News from Parliaments

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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

Bundestag Approves Ratification of EU`s Own Resources System, but Constitutional Court Stops Ratification Process

14/04/2021
After an intensive discussion the Bundestag approved the German government’s draft law on the Council´s decision on the EU´s own resources system on 25 March 2021. While 478 MPs voted in favour of the decision, 95 MPs voted against it and 72 MPs abstained. The plenary decision was taken on the basis of a recommmendation of the Budget Committee. The full resolution can be found here. Overall, the German Bundestag welcomed the Commission´s proposals to adress the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, e.g. the proposal on the EU´s own resources system.

However, one day after the decision of the Bundestag, the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe ruled in a so-called Hängebeschluss (hanging order) that the ratification law may not be signed by the Head of State until the Federal Constitutional Court has ruled on an emergency petition. The emergency petition and the constitutional complaint linked to it, were filed with the Constitutional Court by the Bündnis Bürgerwille (Alliance „Will of the Citizens“). According to the Alliance, which is supported by 2281 citizens, the EU recovery instrument NextGeneration EU (NGEU) paves the way for a permanent Fiscal Union. Furthermore, the Council decision violates the constitutional right of the Bundestag to decide on the budget by giving the Commission the right to decide which member state needs to repay its debts.

The Bundestag also adopted a decision in which it called for stronger reporting by the Federal Government on the NGEU on 25 March 2021. Besides the usual notification obligations in EU matters, the German federal government should report regularly, promptly and comprehensively on the NGEU to enable the Bundestag to make an informed judgment on the appropiate use of the funds. For example, the German government should provide the Bundestag with an overview of the income and expenditure of the NGEU, supplemented by an evaluation. A more detailed description of the reporting obligations that were demanded by the Bundestag can be found in the decision.

Source: German Bundestag

Finland’s Committee for the Future heard AI probably as the first parliamentary committee in the world

12/04/2021
The Committee for the Future is preparing a statement on EU's strategic foresight. As part of related hearings, the committee was probably the first committee in the world to hear artificial intelligence called GPT-3. For the meeting, committee experts had created two different “personalities" of artificial intelligence, Muskie and Saara.

“I think I am speaking on behalf of the whole committee that this was one of the most interesting meetings ever. Experiments with artificial intelligence will certainly continue", chairman of the committee Joakim Strand said after the meeting.

GTP-3 is artificial intelligence is not a debating system in itself but can produce and continue text seamlessly. GTP-3 applications generate, for example, sales letters, reports, explanations, and lines of dialogue. It is currently the most advanced system capable of human-like dialogue with 170 billion parameters in its neural network.

At the meeting, MPs first asked questions orally and then via chat. Committee experts wrote the questions for the AI on a shared screen. The answers were discussed, and further questions asked. The members of the committee asked the AI questions particularly related to the UN Agenda2030 on which the committee is currently preparing a report. The discussion focused, among other things, on the causes of poverty, unemployment, education, and the role of technology in poverty eradication and sustainable development. GPT-3 also highlighted Finland's opportunities in regional Talent Hubs.

The final discussion analysed the significance of technologies such as artificial intelligence as an opportunity and a threat. The aim has not been to come up with the best possible answers to problems, but to provide as illustrative examples as possible of how artificial intelligence handles problematic issues and how it responds to them.

The Committee for the Future wants to find our whether artificial intelligence could be used to provide views and information or in the creation of arguments and counterarguments in a similar way as human experts. In the near future, the committee plans to commission a report which would be entirely prepared by artificial intelligence. The committee outlined that these experiments must definitely be continued, and the committee will return to the issue already in its next meeting. A report will be prepared on the hearing of the AI and the committee will continue to exploit and test GTP-3 and other AI applications on other issues at a later stage.

Source: Finnish Parliament

French Senat: EAC has adopted a political opinion on online disinformation and attacks on electoral processes

09/04/2021
EAC has adopted a political opinion on online disinformation and attacks on electoral processes, available here (FR)  (EN)

Source: The French Senat

French Senat: EAC has adopted a political opinion on the rule of law in the European Union

09/04/2021
EAC has adopted a political opinion on the rule of law in the European Union, available here (FR) (EN) (DE) (PL)

Source: The French Senat

Belgian House of Representatives presents its European priorities

06/04/2021
The priorities of the Belgian House of Representatives in accordance with the Commission Work Programme 2021 are available. The list can be found here.

Source: The Belgian House of Representatives

Dutch Senate adopts its European priorities

31/03/2021
The European Work Programme 2021 of the Dutch Senate, the list of priorities selected from the Commission Work Programme 2021 (COM(2020)690), is available. The list was approved on 23 March 2021 and can be found here.

Source: The Dutch Senate
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