Archive for the ‘European politics’ Category

PM Borisov Proposes Closing all Borders in the EU

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov proposes the closure of all borders in the European Union (EU) in order to stop the flow of illegal migrants. His suggestion was made at the Plenary Meeting of the Conference of European Affairs Committees of the EU Parliaments.
 
"Bulgaria has managed without much talk, without much complaining, we have created a reliable guard on the Bulgarian-Turkish border - with the necessary enclosures, additional police, ships and for a year and a half Bulgaria has a new situation. On the map you can see that our border, which is guarded, is as much as the Greek one, so I propose a compromise that I will defend at the European Council - first of all we offer immediate prevention and it includes closing all borders in the EU, "Borisov said.

"Officially, anyone wishing to enter the EU has to go to checkpoints (inspection posts) - see the prints, make inspection and so on. This is no different than what is happening in the US, Canada. Why Europe is not like that? "That is a big mistake," the prime minister said.
 
"Countries should be divided within Europe. The countries that are part of EU's border like Bulgaria need to be assisted and get help from the rest, and everything to go through checkpoints.  If someone does not meet the requirements they should return from where they came, Borisov explained, so the first word is called prevention - immediately stopping the flow and from there following the rules, "the prime minister said. According to him, Bulgaria guaranteed 100% of our part of the EU's external border.

If they are not caught within the EU, disciplined and aided, they can become a source for extremism, Borisov said. If there is no help for the Western Balkans right now, it will be very late, he said.

"The latest war was here in the Balkans - in Kosovo, and we decided to give an example with our colleagues from Macedonia and what could not be achieved for decades we succeeded in signing the contract with our colleague Zoran Zaev. 

Fight against Human Trafficking in Libya: EU Sanctions Six Human Traffickers and Smugglers in line with UN Decision

On 14 June, the Council transposed into EU law sanctions adopted by the United Nations on 7 June, imposing a travel ban and an asset freeze on six human traffickers and smugglers operating in Libya, four of Libyan nationality and two of Eritrean nationality. The individuals targeted by the sanctions are key figures in human trafficking and migrant smuggling activities in and around Libya.

It is the first time that the UN imposes sanctions against human traffickers. The decision by the UN Security Council committee was the result of coordinated efforts of several EU members states.

European Parliament Votes for €1 Billion in Aid to Ukraine

A €1 billion macro-financial loan to help Ukraine cover part of its external financing needs in 2018-2019 was approved by Parliament on Wednesday.

MEPs agreed to an EU Commission proposal to provide Kiev with another package of macro-financial assistance (MFA), which is an exceptional emergency resource for EU neighbourhood countries struggling to pay their bills.

 

They nevertheless insisted that Parliament, the Council, and the Commission issue a joint statement on policy conditions that Ukraine must fulfil, due to concerns over the pace of reforms and the fight against corruption in the country.

 

This statement, annexed to the decision, stresses that as a precondition for granting the loan, Ukraine must respect effective democratic mechanisms - including a multi-party parliamentary system - the rule of law, and human rights. It also underlines that the use of the EU aid must help reduce poverty and create jobs in Ukraine.

 

MEPs also insist that the loan is conditional upon progress in fighting corruption, and in particular, the setting up of a specialised anti-corruption court in line with the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission recommendations. (Ukraine’s parliament voted on 7 June to set up this court).

 

The Commission and the European External Action Service are to check that these preconditions are met throughout the process, and make their findings public. If they are not met, then the Commission should temporarily suspend or cancel disbursement, say MEPs.

The resolution was backed by 527 votes to 124, with 29 abstentions.

Quote

 

Jaroslaw Walesa (EPP,PL), rapporteur, said: “The purpose of this aid is to make the country more economically stable, and there are firm conditions in place to ensure that the money will serve this goal. The country also has to take drastic measures to address corruption before the funds are delivered. I welcome with great satisfaction last week’s adoption of the law on the High Anti-corruption Court in Ukraine: it means that Ukrainians take their commitment seriously.”

 

Next steps

 

After Parliament’s vote, the Council is expected to approve the aid on 26 June.

 

Background

 

EU macro-financial assistance is an exceptional emergency instrument for tackling severe financial difficulties in EU neighbourhood countries. Since the onset of the 2014 crisis in Ukraine, this has been the fourth such programme, in addition to other types of EU financial support to the country. So far, a total of €2.8 billion has been disbursed, but an additional €600 million tranche was cancelled in January 2018 due to Ukraine’s failure to take the measures that the loan had been conditional on.

 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has identified a $4.5 billion (€3.6 billion) gap in Ukraine’s financing needs for 2018 and early 2019.

 

The EU is Ukraine's largest trading partner, whereas Ukraine accounts for 0.8% of the EU's total trade.

Keeping zero tariffs is good economics, but the EU’s political interest matters too

Tariffs are a key element in any trade deal negotiated between the EU and the UK. Ozlem Taytas Ozturk (LSE) explains why and writes that while a zero tariff arrangement is in the economic interests of all the business sectors involved, the final deal may be swayed by politics. The EU may impose some tariffs in order to discourage non-EU countries from seeking a better deal with the bloc, and discourage restless members from leaving.

Because the UK is currently a member of the EU’s Single Market and customs union, there are no tariffs applied in its bilateral trade with the EU. This has enabled both parties to develop supply chains and fragment their production processes across the Single Market for more than 40 years. The UK also applies the Common External Tariff (CET) on imports coming from other countries outside the Single Market.

As the second phase of Brexit approaches, the UK and the EU will negotiate a prospective trade deal which is expected to enter into force after the transition period ends in December 2020. What will happen to tariffs in the context of this deal? Which option seems most favourable for both parties?

The negotiations will have to address tariffs. The sectors most affected by the UK’s exit from the EU are motor vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, electronics, food and drinks, because these are the most important sectors in EU-UK trade. All of these sectors in the UK and the EU would like to maintain their current tariff-free access to the other’s market.

Tariffs are important because of the complex value chains between the EU and the UK. This means multiple imports and exports of goods between these two parties throughout the production process. Tariffs on intermediate goods would therefore have a cumulative effect on final costs, to the disadvantage of producers and consumers. Failing any agreement between the EU and UK the default would be WTO tariffs. While the average WTO-bound tariffs are very low for the EU, they can be significantly higher for some products (WTO 2017). Therefore, it is important to make sure that they do not create an additional burden.

It is easier to measure the total costs of imposing tariffs on the bilateral trade between the EU and the UK compared to other regulatory measures. Given that both parties are developed economies and have low levels of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariffs in general (WTO 2017), other trade costs associated with non-tariff barriers and customs procedures are likely to create more hurdles in the forthcoming negotiations. However, this does not mean that tariffs do not have any significant impact. On the contrary, they may be an important bargaining tool, especially to get concessions in other areas.

The continuation of zero tariffs seems to be the best scenario for both parties – whether as an EEA member, in a customs union or a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) such as a CETA+ deal. Each of these models poses a number of difficulties for at least one of the parties. Nevertheless, taking into account the stated positions of both sides, the most probable option would be an FTA with zero-tariffs for all sectors.

Reverting to WTO rules and MFN rates is the worst-case scenario and the least efficient in welfare terms. Obviously, given that the starting point of these negotiations is no tariffs at all, introducing MFN rates to the bilateral trade would be a serious setback. Furthermore, under WTO rules the UK will lose its competitive advantage in the EU vis-à-vis the other 67 FTA partners of the EU. This poses a significant threat, and is a major reason for the UK to avoid this option.

It is clear that from the economic point of view, continuing the status quo is the best option for tariffs, but political aspects are also important. First, the EU may want to discourage its remaining 27 members from toying with the idea to leave the EU in the future. Thus, the EU may decide to impose some tariffs, even though it is not meaningful or desirable for both parties in economic terms.

Second, as mentioned before, the EU may want to use tariffs as a bargaining chip for the rest of the agreement. In this context, in exchange for allowing zero tariffs, the EU may limit the market access in trade in services or introduce some restrictive measures for customs procedures or other non-tariff barriers in their bilateral trade with the UK. The UK may also regard this as an effective negotiation strategy. The scope and content of FTAs are shaped by precedent. The EU will therefore be aware that offering more to the UK is also likely to be followed for demands from its other trading partners for equivalent access.

Finally, the EU may have difficulty satisfying the sometimes conflicting demands of individual member states. While member states with a close trading relationship with the UK would like to be close to the status quo, others may favour more EU tariffs on UK exports.

Overall, a bespoke deal like CETA + seems to be the most likely outcome of the negotiations. Although both sides are probably willing to accept zero or near-zero tariffs, the final outcome depends on other issues too.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Brexit blog, nor the LSE. A fuller analysis is available here.

Ozlem Taytas Ozturk is a master’s student in international political economy at LSE.

Europe’s Brexit: a successful outcome of negotiations for all?

In writing about his recently edited book, Europe’s Brexit: EU Perspectives on Britain’s Vote to Leave, Tim Oliver draws out several key themes about how the other 27 Member States and EU institutions approached and continue to handle Brexit. The book’s major contribution is that it provides evidence about what would be a successful Brexit for all the parties involved. 

As should be more than clear to many by now, the story of Brexit cannot be told from a British perspective alone. Nor can it be told from one European perspective or from looking at a select few EU member states such as Germany or Ireland. Each of the other 27 EU member states, along with the EU’s various institutions, have been home to individual debates about Brexit, with each reflecting that country (or institutions) interests, links with the UK, and place in the EU.

Europe’s Brexit looks more closely at these multiple European views of Brexit. As Kevin Featherstone makes clear in his endorsement, taking into account these European views of Brexit is important ‘if you want to understand the negotiations and the possible outcome better. Ignore it if you prefer costly assumptions and think in one-dimensional terms.’ The book, with a foreword from former European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, is the product of a network of researchers in universities and think tanks across Europe dating back to 2013, the year David Cameron gave his Bloomberg Speech to which the origins of the 2016 referendum can most clearly be traced.

From 2013 onwards, the aim of the network was not only to broaden analysis beyond the UK but to ensure that the analysis covered as wide a range of countries as possible. Through publications with the DGAP, the LSE’s EUROPP blog and the LSE’s Brexit blog, the network followed the idea of a referendum become reality, the UK pursue a renegotiation, the shock of a referendum vote for Leave, and the EU’s response as it came to terms with the departure of the UK. The book, reports and blog series leave three sets of conclusions.

CC0 Creative Commons

Europe’s Britain

Europe’s history of Brexit is a story of 27 different Member State governments and the EU’s institutions attempting to deal with a partner they all wanted to keep inside the EU tent. Britain might have been ‘an awkward partner’ but it was not ‘the awkward partner’, as some misquote the title of Stephen George’s 1990 book. Whether in balancing against French and German domination of the EU or pushing forward with European integration in a number of areas, the rest of the EU often (but not always) found the UK a constructive partner.

However, UK governments, especially since 2010, have increasingly appeared determined to isolate the UK. Why the UK did this is a story of growing British (and especially Conservative Party) political ignorance and disdain for the EU, growing UK isolation because of changing trade and Member State alliances within the EU, and a changing EU where the Eurozone was increasingly the centre of EU politics.

The UK failed to develop the institutional links and political outlook that would have connected it more closely with the rest of the EU. As a result, British politicians especially have increasingly taken the EU and its positions for granted, if they have thought about them at all. Witness how until the Brexit negotiations got underway, the UK’s debate about what new relationship to seek with the remaining EU rarely if ever considered what the other 27 Member States might think or agree to.

Too often British debate has been one of ‘Britain’s Europe’ without ever thinking much about ‘Europe’s Britain’. Even today, some in the UK – including in HM Government – struggle to understand why and how the EU is approaching Brexit and Britain as they do. As a result, they have struggled to understand how the rest of the EU has been as united as it has been. They have failed to appreciate, as touched on in Europe’s Brexit, that Brexit has not been seen as a test of EU-UK relations, but as a test of the EU’s unity.

Europe’s Brexit Themes

Europe’s Brexit: EU Perspectives in Britain’s Vote to Leave is out now from Agenda

Five themes can be identified throughout Europe’s Brexit. First, if the rest of the EU has been united in its response to Brexit then the reason lies in a concern amongst the elites of many other EU Member States that it would fuel populism, Euroscepticism and illiberalism in the rest of the EU. In some Member States, Brexit may have helped drive up support for the EU, but populism, Euroscepticism and illiberalism remain strong. 

Second, this political concern did not mean the governments of the other 27 Member States overlooked economic calculations. The UK ran a trade deficit with 23 of the 27 Member States, making the UK an important market for a majority of the EU. But that importance varies, and as is made clear throughout the book, maintaining the unity and coherence of the remaining EU Single Market is of greater concern.

Third, this is not to say Britain is unimportant. The UK is an important trade, security, social, and political partner to many other EU Member States. That importance, however, is relative to the importance of the remaining EU and close relations with its remaining leading players, especially Germany.

Fourth, the UK’s importance may be best understood by viewing it in terms of the importance of Brexit to the EU. Brexit is not necessarily at the top of the ‘to do’ list when it competes with problems in the Eurozone, Schengen, in relations with Russia and the USA, growing levels of illiberalism across Europe, to say nothing of domestic problems in various Member States.

Fifth, there is some debate elsewhere in the EU about how well the Union has so far performed over Brexit, especially compared to the other problems it faces. There are important lessons to be learnt, not least what role the rest of the EU may have played in helping create a situation in which the citizens of one of its largest Member States voted to Leave.

The EU’s Post-Brexit Europe

Debates in the UK, and to some extent elsewhere in the EU, about the future EU-UK relationship can overlook three things. First, debates similar to those in the UK have been held in the rest of the EU about the pros and cons of the Norway model, a Free Trade Agreement and so forth. If there is one aspect about a new relationship that is repeated throughout the book, it is that the UK’s dreams of getting a better deal than when it was in – the ‘having your cake and eating it’ option – is firmly rejected. As Donald Tusk made clear: ‘Buy a cake, eat it and see if it is still there on the plate.’

Whatever new relationship is agreed – and it’s worth recalling the EU and UK have not even formally begun negotiations over it – one of the problems Europe’s Brexit points to is the ratification minefield that lies ahead. If the new relationship is, as expected, a mixed agreement then it will need the approval of the other 27 Member States national parliaments, which in some cases will entail both upper and lower houses of parliament and, in the case of Belgium, the five regional parliaments. So far, the EU has succeeded in compartmentalizing Brexit into a technical and legal process, with the European Commission doing most of the work. It’s a reminder of how the EU can be a very effective way of depoliticising an issue through EU-level arrangements that can weaken the input from the domestic politics of the Member States. Ratification of treaties and agreements such as that which it is hoped the EU and UK will agree, is one of those moments when the domestic politics of Member States kicks back in.

It’s a reminder of the final concluding point of Europe’s Brexit: that making Brexit a success is about securing three sets of successful Brexits. First, successful deals over the UK leaving the EU and a new EU-UK relationship. Second, for the UK to come to terms domestically with the domestic causes of the Brexit vote. Third, for the remaining EU – 27 Member States and the EU’s institutions – to come to terms with a changed Union. For some of those remaining 27, a successful Brexit for the remaining EU is not just one that holds together, moves forward, and delivers for its citizens. It’s also one that avoids becoming a Union dominated by a ‘Carolingian model’ of France and Germany.

This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of LSE Brexit, nor of the London School of Economics. Europe’s Brexit: EU Perspectives in Britain’s Vote to Leave is out now from Agenda. 

Tim Oliver is a Jean Monnet Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, an Associate at LSE IDEAS, and Director of Research at Brexit Analytics.

EU Budget: Commission Proposes Major Funding Increase for Stronger Borders and Migration

Brussels, 12 June 2018

For the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027, the Commission proposes to almost triple funding for migration and border management to €34.9 billion, as compared to €13 billion in the previous period.

The Commission's proposal is a response to increased migratory, mobility and security challenges, with more flexible funding instruments to address unforeseen migratory events and border protection at the core of the new budget. A new separate fund for integrated border management will be created and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency will be further strengthened with a new standing corps of around 10,000 border guards. The new border fund will also help Member States carry out customs controls by financing customs control equipment.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: "Based on past experience and the knowledge that migration will remain a challenge in the future, we are proposing an unprecedented increase in funding. Strengthening our common EU borders, in particular with our European Border and Coast Guard, will continue to be a big priority. Increased flexibility of our funding instruments means we are ready to support Member States quickly; where they need it, when they need it – particularly in the event of crisis."

Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos said: "Better managing our external borders and migration will remain key priorities for the EU, the Member States and our citizens in the years to come. Bigger challenges need bigger resources – this is why we propose to almost triple the budget in this area. The reinforced funding will be pivotal in ensuring that we can implement these political priorities: further secure our external borders, continue to grant protection to those who need it, better support legal migration and integration efforts, counter irregular migration, and effectively and swiftly return those who have no right to stay."

Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, Pierre Moscovici said: "The EU's 115,000 customs officials are on the frontline in protecting our citizens from counterfeit or unsafe goods and other forms of illicit trade. To support them in that vital task, we are today proposing a new fund worth €1.3 billion, for EU countries to acquire the most cutting-edge customs equipment. The EU's Customs Union celebrates its 50th anniversary next month: we must ensure that it continues to go from strength to strength.”

During the refugee crisis of 2015 and 2016, the financial and technical support that the EU provided to Member States was essential in supporting Member States under pressure, developing search and rescue capacities, stepping up returns and better managing the external borders. Learning the lessons of the past, the Commission is proposing to almost triple funding for the crucial areas of migration and border management.

1. Securing the EU's external borders

The effective protection of the EU's external borders is crucial to manage migration and ensure internal security. Strong external borders are also what allow the EU to maintain a Schengen area without internal border controls. The Commission proposes to allocate €21.3 billion to border management overall and create a new Integrated Border Management Fund (IBMF) worth more than €9.3 billion.

The key features of the new fund are:

The right set of priorities:

  • Strengthening Europe's external borders: The new fund will continue and build on the work of the past years to better protect the EU's borders with the roll-out of the European Border and Coast Guard, systematic checks at the borders, new large-scale and interoperable IT systems, including a future Entry/Exit system. Funding will be channelled towards tackling migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings as well as intercepting and stopping those who pose a threat, support for search and rescue at sea, equipment and training for border guards, and swift operational support for Member States under pressure;
  • Stronger and more efficient visa policy: The fund will also ensure the EU's visa policy continues to evolve and modernise, whilst strengthening security and mitigating irregular migration risks;

- Support to Member States: The new fund will devote €4.8 billion in long-term funding to support Member States' border management measures and visa policy. The funding will acutely reflect Member States' needs and a review at mid-term will take account of new or additional pressures. Each Member State will receive a fixed sum of €5 million with the remainder distributed based on the workload, pressure and threat level at external land borders (30%), external sea borders (35%), airports (20%) and consular offices (15%);

- A flexible and fast response€3.2 billion will be devoted to targeted support to Member States, EU-level projects and to address urgent needs. The new fund has been designed to ensure sufficient flexibility to channel emergency funding to Member States when needed and address new and critical priorities as they emerge;

Better customs control equipment on external borders: The new instrument will devote €1.3 billion to help Member States purchase, maintain and replace state-of-the-art customs equipment such as new scanners, automated number plate detection systems, teams of sniffer dogs and mobile laboratories for sample analysis;

Reinforcing EU border management agencies: Outside of this fund and to be presented separately, more than €12 billion will be dedicated to further strengthening the European Border and Coast Guard Agency and EU-LISA.

2. Migration: supporting a robust, realistic and fair policy

The Commission is proposing to increase funding for migration by 51% to reach €10.4 billion under the renewed Asylum and Migration Fund (AMF). The Fund will support Member States' efforts in three key areas: asylum, legal migration and integration, and countering irregular migration and returns. The key features of the new fund are:

The right set of priorities: The new fund will continue its vital support to national asylum systems and will place a renewed focus on channelling EU funding to the most pressing issues, such as:

  • A stronger and more efficient European asylum system: The fund will help strengthen and develop all aspects of the Common European Asylum System, including its external dimension;
  • Greater support for legal migration and integration: The fund will devote additional resources to support the early integration of non-EU nationals staying lawfully in the EU in the short-term, complemented by funding under the Cohesion funds for longer-term socio-economic integration;
  • Faster and more frequent returns: The fund will support a more coordinated approach to countering irregular migration, improve the effectiveness of returns and further intensify cooperation with non-EU countries on readmission;

- Support for Member States: The fund will devote €6.3 billion in long-term funding to support Member States in managing migration, reflecting Member State's needs. A review at mid-term will take account of new or additional pressures. Each Member State will receive a fixed sum of €5 million with the remainder distributed based on an assessment of the pressures faced and taking into account proportions in the area of asylum (30%), legal migration and integration (30%) and countering irregular migration and return (40%);

- Better preparedness€4.2 billion will be reserved for targeted support to Member States, projects with a real European added value such as resettlement or for responding to urgent needs and channelling emergency funding to Member States when and where they need it;

- Greater coordination across EU funding instruments: The asylum and migration fund will be complemented by the additional funds dedicated under the EU's external policy instruments to stepping up cooperation on migration with partner countries, including efforts to tackle irregular migration, improve opportunities in countries of origin, enhance cooperation on return and readmission and legal migration;

- Reinforcing EU agencies: Outside of this fund and to be presented separately, almost €900 million will be dedicated to further strengthening the new European Union Agency for Asylum.

Next steps

A swift agreement on the overall long-term EU budget and its sectoral proposals is essential to ensure that EU funds start delivering results on the ground as soon as possible.

Delays could jeopardise the European Union's ability to respond to future crises should they arise and could starve projects of vital funds – such as the EU-wide Assisted Voluntary Return and Readmission programmes and the continuation of EU-funding for resettlement.

An agreement on the next long-term budget in 2019 would provide for a seamless transition between the current long-term budget (2014-2020) and the new one, and would ensure predictability and continuity of funding to the benefit of all.

Background

Border management and migration have been a political priority since the beginning of the Juncker Commission's mandate – from President Juncker's Political Guidelines of July 2014 to the latest State of the Union address on 13 September 2017. 

However, the scale and urgency of 2015-16 refugee crisis took Europe by surprise. To avert a humanitarian crisis and enable a joint response to this unprecedented challenge as well as new security threats, the EU used all flexibility in the existing budget to mobilise additional funds. From the original allocations for 2014-20 of €6.9 billion for the AMIF and ISF (Borders and Police) funds, an additional €3.9 billion was mobilised to reach €10.8 billion for migration, border management and internal security – and this does not even include the large amount of funding mobilised to address the refugee crisis outside the EU.

Learning the lessons from the past, the Commission is now proposing to double funding across the board, with €10.4 billion for migration, €9.3 billion for border management, €2.5 billion for internal security and €1.2 billion for safer decommissioning of nuclear activities in some Member States – reaching over €23 billion overall.

In addition, support to EU Agencies in security, border and migration management will be increased from €4.2 billion to €14 billion.

The European Commission Opens Competition for a €10 Million Prize for Low-cost Space Launch

The prize, run as part of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot funded under Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme, will award €10 million to an innovative, commercially viable and low-cost solution to launch light satellites. It will contribute to the objectives of the Commission’s Space Strategy for Europe, which aims at reinforcing Europe's autonomy in accessing space and at encouraging the development of the space market. Space technology, data and services have become indispensable in the daily lives of Europeans and for Europe to pursue its strategic interests. The deadline for application is 1 June 2021 to give participants time to develop their model.

Introduced under Horizon 2020, the European Innovation Council pilot supports top-class innovators, entrepreneurs, small companies and scientists with bright ideas and the ambition to scale up.

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