles adopted in September 2014. A full assessment of the urgency - and the potential benefit - for any given Member State to reduce the labour tax wedge should also make use of, indicators and country-specific information on, inter alia, the actual economic situation, in particular employment levels in specific demographic groups and overall, the  level and design of social protection (including its impact on the level of social security contributions), total labour costs dynamics over the medium run and other labour market features. Moreover, in line with the common principles adopted in September 2014, given limited fiscal space, reducing the tax burden on labour should be accompanied by either a compensatory reduction in (non-productive) expenditure, or by shifting labour taxes towards taxes less detrimental to growth, in full respect of the existing EU economic surveillance framework, in particular the Stability and Growth Pact.

Categories: European Union

Statement by Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, on Singapore General Elections

European Council - Sat, 12/09/2015 - 08:54

"We would like to sincerely congratulate Prime Minister Lee on his reappointment in this historic year for the people of Singapore. We wish him every success in his renewed mandate and look forward to continuing the excellent cooperation we enjoy.

Our Free Trade and Partnership and Cooperation Agreements will deepen our bilateral ties and enable us to better address emerging global challenges. These Agreements will also serve as stepping stones for greater engagement between the EU and Southeast Asia.

 As Singapore prepares for the future, we look forward to meeting Prime Minister Lee to discuss the next chapter of our relationship."


Categories: European Union

Informal meeting of Ministers of Economic and Financial Affairs

Council lTV - Fri, 11/09/2015 - 16:25

Ministers exchange views on the way forward with regard to the minimum effective level of taxation in the EU and in relation to third countries. Also Ministers discuss possible ways forward with regard to Single Resolution Fund (SRF) bridge financing. They exchange views on the deepening of the EMU and possible ways forward with regard to SRF bridge financing.

Download this video here.

Categories: European Union

Agenda - The Week Ahead 14 – 20 September 2015

European Parliament - Fri, 11/09/2015 - 15:09
Plenary and committees meetings, Brussels

Source : © European Union, 2015 - EP
Categories: European Union

Eurogroup meeting - September 2015

Council lTV - Fri, 11/09/2015 - 14:52

EU Ministers of Finance of the eurozone meet in Luxembourg on 12 September 2015 to discuss how to reduce the high tax wedge on labour, the reform of the services sector in eurozone countries, and the ongoing economic adjustment programmes in Greece and Cyprus.

Download this video here.

Categories: European Union

President Tusk visits Cyprus

Council lTV - Fri, 11/09/2015 - 12:28

President Tusk visits Cyprus to discuss how EU can help to reach a settlement to end the division of the island of Cyprus. The agenda includes regional issues, cooperation and the management of the migration crisis.

Download this video here.

Categories: European Union

Europeanisation, Internationalisation and Higher Education Reforms in Central and Eastern Europe

Ideas on Europe Blog - Fri, 11/09/2015 - 09:58

Dorota Dakowska and Robert Harmsen

Why are Central and Eastern European countries said to be particularly exposed to European and international organizations? How did the Bologna Process become a central reference in many domestic reform projects in the region?  This special issue of the European Journal of Higher Education (Volume 5, Issue 1, 2015) aims to refine our understanding of higher education (HE) transformations in a post-authoritarian context. It further contributes to debates on Europeanization and policy transfer in the field.


This special issue brings together an international and interdisciplinary team of contributors.  Particular attention is focused on the different actors, who appropriate international norms in the cause of domestic reform, or conversely develop strategies of resistance.  The range of national and thematic case studies included, spanning both EU member states and the wider post-Soviet area, allows for the drawing of a comparatively broad-based portrait of both the ‘uses’ and the ‘users’ of international norms in domestic debates. 


Central and Eastern European countries may adopt different positions facing European HE policies. Some of them eagerly adopt European policy prescriptions, while others prefer a more selective approach. In any case, the Bologna Process and the European Higher Education Area are noticed, debated or even integrated in domestic political games. This being said, Europe is neither the only nor necessarily the main external reference in these countries. The interplay between the different external factors and actors is also highlighted in this issue.



The special issue derives from an international research collaboration, launched with a conference organised at the University of Luxembourg in November 2010 and continued with a two-year research and training project funded by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Studies and Research on Germany (CIERA): ‘Rebuilding Academia: The Transformations of Central-East European Universities since 1989’ (2011-2013). The current issue derives from a workshop held in Strasbourg in 2013 (‘Bologna and Beyond: Experts, Entrepreneurs, Users and the Internationalisation of Higher Education Institutions’). Further collaborative work was made possible owing to the funding secured through the Strasbourg School of European Studies ‘Excellence project’ and the University of Luxembourg’s ‘Global-Uni’ project (2013-16).


Inside the Central European Academic Laboratory

In the introductory article Dorota Dakowska and Robert Harmsen deal with higher education (HE) transformations in Central and Eastern Europe in the context of democratization and globalization. The authors briefly survey the wider canvas of reform since 1989, probing the extent to which the countries of the region may be treated as a distinctive or a cohesive group. Diverging experiences with communism, international organizations and the European Union are highlighted, while attention is also focused on the differing degrees of marketization exhibited by academic systems across the countries of region. Notwithstanding their differences, the latter emerge as distinctive ‘laboratories of reform’, privileged sites for understanding the interplay of external and domestic influences in the reshaping of the HE sector. The introduction then turns to understanding the domestic mediation of the processes of Europeanization and internationalization, identifying a series of key factors broadly discussed in terms of structures, norms and actors.


In the first article that follows, Michael Dobbins analyses developments in Polish public higher education (HE) based on historical institutionalism and organizational isomorphism. The author argues that Polish public HE has been characterized by fragmentary state-driven attempts to inject more competition into the system and altogether relative policy inertia, despite an internal and external environment which is highly conducive to policy change and in particular marketization.


The second contribution, by Ligia Deca, focuses on the uses of international norms in the Romanian higher education reforms. By focusing on three phases of policy change, the author observes when, why and by whom the international influences were strategically used in Romanian public discourse on higher education reform. She draws a balance sheet across the two decades of higher education reforms in Romania to provide insights into wider problematics of reform, Europeanization and internationalization in a context of transition and peripherality.


In the third article, Liudvika Leisyte, Rimantas Zelvys and Lina Zenkieneexplore the implementation of selected Bologna action lines in Lithuanian higher education institutions (HEIs) from an organizational perspective. Although the Bologna process is likely to be normatively accepted by institutions in the context of high uncertainty, a phenomenon of national re-contextualization can be observed depending on the type of HEIs and the competitive horizons of academic disciplines.


In the fourth contribution Renáta Králiková sheds light on the domestic translation of international models basing on the Romanian and Lithuanian case of university governing boards. First, she stresses the importance of path dependent logics that go back to the transition period in the early 1990s. Second, she confirms that actors’ perceptions of institutions influence policy translation.


The fifth article written by Olga Gille-Belova, deals with the case of Belarus, which challenges the limits of the European Higher Education Area as the country is the only one that had at the time of writing not been accepted to join the Bologna Process. The contribution examines the strategic uses of the Bologna Process. The initial refusal of the Belarusian application reveals a complex interplay between the increasing importance of ‘technical’ criteria inside the EHEA and EU external policy considerations.


In her concluding comments Martina Vukasovic identifies a number of transversal themes and highlights the interplay between international, European and domestic influences on national policy changes. She then sketches a research agenda, outlines a theoretical framework and suggests topics for further research.



Dorota Dakowska is Professor of Political Science at the University of Lyon 2. She has published on EU Eastern Enlargement, German and European political foundations and the Europeanization of Polish Higher Education. Her current research project deals with the international dimension of academic reforms in Central and Eastern Europe.


Robert Harmsen is Professor of Political Science at the University of Luxembourg, where he directs the Master in European Governance. He has published extensively in the areas of European Politics and Public Policy, and is an editor of the Brill/Rodopi European Studies series.  His publications include Debating Europe (Nomos, 2011; co-edited with Joachim Schild).

The post Europeanisation, Internationalisation and Higher Education Reforms in Central and Eastern Europe appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Categories: European Union

Article - Plenary highlights: State of the Union debate, migration, cloning ban

European Parliament - Fri, 11/09/2015 - 09:00
Plenary sessions : Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, gave his first State of the Union speech in plenary on Wednesday morning, focusing on migration and the situation in Greece. MEPs also supported a emergency scheme for relocating asylum seekers from Italy and Greece to other member states and welcomed the Commission's new proposals for dealing with the growing influx of refugees. They also approved a ban on cloning farm animals and a stricter ban on seal products.

Source : © European Union, 2015 - EP
Categories: European Union

Article - Plenary highlights: State of the Union debate, migration, cloning ban

European Parliament (News) - Fri, 11/09/2015 - 09:00
Plenary sessions : Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, gave his first State of the Union speech in plenary on Wednesday morning, focusing on migration and the situation in Greece. MEPs also supported a emergency scheme for relocating asylum seekers from Italy and Greece to other member states and welcomed the Commission's new proposals for dealing with the growing influx of refugees. They also approved a ban on cloning farm animals and a stricter ban on seal products.

Source : © European Union, 2015 - EP
Categories: European Union

The German counter-attack on Juncker’s euro plans

FT / Brussels Blog - Fri, 11/09/2015 - 07:35

Juncker urged additional eurozone reform in his "state of the union" address in Strasbourg

When Jean-Claude Juncker this week told a packed European Parliament he intends to forge a eurozone system for guaranteeing bank deposits, the European Commission president’s intention was to send a firm message of determination to strengthen the single currency’s foundations.

But just days after Juncker’s “state of the union” address, his attempt to sow hopeful seeds has hit stony ground in Berlin, where the plan was taken more as a declaration of war.

Germany’s fightback begins when finance ministers gather in Luxembourg on Friday, and is set out in a “non paper” obtained by the FT. Our story on the document in the FT’s dead-tree edition is here, but for those who want a bit more detail, we’ve posted it here, too.

Unlike the series of emergency gatherings on Greece this summer, the weekend “informal” meeting of eurozone finance ministers was intended to be a calmer, and above all shorter, stocktaking of the health of the common currency.

Now, however, Germany has decided to use it as an opportunity to put down clear red lines in an attempt to redirect the eurozone reform discussion, which gained momentum following the mess of the July Greek bailout deal on what Berlin believes is an unacceptable course.

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Categories: European Union

Study - Trade in Commodities, Obstacles to Trade and Illegal Trade - PE 534.996 - Committee on Foreign Affairs - Committee on International Trade - Committee on Development

Free trade in raw materials is of great importance for the EU. China remains the EU’s main supplier of critical raw materials and thus concentrates on the most recent evidence on its export restrictions. Despite recent WTO rulings, China is still implementing a wide range of trade distorting measures in the form of export licensing or through the introduction of a resource tax. While we can trace certain welfare benefits for the Chinese domestic market following the introduction of export restrictions, we can clearly relate increasing illegal trade outflow from China to its restrictive trade policies. While the use of the WTO provides one of the most straightforward mediums to offset trade distortions, more effective measures include the addition of explicit clauses on critical raw materials in bilateral trade agreements and a strong regulatory framework in the member states prohibiting imports of conflict or illegal raw materials.
Source : © European Union, 2015 - EP
Categories: European Union

Article - Sakharov Prize: nominations for 2015 unveiled - Committee on Foreign Affairs - Committee on Development - Subcommittee on Human Rights

The nominations for Parliament´s 2015 Sakharov Prize were announced on Thursday 10 September. The prize is awarded every year to honour exceptional individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression.The nominations will be formally presented on Monday 28 September during a joint meeting of the foreign affairs and development committees and the human rights subcommittee. The winner will be announced in October.
Committee on Foreign Affairs
Committee on Development
Subcommittee on Human Rights

Source : © European Union, 2015 - EP
Categories: European Union