News from Parliaments

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Parliament of Finland supports the objectives of the EU's legislative proposals on digital markets and services

02/06/2021
The Grand Committee decided today that Parliament agrees with the Government's position in the preparation of the EU Digital Services Act and the Digital Market Act. One dissention was appended to the committee statement.

The European Commission's proposals aim to make the online environment safer and fairer for consumers and businesses. One of the proposed regulations concerns digital services and the other the digital market.
The Government and Parliament support the objectives of the proposals but make clarifications and comments on further preparations.

Legal Affairs Committee, Constitutional Law Committee, Transport and Communications Committee and Commerce Committee have provided their views to the Grand Committee. The Grand Committee considers the committees' assessment of Finland's negotiating objectives, the framework conditions for the negotiations and the key development needs of the proposals to be justified. In its statement, the Grand Committee raises only some key aspects for further preparation.
In further preparations, particular attention should be paid to ensuring that the provisions are proportionate, equal, non-discriminatory, fair, appropriate and clear. The preparation must also take into account legal protection and the protection of business secrets, as well as guaranteeing a high level of consumer protection. Unnecessary administrative burdens should be avoided, and regulatory flexibility ensured. The European regulatory environment must support the development of competitive and innovative business in a rapidly changing international environment.

The Grand Committee draws the Government's special attention to the Constitutional Law Committee's comments on the digital services legislation.

The Constitutional Law Committee agrees with the Government that the negotiations must ensure that, under the Digital Services Regulation, interference with freedom of expression is limited to what is necessary to achieve the acceptable goal pursued therein. In addition, in the preparation, the Constitutional Law Committee considers it important to ensure that, under the regulation, interference with democracy and the participation and influence of citizens is limited to what is necessary. At the very least, the Committee considers that a more detailed explanation of the public administration tasks that may be assigned to service providers, the accuracy of the powers conferred on the Commission and the national authorities, administrative sanctions and the proposed legal protection arrangements is needed.
 
Source: The Parliament of Finland

EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, presented the updated Industrial Strategy of the European Commission in the German Bundestag

25/05/2021
On 19 May 2021, the Committee on EU Affairs of the German Bundestag welcomed the Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, for the presentation and subsequent discussion of the updated Industrial Strategy presented by the European Commission on 5 May 2021. He emphasized that the update neither replaces the Industrial Strategy, introduced by the Commission in March 2020, nor completes the processes launched by it. However, the COVID-19 pandemic required the EU to adapt its industrial regulatory framework to the new situation. The crisis demonstrated the critical role of a globally integrated and well-functioning Single Market.

Breton explained that the pandemic had revealed dependencies, which affected the availability of essential products (e.g. with regard to certain components for the vaccine production). Therefore, a reorganisation of the internal market is required. Hence, he reported, that the Commission is planning to draw up a map of dependencies with the aim of diversifying supply chains. The realizations made by the pandemic situation in regard to the internal market have shown that the market must be more resilient in the future. Therefore, the Commission is working on an emergency instrument that would structurally ensure the free movement of goods and services in the event of a crisis.

Moreover, Breton argued in favour of the continuation of industrial alliances and reported that at the moment the Commission is working on four alliances on semiconductors, cloud computing, zero-emission strategy and launchers. In response to a question of a MP on semiconductors, Commissioner Breton explained that the aim is to reduce dependencies and increase production capacities in the EU. Hence, Breton underlined the importance of starting investigations and to mobilise all actors and financial resources in this regard.
The Commissioner emphasized that the Green Deal with its goal of becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 must be accompanied by a twin transition to a green and digital industry. Therefore, great efforts by the EU, supported by the Member States, have been made (e.g. the Battery Alliance or the Hydrogen Alliance with over 1,000 projects). With regard to the green and digital transition, Breton reported, that the Commission plans to present the legislative package "Fit for 55" in July 2021. Within this package, the topics of AI and data are very important, with the topic of "industrial data" in particular representing one of the greatest challenges.

Source: German Bundestag

German Bundestag: Exchange of views with European Commissioner Stella Kyriakides on the creation of a Health Union

25/05/2021
On 21 May 2021 the Health Committee of the German Bundestag welcomed EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides. In the beginning, she underlined that the EU must be better prepared for possible health emergencies in the future than the EU was at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal, she said, is to create a Health Union and to start building the necessary capacity in this regard.

The current crisis, Kyriakides argued, should be used as an opportunity to develop such capacities. She acknowledged that the EU had not been prepared for a pandemic of this dimension. Hence, the Commissioner stressed the importance of being able to react more quickly in health emergencies. In future, citizens must be better protected against possible pandemics.

Furthermore, the EU Commissioner emphasized the importance of solidarity in the equal distribution of vaccines within the EU in the pandemic situation and that individual states could not have procured the vaccines on their own.  

Referring to the initially slow start of the vaccination campaign, Kyriakides reported that the vaccination campaign in the EU has accelerated considerably and that by July 70 percent of adults in the EU could be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The EU Commissioner pointed out the global importance of the vaccination campaign. The EU shares vaccines with the whole world and exports more vaccines than any other region in the world. She emphasized that the pandemic must be fought globally. In the end, Kyriakides expressed confidence that the EU's planned Digital Green Vaccination Certificate would allow more travel this summer.

Source: German Bundestag

Parliament of Finland sends the Committee for the Future's statement on the EU's strategic foresight to the Commission

25/05/2021
The Committee for the Future has submitted to the Grand Committee its statement on the Government report concerning the strategic foresight report from the Commission 2020 “Strategic Foresight – Charting the course towards a more resilient Europe". On 12 May, the Grand Committee decided that Parliament will send the statement of the Committee for the Future to the European Commission for information.

The Committee for the Future agrees with the experts consulted that the development of the EU's strategic foresight is a worthwhile and even historic milestone.

The Committee for the Future notes, among other things, that Finland has long had the kind of foresight system that the EU is aiming for. Therefore, the EU should make use of Finland's experience and expertise in foresight. Similarly, Finland has a duty to actively participate in the development of the EU's foresight.

The Committee for the Future considers that, while developing the EU's strategic foresight is a great opportunity for the EU and all its Member States, there is also a great risk related to the power to define futures. It is essential that the Member States' foresight systems are closely linked to the processes in which the EU's strategic foresight is carried out. Otherwise, in the future, Finland may also receive its visions, scenarios, images of futures, wild cards, black swans and its entire forward-looking policy from the outside, bypassing its own foresight system.
 
Statement of the Committee for the Future on the Government report: Strategic foresight report from the Commission 2020 "Strategic Foresight - Charing the course towards a more resilient Europe" (in English)

Source: The Parliament of Finland

Digital future: Vice-President Vestager briefed Committees of the Hellenic Parliament

19/05/2021
The Executive Vice-President of the European Commission for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age Margrethe Vestager briefed the members of the Special Standing Committee of European Affairs and the Standing Committee of Production and Trade during a joint meeting. The issue on the agenda was “An open, fair and competitive digital future for European citizens”. The Minister of Development and Investments Adonis Georgiadis attended the meeting. 

In his introductory remarks, the Chairperson of the meeting and 1st Vice-Chair of the European Affairs Committee Dimitris Kairidis pointed out, among other things, that digital technologies have significantly contributed to the continuation of economic and social life throughout the pandemic, while they will play a key role in the successful transition to a sustainable economy and society after the crisis. He said that Greece had reacted dynamically in the last one and a half year and had significantly accelerated its digital capabilities, observing that in 2020 94 million digital transactions with Public Services took place, while in 2019 the number approached 35 million and in 2018 did not exceed 9 million. He then referred to the European digital strategy and the actions planned by 2030 and underlined that legislative proposals on the single digital market and fair markets in the digital sector are an important initiative to ensure fair competition. This set of rules, noted Mr. Kairidis, complements the European Democracy Action Plan, the goal of which is to build more resilient democracies. 

When he took the floor, Mr. Georgiadis said that the Ministry of Development and Investments participates in the European dialogue on legislative acts for the digital markets and services and called upon the political parties to submit their proposals, while he thanked Mrs. Vestager and the European Commission for swiftly approving support programmes for Greece during the pandemic.
 
During her intervention, the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission congratulated Greece for putting together a National Recovery and Resilience Plan and for incorporating the green and digital goals, which are the strategic pillars for growth and employment in Europe. She referred to the European Commission’s legislative initiatives regarding the digital markets (Digital Markets Act) and the digital services (Digital Services Act), pointing out that the goal is, inter alia, to ensure that markets will be accessible, while she underlined that the possibility will be provided to remove illegal content from the internet. Mrs. Vestager also referred to European proposals on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and personal data management, while she emphasised the need to strengthen citizens’ skills and employee training, in order to bridge the digital divide. Lastly, Mrs. Vestager referred to the discussions taking place within the OECD on taxation in the digital economy. 

Source: The Hellenic Parliament

Parliament of Finland has approved EU's own resources decision by a vote of 134-57

19/05/2021
In its plenary session on 18 May, Parliament voted on whether to approve the Council decision on the EU's own resources system. The first vote was on the adoption of the Council decision on the basis of the Finance Committee report. To be adopted, the proposal required at least two-thirds of the votes cast in the plenary session. Parliament approved EU's own resources decision by a vote of 134-57 (abstentions 2, absent 6). The Finance Committee report included eight proposed resolutions which Parliament also approved in its vote: Parliament requires that the recovery instrument be considered an exceptional and one-off solution, that the arrangement does not serve as a precedent and that Finland will not accept a repetition of or the arrangement becoming permanent. Parliament demands that Finland promote the introduction of the common European debt settlement mechanism and the rules it would require, as well as compliance with the no bailout clause of the Treaty. Finland requires each Member State to be responsible for its own debts so that the risk premium determined in the credit market maintains fiscal discipline and risk reduction. Parliament requires that Finland does not commit itself to measures that will shape the European Union in the direction of an asymmetric transfer union. Finland requires arrangements in which the responsibility and power for taking and managing debt are in the same hands and are not separated causing moral hazard and increasing the risk of over-indebtedness. Finland does not accept arrangements that weaken Member States' incentives to rehabilitate their public finances and increase risks to financial and macroeconomic stability in Europe. Parliament requires that when considering the Member States' national recovery plans, Finland adhere to conditionality and fiscal consolidation for all Member States, does not approve the allocation of funds without credible structural reforms to rehabilitate public finances, and requires that the payment of funds be conditional on the rule of law. Parliament requires that the funds received in accordance with Sustainable Growth Programme for Finland be concentrated effectively for purposes that support both recovery and long-term growth, especially in research and development and raising the level of expertise. Parliament requires that Finland adhere to its established tax policy positions and does not accept supranational taxes that are harmful to Finland. Parliament requires that the development of the EU's own resources system does not lead to an increase in Finland's overall tax rate. Parliament requires that Finland influence the direction of EU economic policy by building effective co-operation with those Member States that share the goals set by Parliament for EU economic policy. After the first vote, on approval of the own resources decision, Parliament also voted on eight draft resolutions which were proposed in the Finns Party's dissension to the Finance Committee report. These votes were between the Finance Committee report and the Finns Party's draft resolutions and decided by a simple majority. Parliament rejected the Finns Party's proposals. Parliament has finished its handling of the matter. Source: Parliament of Finland  

Parliament of Finland will debate EU’s multiannual financial framework and recovery instrument in plenary sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday

07/05/2021
Parliament will debate the own resources decision in its plenary session on Tuesday and vote on Wednesday. The matter will pass a single reading on the basis of the Finance Committee's report.

The Finance Committee proposes that Parliament approves the Council decision of 2020 on the European Union's own resources system. To be adopted, the decision must be ratified by all Member States. In Finland, the decision will be made in a plenary session of Parliament.

The Finance Committee supports the decision on the own resources package, which authorizes the European Commission to borrow EUR 750 billion to finance the recovery instrument. According to the Committee's assessment, it is not in Finland's interest to opt out of the recovery package, as the absence of any country could lead to the project failing.

Press release 5 May 2021: Finance Committee: Joining the EU recovery package is in Finland's interest

The debate will take place in plenary on Tuesday, 11 May starting at 2 pm. Any votes will be held on Wednesday, 12 May starting at 2 pm.

The Constitutional Law Committee had previously assessed that this arrangement is effectively equivalent to a significant transfer of competences to the European Union. To be adopted, the proposal must be supported by at least two-thirds of the votes cast in a plenary session. Votes cast do not include blank or rejected votes.

Source: Parliament of Finland

Finance Committee: Joining the EU recovery package is in Finland's interest

05/05/2021
In its report, the Finance Committee proposes that the Finnish Parliament approves the Council decision on the European Union's own resources system made in of 2020. To be adopted, the proposal must be supported by at least two-thirds of the votes cast in a plenary session.

The Committee also proposes that Parliament adopts eight statements. In the first statement, the Committee proposes that Parliament requires the recovery instrument to be considered an exceptional and one-off solution, that the arrangement does not serve as a precedent and that Finland will not accept a repetition of or the arrangement becoming permanent.

Two dissensions were appended to the report.

The own resources decision contains the usual provisions on the criteria for financing the EU budget. In addition, the own resources decision includes provisions for exceptional and temporary additional appropriations to address the consequences of the covid-19 crisis.

Next, the matter will be discussed in a plenary session of Parliament in a so-called single reading.


EU recovery instrument
The Finance Committee supports the decision on the own resources package, which authorizes the European Commission to borrow EUR 750 billion to finance the recovery instrument. According to the Committee's assessment, it is not in Finland's interest to opt out of the recovery package, as the absence of any country could lead to the project failing. In that case, the probability of a deep crisis would be high and the probable economic loss for Finland would be significant. The Committee also draws attention to the fact that other countries that were critical of the Recovery Fund were reluctant to overthrow the solution, even though the financing solution was not optimal.

According to expers heard by the Committee, it was also considered possible that Finland opting out of the recovery fund would not necessarily overthrow the package. In this way, Finland could achieve at least the same or even a better result by national means than with EU funding. However, the committee agrees with the government's assessment and believes that such a solution would significantly deplete our country's political capital. Opting out could become costly in the future if Finland no longer received support for its own positions when deciding on matters where unanimity is not required. Requiring special treatment would also weaken Finland's chances of receiving support if it itself faces major financial or other shocks.

The Committee also points out that the EU is a political community whose internal solidarity affects the EU's credibility in the rest of the world and the financial markets. Despite the shortcomings and problems of the Recovery Fund, Finland also has an economic interest in participating in the proposed arrangement as Finland is an open, export-driven, small economy with close economic ties to the rest of Europe.
The Committee believes that the recovery package will not in itself create a fiscal union, but that, for example, transfers without strict conditionality could reduce incentives for structural reforms. The Committee notes that similar decisions will continue to require unanimity.

The common policy will continue to be decided within the framework of the existing institutions, and in this context no new institutions will be created to implement fiscal policy at EU level. The Committee notes that it is essential for a small Member State such as Finland that these principles be adhered to in future solutions and that the solution does not in any way set a precedent. Finland should also not favour arrangements that have difficult-to-predict features of financial solidarity. The Committee also considers it essential to consistently adhere to the rule of law.


Multiannual financial framework and economic implications for Finland
Finland's share of payments under the financial framework will increase from EUR 16 billion in the previous period to EUR 16.7 billion at 2018 prices. The increase is thus about 700 million euros, or about 4 percent.

The Committee is pleased that the negotiations on membership fees for the new funding period were successful and that Finland's membership fees will increase quite moderately in a situation where the UK's departure from the EU caused significantly higher membership fee increases for most net contributors. Finland's relative net payment position will even decrease slightly, and Finland will maintain its position as one of the smallest net contributors.

However, Finland's contribution will be affected by future changes to the own resources system, and the committee considers it very important that the effects of the changes be carefully examined before they are adopted. It is important that changes to the new own resources system continue to require a unanimous decision by the Council and ratification by the Member States.


Finland's maximum exposure and related risks
The committee is satisfied that the own resources decision has clarified the amount and criteria of Finland’s maximum liability. Possible new own resources may also reduce Finland's national EU contributions. However, in line with the government's proposal, the Committee emphasizes that Finland's potential responsibilities are significant.
It is impossible to predict the limits of Finland's future debt sustainability. However, to assess levels of magnitude, the short term realisation of tens of billions of euros in domestic or European liabilities would be a challenge. The Government estimates the probability of this happening as low, however. When assessing liabilities, they need to be offset by the positive effects of Finland's EU membership.

Source: The Finnish Parliament

The handling of the Council Decision on EU’s own resources continues in the Finnish Parliament

05/05/2021
The handling of the Government's proposal for the adoption of the Council Decision on EU's own resources continues in the Finnish Parliament. The Government proposes that Parliament approves the own resources decision.

The Constitutional Law Committee delivered its statement on the proposal to the Finance Committee on 27 April. The parliamentary plenary session decides on the approval or rejection of the Government's proposal on the basis of the report of the Finance Committee.

To be adopted, the proposal must be supported by at least two-thirds of the votes cast in a plenary session. Votes cast do not include blank or rejected votes.

The timetable for further proceedings is not yet known.

Source: The Finnish Parliament

Exchange of views with Sabine Weyland on EU Trade Policy in the German Bundestag

23/04/2021
On 21 April 2021, the Committee on EU Affairs of the German Bundestag welcomed the Commission´s Director-General for Trade, Sabine Weyland, to discuss issues of the European trade policy. The dialogue centred on the new EU trade strategy, the EU-Mercusor Trade Agreement and the creation of a Multilateral Investment Court.

In the beginning, Weyland reported that the new EU trade strategy (cf. COM(2021)66) that was published by the Commission in February 2021 is based on the three principles of (1) openness, (2) sustainability and (3) enforceability. According to the Commission, six priorities should be pursued by the future EU trade policy: (1) Reform of the WTO, (2) Support the green transition and promote sustainable value chains, (3) Support the digital transition and trade in services, (4) Strengthening the partnerships with neighbouring countries, in particular Africa, (5) Strengthening the EU´s focus on the implementation and enforcement of trade agreements and (6) Strengthening the regulatory influence of the EU on other political topics, e.g. climate change. Director-General Weyland also emphasised that the EU´s trade policy is put to a test by the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in the international environment. Furthermore, opinions on the consequences of free trade within the EU have become more diverse.

With regard to the EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement, Weyland underlined its strategic, economic and political importance. The agreement would be central for improving trade relations with the Mercosur countries; in particular against the background of China´s increased engagement within the region. The EU has already been replaced by China as the main trading partner of the Mercosur countries. Furthermore, the non-ratification of the agreement would severely damage the EU´s credibility. The ratification by the German Bundestag is still pending. Several committee members expressed concerns about the deforestation of the Amazon and the weakening of environmental protection standards. While Sabine Weyland admitted that the Commission shares some of the concerns, the overall benefits of the agreement for the economy and environment would clearly prevail according to her. The question whether sanction mechanisms would be added into the agreement was negated by Weyland. Furthermore, she stressed that a legally binding sustainability chapter through which the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement would be de facto guaranteed already existed in the agreement. In addition, the same outcome would not have been possible if possible sanctions were included in the agreement. Overall, Weyland called for a more differentiated view on the EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement.

On the subject of the creation of a Multilateral Investment Court, the Director-General argued that investment agreements would be better placed to be ruled by a multilateral investment court than by private dispute settlement tribunals. Given the recent progress in the negotiations, a draft statute might be finalised within the next two or three years.

Source: German Bundestag
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