News from Parliaments

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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

Hellenic Parliament: Commissioner Avramopoulos and Minister Alternate Koumoutsakos briefed competent Committees of the Hellenic Parliament

17/10/2019
Members of the Hellenic Parliament jointly competent Committees on European Affairs and Public Administration, Public Order and Justice were briefed on migration-refugee issue recent developments by the Greek Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, mr. Dimitrios Avramopoulos and the Minister Alternate of Citizen Protection, responsible for Migration Policy, Mr. George Koumoutsakos.

During the Committees’ joint meeting, the First Vice President of the Hellenic Parliament and Chairman of the Special Standing Committee on European Affairs, Mr Nikitas Kaklamanis, stressed the failure of reaching agreement on a balanced and capable of coping with future challenges reform of the Union’s framework on migration, resulting to EU being led in regression, in fields such as in the operation of the Schengen area. He also referred to Turkey's unlawful and provocative behavior, both managing at will migration flows and invading Syria, with serious impact on wider region stability and civilian security, moreover causing further displacement of populations.

Mr. Avramopoulos, taking stock of his mandate to the European Commission, noted that EU cohesion and unity have been seriously challenged by the refugee-migration crisis, as Europe found itself unprepared, lacking an immigration and security policy , which was formulated within a few months from his appointment. He recalled that Greece received full financial, operational and practical assistance from the EU in shouldering responsibility for managing the Eastern Mediterranean common European borders. However, he attributed problems occurring in the last five years and resulting from the phenomenon’s exacerbation to state mechanism malaise. He also disclosed that, on two occasions, the possible exit of Greece from the Schengen zone was brought to discussion. Closing , he stressed that Greece is certainly under pressure but does not stand alone, reminding that the problem is not Greek, nor Greek-Turkish, but European and global.

Mr Koumoutsakos briefed committee members on the Greece-Cyprus-Bulgaria “Eastern Mediterranean Migration Route Initiative” (EMMI, presented at the recent EU Council of Ministers, as well as on the Greek government's actions towards UNICEF and the UNHCR regarding unaccompanied children. At a country level, the Greek government, in order to respond effectively to the new increase in migratory flows in the Aegean, has convened twice the KYSEA and the Council of Ministers. Mr Koumoutsakos announced that relevant legislative initiatives will be shortly submitted to the Parliament.

Source: Hellenic Parliament

German Bundestag discussed application of the Republic of North Macedonia and of the Republic of Albania for accession to the EU

08/10/2019
At its 115th sitting, held on 26 September 2019, the German Bundestag established agreement with the Federal Government concerning the application of the Republic of North Macedonia and of the Republic of Albania for accession to the EU. The Bundestag called on the Federal Government to make its consent in the European Council on 17 and 18 October 2019 subject to a number of prerequisites. The English version of the decisions can be found here on in the IPEX data base: COM(2019) 260.

https://www.bundestag.de/ipex008
https://www.bundestag.de/ipex007

Source: German Bundestag

Finnish Ambassador to Greece briefs the Parliamentary Committees on European Affairs and National Defense-Foreign Affairs on the priorities of the Finnish Presidency

27/09/2019
The priorities of the Finnish Presidency comprised the agenda of the joint meeting of the Special Standing Committee on European Affairs and the Standing Committee on National Defense and Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Parliament. The MPs and MEPs were briefed by the Ambassador of the Republic of Finland to Greece, Mr Juha Markus PYYKKÖ. In his introductory remarks, mr. Nikitas Kaklamanis, First Vice-President of the Hellenic Parliament and Chairman of the Special Standing Committee on European Affairs, said that this meeting launches a circle of contacts with the diplomatic authorities of the countries holding the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union. He noted that Finland is taking over the Presidency at a delicate moment for the EU, namely the start of the European Parliament’s new Parliamentary term and with significant challenges lying ahead, such as the conclusion of negotiations on the new Multiannual Financial Framework. Ambassador Juha Markus PYYKKÖ, routing from the Finnish Presidency's motto "Sustainable Europe - Sustainable Future", outlined its priorities, summarized in titles as follows: strengthening shared values and the rule of law, policies for a more competitive -yet socially cohesive- Europe, how Europe can become a pioneer in halting climate change, protection and security for European citizens. He made special reference to the comprehensive response to the migration issue and the conclusion of negotiations on the next multiannual financial framework. A lively debate followed, with Greek MPs and MEPs focusing especially to the migration issue and the budget of the European Union. 

​Source: The Hellenic Parliament

Austrian National Council’s EU-subcommittee rejects the Mercosur Free Trade Agreement

20/09/2019
The free trade agreement negotiated by the European Union with the South American Mercosur market was the subject of discussion in the Standing EU subcommittee of the National Council of the Austrian Parliament on 18 September. Based on two documents from the European Commission the discussion concentrated on the text of the draft trade agreement reached last June after almost two decades of negotiations. The Mercosur Agreement covers Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina.

The current Minister of Economy, Ms Elisabeth Udolf-Strobl and the Minister of Sustainability and Tourism, Maria Patek, were invited to the committee to discuss the agreement. Both underlined the strategic importance of a political and economic partnership with this region. According to Ms Udolf-Strobl, the agreement offers opportunities for export-oriented SMEs in Austria, as the majority of customs duties will be on EU exports to the South American region. The products that have been subject to high tariffs so far include automobiles, auto parts, machines, chemicals, and medicines. The Minister of Economy stressed the fact that the agreement must also ensure that environmental protection is guaranteed and that the interests of consumers and sensitive economic sectors in the EU are safeguarded. Furthermore, she recalled that Austria had always advocated a bilateral safeguard mechanism in order to be able to ward off excessive imports, which could endanger its own agricultural production, for example. According to Sustainability Minister Patek, some of the points that still need to be clarified include the question of how the agreement takes into account the interests of agriculture, the precautionary principle and the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement. Hence, both agreed that a final assessment would be possible only once the final text of the agreement had been submitted.

Nevertheless, all five parliamentary groups in the National Council have expressed serious reservations about the Mercosur Agreement, leading to a broad rejection of the agreement by issuing two binding opinions, which means that the Austrian government is obliged to follow the decision of the subcommittee at EU level. All parties, except the NEOS, voted against the conclusion of the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement. The invoked reasons diverged widely.
For most of the EU committee members Mercosur Agreement does not provide sufficient answers to important questions such as environmental and climate protection, social and labour standards or the validity of the precautionary principle. Also, serious concerns were expressed regarding the fires in the Amazon rainforest and the politics of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, as well as maintaining high EU standards in the area of food quality, protection of the environment and animals, protection of child rights, protection of indigenous populations, conservation of forests, respect for workers' rights and the promotion of responsible business practices as well as the consequences for agriculture in Austria.

For further information, see the press release

Source: The Austrian National Council
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