News from Parliaments

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Commissioner-designate Várhelyi visits the Hungarian National Assembly

10/12/2019
Mr Oliver Várhelyi, Commissioner-designate for Neighbourhood and Enlargement held exchange of views with the members of the Committee on European Affairs of the Hungarian National Assembly on 22 November 2019. After his introductory address to the Committee, Commissioner-designate Várhelyi assessed the current state of play concerning the EU’s enlargement and neighbourhood policy and shared his ambitious plans. Regarding his portfolio, Mr. Várhelyi stated that it had both challenging and promising aspects as it was directly linked with the priorities on geopolitical Commission. The Commissioner-designate pointed out that he considered one of his main tasks to bring a new impetus in the EU enlargement policy. He underlined that even though there were two countries – North-Macedonia and Albania respectively – that would have been granted a green light to open the accession negotiations, there should be a unanimous consensus amongst EU member states to make that happen. He stressed that there would be much to expect from the next Western-Balkan summit to be held on 7 May 2020 in Zagreb, where in all probability further progress could be achieved. About the Western-Balkan region, he accentuated that it was in the common interest of both parts to avoid the destabilisation of the region undermining credibility and investments as well. In terms of conditions, he recalled that candidates should fulfil obligations and therefore were bound to implement necessary reforms. In case of the neighbourhood policy, Mr. Várhelyi mentioned a new approach to put into practice in accordance with the local ambitions and circumstances stressing the role and opportunities of the deep and comprehensive free trade agreements (DCFTAs) concluded with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Finally, Mr. Várhelyi expressed his intention to maintain a continuous dialogue with the Hungarian National Assembly with the aim of informing the members of the Committee on European affairs, in particular, about the activities and results of his portfolio on a yearly basis.

Source: The Hungarian National Assembly

Lithuanian Committee on European Affairs: there is a need to agree on the concept of Lithuania’s economy of well-being

28/11/2019
In the course of Lithuanian and European discussions on the principles and measures of the welfare state, the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), for the first time ever, invited ministers of EU Member States to address the topic of the economy of well-being at the meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council on 5 July 2019.

The concept of the economy of well-being is a priority for the Finnish Presidency. Its core claim is that while people’s well-being is a value in itself, it is also vitally important for the Union’s economic growth, productivity, long-term fiscal sustainability and societal stability.

On 24 October 2019, the EPSCO Council adopted Conclusions on the Economy of Well-being thereby inviting Member States and the European Commission to include the aspect of the economy of well-being into national and Union policies and put people and their well-being at the centre of policy design.

Taking into account the Conclusions adopted by the Council of the EU, the Seimas Committee on European Affairs adopted a Decision on the Economy of Well-being thereby calling on the Government to participate actively in further deliberations concerning the economy of well-being and to cooperate closely on developing a reasoned and coherent cross-sectoral perspective of Lithuania.

The Government is also invited to consider developing a common method for measuring the various aspects of the economy of well-being by using well-being indicators for the monitoring of national and municipal budget processes and for knowledge-based decision-making.

The Decision of the Committee invites the top Lithuanian authorities to jointly initiate a broad and reasoned discussion to define the contour of Lithuania’s economy of well-being and, on that basis, agree on the concept of Lithuania’s economy of well-being and jointly develop success indicators to be achieved as a national objective by all political forces.

The Committee on European Affairs exercises consistent parliamentary scrutiny and, in line with the European Semester documents, has repeatedly adopted decisions related to the reduction of social exclusion, poverty and inequality. In the light of the recommendations of the European Commission to reduce social inequality and poverty indicators, which, according to the European Commission, are in a critical state, the Committee takes regular note of the implementation status of the European Pillar of Social Rights and consistently seeks close and effective cooperation between the Seimas and the Government in implementing the recommendations of the Council of the European Union for Lithuania.

Source: The Lithuanian Seimas

Annual IPEX National Correspondents Meeting in Vienna

22/11/2019
On November 14-15 the Austrian Parliament hosted the annual IPEX National Correspondents Meeting in Vienna. Around 50 participants attended the meeting. In response to a request made by the Correspondents at their last meeting in Tallinn, the meeting was opened with a team building exercise. This new format allowed the Correspondents to get to know each other better and to reflect on their relation to IPEX as well as the improvements, remarks and accomplishments made so far. Subsequently, two separate training sessions were held, one for newcomers and one for experienced Correspondents , both focussing on improving and solidifying the skills required in the daily work of an national Correspondent.

After a welcome address by the Secretary General of the Austrian Parliament, Mr Harald Dossi, the second day started with the plenary meeting where various topics were presented and discussed, such as the Privacy Statement on IPEX, the new website of IPEX, the new categories of documents and the follow up of the Working Group on Promotion of IPEX. Afterwards a panel discussion between two correspondents sharing their experiences took place. Finally, the plenary meeting ended with two best practices, one concerning ECPRD and the other regarding social media activities in parliaments, which were followed by a debate. At this occasion the social media activity of IPEX was launched in view to increase its presence at this level and to provide information on the activities of parliaments in EU matters.

The future website will also facilitate and offer new elements to promote IPEX and to reach out to the whole audience of IPEX users. This is a decisive step for IPEX made possible by the European parliament as thanks to the efforts of the European Parliament the new website and new functions of the database will be fully covered by the EP’s budget.

Ensuing, the meeting continued in the afternoon with two workshops on ‘new categories of information on IPEX & newsletter pilot project’ as well as the current state of play of the activities in support of the national Correspondents and their tasks. Overall, the new format of the meeting was largely welcomed by the participants and it allowed for fruitful discussions within the workshops and the debate.

More information and the meeting materials can be found here. The photos taken during the meeting can be found under the following here: 14 November and 15 November 2019.

Source: The Austrian Parliament

A strategic debate on EU affairs in the Swedish Parliament

15/11/2019
The Swedish Prime Minister’s statement of Government EU Policy was followed by a debate with party leaders.

On Wednesday 13 November a debate between party leaders on EU policy took place in the Chamber of the Riksdag. This was the first time that such a debate was be held. “I look forward to the Riksdag now holding a general and strategic debate on EU affairs at party leader level. I see this as a way for the Riksdag to contribute to greater openness and interest in the EU dimension in Swedish politics,” Speaker Andreas Norlén said before the debate took place. The Prime Minister opened the debate with a presentation of the Government's priorities in its work with EU affairs.

The debate is available via the Riksdag webcast service interpreted into English

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s speech

25 years since the EU referendum

On the day that the EU policy debate took place, it was exactly 25 years since the Swedish people voted in favour of EU membership in a consultative referendum. 52.3 per cent of the Swedish people said yes to membership, while 46.8 voted no. The following year, in 1995, Sweden became a member of the EU.

The Riksdag as a forum for debate on EU affairs will be strengthened

The debate between party leaders on EU policy will be held following a decision by the Speaker after consultation with the party group leaders in the Riksdag. The decision follows the report of the All-party EU Committee from 2018, in which several ideas to strengthen the Chamber of the Riksdag as a forum for debate on EU affairs were presented. For example, the All-party EU Committee considered that a recurring debate on EU affairs, preferably at party leader level, would be valuable. Each parliamentary year, there have traditionally been three debates between party leaders in the Chamber. A special debate between party leaders has also been held ahead of elections to the European Parliament.

Source: The Swedish Riksdag

Speaker of the Assembleia da República received Chief Negotiator of the European Union for Brexit

12/11/2019
The Speaker of the Portuguese Parliament, Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues, received the Chief Negotiator of the Task Force for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom under Article 50 TEU, Michel Barnier, in the context of his visit to Lisbon.

During the meeting, Michel Barnier informed the Speaker Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues of the latest developments regarding Brexit, as well as of the consequences the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union will have for the European project. Michel Barnier also expressed his deep commitment to maintaining a close relationship with national Parliaments, in particular with the Assembleia da República, considering that the national Parliaments of the different Member States are key players in the whole process.

In addition to an exchange of views on the Portuguese political situation, in particular on the results of the Legislative Elections of 6th October and the new composition of the Portuguese Parliament, the Speaker of the Portuguese Parliament and the Chief Negotiator addressed some of the major challenges the European Union with 27 Member States will face.


Source: Portuguese Assembleia da República

Finnish Grand Committee issued a statement on strengthening the rule of law principle in the European Union and questions related to the rule of law during Finland’s EU presidency

12/11/2019
On 6 November, the Grand Committee of the Finnish Parliament issued a statement (SuVL 2/2019, in Finnish) on the Government’s reports concerning the European Commission’s communications to strengthen the EU’s capacity to promote and uphold the rule of law and issues related to the rule of law during Finland’s EU presidency.

The Grand Committee decided to support the Government’s stance, emphasising certain viewpoints of the significance and strengthening the principle of the rule of law. One dissenting opinion was appended to the statement.

The Grand Committee’s statement, the dissenting opinion and the Government reports (E 16/2019, E 17/2019) are available in the Parliament’s online service.

The rule of law principle is a shared key value of the EU

The Grand Committee states that all activities in the EU are based on treaties approved voluntarily and democratically by each member state. The Grand Committee emphasises that the rule of law principle is a central part of the shared values that all member states have committed to respecting, upholding and promoting.

The Grand Committee agrees with the stance of the EU’s new strategic programme, namely, that the shared values that form the basis of our democracy and society also form the basis of freedom, safety and wellbeing in Europe. Furthermore, the rule of law principle guarantees that these values are properly protected.

The rule of law principle is also an integral part of democracy and fundamental rights. The Grand Committee states that no well-functioning democratic constitutional state can exist without fundamental and human rights, and that securing fundamental and human rights calls for democracy and the rule of law, also referring to key principles of Finland’s Constitution.

According to the Grand Committee, the rule of law principle also strengthens the trust of people towards the EU, cooperation between member states, economic growth, trade and investments.

EU activities need to be coordinated to strengthen the rule of law principle

The primary goal of the actions proposed by the European Commission is to find a solution that protects the rule of law principle by means of cooperation and mutual support. Its proposals call for more knowledge, the establishment of a shared rule of law culture, proactivity and reactions at the EU level if national mechanisms fail. Strengthening the rule of law principle is also one of the key themes during Finland’s presidency of the EU.

The Grand Committee states that member states have the primary responsibility for ensuring that the rule of law principle is respected.

When actions are taken at the EU level, the focus should mainly be on the prevention of problems and on the establishment of dialogue and mutual understanding.

The Grand Committee supports the Government’s stance that reactions, activities and the readiness to set up effective, proportional and cautionary consequences in situations where national mechanisms fail and threats directed at constitutional states become relevant need to be strengthened.

Furthermore, the Grand Committee holds that the European Commission’s proposals for Rule of Law Review Cycle and Rule of Law Report regarding the rule of law principle are positive steps in the right direction. The Grand Committee also supports the Government’s aim to renew dialogue concerning the rule of law principle during Finland’s EU presidency in a way that makes this dialogue a general annual practice concerning the condition of the rule of law in the EU.

In addition, the Grand Committee states that it is vital that the EU’s tools and actions aimed to strengthen the rule of law principle in different forums and political sectors support one another and form a coherent whole.

According to the Grand Committee, it is important that all member states be treated in an even-handed and consistent way. The Grand Committee states that mechanisms must continue to be based on an impartial approach founded on evidence.

Finally, the Grand Committee also renews its stance that legal proposals related to the EU funding framework for protecting the budget in situations where there are general shortcomings in compliance with the rule of law principle in member states are important in principle and support the rule of law mechanisms available in the EU (see SuVL 12/2018).

Source: The Finnish Parliament

The French Senate Monitoring Group on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom and the Rebuilding of the European Union has published a new document

30/10/2019
The French Senate Monitoring Group on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom and the Rebuilding of the European Union has published a new document on 15 October.

Source: French Senate

Belgian Federal Parliament : exchange of views with Prime Minister Charles Michel on the results of the European Council of 17 - 18 October 2019

24/10/2019
On Wednesday 23 October 2019, the Federal Advisory Committee on European Affairs has met with Prime Minister Charles Michel to discuss the results of the European Council of 17 - 18 October 2019. 
During the debate, the members of the Advisory Committee, composed of members of the House, senators and Belgian members of the European Parliament, have discussed Brexit, the situation in Syria, the negotiations on the multiannual financial framework and the possible accession to the EU of North Macedonia and Albania.

Source: Belgian Federal Parliament

The Standing Committee on Foreign and European Affairs of the House of Representatives of Cyprus examined the EU Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027

24/10/2019
At its meeting on the 22nd October 2019, the Standing Committee on Foreign and European Affairs of the House of Representatives of Cyprus examined the latest developments with regard to the EU Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027, in the presence of the Minister of Finance of Cyprus.

Source: House of Representatives of Cyprus

The Standing Committee on Foreign and European Affairs of the House of Representatives of Cyprus examined the 15th Report on the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No. 866/2004 of 29 April 2004

24/10/2019
At its meeting on the 22nd October 2019, the Standing Committee on Foreign and European Affairs of the House of Representatives of Cyprus examined the Fifteenth Report on the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No. 866/2004 of 29 April 2004 (the “Green Line” Regulation) and the situation resulting from its application covering the period 1st January – 31st December 2018, in the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the competent authorities of the Republic of Cyprus.

Source: House of Representatives of Cyprus
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