News from Parliaments

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Lithuanian Seimas CEA: the European Commission’s Proposal for a Directive on adequate minimum wages in the European Union complies with the principle of subsidiarity

On 8 January 2021, the Committee on European Affairs reverted to the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on adequate wages in the European Union (hereinafter referred to as the Proposal) submitted by the European Commission on 28 October 2020. The objective of the Proposal is to establish minimum criteria to ensure more effective functioning of national minimum wage frameworks. The proposed Directive creates a framework to improve the adequacy of minimum wages and facilitate access of workers to minimum wage protection in the EU.

During the discussion, representatives of the Ministry of Social Security and Labour presented the updated position of the Republic of Lithuania on the Proposal. Lithuania no longer believes that the Proposal contradicts the principle of subsidiarity. However, Lithuania’s position is to negotiate more favourable conditions for application of the Directive in Lithuania. Representatives of the Lithuanian Trade Union Confederation and the Lithuanian trade union Solidarumas expressed their support for the Proposal, arguing that the control measures, greater involvement of social partners, promotion of social dialogue and collective agreements provided for in the Proposal will help to ensure adequate wages for Lithuanian workers and lead to reduced social exclusion, greater inclusion of unskilled workers into the labour market, lower levels of emigration, decreased share of envelope (cash-in-hand) wages and the associated shadow economy, and to larger revenue of the state, local authorities and honest businesses.

The Proposal was forwarded for consideration to the Seimas Committees on Budget and Finance, on Economics, on Social Affairs and Labour, and the Committee on Human Rights. Having assessed compliance of the Proposal with the principle of subsidiarity and the position of the Republic of Lithuania, the Committees presented their conclusions to the Committee on European Affairs.

The Committee on European Affairs, noting that many workers in the EU are not protected by adequate minimum wages, being aware that the Proposal aims to promote collective bargaining on wage setting in all Member States, as Member States with high collective bargaining coverage tend to display a lower share of low-wage workers, lower wage inequality, and higher minimum wages than Member States with a minimum wage set by legislation; having examined the conclusions of the Legal Department of the Seimas and the Ministry of Justice on the Proposal; having noted the conclusions of the Seimas committees; taking the view that the increase in the minimum wage determined on the basis of the national criteria established under this initiative will improve the balance of public budget (less than 0.1 % of GDP), while the impact on the administrative burden will be limited because the aim is to strengthen the existing institutions and procedures; drawing attention to the fact that poverty and inequality indicators in Lithuania remain among the highest in the EU, while a collective bargaining coverage rate only amounts to about 20 per cent, and the Proposal aims to improve working conditions and reduce in-work poverty by establishing a system of minimum standards; believing that an increase in the minimum wage would result in a reduction of wage inequality, in-work poverty and gender pay gap; having considered that the proposal does not preclude the Member States from ensuring minimum wage protection in the form of a statutory minimum wage or of wages set by collective agreements, has decided that the Proposal complies with the principle of subsidiarity and supports the position of the Republic of Lithuania, opening the way for further negotiations of the Government on the Proposal.

Once adopted, Member States will have two years to transpose the Directive into their national legislation.

In Lithuania, wages are regulated by Article 141 of the Labour Code of the Republic of Lithuania. The minimum hourly pay and the minimum monthly wage are approved by the Government of the Republic of Lithuania upon the recommendation of the Tripartite Council and in view of the country’s economic development indicators and trends. Currently the minimum monthly wage in Lithuania amounts to EUR 642. If the Directive is adopted, the minimum monthly wage in Lithuania will be EUR 738.

Source: Lithuanian Seimas

Belgian Federal Parliament: Exchange of views on the trade and cooperation agreement between the EU and the UK

On January 6, 2021, the Federal Advisory Committee on European Affairs had an exchange of views with the Prime Minister, Mr Alexander De Croo, on the trade and cooperation agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
During the exchange of views, the senators and members of the House discussed the following points:
-    The importance of the Fisheries Agreement, which allows European fishermen to fish in UK waters for a further five years;
-    The Brexit Adjustment Reserve of the EU and the way in which the financial resources will be distributed among the European member states and in Belgium;
-    The unfortunate decision of the United Kingdom to withdraw from the Erasmus program;
-    The future bilateral relations between Belgium and the United Kingdom.
The Federal Advisory Committee on European Affairs has decided to closely monitor the consequences of Brexit by holding regular meetings on this topic.

Source : The Belgian Federal Parliament

Croatian Parliament ratifies Council Decision on the system of Own Resources of the European Union

Zagreb, 18 December 2020 – The Croatian Parliament unanimously ratified the Council Decision on the system of Own Resources of the European Union on Friday, 18 December 2020. Even though, in terms of Article 311 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, Croatian constitutional system does not require for this Decision to be confirmed by the Croatian Parliament, MPs welcomed the debate on this topic and the practice to keep the Parliament more involved in the process of adoption of the EU budget and the new Multiannual Financial Framework.
Prior to the plenary debate, held on 16 December, the Finance and Central Budget Committee and the European Affairs Committee both supported the decision to ratify the Council Decision on the system of Own Resources of the European Union in separate committee meetings, held the day before, on 15 December. European Affairs Committee pursued the issue of ratification of the Decision in the Croatian Parliament already at its first session of the 10th parliamentary term, held on 28 July 2020, when the Vice-President of the Government and Minister of Finance reported to the Committee on the crucial meeting of the European Council, where the new MFF was agreed on.

With the ratification in the Croatian Parliament, Croatia has ensured the timely adoption of the Decision on Own Resources on its side. Following parliamentary ratification, Croatian Government will inform the Secretary General of the Council that the Decision on the system of Own Resources has been approved by Croatia.

Source: Croatian Parliament

Belgian Federal Parliament: Exchange of views with European Commissioner Reynders

On December 16, 2020, the Federal Advisory Committee on European Affairs had an extensive exchange of views with Mr Didier Reynders, European Commissioner responsible for Justice, on the situation of the rule of law in Belgium and the European Union in 2020.

During the exchange, senators and members of the House of representatives discussed, among other things, the scope of the report, including the definition of the rule of law, the digitization of the judiciary, the fundamental values, the inclusion of groups such as LGBTQIA+ and the protection of women and children. The recently approved mechanism whereby the acquisition of EU funds by a European member state is linked to the respect of the rule of law in that member state was also extensively discussed.

Source: The Belgian Senate

Finnish Parliament: Grand Committee gave its statement on EU’s migration and asylum policy

On 4 December, the Grand Committee gave its statement on Commission’s proposal for development of EU’s migration and asylum policy (new Pact on Migration and Asylum). The Committee handled the issue based on a government report (E 125/2020 vp) and committee statements from the Foreign Affairs Committee (UaVL 8/2020) and the Administration Committee (HaVL 25/2020). The Parliament will decide on Commission’s legislative proposals separately at a later stage.

The Grand Committee agrees with the Finnish Government position while emphasising some viewpoints in its statement. The Committee adopted the statement after voting. Two dissensions are appended to the committee statement.

The Grand Committee supports the Commission’s comprehensive approach to European migration and considers it important that migration and asylum policies are developed at EU level. The Committee expects Finland to be active in the negotiations and seek solutions for a resilient and balanced common system.

The Grand Committee supports Commission’s goal of putting in place a framework for management of migration in a humane way that is consistent with European values. The Committee emphasises that the requirements of international law and human rights must be respected and upheld in all activities. Together with the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Grand Committee agrees with the goal of ensuring that humanitarian actors can operate in land and sea and preventing the criminalisation of humanitarian activities.

In the Commission’s proposal, the Member States will be bound to act responsibly and in solidarity with one another. Each Member State must contribute in solidarity in times of stress, help to stabilise the overall system, support Member States under pressure and ensure that EU fulfils its humanitarian obligations. The Commission proposes a system of flexible contributions from the Member States which could, for instance, relocate asylum seekers from the country of first entry or take over responsibility for returning individuals with no right to stay.

The Grand Committee sees that the asylum system and division of responsibilities in the EU area must be just, resilient and effective in a way that all Member States can carry out their duties in a normal circumstance. Moreover, the Grand Committee together with the Administration Committee considers it important for Finland, located at EU’s outer border, to have a common mechanism for solidarity if a Member State comes under pressure. According to the Grand Committee, the proposal requires further clarification on solidarity to determine the efficacy of the mechanism as well as its implications for Finland.

The Grand Committee agrees with the Finnish Government that it is important for Member States to build equal and resilient partnerships with third countries. These partnerships would help address shared challenges such as migrant smuggling, will help develop legal pathways and effective implementation of readmission agreements.

Source: The Finnish Parliament

Commissioner Várhelyi had exchange of views with the Hungarian National Assembly

The Committee on European Affairs of the Hungarian National Assembly held an exchange of views via videoconference with Mr Olivér Várhelyi, Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement on 30 November 2020. In his introductory address, Olivér Várhelyi paid particular attention to the 2020 Communication on EU enlargement policy of the European Commission. With regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, he underlined that he is also responsible for crisis management with regard to the regions concerned by his portfolio. In the framework of several emergency assistance measures, the EU managed to mobilise a package over EUR 3,3 billion for the benefit of Western Balkans citizens and businesses and additionally EUR 1 billion  in favour of the Eastern Partnership countries. The   assistance is designed to help these nations easing the repercussions of the crisis as well as to diminish the negative impact of the pandemic on the healthcare systems. Regarding the accession process, he pointed out that the EU is more than ever committed to engage serious conversations with the Western-Balkan region with the objective of increasing cooperation and strengthening economic ties. The Commissioner has also said that the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans EUR 9 billion for economic convergence and the EUR 20 billion Western Balkans Guarantee facility is equivalent to the one-third of the whole regions’ GDP. As for the Southern Partnership, the Commissioner informed about a EUR 2,3 billion financial assistance and urged the renewal of the Barcelona Process. The members of the Committee on European Affairs had questions about EU-Turkey relations, minority rights in the concerned nations, current state of play of the accession negotiations with Serbia as well as the Armenian-Azeri conflict.
Finally, Mr. Várhelyi expressed his intention to maintain a continuous dialogue with the Hungarian National Assembly.

Source: The Hungarian National Assembly

Finland: Grand Committee approves the agreement on the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework

The Grand Committee adopted the Finnish Parliament’s position on the agreement between the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament on the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 (MFF) reached on 10 November. In the MFF negotiations, Finland has emphasised the conclusions of the European Council meeting in July. Moreover, Finland sees that the most essential questions regarding the MFF should be treated as a package.
The Parliament does not have remarks on the Finnish Government position. The Grand Committee decided on the issue after voting.

The Parliamentary procedure was based on Government communication (UJ 44/2020 & U 45/2018). The Finance Committee provided a statement to the Grand Committee before the latter adopted the Finnish Parliament position.
Decisions regarding the Multiannual Financial Framework are part of a package EU leaders agreed on at the European Council meeting in July. During this autumn, the Grand Committee has discussed, e.g., the EU recovery instrument, the Rule of Law Mechanism and the EU’s own resources. Ultimately, the decision on own resources will need to be ratified in a plenary session of the Finnish Parliament.

For further information on the handling of the Multiannual Financial Framework and EU recovery instrument in the Finnish Parliament.

The Grand Committee discussed the Single Resolution Fund
Minister of Finance Matti Vanhanen (Centre Party) briefed the Grand Committee on the meeting of the Eurogroup on 30 November. The current proposal would advance the introduction of a common backstop for the Single Resolution Fund (SRF) by two years to the beginning of 2022. Minister of Finance Vanhanen stated that Finland’s long-term goal has been to break the link between the banking sector and taxpayers. The common backstop to the SRF will facilitate borrowing by the Single Resolution Fund and will ultimately be covered by contributions from the banking sector.
The Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM) is a key element of Europe’s banking union. SRM consists of an EU-level resolution authority, the Single Resolution Board, and Single Resolution Fund financed by the banking sector. Its purpose is to ensure an orderly resolution of failing banks with minimal cost to taxpayers and to the real economy.

After voting, the Grand Committee decided to agree with the Government position to support the advancement of the timetable regarding the common backstop to the SRF given that Finland’s conditions are met.

Source: The Finnish Parliament

Finland: The Grand Committee adopted Parliament’s position on the European Rule of Law Mechanism

On 20 November, the Grand Committee discussed the European Rule of Law Mechanism which aims to protect EU budget and values. The Committee decided to adopt the Government position which supports the agreement on the mechanism reached between the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament. The mechanism would allow the suspension of budget payments to a member state violating the rule of law.

Source: Finnish Parliament

German Bundestag Adopts Opinion on Animal Welfare

On 19 October 2020, the Agriculture and Fisheries Council adopted conclusions on the Commission´s “Farm to Fork“ strategy that was published in May 2020. The Farm to Fork strategy aims at making food systems fair, healthy, and environmentally-friendly and is one key element of the European Green Deal. One objective of the strategy is the improvement of animal welfare. To contribute to that goal the European Commission announced that it “will consider options for animal welfare labelling“ (COM/2020/0381). In its Conclusions, the Council invited the Commission to assess the impact of an EU regulatory framework for animal welfare labelling taking the national experiences of the Member States and the administrative costs into account (Council of the EU 12099/20).

On 03 July 2020, the German Bundestag, at the request of the CDU/CSU and SPD parliamentary groups, adopted an opinion on animal welfare. The Bundestag called upon the Federal Government to work towards the introduction of EU-wide binding labels on animal husbandry and origin during the German Council Presidency.

Source: German Bundestag

Mr. Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-president of the European Commission, debates with members of Belgian parliamentary assemblies

On October 12th 2020, the Belgian House of Representatives hosted an Interparliamentary Climate Dialogue. Representatives of the committees responsible for climate-related topics of the House of Representatives, the Flemish Parliament, the Walloon Parliament, the Parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region and the Parliament of the German-speaking Community heard Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans on the European Commission’s Green Deal.

The Executive Vice-President gave a presentation and replied to questions.

For more information: please see (Dutch, French, German) (prov.)

Source: The Belgian House of Representatives
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