News from Parliaments

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First annual Rule of Law situation in the EU report on agenda of joint meeting of Committees of the Hellenic Parliament with the participation of Commissioner Reynders

The conclusions of the European Commission report on the Rule of Law situation in our country were discussed in the joint meeting of the Special Permanent European Affairs Committee and the Permanent Committee on Public Administration, Public Order and Justice of the Hellenic Parliament. The members of the two competent committees were briefed by EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders and the Justice Minister Kostas Tsiaras.

The 1st Vice-President of the Parliament and Chairman of the European Affairs Committee Nikitas Kaklamanis stressed that the Rule of Law is the value system that shores up European unification and is intertwined with our democratic regimes and the European way of life. He emphasised that national parliaments are the natural recipients of the European Commission's Report on the Rule of Law situation and should act as a lever for promoting the necessary reforms, through parliamentary scrutiny.

In his speech, the Commissioner referred to the important reforms that Greece has made in the last decade in the field of justice and to the effort to expand and upgrade the digitalisation of its services, making good use of the Recovery Fund, and estimating that they will improve the quality and rate of administration of justice. He characterized as equally important the reforms to fight corruption, pointing out shortcomings in the regulatory framework on lobbying and whistle-blower protection. Regarding media pluralism, the Commissioner pointed out the gaps in transparency in media ownership. Summing up, Mr. Reynders called on MPs to give further impetus to the reforms, in order to further improve respect for the Rule of Law in Greece and in the EU overall.

Justice Minister Tsiaras described the discussion on the situation of the Rule of law as timely, considering that during the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic the fundamental rights of citizens around the world need to be safeguarded. Commenting on the report's conclusions, he referred to an array of ongoing reforms and assured that speeding up the digitalisation of courts is a priority for the Ministry, a fact that is reflected in the study on the improvement and efficiency of the judicial system that has been incorporated into the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

Source: The Hellenic Parliament

Finnish Parliament: Plenary debate on the decision on EU's own resources began

Parliament began consideration of the Government's proposal to approve the decision on EU's own resources in plenary on 10 February. The Government proposes that Parliament would approve the decision.
The decision taken by the EU Council must be approved separately in all member states. In Finland, the decision to approve is made by Parliament in plenary.
The debate in the plenary session focused on the financing of the EU recovery instrument, Next Generation EU, included in the decision on own resources and the impact of the solution on Finland. There was also a discussion on the EU's new own resources, the impact of Brexit in the financial framework and the general direction of EU development.
The Government's position was presented to the Parliament by Minister of Finance Matti Vanhanen, who justified Finland's participation in the joint recovery instrument of the EU with the general benefits of Finland's EU membership and the benefits of coordinated economic stimulus.
The economic impact on Finland will be stronger the faster and better Europe, the main market for our exports, recovers, Vanhanen said.
MPs of opposition groups criticised the government's actions in the negotiations and the outcome of the negotiations. The criticism focused, for example, on the size of Finland's contribution, the share of financing Finland is expected to receive as well as the terms of financing. There was also disagreement between the government and opposition groups over the one-off nature and precise boundaries of the stimulus package. In addition, there was a debate on the future direction of the EU: several comments by opposition representatives assessed that the EU was evolving towards a federal debt union, which also has the right to tax.

Parliament has regularly discussed the EU's financial framework and recovery instrument
Parliamentary committees have been discussing the EU financial framework for 2021–27 regularly since 2018. Discussions on the EU's recovery instrument began in Parliament in June 2020. Parliament's position on the negotiations in the EU has been decided by the Grand Committee.
The approval of the decision on EU’s own resources is now continuing in the parliamentary committees. The Finance Committee will prepare a report on the matter after receiving statements from the Commerce Committee and the Constitutional Law Committee.
The Constitutional Law Committee assesses whether a decision is taken in plenary by a majority of votes or whether a 2/3 majority of the votes cast is required for a decision.

Source: The Finnish Parliament

Belgian Parliament: Exchange of views with European Court of auditors member Ms Annemie Turtelboom

On February 1st, 2021, the Federal Advisory Committee on European Affairs had an exchange of views with Ms Annemie Turtelboom, Belgian member of the European Court of auditors (ECA), on the annual report 2019 on the performance of the EU budget.

Ms Turtelboom also presented some opinions of the ECA related to COVID-19 issues, the review of the EU’s response to China’s state-driven investment strategy and the audit preview on the implementation of secure 5G networks in the EU.

Source: The Belgian Parliament

Europol: eight meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group

Europol: eight meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group

MEPs and members of EU national parliaments will assess next week Europol’s activities in the framework of the Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group (JPSG).

The meeting will take place on 1-2 February in Lisbon and via remote participation. Europol Executive Director, Ms Catherine De Bolle, will take part in several sessions. Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ms Ylva Johansson, and the Portuguese Minister for Home Affairs, Eduardo Cabrita, will give keynote speeches focused on the revision and strengthening of the mandate of Europol.

The European Data Protection Supervisor, Mr Wojciech Wiewiórowski will also present his views.

The agenda includes thematic debates about the impact of COVID-19 in the EU's internal security, looking into the role of police cooperation, as well as about cybercrime and digital resilience.

You can check the full programme.

When: Monday, 1 February (14.00-18.00), and Tuesday, 2 February (9.30-12.45)

Where: Lisbon (Portugal) and via remote participation.
You can follow the meeting live.

The JPSG is tasked with the scrutiny and oversight on the activities of Europol, including on fundamental rights. Co-Chaired by the European Parliament and the country holding the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union, it meets at least twice a year. The next meeting is tentatively scheduled on 25-26 October 2021.

Further information: Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

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Source: The European Parliament

European Affairs Committee of the Hellenic Parliament briefed on Portuguese Presidency priorities

The priorities of the Portuguese Presidency of the EU Council was the subject on the agenda of today's European Affairs Committee meeting, on the occasion of Portugal assuming the rotating presidency of the EU on 1st January 2021 – for the fourth time in its history. The members of the Committee were briefed by the Ambassador of Portugal in Greece Mrs. Helena Paiva.

In his introductory remarks, the 1st Vice-chair of the Committee, who chaired the session, Mr. Dimitris Keridis, welcomed the priorities of the Portuguese Presidency, especially the importance attached to the social dimension and the need to support the European social model, after more than ten years of its being eroded, as a result of the financial crisis and the pandemic. He underlined the interest of our country to swiftly and effectively implement the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and the Recovery Fund, on which will depend the growth rate of the European economy, pointing out the necessity to create – for the first time – common European tools, that will complement the national fiscal stabilizers. Finally, Mr. Keridis referred to the significant contribution of Portugal in managing the migration crisis, both by accepting to relocate refugees in its territory and by contributing to the protection of the external borders.

Mrs. Paiva presented the five main priorities of the Portuguese presidency, - resilience of the Union, a social, green, digital and global Europe – noting that they are based on the very principles that prompted Portugal to join the European Community in 1986. She pointed out that with a deal on the MFF and vaccination succesfully proceeding, the EU now has the vision, the programme and the financial tools that allow it to respond to the social dimension of the crisis and to fulfill the Union's strategic goals, which is what the citizens expect after all.

When answering questions by Greek MPs and MEPs, Mrs. Paiva noted that the Portuguese PM supports the proposal of PM Mitsotakis to adopt common rules on a digital certificate, underlining the importance of tourism for the economies of both countries. Regarding the migration issue, Mrs. Paiva – recognizing Greece's contribution as a front line state – stressed that the objective of the Portuguese Presidency is for there to be an agreement, on a single mechanism, which will be resilient and reliable and which will be based on a fair allocation of duties and responsibilities. Lastly, the Portuguese Ambassador underlined her country's opposition to unlawful claims and threats against the sovereign rights of EU member states, pointing out that the Portuguese Presidency will defend the EU's interests, and the interests of its member states, in order to ensure regional stability.

Summing up, she called on Greek MPs to submit their proposals in writing, so that they can be put to good use by the Portuguese presidency.

Source: The Hellenic Parliament

Debate on EU Policy in the Swedish Parliament

On 20 January 2021, the Swedish Riksdag held a debate on EU policy. The Minister for EU Affairs, Hans Dahlgren, opened the debate by presenting the Statement of Government EU Policy 2021. The Minister stated, among other things, that he was convinced that the EU will overcome the Covid-19 crisis and that “Sweden will continue to help building cooperation in the EU”. In following debate, the Members of Parliament raised issues such as vaccination certificates, taxation on an EU level, reaching climate neutrality by 2050, migration and the Commission’s recent proposal on minimum wages in the EU.

The debate can be viewed on-demand with English interpretation via the Riksdag webcast service.
Minister Hans Dahlgren’s speech is available on English on the Government website.

Source: The Swedish Parliament

Lithuanian Seimas has set its priorities under the European Commission Work Programme 2021

On 15 January 2021, the joint meeting of the Committee on European Affairs and Committee on Foreign Affairs approved the priorities of the Seimas under the European Commission Work Programme 2021, a document focused on initiatives to create a fairer, healthier, greener, and more digitalised society. The Seimas priorities, aimed at constructive progress on most pressing matters for Lithuania, will be communicated to the Government and EU institutions.
On 20 November 2020, Virginijus Sinkevičius, member of the European Commission, presented the European Commission Work Programme 2021 at a joint meeting of the Seimas Committee on European Affairs and Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Seimas committees, having subsequently considered the Programme, identified the most important issues based on their remit, thus committing themselves to active participation in the preparation of respective positions of the Republic of Lithuania.
Next, members of the Seimas committees presented the priorities identified based on the remit of the committees as defined in the Statute of the Seimas. In line with the conclusions made by the specialised committees, the Committee on European Affairs and the Committee on Foreign Affairs welcomed the following initiatives:

Priorities of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania under the Commission Work Programme 2021

Serial No
    European Commission Work Programme Initiative No    Title of the proposal or legislative act    Joint conclusion of the Committees on European and Foreign Affairs
1.    1.    Fit for 55 package    Highly relevant
2.    2.    Circular economy package     Highly relevant
3.    3.    Biodiversity and toxic-free environment package     Highly relevant
4.    4.    Sustainable and smart mobility    Relevant
5.    5.     Europe’s digital decade    Highly relevant
6.    6.    Data package    Highly relevant
7.    7.    Digital levy    Highly relevant
8.    9.    Platform workers    Relevant
9.    10.    Industrial strategy for Europe    Highly relevant
10.    11.    Foreign subsidies    Highly relevant
11.    14.    Deepening the Capital Markets Union    Highly relevant
12.    16.    EU green bond standard    Highly relevant
13.    17.    Anti-money laundering package    Highly relevant
14.    18.    Fair economy package    Highly relevant
15.    20.    Deterring and counteracting coercive actions by third countries    Relevant
16.    21.    Performance framework 2021-2027    Relevant
17.    22.    Completing the Banking Union    Highly relevant
18.    23.    Excise duties package    Relevant
19.    24.    Strengthening the EU’s contribution to rules-based multilateralism    Highly relevant
20.    26.    Southern Neighbourhood    Relevant
21.    28.    Research, innovation, education and youth    Highly relevant
22.    31.    European biomedical research and development    Highly relevant
23.    32.    European health data space    Relevant
24.    33.    Follow-up initiatives under the new pact on migration and asylum    Relevant
25.    34.    Schengen package    Highly relevant
26.    35.    Follow-up to the EU security strategy    Relevant
27.    36.    Follow-up to the European Education Area and a updated skills agenda    Highly relevant
28.    37.    EU strategy on combating antisemitism    Relevant
29.    38.    Rights of children    Highly relevant
30.    39.    Preventing and combating specific forms of gender-based violence    Highly relevant
31.    40.    Fighting  hate crime and hate speech    Relevant
32.    42.    Transparency and democracy package    Relevant
33.    43.    Long-term vision for rural areas    Relevant
34.    44.    EU disability strategy    Relevant

Source: Lithuanian Seimas

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
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