Priority 5 - Promoting our European Way of Life

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© European Union, 2021

Security Union

Judicial cooperation

Fundamental rights

Consumer Protection

Migration

European Commission Work Programme 2022

Follow-up protecting Health: Fighting the COVID-19-Pandemic

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Proposal: On the 3rd of February 2022 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation amending Regulation (EU) 2021/953 on a framework for the issuance, verification and acceptance of interoperable COVID-19 vaccination, test and recovery certificates (EU Digital COVID Certificate) to facilitate free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic (Press release).

Problem: The infamous COVID-19 pandemic did not only pose a threat to health systems across the European Union, but further lead to public health measures taken by member states seeking to protect individuals’ health as well as the capacity of their healthcare systems. In order to deter the reintroduction of border controls between member states as well as facilitate safe free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU Digital COVID Certificate framework has been established for the issuance, verification and acceptance of interoperable COVID-19 vaccination, test and recovery certificates. In the light of current developments related to new SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, the Commission proposes extending the validity of the EU Digital Covid Certificate by another 12 months, acknowledging that it shall be lifted as soon as the epidemiological situation allows.

Objective: Primarily the proposal aims to adapt to current conditions in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, extending by 12 months the application of Regulation (EU) 2021/953, which lays down a framework for the issuance, verification and acceptance of interoperable COVID-19 vaccination, test and recovery certificates (EU Digital COVID Certificate) for the purpose of facilitating the holders’ exercise of their right to free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic. Continuing the operations and maintenance of the Regulation already adopted by the Council and the European Parliament in June 2021 is to allow member states to waive certain restrictions on free movement for persons in the possession of proof of vaccination, test or recovery.

Subject Matter: The definition of SARS-CoV-2 tests shall be broadened to include antigenic assays performed in a laboratory setting and not only rapid antigen tests that give results in less than 30 minutes. An explicit clarification that vaccination certificates is to contain the number of doses administered to the holder, regardless of the member state in which they have been administered, shall contribute to the accurate reflection of the overall number of doses administered. It will further be ensured that EU Digital COVID Certificates can be issued to persons participating in clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines, and that such certificates may be accepted by other member states in order to waive restrictions to free movement. The Health Security Committee, ECDC or EMA may be asked by the Commission to issue guidance on the acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines undergoing clinical trials.

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Proposal: On the 3rd of February 2022 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation amending Regulation (EU) 2021/954 on a framework for the issuance, verification and acceptance of interoperable COVID-19 vaccination, test and recovery certificates (EU Digital COVID Certificate) regarding third-country nationals legally staying or residing in the territories of Member States during the COVID-19 pandemic amending Regulation (EU) 2021/954 on a framework for the issuance, verification and acceptance of interoperable COVID-19 vaccination, test and recovery certificates (EU Digital COVID Certificate) with regard to third-country nationals legally staying or residing in the territories of Member States during the COVID-19 pandemic (Press release) .

Problem: Third-country nationals legally residing or legally staying in an EU member state may travel freely within the territories of the other member states, provided that they fulfil certain conditions. Some of the restrictions adopted by the member states as a measure to limit the spread of COVID-19 have had an impact on the exercise of that right. In order to facilitate free movement for third country nationals with interoperable and mutually accepted certificates on COVID-19 vaccination, testing and recovery during the pandemic, the EU Digital COVID Certificate framework has been extended to third country who are entitled to travel to other member states in accordance with EU law. Considering the emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, it is necessary to ensure that the EU Digital COVID Certificates are applicable beyond the already defined date of 30 June 2022.

Objective: Offering additional open-source reference solutions that allow for the conversion of third-country certificates into a format that is interoperable with the EU Digital COVID Certificate, as it is also possible to connect third countries the certificates of which are made interoperable by means of conversion shall facilitate free movement for third country nationals during the pandemic. Similar to the Proposal to amend the EU Digital COVID Certificate for EU citizens, the following aims to adapt to current conditions in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, extending the application of Regulation (EU) 2021/953, which lays down a framework for the issuance, verification and acceptance of interoperable COVID-19 vaccination, test and recovery certificates (EU Digital COVID Certificate) for the purpose of facilitating the holders’ exercise of their right to free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic. Continuing the operations and maintenance of the Regulation already adopted by the Council and the European Parliament in June 2021 is to allow member states to waive certain restrictions on free movement for persons in the possession of proof of vaccination, test or recovery.

Subject Matter: The regulations around the recognition of SARS-CoV-2 tests and the validity of COVID digital certificates are equivalent to the subject matter of the proposed regulation on a framework for the issuance, verification and recognition of interoperable certificates attesting to COVID-19 vaccination and testing and recovery from COVID-19 infection.

European Care Strategy

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Non-legislative, Q3 2022.

Advance Passenger Information

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Legislative, incl. impact assessment, Article 114 TFEU, Q3 2022.

Reciprocal Access to Security-Related Information

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Legislative, incl. impact assessment, Q4 2022.

Cancer Screening

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Non-legislative, Q3 2022.

Education Package

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Non-legislative, Q1 2022.

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Non-legislative, Q1 2022.

Follow-up Initiatives under the new Pact on Migration and Asylum in the light of the Ukraine war

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Legislative procedure completed: The European Ministers of the Interior voted on the 3rd of March 2022 in favour of adopting the proposal of the 2nd March, thus deciding in favour of activating the Temporary Protection Directive (press release).

Proposal: On the 2nd of March 2022 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Council Implementing Decision establishing the existence of a mass influx of displaced persons from Ukraine within the meaning of Article 5 of Council Directive 2001/55/EC of 20 July 2001, and having the effect of introducing temporary protection (Press release).

Problem: The unprovoked and unjustified Russian military Invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 in violation of international law and the principles of the UN Charter, has already had and will continue to have an impact on EU’s external borders, increasing migratory pressure resulting from the many thousands of persons seeking protection in EU member states. Depending on how the conflict evolves, the EU is likely to host a significant number of persons, with a possible figure of between 2.5 million and 6.5 million persons. Thus, the Commission seeks to establish the existence of a mass influx of displaced Ukrainians and other third-country nationals and stateless persons legally residing in Ukraine at the time of the conflict.

Objective: This proposal primarily creates a legal basis in order to activate the application of the Temporary Protection Directive outlining the main elements, including a description of the specific groups of persons to whom the temporary protection should apply and the date on which the temporary protection will take effect. Temporary protection within the Union shall quickly allow displaced persons to enjoy harmonised rights that offer an adequate level of protection, including a residence permit, the possibility to engage in employed or self-employed activities, access to suitable accommodation, the necessary social welfare assistance, medical or other assistance, and means of subsistence. It shall further limit the need for these displaced persons to immediately seek international protection and overwhelm the asylum systems of the member states, by reducing formalities to a minimum because of the urgency of the situation. Lastly, member states shall be assisted to manage the influx of displaced persons in a controlled and effective way with full respect for fundamental rights and international obligations.

Subject Matter: Persons with the right to enjoy temporary protection include Ukrainian nationals residing in Ukraine who are displaced as of 24 February 2022 following the military invasion by Russian armed forces on that date, third-country nationals or stateless persons legally residing in Ukraine who are unable to return to their region of origin in safe and durable conditions because of the situation prevailing in that country, as well as family members of the two categories of people. The Commission shall coordinate cooperation and exchange of information among member states in relation to monitoring the reception capacities and identifying any need for additional support. The situation shall be kept under constant monitoring by the Commission, in cooperation with the member states, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), the European Union Asylum Agency and the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol). Finally, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), the European Asylum Agency (EUAA) and Europol shall provide operational support to the member states who requested their assistance to help them cope with the situation, including for the purposes of applying this implementing Decision.

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Non-legislative Act: On the 2nd of March 2022 the European Commission published a Communication providing operational guidelines for external border management to facilitate border crossings at the EU-Ukraine borders (Press release) .

Problem: In the light of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, the European Union is facing a situation characterised by a mass influx of Ukrainians and other third country nationals residing in Ukraine at the time of the conflict. Rising waiting times at EU’s border crossing points as well as constant queues and congestions are calling for optimised contingency measures.

Objective: Operational guidelines are to assist the member states bordering Ukraine in the current situation at the external borders of the EU. Focusing on the measures available to the member states shall ensure the effective and efficient management of the crossing of persons fleeing Ukraine through the borders with Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. The guidelines shall additionally allow member states to avoid congestions at and around their borders, while maintaining a high level of security for the entire Schengen area. In particular, the guidance provides a comprehensive overview of facilitation measures concerning border controls which are available under the Schengen rules, while still ensuring the necessary level of border checks. Member states concerned are recommended to take advantage of support by European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) in all activities carried out by the border guards at the borders. In this respect, Frontex is to give priority treatment to all the requests of the member states concerned to the EUROSUR fusion services, in particular for providing regular monitoring with tailor made imagery services, including satellite imagery, covering the adjacent pre-frontier areas of Ukraine to assess the situation and providing tailored multipurpose aerial surveillance service. The Commission further strongly encourages member states with a common border with Ukraine to request support from Europol.

Subject Matter: Measures include the simplification of border controls for certain categories of persons, including vulnerable persons, such as children, and other categories, such as transport workers that find themselves in Ukraine while carrying out their services. Border controls shall be organised outside of border crossing points while special arrangements for crossing the borders by rescue services, police, fire brigades and border guards, seafarers regardless of their nationality shall be provided. In order to ensure access and return of organisations providing humanitarian aid to people in the Ukrainian territory, the establishment of emergency support lanes is essential. Outside the scope of the Schengen rules, the waiving of customs duties and measures to facilitate the entry of pet animals travelling with their owners from Ukraine are also planned.

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Non-legislative Act: On the 21st of March 2022 the European Commission published a Communication on Operational guidelines for the implementation of Council implementing Decision 2022/382 establishing the existence of a mass influx of displaced persons from Ukraine within the meaning of Article 5 of Directive 2001/55/EC, and having the effect of introducing temporary protection (Press release).

Problem: Following the introduction of the Temporary Protection Directive, several member states expressed their uncertainty concerning its implementation, therefore, identifying a number of issues on which it finds it useful to provide guidance, the Commission has established implementation guidelines concerning the scope (persons covered/not covered by the Council Decision, family members) and the appropriate way to handle children, as well as the persons’ right to move freely between member states, registration and provision of information.

Objective: A Solidarity Platform has been set up by the Commission with a view to harmonise the operational response among member states, helping collect information and examine the needs identified. The mobilisation of relevant EU instruments shall coordinate the matching of offers for solidarity with the needs identified and coordinate the transfer of persons on a general level between member states and, where appropriate, to third countries, in cooperation with EU agencies and other relevant actors. The overall objective of the presented guidelines is to assist EU’s member states in applying the Temporary Protection Directive, notably considering that it provides guidelines for external border management to facilitate border crossings specifically at the EU-Ukraine borders.

Subject Matter: As a living document, the guidelines will have to be updated regularly based on new questions received from member states, to reflect the situation on the ground and take due account of member states’ evolving needs; thus, these guidelines may be followed by more specific recommendations on particular topics. The Commission further intends to update the dedicated webpage regularly on information for people fleeing the war in Ukraine, with any additional guidance that might be required by the member states. Moreover, the Commission has been and will continue working closely with the European External Action Service, relevant EU agencies and member states under the framework of the Migration Preparedness and Crisis Blueprint Network to establish an overview of the level of preparedness for a potential crisis.

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Non-legislative Act: On the 23rd of March 2022 the European Commission published a Communication welcoming those fleeing war in Ukraine: Readying Europe to meet the needs (press release).

Problem: Given that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to an unprecedented scale and speed of arrivals, mainly women and children, the Commission sets out a perspective on actions inside the EU that will support those who are fleeing the country. Establishing the Temporary Protection Directive was the first step towards offering quick and effective assistance and a clear legal status to the arrivals, while the challenge now is to give life to those rights in practice.

Objective: The Communication addresses primarily the experiences children have been exposed to, highlighting the need for particular protection, care and psychological support. Meeting the immediate reception and protection needs of the arrivals as well as helping regain a sense of stability is key for averting the potential risks of abuse and trafficking. As part of the Temporary Protection Directive, the member states shall provide access to the rights that include accommodation, education, healthcare and access to jobs. It is further necessary to offer refugees a safe heaven in Europe, specifically protecting minors and providing them access to education. Healthcare serviced as well as the job market are to be, in addition to housing and accommodation, facilitated for the new arrivals. The Union plans to assist the solidarity among private individuals, public authorities and the civil society by introducing fast and flexible solutions to help mobilise financial support to member states hosting those fleeing war against Ukraine.

Subject Matter: Using resources and expertise across the EU through the Solidarity Platform, the Commission will mobilise key networks to support member states. Moreover, it will help member states use EU funds quickly and flexibly, so that tailor-made funding can flow rapidly to support their efforts, key organisations and civil society to make the rights granted through temporary protection a reality. Lastly, it shall put in place dedicated structures so that member states of both first entry and of destination, and other key service providers, can deploy the best available tools as quickly as possible.

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Proposal: On the 8th of March 2022 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation amending Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 and Regulation (EU) No 223/2014 as regards Cohesion’s Action for Refugees in Europe (CARE) (press release) .

Problem: In response to the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation and the resultant impact on the European Union and several of its eastern regions in particular as well as the extended impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the EU as a whole, the proposal clarifies the range of support that can be provided to member states and regions to enable them to address this extraordinary situation and to prevent their ongoing work to build a resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic being put at risk.

Objective: The Commission primarily aims to provide exceptional and targeted changes to the overall 2014-2020 legal framework established for the European Structural and Investment Funds and for the Fund for the European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD). Specific measures are to be set out for the FEAD, in particular taking into account the urgent need to provide basic material assistance to those persons affected by the military aggression by Russia. In order to appropriately address the migratory challenges, it is necessary to allow for retroactive eligibility to the start date of that aggression for concerned operations. Furthermore, flexibility in the support between ERDF and ESF shall be increased for such operations so that available funding in programmes can be used quickly. Member states shall be allowed to amend certain elements of programmes supported by the FEAD without requiring approval by the Commission. Lastly, support from the Funds is to be mobilised to alleviate the burden on national budgets. Thus, the temporary possibility of 100 per cent co-financing from the EU budget for the implementation of cohesion policy programmes and programmes supported by the FEAD is to be extended to the ongoing accounting year 2021-2022.

Subject Matter: Member states and regions shall continue benefitting from a 100 per cent EU co-financing rate for the accounting year 2021-2022, and this by way of notification to the Commission. Arrangements as well as additional flexibility between ERDF and ESF specifically for operations addressing the migratory challenges as a result of the military aggression by Russia, are to be introduced for the budgetary execution of additional payments resulting from the application of the 100 per cent co-financing rate. Member states shall have the flexibility to amend programmes supported by the FEAD and this by way of notification to the Commission and also with a retroactive start date of eligibility of support set at 24 February 2022.

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Proposal: On the 1st of April 2022 the European Commission adopted a Proposal for a Council Recommendation on the conversion of hryvnia banknotes into the currency of host Member States for the benefit of persons fleeing the war in Ukraine (press release).

Problem: Since the beginning of the unprecedented act of aggression by Russia, around four million people have arrived from Ukraine in the EU, many of them having urgent liquidity needs to cover essential expenses. Due to the suspension of the exchange of hryvnia banknotes into foreign cash, those that have arrived in the Union face difficulties in converting hryvnia banknotes into the currency of their host member state.

Objective: As part of the Union’s response to people fleeing as a result of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine, the Commission aims to facilitate the exchange of hryvnia banknotes into host member state currency in order to support displaced persons from Ukraine in meeting their needs, in particular as they travel across the Union. A coordinated approach among the member states regarding national schemes is to grant the displaced persons from Ukraine the same conditions for converting hryvnia banknotes into local currency independently of the member state that hosts them.

Subject Matter: The Commission recommends member states to establish national schemes to facilitate the conversion of hryvnia banknotes into the national currency. It is mandatory for each displaced person to present evidence of being entitled to temporary protection in order to be able to convert their hryvnias banknotes into the currency of the member state. Maximum limits for the conversion per person, which is to be free of charge, shall be at or below 10 000 hryvnias. During the duration of the scheme that amounts to a minimum of three months, the applicable exchange rate shall be the official exchange rate as published by the National Bank of Ukraine. Additionally, member states shall strive to make the best use of a network of participating credit institutions for the implementation of the scheme, as well as consider to agree with participating credit institutions on how to record and check the identity of each displaced person that utilises the scheme.

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Proposal: On the 23rd of March 2022 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation amending Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 and Regulation (EU) No 223/2014 as regards increased pre-financing from REACT-EU resources (Press release).

Problem: In response to the immediate additional budgetary pressures stemming from the management of massive arrivals of persons fleeing Ukraine that the member states are facing, this proposal provides for exceptional and targeted changes to the 2014-2020 legal framework established for the European Structural and Investment Funds and for the Fund for the European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD).

Objective: The purpose of this Proposal is to mobilise support from the Funds for all member states in order to alleviate the burden on national budgets as a temporary and exceptional measure and without prejudice to the rules that should apply under regular circumstances, to increase the amount of pre-financing that is paid out under REACT-EU. A higher share of these increased pre-financing resources shall be allocated to those member states which are confronted with the largest arrivals of persons fleeing Ukraine, either as transit countries or as countries of final destination.

Subject Matter: As additional unitial pre-financing in 2022, the Commission shall pay 4% of the REACT-EU resources allocated to programmes for the year 2021. For programmes in member states which have had a level of arrivals of persons from Ukraine greater than 1% of their national population between 24 February 2022 and 23 March 2022, that percentage shall be increased to 34%. Member states shall report on the use made of this additional initial pre-financing to address the migratory challenges faced as a result of the military aggression by the Russian Federation and its contribution to the recovery of the economy.

European Commission Work Programme 2021

Follow-up protecting Health: Fighting the COVID-19-Pandemic

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Legislative procedure completed: On the 15th of June 2021 the Regulation on a framework for the issuance, verification and acceptance of interoperable COVID-19 vaccination, test and recovery certificates (EU Digital COVID Certificate) to facilitate free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic entered into force. Previously, on the 21st of May 2021, the Council and the European Parliament had reached a provisional political agreement (Press release).

Problem: In the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the right to free movement within and outside of the member states has been severely restricted over the last two years. The Regulation lays down a framework for the issuance, verification and acceptance of interoperable COVID-19 vaccination, test and recovery certificates (EU Digital COVID Certificate) for the purpose of facilitating the holders’ exercise of their right to free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic. It further facilitates the progressive and coordinated lifting of restrictions imposed in accordance with the Union law by member states in order to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

Objective: The COVID certificate will enable EU citizens to exercise their right to free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a uniform attestation of vaccination, testing and/or the recovery status of the holder, it shall be valid in all of the member states, free of charge and accessible to all EU citizens.

Subject Matter: The vaccination certificate will contain information on the identification of the holder, the administered vaccine and its number of doses. Further metadata such as the certificate issuer and/or a unique certificate identifier will also be added. Similar to the vaccination certificate, the test certificate will hold identification information on the citizen, the test performed as well as metadata as insurance. Information about the holder and the certificate metadata, as well as information about previous SARS-CoV-2 infections following a positive test (also applies to rapid test) will be included in the recovery certificate.
After the official adoption of the proposed Regulation, it is expected to enter into force on 1st of July 2021. The Regulation is to apply for a period of 12 months from the date of entry, while a six-week phase-in period is intended to make it easier for member states to comply with the requirements of the Regulation. Hitherto, it is possible for member states to issue certificates that are not yet in compliance with this Regulation. Four months after the date of application, the Commission has to submit a report to the European Parliament and the Council. No later than three months before the end of the application, a second report on the lessons learned from the application, including its impact on the facilitation of free movement and data protection, taking into account the evolution of the epidemiological situation of the pandemic will be published by the Commission.

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Legislative procedure completed: On the 26th of March 2021, the Regulation establishing a Programme for the Union’s action in the field of health (‘EU4Health Programme’) for the period 2021-2027, and repealing Regulation (EU) No 282/2014 entered into force. It is based upon the European Commission's Regulation Proposal from the 28th of May 2020 (Press release).

Problem: The COVID-19 pandemic, which is one of the biggest challenges the world has been faced with, highlighted EU’s deficiencies in effective decision-making. Particularly due to the member states’ tendencies to act alone, the Commission demands the prioritization and coordination of the health systems within all member states in order to provide a state of the art health care, prepared to deal with unforeseeable health threats in line with the International Health Regulations (IHR).

Objective: The current Programme shall complement actions previously taken by the member states for the improvement of people’s health throughout the Union as well as ensure a high level of human health protection in all Union policies and activities. The promotion of health in the Union is essential for reducing the burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases. Further, reducing health inequalities, promoting healthy lifestyles and enabling access to healthcare are some of the objectives. The Regulation aims to protect Union citizens from serious cross-border threats to health and ensure the responsiveness and coordination of member states' health systems. Additionally, the availability, accessibility and affordability of medicines, medical devices and crisis-related products within the EU should be improved, contributing to the development of better health systems, their resilience and resource efficiency.

Subject Matter: The Commission will strengthen the capability of the Union for prevention, preparedness and response to serious cross-border threats to health, and the management of health crises, including through coordination, provision and deployment of emergency health care capacity, and data gathering and surveillance. Ensuring the availability of reserves of medical, healthcare and support staff in case of a crisis in addition to supporting actions to ensure appropriate availability, accessibility and affordability of crisis relevant products and other necessary health supplies have been planned. By supporting digital transformation, the uptake of digital tools and services, systemic reforms, implementation of new care models and universal health coverage can enhance the effectiveness, accessibility, sustainability and resilience of health systems. Further, the EU aims to foster the prudent and efficient use of medicines, by encouraging a more environmentally friendly production and disposal of medicines and medical devices. The development, implementation and enforcement of Union health legislation as well as the deployment of high-quality, comparable and reliable data in order to underpin policy making and monitoring, and further promote the use of health impact assessments of relevant policies have been highlighted. Member states shall be reinforced to work in coordination with each other, particularly on the basis of their health systems, including in the implementation of high-impact prevention practices, and the scaling up networking through the European Reference Networks and other transnational networks. Lastly, EU will be globally contributing to international and global health initiatives.

European biomedical Research and Development

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Legislative, incl. impact assessment, Q4 2021.

European Health Data Space

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Legislative, incl. impact assessment, Articles 114 and 168 TFEU, Q4 2021.

Follow-up Initiatives under the new Pact on Migration and Asylum

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Non-legislative Act: On the 29th of September 2021, the EU Commission published a Communication about a renewed EU action plan against migrant smuggling (Press release).

Problem: The rise of migrant smuggling, particularly the instrumentalisation of migration for political purposes, demands a new strategy from the EU as well as the member states in order to protect EU’s external borders, reduce human trafficking, and protect the fundamental rights of the people concerned.

Objective: With the 2021-2025 Action Plan, the Commission aims to build on the successes of the first EU Action Plan (2015-2020) in order to obstruct current smuggling strategies. In addition to the transition of smuggling networks from ‘low risk, high return’ into ‘high risk, low return’ that was established by the first action plan, better regulations of migration are required. Several priorities were presented by the Commission for tackling migrant smuggling, these include: reinforced cooperation with partner countries and international organisations, implementing the legal frameworks and sanctioning smugglers active within and outside the EU, preventing exploitation and ensuring the protection of migrants, reinforcing cooperation and supporting the work of law enforcement and the judiciary to respond to new challenges, and improving the knowledge on smugglers’ modi operandi.

Subject Matter: Operational partnerships with third countries along migratory routes and international organisations such as UNODC and Interpol will be shaped through operational, legal, diplomatic and financial tools. This will enable the Commission to better enforce the Anti-trafficking Directive and the Residence Permit Directive. After the report on the implementation of the Facilitators package in 2023, further action will be considered. In the first half of 2022, the Commission plans to propose a complete digitalisation of the visa procedure jointly with finalising the negotiations on the Screening Regulation and adopting the Eurodac Regulation as a matter of priority. Additionally, it calls on Frontex to further reinforce its capacity to monitor designated maritime areas and identify suspicious vessels, and in cooperation with Europol and Eurojust, to further support partner countries to identify digital smuggling. Ultimately, the development of new technologies, including that of artificial intelligence, and regular reports on migrant smuggling by Frontex and Europol, can help deter human trafficking.

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Non-legislative Act: On the 27th of April 2021 the EU Commission published a Communication regarding an EU Strategy on voluntarily return and reintegration (Press release).

Problem: Being part of the European Commission's New Pact on Migration and Asylum, a common EU approach for returns is an essential component of a comprehensive and integrated migration management system. Considering however that only about a third of the people ordered to leave the EU effectively do so, the Commission is committed to implement a new strategy to enforce the return and reintegration of migrants.

Objective: The Communication advocates for the voluntary return of migrants as well as improved and effective reintegration measures in the countries of return. A humane, effective and sustainable return of irregular migrants is key to promoting trust in the system, making it more credible and efficient. Through a common and ambitious reintegration policy, the EU intents to help overcome the socio-economic and psychosocial difficulties migrants face when returning to their community, thus making their return more sustainable. Future prospects for the returnee and their local community will be fostered by reinforcing the cooperation between national and local authorities, host communities and the civil society. Reintegration can in turn lead to new partnerships and promote more comprehensive development strategies in partner countries. The Commission aims to assist the member states to a more consistent and coordinated approach, fully exploiting the potential of voluntary return and reintegration as well as establishing closer links with development initiatives and national strategies in partner countries. Overall, the strategy aspires to increase the effectiveness and sustainability of the common EU return system for the benefit of returnees, the EU and partner countries.

Subject Matter: In order to implement this strategy, the Commission, in cooperation with the Council and the European Parliament, will work on concluding negotiations on the various elements of the new package including but not limited to the Eurodac Regulation. The commission requires Frontex to carry out more return operations and to take over the activities of the European Return and Reintegration Network by mid-2022. It further recommends a cooperation between member states and Frontex in the areas of voluntary return and the first steps towards reintegration. The close partnership between the Commission and the High Representative in the partner countries concerned is intended to ensure coordination between all participants. The Return Coordinator and the High Level Network for Return shall be responsible for ensuring that member states' actions in the field of voluntary return and reintegration are coherent and coordinated. Moreover, with the support of Frontex information tools at EU level, such as the List of Return and Reintegration Assistance Inventory, should be optimized. To foster ownership of reintegration by partner countries, the Commission, together with all stakeholders, will collaborate with authorities and local communities of those countries in planning and implementing reintegration programmes. The Commission will support the strengthening of third countries’ capacity to provide voluntary return and reintegration services. Finally, the Commission will further support research on voluntary return and take into account the objectives of this strategy in member states' multiannual programmes under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.

Schengen Package

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Non-legislative Act: On the 2nd of July 2021 the EU Commission published a Communication regarding a strategy towards a fully functioning and resilient Schengen area (Press Release).

Problem: A series of crises and challenges in the last decade, including the 2015 "refugee crisis" and the persistent terrorist threat on European soil, have led to internal border controls being reintroduced in a number of member states, undermining the core idea of the Schengen area. Furthermore, faced with the Covid pandemic, more member states were prompted to reintroduce internal border controls, jeopardising the proper functioning of the Single Market. Given that the Schengen area is one of the biggest achievements of European integration and has a fundamental role in the European Union’s construction, the Commission developed a strategy optimizing the functioning of the Schengen area.

Objective: The Commission aims to strengthen the three key pillars of the Schengen area, i.e. effective external border management, measures to compensate for the absence of controls at internal borders and robust governance, for new challenges ahead. Accordingly, new measures are needed to protect the integrity of the Schengen area and further improve its functioning. In order to guarantee freedom, security and justice, the EU is required to take effective action particularly in the areas of security, police and judicial cooperation as well as migration. Through the operational cooperation and information exchange between police and judicial authorities in criminal matters as well as measures in the fields of visa and return policy, the effective exercise of the fundamental freedoms within the European Union will be ensured. Additionally, increased political dialogue, better monitoring, enforcement of the Schengen legal framework and a strong governance system equipped to deal with future Schengen-wide challenges, can compensate for the absence of controls at internal borders as well as foster trust between member states.

Subject matter: The Commission will present several proposals for regulations in the areas of border management and visa procedures in the period of 2021 and 2023. A guidance on the systematic checks against relevant databases at entry and exit of the Schengen area, as well as model provisions on the exchange of information on situational awareness to be used in bilateral and multilateral agreements with third countries, will also be provided. Other proposals, such as the legislative proposal for an EU Police Cooperation Code, have also been planned. In the light of global digitalisation, the use of technologies as alternative to border controls is to be examined and the Handbook on the European Arrest Warrant is to be modernised. Moreover, the Commission will present a proposal for a Regulation to revise the Schengen Evaluation and Monitoring Mechanism. Organising Schengen Forums and annual "State of Schengen Reports", the Commission will evaluate previous activities and possibly optimise them with new measures. By presenting a Communication on the lessons learned from the Covid pandemic, the EU will be able to codify new guidelines and recommendations in the Practical Handbook for Border Guards. The proposal for a regulation amending the Schengen Borders Code and the establishment of an emergency plan for better crisis management are also foreseen

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Proposal: On the 2nd of June 2021 the EU Commission published a Proposal for a Council Regulation on the establishment and operation of an evaluation and monitoring mechanism to verify the application of the Schengen acquis and repealing Regulation (EU) No 1053/2013 (Press release) .

Problem: In the light of new challenges such as the instability in Europe’s neighbourhood and beyond, the 2015 refugee crisis and its consequences, the persistent terrorist threat and the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU's Schengen area has been put under sustained pressure. A new Schengen Strategy tackling the vulnerability around the European borders is needed in order to adequately promote the significant social and economic benefits that were once established by the ‘Schengen Agreement’.

Objective: The Proposal aims to ensure a strengthened and a more resilient Schengen area that does not have internal border controls, while also optimising the governance and surveillance structures. Through the revision of the Schengen evaluation and monitoring mechanism, the absence of controls at internal borders will be compensated, the free movement facilitated and a high level of security and justice ensured. In doing so, the mechanism may promote mutual trust between member states. This, in turn, should contribute to an improved performance within the Schengen area as well as tackle current challenges faced by the EU. The new Mechanism should carry out impartial and objective evaluations that are able to identify deficiencies in the application of the legislation in practice and ensure that those deficiencies are swiftly addressed. Following an evaluation programme from 2015-2019, significant weaknesses in the Mechanism that were identified - including the excessively long duration of the evaluation process (10-12 months) and the time needed by Member States to implement the recommendations (two years)- will be addressed by the new evaluation and monitoring mechanism.

Subject Matter: The Commission shall establish annual and multiannual evaluation programmes, the drafting of questionnaires, the setting of schedules of visits, the conducting of visits, the drafting of evaluation reports and recommendations as well as ensure the follow-up and monitoring activities. Through the cooperation between the Commission and the member states the implementation of the new Regulation can be optimised. The evaluation and monitoring mechanism will be carried out with the contribution of the relevant Union bodies, offices and agencies in accordance with their respective mandates. Additionally, member states are required to grant full and unimpeded access to all areas, premises and documents to which access has been requested, including national and internal guidelines and instructions, also classified ones. The implementation of the Regulation will be further facilitated though expertise, risk analysis, reports and other relevant information provided by Frontex and Europol.

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Proposal: On the 14th of December 2021 the EU Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation amending Regulation (EU) 2016/399 on a Union Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (Press release).

Problem: In the light of numerous crises such as the persistent terrorist threat following a spate of attacks on European soil and the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic, member states have been quick to reintroduce internal border controls, jeopardising the proper functioning of the Single Market. An amendment to the Regulation on ‘Schengen Borders Code’ is proposed with the idea to strengthen EU’s capacity to respond in a uniform manner to major public health threats, to threats resulting from instrumentalisation of migrants as well as to terrorism threats.

Objective: The Proposal aims to establish a uniform application of measures at the external borders in case of a threat to public health by adopting a binding instrument that would set out temporary travel restrictions at the external borders in such circumstances. Further the instrumentalisation of migrants at external borders asks for a unified response as well as a coherent approach when taking measures needed to manage the arrival of persons being instrumentalised by a third country in a humane, orderly and dignified manner. In order to ensure that internal border controls remain a measure of last resort, the proposal clarifies and expands the list of elements that must be assessed by a member state when taking the decision on temporary reintroduction of border controls. Likewise, it supports the creation of a contingency planning for Schengen in the situation of a threat affecting a majority of member states at the same time. To limit the negative impact of the temporary reintroduction of border checks at internal borders, safeguards and mitigating measures should be applied in addition to alternative measures to address the identified threats instead of internal border controls.

Subject Matter: Amending the Regulation (EU) No 2016/399, definitions for certain concepts such as ‘border surveillance’ and ‘instrumentalisation of migrants’ have been added in order to assure the perception uniformity of the member states. Border surveillance has further been added to the Regulation with the objective to detect and prevent unauthorised border crossings, to counter cross-border criminality and to take measures against persons who have crossed the border illegally. Restriction on travel to the EU shall be applied to situations where the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control or the Commission identify the existence in one or more third countries of an infectious disease with epidemic potential. The absence of border control at internal borders shall not affect the exercise of police or other public powers by the competent authorities of the member states in their territory, including in their internal border areas, as conferred on them under national law, insofar as the exercise of those powers does not have an effect equivalent to border checks. The temporary reintroduction of internal border controls will be limited to specific parts of internal borders that are at risk of a serious threat to public policy or internal security. The criteria allowing the reintroduction or prolongation of internal border controls are set out by the Commission and include the scope of the perceived threat, the absence of other measures as well as further relevant data detailing the events that constitute a serious threat to its public policy or internal security.

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Legislative, incl. impact assessment, Art. 77 TFEU, Q4 2021.

Follow-up to the EU Security Strategy

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Non-legislative Act: On the 14th of April 2021 the EU Commission published a Communication regarding an EU Strategy to tackle Organised Crime (Press release).

Problem: Due to its complex nature, organised crime poses a significant threat to European citizens, business, state institutions, and to the economy. Although national measures currently applied by the member states are crucial to combat crime, a common Union strategy can better address the challenges of organised crime given that it is operating cross-border and online, across all areas of crime in a networked environment, using the newest technologies, and threatening EU’s security as a whole.

Objective: By promoting cooperation between law enforcement and judicial authorities within the member states, the exchange and timely access of information needs to be facilitated. Multidisciplinary and multiagency operational cooperation globally, particularly in areas with no internal border controls such as freedom, security and justice, should contribute to the dismantling of global criminal networks as well as their transport routes. The Communication highlights the need to tackle organised crime structures, thus not only investigate low level criminals, but also weaken the entire network or rather 'the criminal ecosystem'. Reinforcing asset recovery measures is necessary in order to prevent money laundering, the promotion of financial investigations and the penetration of profits from organised crime into the economy and society. In light of the current digitization trend, the EU plans on upgrading its law enforcement and justice departments with new technologies.

Subject Matter: The Commission will initiate four new proposals, including the launch of a platform for cooperation between Joint Investigation Teams. The cooperation with various stakeholders to optimise the European Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats (EMPACT) and new measures to combat international crime are meant to be generatred between 2021 and 2025. The financial resources needed to combat organized crime are to be increased through the Internal Security Fund for the period 2021-2027. In 2022, an EU anti-counterfeiting toolkit will be established setting out principles for joint action, cooperation and data sharing among law enforcement authorities, right holders and intermediaries. In the same year, a further action plan against trafficking of cultural goods will be encouraged. Through the revision of Confiscation Directive and the Council Decision on Asset Recovery Offices as well as the assessment of existing EU anti-corruption rules, the Commission intends to strengthen its crime prevention network. Additionally, the EU is determined to cooperate and exchange information on the link between corruption and organised crime including through Europol. By cooperating with member states new measures will be evaluated to address lawful and targeted access by law enforcement authorities to encrypted information in the context of criminal investigations. Similarly, the involvement of member states in the Digital Exchange of Electronic Evidence (e-EDES) system will optimise the fight against crime, particularly on the ‘Darknet’, thus it is essential for the EU to develop a common surveillance tool.

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Legislative, incl. impact assessment, Q2 2021.

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Non-legislativ, 3. Quartal 2021.
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Legislative, incl. impact assessment, Art. 82 und 83 AEUV, 4. Quartal 2021.

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Proposal: On the 8th of December 2021 the EU Commission published a Proposal for a Council Recommendation on operational police cooperation (Press release) .

Problem: Taking advantage of the natural delineations of individual law enforcement jurisdictions, criminals have been operating across member states unabated, stimulating unauthorised movements of irregular migrants and evolving into an increasingly complex security threat. In the light of the tragic events in the Channel, the Commission deems it necessary to opt for a strong police cooperation between the member states, improving the use of police checks, procedures allowing for simplified readmission between the states as well as the application of bilateral agreements in that context.

Objective: The main objective of the Commission's proposal is to establish a Police Cooperation Code with the objective of streamlining, enhancing, developing, modernising and facilitating law enforcement cooperation between relevant national agencies as a way to support member states in their fight against organised crime and terrorism. In compliance with existing EU legislation, and building on best practice in bilateral or multilateral cooperation agreements between member states, police officers should carry out targeted joint operations, better monitor criminals, as well as be able to apprehend criminals in pursuits across national territories. Furthermore, remote access by police officers to their own databases during operating in other member states, as well as the use of secure communications that also function in a cross-border context, will be made possible. Broadening the role of existing Police Customs Cooperation Centres, joint police stations that are capable of not only exchanging information, but of planning, supporting and coordinating joint patrols and other joint operations based on shared risk analysis, should be constituted.

Subject Matter: To achieve the objectives, a coordination platform is to be established in cooperation with the Commission and Europol. In addition, member states should allow for the conduct of cross-border hot pursuits into their territory across land, sea, river, lake and air borders as well as collect statistics that their competent law enforcement authorities conducted and report those statistics annually to the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. In the area of surveillance, the Commission encourages member states to allow the conduct of cross-border surveillance into their territory in relation to persons suspected of having committed or participated in one or more of criminal offences, but also to persons that can lead to the identification or the tracing of such suspects. It further advocates for the facilitation of the pooling of material, including through short or long-term loans based on jointly agreed procedures. Joint cross-border operations to counter migrant smuggling and human trafficking can be achieved by expanding the current tasks of member states’ existing Police and Customs Cooperation Centres through carrying out, supporting, and coordinating joint operations in intra-EU border areas as well as producing joint analysis of cross-border crimes specific to their intra-EU border area.

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Proposal: On the 8th of December the EU Commission published a Proposal for a Directive on information exchange between law enforcement authorities of member states, repealing Council Framework Decision 2006/960/JHA (Press release) .

Problem: With the growing mobility within the Schengen area, a series of crises and challenges preventing and fighting criminal threats have led several member states to reintroduce internal border controls. The combined introduction of police checks and cooperation with regard to information exchange and communication is said to have the potential to yield the same results in controlling secondary movements as temporary internal border controls, while being less intrusive of the free movement of persons, goods and services. Protecting a fully functioning and resilient Schengen area is of utmost importance for the Commission.

Objective: Protecting a fully functioning and resilient Schengen area is of utmost importance for the Commission. It is necessary to make the organizational and procedural aspects of the exchange of information between law enforcement authorities in the EU more effective and efficient. A Union-wide Police Cooperation Code will be streamlining, enhancing, developing, modernising and facilitating law enforcement cooperation between relevant national agencies, supporting member states in their fight against organised crime and terrorism. Establishing common minimum standards for information exchange in areas of composition, structures, responsibilities, staffing and technical capabilities is encouraged as a way to ensure the efficiency of Single Points of Contact. With the lack of common practice in the use of existing communication channel(s) to exchange information within the EU in mind, a further objective of this proposal is to remedy the proliferation of communication channels used for law enforcement information exchange between member states while reinforcing Europol’s role as the EU criminal information hub for offences falling within its mandate.

Subject Matter: Common rules for the exchange of information between the law enforcement authorities of the member states where necessary concern requests for information submitted to the Single Points of Contact established or designated by the states. On the content of such requests, mandatory time limits for providing the requested information, reasons for refusals of such requests and the channel of communication to be used in connection to such requests are settled. Further, member states are encouraged to follow specific regulations on the establishment, tasks, composition and capabilities of the Single Point of Contact, including on the deployment of a single electronic Case Management System for the fulfilment of its tasks. While the Commission advocates for information exchange for the purpose of preventing, detecting or investigating criminal offences, it respectively discourages exchanges of information that are specifically regulated by other acts of Union law. Ultimately, the Directive establishes rules on the own-initiative provision of relevant information to Single Points of Contact or to the law enforcement authorities of other member states, in particular the situations and the manner in which such information is to be provided as well as the channel of communication to be used for all exchanges of information.

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Proposal: On the 8th of December the EU Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation on automated data exchange for police cooperation (“Prüm II”), amending Council Decisions 2008/615/JHA and 2008/616/JHA and Regulations (EU) 2018/1726, 2019/817 and 2019/818 of the European Parliament and of the Council (Press release) .

Problem: While the EU has already provided law enforcement with a range of tools to facilitate the exchange of information, which have proven crucial in uncovering criminal activities and networks, there are still information gaps when it comes to the cross-border cooperation of law enforcement. Considering that certain data is stored separately in various national IT systems as well as in large-scale IT systems at the Union level, the communication between such systems needs to be optimized, enabling the exchange of data between law enforcement authorities in a timely manner. Therefore the Council invited the Commission to consider revising the Prüm Decisions with regards to the necessary technical and legal requirements.

Objective: Contributing to the internal security of the European Union, the general objective of the proposal is to improve, streamline and facilitate the exchange of information for the purpose of the prevention, detection and investigation of criminal and terrorist offences between member states’ law enforcement authorities as well as with Europol. The Commission explicitly aims to provide a technical solution for efficient automated exchange of data between law enforcement authorities to make them aware of relevant data that is available in the national database of another member state. Ensuring that more relevant data from national databases as well as from Europol’s databases is available to all competent law enforcement authorities in other member states is key to guaranteeing EU citizens’ security. Lastly, the specific policy objective of this proposal is to provide law enforcement authorities with efficient access to the actual data corresponding to a ‘hit’ that is available in the national database of another member state.

Subject Matter: Building on the existing Prüm framework, Prüm II is to reinforce and modernize the framework as well as allow the interoperability with other EU information systems. The following will enable the usage of all the relevant data that is available for law enforcement authorities in a member state by law enforcement authorities in other member states. With the creation of a new architecture, the exchange of data between member states is being facilitated, while a high level of protection of fundamental rights is ensured. Eu-LISA and Europol shall ensure that procedures are in place to monitor the development and the functioning of the router with regard to the technical output, cost-effectiveness, security and quality of service. No later than one year after the adoption of the proposed Regulation, and every year thereafter during the development phase of the router, eu-LISA shall submit a report to the European Parliament and to the Council on the state of the development of the router. No later than one year after adoption of the proposed Regulation, and every year thereafter during the development phase of EPRIS, Europol shall submit a report to the European Parliament and to the Council on the state of preparation for the implementation of this Regulation and on the state of the development of EPRIS. Two years after the start of operations of the router and every two years thereafter, eu-LISA shall submit to the European Parliament, to the Council and to the Commission a report on the technical functioning of the router while three years after the start of operations of all elements of the proposed Regulation and every four years thereafter, the Commission shall produce an overall evaluation of Prüm II. The Commission, then, shall transmit the evaluation report to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Data Protection Supervisor and the European Agency for Fundamental Rights.

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Legislative, incl. impact assessment, Article 87 TFEU, Q4 2021.

Follow-up to the European Education Area and the updated Skills Agenda

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Non-legislative, Q4 2021.

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Legislative and non-legislative, incl. impact assessment, Q4 2021.

EU Strategy on Combating Antisemitism

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Non-legislative Act: On the 5th of October 2021 the EU Commission published a Communication regarding an EU Strategy on Combating Antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life (Press release) .

Problem: The Jewish community in Europe has continuously become a victim of harassment and discrimination. In the past decade, there has been a rise in antisemitism within the Member States, leading to several instances of hate speech, hate crimes, attacks on Jewish people, their properties, and institutions. Given that core European values such as the rule of law and respect for human rights are being disregarded through antisemitism, the Commission developed a strategy combatting hateful crimes and discrimination against the Jews.

Objective: The Communication demands a new strategy in the timeframe of 2021-2030 for combating all forms of antisemitism including but not limited to antisemitic incitement, hate crime and discrimination in all policy areas as well as in everyday life. In the course of promoting Jewish life in the EU and as part of the new Security Union strategy, extremism directed against Jews should be countered. Freedom of religion and belief are some of the areas in which the Jewish minority faces disadvantages and therefore needs a clear protection strategy. Optimizing education, research and remembrance, particularly with regard to the history of antisemitism in Europe, including the Holocaust, can further promote equality.

Subject Matter: The Commission will foster an annual civil society forum on combating antisemitism, where stakeholders and representatives of the Jewish community will identify measures required against discrimination. The mobilization of EU funds should be directed towards funding programs such as the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values (CERV) programme, which aims to promote the fundamental rights of all people. National strategies for combatting antisemitism of respective member states will be encouraged and further evaluated by the Commission in 2023. Promoting organizations and projects that report on antiemetic hate speech both online and in everyday life, while integrating support services for victims of antisemitic hate crimes are also covered by the Communication. By 2022, new standards will be set for national equality bodies, and the member states will be supported in implementing the reforms. The IHRA definition will be used as a guideline as part of a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitic incidents within institutions. Further training of selected staff on the detection of antisemitism in the workplace has been planned. Additionally, the IHRA definition of Holocaust denial and falsification/trivialization for educational and awareness-raising purposes should be stimulated and transmitted to the general population through social media campaigns. The Program “Horizon Europe” encourages the financing of research and innovation activities with the aim of understanding current radicalization trends and presenting ways of effective prevention. Intercultural and interreligious dialogue will be implemented in order to maintain the cultural heritage, while the digitization of archives and testimonies of the Holocaust and the creation of a European research centre on modern antisemitism, Jewish life and culture can also contribute to the protection of Jews in the EU.

European Commission Work Programme 2020

Protecting Health: Fighting the COVID-19-Pandemic

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Non-legislative Act: On the 11th of November 2020, the European Commission presented a Communication and three legislative proposals (see below) to strengthen the EU’s health security framework and European medical and scientific institutions. (Press release)

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Proposal: On the 11th of November 2020 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation on serious cross-border threats to health and repealing Decision No 1082/2013/EU (Press release).

Problem: During the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become evident that EU’s mechanisms for managing health threats suffer from general shortcomings that require a more structured Union-level approach when dealing with any future health crises. Providing a limited legal framework, the current system has not ensured an optimal response, therefore, a stronger and more comprehensive legal framework within which the Union can react rapidly and trigger the implementation of preparedness and response measures to cross-border threats to health across the EU, is being proposed. With a more consistent and coordinated approach the EU shall prepare for and manage any health crises to come.

Objective: The Commission’s proposal is primarily aims to strengthen preparedness capacities through the development of an EU health crisis and pandemic preparedness plan as well as to lay down requirements for the plans at regional and national level. This is to ensure the functionality of the health care system even under crisis conditions. Further objectives include enhanced surveillance, monitoring and accuracy of risk assessments at EU level by establishing rules for the surveillance of novel pathogens based on common EU case definitions in case of emergencies, and for the reporting of health systems and other relevant data for the management of cross-border threats. Member states are advised to cooperate in specific areas; therefore, the Commission advocates the establishment of new EU networks operated by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Enhancing capacities for all-hazard risk assessment by the relevant agencies (ECDC, the European Medicines Agency) and risk assessment coordination where more agencies are concerned by establishing rules on the recognition of emergency situations, and activating new Union emergency mechanisms for the management of health crisis are further suggested.

Subject Matter: The development of an EU health crisis and pandemic preparedness plan shall lay down requirements for the plans at national level and be coupled with a comprehensive and transparent framework for reporting and auditing. This Regulation shall apply to public health measures including but not limited to communicable diseases, biotoxins, threats of chemical origin, threats of environmental or climate origin as well as threats of unknown origin. Establishing a Health Security Committee composed of representatives of the member states will enable coordinated action for the implementation of this Regulation as well as the preparedness and response planning of the member states. The Commission, in cooperation with member states and the relevant Union agencies, shall establish a Union health crisis and pandemic plan to promote effective and coordinated response to cross-border health threats at Union level. Coordination within the HSC will ensure the monitoring, early warning and assessment of, and response to serious cross-border threats to health. This early warning system will be supported by improved data collection tools and artificial intelligence. While a common European approach is pursued, member states shall regardless retain the right to introduce additional arrangements, procedures and measures for their national systems in the fields covered by this Regulation.

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Proposal: On the 11th of November 2020 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation on a reinforced role for the European Medicines Agency in crisis preparedness and management for medicinal products and medical devices (Press release) .

Problem: In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Union’s ability to coordinate work to ensure the availability of medicinal products and medical devices and facilitate their development showed itself to be limited, resulting in ad hoc solutions for the risk containment of shortages of medicines and medical devices such as ventilators, surgical masks and COVID-19 test kits. Given that the European Medicines Agency did not always have access to sufficient health data to formulate coordinated recommendations across the Union, a clear framework in preparation for and during public health emergencies and other major events should be established in order to enhance the Union's capacity to react quickly, efficiently, and in a coordinated manner to such emergencies.

Objective: The proposal aims to ensure a high level of human health protection by strengthening the Union’s ability to manage and respond to public health emergencies, which have an impact on medicinal products and medical devices. The smooth functioning of the internal market for such products during public health emergencies is key to provide efficient care within the Union. Monitoring and mitigating potential and actual shortages of medicinal products and medical devices considered as critical will adequately address a given public health emergency and/or other major events which may have a serious impact on public health. A timely development of high quality, safe and efficacious medicinal products with a particular focus on addressing a given public health emergency as well as ensuring the smooth functioning of expert panels for the assessment of some high-risk medical devices are on the objective. Lastly, the proposal seeks to ensure inter-Agency cooperation during health emergencies, most notably with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Subject Matter: New rules will be introduced for the Agency to provide advice on medicinal products. Such advice shall cover both medicinal products under development, those used under national compassionate use programmes, and those already authorised for a different indication but with the potential to also treat, prevent or diagnose the disease in question. A well-managed and sustainable structure shall coordinate the expert panels on medical devices, which will be involved in the assessment of specific high-risk medical devices and device types relevant for health crisis management and provide scientific advice essential in crisis preparedness and crisis management. To achieve the following, the Agency shall continuously monitor any event that is likely to lead to a major event or a public health emergency. Where the Agency considers that an actual or imminent major event needs to be addressed, it is necessary to inform the Commission and the member states thereof that in turn may request the assistance of the Medicines Steering Group to address the major event.

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Proposal: On the 11th of November 2020 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 851/2004 establishing a European Centre for disease prevention and control (Press release) .

Problem: As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, shortcomings within the EU mechanism when managing health threats were revealed, which call for a more structured Union-level approach that specifically builds on the European value of solidarity. Reinforcing the mandate of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (‘the Centre’) addressing surveillance, preparedness, early warning, and response under a strengthened EU health security framework is necessary to ensure consistency with other Union instruments as well as to ensure that the Centre fully complies with the ‘common approach’ for decentralised agencies.

Objective: With the aim to reinforce the capacities of the Centre in order to support preparedness, surveillance, risk assessment, and early warning and response to face future cross-border health threats, the Commission encourages the ECDC to assess and communicate current and emerging threats to human health from communicable diseases and provide recommendations for response at EU and national level. The ECDC shall provide timely information to the Commission, the member states, EU bodies and agencies as well as international organisations active within the field of public health, including risk assessments. Scientific and technical expertise will be provided to the member states and the Commission in the field of preparedness and response planning, including training. Coordinating data collection, validation, analysis and dissemination of data at EU level and thus establishing a robust European surveillance system for communicable diseases in the frame of the European Health Data Space is a key objective. The ECDC shall operate dedicated networks in the field of communicable diseases and substances of human origin, as well as host an EU Health Task Force to constantly support countries with preparedness strengthening and quickly intervene in a health crisis. All of the above shall improve international collaboration and the gathering of regional/national intelligence.

Subject Matter: Crucial areas of the proposal address situational awareness by the rapid digitalisation of integrated surveillance systems. Member states shall be better prepared to develop prevention and response plans against future epidemics and stronger capacities for integrated rapid epidemic and outbreak response, while reinforced measures shall control epidemics and outbreaks overall. It is necessary to expand the capacities to mobilise and deploy the EU Health Task Force in order to assist EU’s member states, as well as build key competences to monitor and assess health systems capacity for diagnosis, prevention and treatment of specific communicable diseases and patient safety. The Centre will be tasked with coordinating a new network of Union reference laboratories for public health and a new network of national services supporting transfusion, transplantation and medically assisted reproduction in order to build up the key competences for health protection within member states. Expanding work on the prevention of communicable diseases and specific health issues as well as reinforcing the contribution to the EU’s international cooperation and development and EU commitment to global health security preparedness are further encouraged by the Commission.

Fostering Skills, Education and Inclusion

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Non-legislative Act: On the 1st of July 2020 the EU Commission published a Communication on European Skills Agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness, and resilience (Press release) .

Problem: Demographic changes in addition to green and digital transitions are transforming the work environment by creating new job opportunities as well as dissolving older ones. Thus, the European Union is required to draw on all of its talents and diversity introducing an unparalleled shift in skill sets along with amending the complications attributed to the accelerated digital transition that became apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Objective: The Commission preeminently aspires to face the challenges posed by demographic changes and to push forward the twin transition building a more sustainable, resilient, and fairer Europe for the next generation. It further aims to pursue its leadership towards global recovery from the pandemic through a paradigm-shift on skills. Some of the key objectives are the reinforcement of sustainable competitiveness advocating for lifelong learning in order to work more effectively and take advantage of advanced technologies as well as the guarantee of social fairness. For workers in retail, transport, social or sanitation services, teachers, and trainers, resilience is essential specifically in the light of the constant strain due to the pandemic. Granting all Europeans access to attractive, innovative and inclusive learning programmes in addition to skilling them for suitable jobs are the guiding principles of the Communication.

Subject Matter: Establishing a pact for skills that brings together all stakeholders, private and public, should enforce the up- and reskilling of Europe’s workforce enabling people to participate in the twin transitions. The foundation for up- and reskilling lies on the modernisation of the information available on skills needs. Further, vocational education and training are to be optimised with the view to equipping young people and adults with the skills to thrive in the labour market and supporting the green and digital transitions, including transversal skills, ensuring inclusiveness and equal opportunities, and establishing European VET as a global reference point for skills development. Through individual learning accounts existing gaps in the access to training for working age adults shall be closed. Additionally, once individuals have a certificate proving their skills, they need to be able to communicate them when applying for a job or further learning. Therefore, a Union-wide platform will be established as a way to support people manage their careers in a fast-changing labour market. Meeting the budgetary requirements, demands a considerable mobilisation of private and public investment in skills resulting in an estimated additional investment of EUR 48 billion annually.

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Non-legislative Act: On the 30th of September 2020 the European Commission published a Communication on achieving the European Education Area by 2025 (Press release) .

Problem: Setting the foundation for personal fulfilment, employability, and active and responsible citizenship, qualitative and inclusive education, training and lifelong learning play an essential role in the recovery package that counters the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The EU Commission deems it necessary to prevent the health crisis from becoming a structural barrier to learning and skills development impacting on young people’s employment prospects, earnings, as well as equality and inclusion for the whole of the society.

Objective: Six pillars make up the dimensions of the European Education Area. A quality education shall provide young people with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to thrive in life and to cope with potential challenges. Inclusion and gender equality shall help reduce inequalities linked to socio-economic status. Considering that students from rural areas as well as those with a migrant background are negatively influenced in their educational opportunities, the Communication highlights the need to decouple educational attainment and achievement from social, economic and cultural status, to ensure that education and training systems boost the abilities of every individual and enable upward social mobility. In the light of current demographic and technological changes, facilitating the attainment of digital skills is crucial for job search in all sectors. To ensure a highly competent, enthusiastic and committed professional workforce, it is essential to overcome teacher shortages. Further, closer and deeper cooperation between higher education institutions is recommended with the idea to enable learners to move more easily between education systems in different countries thereby developing a pan-European talent pool, including in cutting-edge scientific disciplines and technologies such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and high-performance computing. Lastly, promoting EU’s soft power, particularly through spreading its messages and fundamental values, shall be warranted by Union’s exchange programmes.

Subject Matter: The Commission will support member states in the identification of effective policy reforms that support better achievement in basic skills, specifically those concerning curriculum and assessment, as well as the capacity of institutions and staff to be innovative and develop their learning approaches. The Commission will further support the cooperation between European stakeholder organisations, teachers associations and teacher education providers to work together and provide input to policy recommendations on innovative and multi-disciplinary teaching and learning approaches. Additionally, education stakeholders and member states representatives shall stimulate peer learning and the development of a European perspective in education while also building on democratic education environments free from bullying, harmful speech and disinformation. The Commission will support member states in the implementation of the European quality framework for high quality early childhood education and care systems, as well as propose dedicated working streams in the European Education Area enabling framework to develop policy guidance on gender equality in education and training. By 2021 the Commission will establish a European Innovative Teaching Award to recognise the work of teachers (and their schools) who make an exceptional contribution to the profession, in addition to launching the Erasmus Teacher Academies within the new Erasmus Programme in 2021 to create networks of teacher education institutions and teacher associations. Finally, the Council is invited to organise regular joint discussions between the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council and other Council configurations to help take a whole of government approach to education and training, and to strengthen the contribution of education and training to the EU political priorities, while support work on education within the European Semester.

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Non-legislative Act: On the 24th of November 2020 the European Commission published a Communication on an action plan on Integration and Inclusion 2021-2027 (Press release) .

Problem: Considering that migrants and EU citizens with a migrant background play a key role in the European economy and society, specifically giving a helping hand during the COIVD-19 pandemic as workers in essential services, doctors and nurses. Being among those groups most exposed to the pandemic, it is a moral duty in line with the EU’s fundamental values to promote integration and inclusion. Fully integrating migrants into the labour market can further be of economic importance as shown by recent research, generating large economic gains, including fiscal profits, contributions to national pension schemes and national welfare in general.

Objective: Key principles of the Integration and Inclusion action plan include the guarantee that all policies are accessible to and work for everyone, including migrants and EU citizens with migrant background. This means adapting and transforming mainstream policies to the needs of a diverse society, consider the specific challenges and needs of different groups. This action plan aims to take into account the combination of personal characteristics, such as gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation and disability that can represent specific challenges for migrants.

Subject Matter: Participation and achievement in education shall be promoted by targeted support for teachers to develop competences when dealing with cultural, religious and linguistic diversity in classrooms under the Erasmus Teacher Academies, as well as by targeted training for youth workers to acquire the skills specifically required for supporting integration of young migrants. Cooperation between national authorities in charge of integration and national centres for the recognition of qualifications shall be fostered. Promoting exchanges between member states on providing complementary/bridging courses for migrants in addition to providing information on recognition practices and on skills and qualifications for migrants using the full potential of the Europass portal is encouraged. Making full use of EU funding, in particular the European Social Fund Plus, the Asylum and Migration Fund and the European Regional Development Fund in order to support programmes and measures related to education, skills and language training is needed at national and regional level. The Commission will work with social and economic partners to promote a multi-stakeholder approach to labour market integration through the European Partnership for Integration as well as support employers through exchanges and peer-to-peer learning, building on the Employers together for integration initiative.

A New Pact on Migration and Asylum

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Non-legislative Act: On the 23rd of September 2020 the European Commission proposed a new Pact on Migration and Asylum with the preeminent objective to establish improved and faster procedures throughout the asylum and migration system. In order to restore the trust between member states and respectively strengthen the balance between responsibility and solidarity when dealing with migration at EU-level, the Commission highlights the need for a predictable and reliable migration management system (Press release).

To achieve the following, five regulation proposals have been issues: A new Proposal for a Screening Regulation, a Proposal to revise the Asylum Procedures Regulation, an amended Proposal for the Revision of the ‘Eurodac’ Regulation, a new Proposal for a Regulation on Asylum and Migration Management and a new Proposal to deal with crisis situations and cases of force majeure.

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Proposal: On the 23rd of September 2020 the EU Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation introducing a screening of third country nationals at the external borders and amending Regulations (EC) No 767/2008, (EU) 2017/2226, (EU) 2018/1240 and (EU) 2019/817 (Press release) .

Problem: The migration of third-country nationals with international protection needs has been recently overpowered by migration flows of mixed arrivals of persons challenging migration management at the EU level. When identifying those in need of international protection or deciding on effective returns, a common framework bringing together policies in the areas of asylum, migration, return, external border protection, fight against migrants’ smuggling and relations with key third countries reflecting a whole of government approach is needed.

Objective: The key objective of the proposal is to improve the identification process at the external borders of the EU so that the identity as well as any health and security risks of new arrivals are swiftly established. In this manner all third-country nationals who are present at the external border without fulfilling entry conditions or after disembarkation following a search and rescue operation will be referred towards the appropriate procedure. The uniformity of rules and policies is required to increase the security withing the Schengen area, and further clarify entry requirements for future arrivals. The proposed screening not only establishes transparency in the process of regular migration, it also creates an EU framework for the screening of third-country nationals who entered the territory of the member states without authorisation and who are apprehended within their territories. With an independent monitoring mechanism by the member states in relation to the screening, the fundamental rights of the persons concerned should be protected. Frontex as well as the European Union Agency for Asylum shall accompany and support the competent authorities in all their tasks related to the screening.

Subject Matter: The screening is to be applied at the external borders of the member states to all third-country nationals who have crossed the external border in an unauthorised manner, to those who have applied for international protection during border checks without fulfilling entry conditions, as well as those disembarked after a search and rescue operation, before they are referred to the appropriate procedure. Identifying all third-country nationals by verifying their identity against relevant databases shall ensure that the arrivals do not pose a threat to internal security. Health checks entailed by the screening will help recognise persons vulnerable and in the need of health care as well the ones posing a threat to public health. The screening shall also be carried out within the territory of the member states where there is no indication that third-country nationals have been subject to controls at external borders.

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Proposal: On the 23rd of September 2020 the EU Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation establishing a common procedure for international protection in the Union and repealing Directive 2013/32/EU (Press release) .

Problem: The continued arrival of irregular migrants has outlined structural challenges which put member states' asylum, reception and return systems under strain, resulting in an increased administrative burden and delays in granting protection for those in genuine need of protection. Establishing a European framework that can manage the interdependence between member states’ policies and decisions, bringing together policies in the areas of asylum, migration, return, external border protection and relations with key third countries, will promote mutual trust among member states as well as provide better management of migration within the member states.

Objective: A common asylum procedure, which replaces the various divergent procedures in the member states and is applicable to all applications made, is to ensure an effective and high-quality decision-making process. The proposal puts in place simpler, clearer and shorter procedures and combines those with adequate procedural safeguards and tools to respond to abuses of asylum procedures. Preventing unauthorised movements shall enable more efficient use of resources improving the rights of applicants, allow those in need of international protection to receive it faster and ensure the swift return of rejected applicants without a right to stay in the Union. The increased pressure resulting from arrivals of migrants with low chances of receiving protection needs is to be countered through new migration management tools, including more harmonized procedures at the external border. The purpose of the joint asylum and return border procedure is to quickly assess abusive asylum requests or asylum requests made at the external border by applicants coming from third countries with a low recognition rate in order to swiftly return those without a right to stay in the Union.

Subject Matter: A pre-entry phase is established consisting of a screening and a border procedure for asylum and return during which migrants will be registered and screened so that their identity, health, and security risks can be gathered. Migrants will then be referred to the appropriate procedure, meaning they will either be given asylum, refused of entry and/or directed to return. In addition, it will be determined whether an asylum application should be assessed without authorizing the applicant’s entry into the member state’s territory in an asylum border procedure or in a normal asylum procedure. Where an asylum border procedure used, determines that the individual is not in need of protection, a return border procedure will follow.

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Proposal: On the 23rd of September 2020 the European Commission published an amended Proposal for a Regulation on the establishment of 'Eurodac' for the comparison of biometric data for the effective application of Regulation (EU) XXX/XXX [Regulation on Asylum and Migration Management] and of Regulation (EU) XXX/XXX [Resettlement Regulation], for identifying an illegally staying third-country national or stateless person and on requests for the comparison with Eurodac data by member states' law enforcement authorities and Europol for law enforcement purposes and amending Regulations (EU) 2018/1240 and (EU) 2019/818 (Press release) .

Problem: The insufficiency of the current migration management within EU’s member states that struggles with regulating asylum and return procedures, calls for an optimised strategy that provides a clear and consistent link between specific individuals and the procedures they are subjected to in order to better assist with the control of irregular migration and the detection of unauthorised movements.

Objective: The Commission primarily aims to transfer Eurodac into a common European database to support EU policies on asylum, resettlement, and irregular migration. To do so, in addition to ensuring consistency with the proposal for a Screening Regulation, applications of the various measures and rules foreseen in the proposal for a new Regulation on Asylum and Migration Management shall be supported. Gathering more accurate and complete data will improve policy making in relation to the assistance of irregular migration and the detection of unauthorised movements. With the objective to support the identification of appropriate policy solutions as well as to provide additional support to national authorities dealing with asylum applicants whose application has already been rejected in another member state, data from various databases shall be incorporated in the Eurodac data.

Subject Matter: In the database in addition to counting the applications, the number of applicants shall be regulated. Cross-system statistics using data from Eurodac, Entry/Exit System (EES), ETIAS and the Visa Information System (VIS) will offer the necessary background information for assessing such phenomena and for the appropriate policy response. Persons disembarked following a search and rescue (SAR) operation are now to be examined under a new category. A new field will be created where member states can indicate when an application has been rejected, thus reinforce the link with return procedures and provide additional support to national authorities dealing with an applicant for international protection whose application has been rejected in another member. It is further necessary to illustrate whether voluntary return and reintegration assistance has been granted as well as whether a person could pose a threat to internal security. Information on the state of visa applications along with all the other amendments shall be in full consistency with the proposal for a Regulation on Asylum and Migration as well as the Screening Regulation.

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Proposal: On the 23rd of September 2020 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation on asylum and migration management and amending Council Directive (EC) 2003/109 and the proposed Regulation (EU) XXX/XXX [Asylum and Migration Fund] (Press release) .

Problem: In the light of the fight against migrant smuggling aligned with the lack of an effective solidarity mechanism and efficient rules on responsibility, the EU requires a common framework that can manage the interdependence between Member States’ policies and decisions as well as the ever-changing realities of migration, which have meant increased complexity and an intensified need for coordination. A new solidarity mechanism that is flexible and responsive in design to adjust to the different situations presented by the different migratory challenges faced by the member states is to replace the current Dublin Regulation and reform the Common European Asylum System (CEAS).

Objective: With the clear objective to build mutual trust between member states in addition to ensuring the consistency of the EU approach on asylum, migration management, external border protection and relations with relevant third countries, the Commission aspires to achieve a stronger, more sustainable, and tangible expression of the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility. Particularly it sees the need to establish a common framework that contributes to the comprehensive approach to asylum and migration management based on the principles of integrated policy-making and of solidarity. The new solidarity mechanism shall assist member states with effective measures, such as relocation or return sponsorship, for them to effectively manage migration in practice where they are faced with migratory pressure. Enhancing the system’s capacity to determine efficiently a single member state responsible for examining an application for international protection will limit the cessation of responsibility clauses as well as the possibilities for shift of responsibility between member states, shortening the time limits for sending requests and receiving replies. Quicker access to the procedures for granting international protection in addition to discouraging abuses and preventing unauthorised movements of the applicants within the EU are to be attained by the following.

Subject Matter: On the basis of a comprehensive approach mutually-beneficial partnerships and close cooperation with relevant third countries as well as Union institutions and bodies, member states and international organisations shall be pursued. The Union and member states shall further ensure coherence of asylum and migration management policies, including both the internal and external components of those policies. The Commission shall adopt a European Asylum and Migration Management Strategy setting out the strategic approach to managing asylum and migration at Union level and on the implementation of asylum and migration management policies in accordance with the principles set out. Additionally, Migration Management Report adopted by the Commission, shall evaluate each year the migratory situation and the preparedness of the Union and the Member States. Monitoring and providing information on the migratory situation through regular situational reports based on good quality data and information provided by member states, the European Border, Europol, the Fundamental Rights Agency, etc., the Commission will assess the effects of the following proposal.

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Proposal: On the 23rd of September 2020 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation addressing situations of crisis and force majeure in the field of migration and asylum (Press release) .

Problem: As a way to avoid ad hoc responses to crises in relation to migration, an instrument ensuring that the Union has at its disposal specific rules that can address the exceptional situation of crisis in an effective manner, complementing the compulsory solidarity mechanism and the procedures that normally would apply, is needed. Although cooperation among member states as well as at EU level has been increasing, member states’ asylum, reception and return systems remain largely not harmonised. Thus, creating inefficiencies and not providing the same fair treatment to asylum seekers throughout Europe, incentivising therefore the movement of large numbers of migrants across Europe to seek better conditions and prospects for their stay.

Objective: With regard to the 2015 refugee crisis, the Commission introduces appropriate procedural rules and derogations as well as a rapid triggering of solidarity to the benefit of one or more member states to respond to crisis situations that put under significant strain even well prepared and functioning asylum and migration management systems. EU’s member states that are under pressure or risk of pressure are provided with a new approach to solidarity that not only includes a specific process to address the specificities of disembarkations following search and rescue (SAR) operations, but also increases the overall efficiency and coherence of the asylum and migration management systems to better prepare for situations of crisis in the field of migration and asylum. In addition to the operational and technical support the European Union Agency for Asylum can provide in case the member state’s asylum or reception systems are subject to disproportionate pressure, new measures proposed in the following are to be implemented in order to widen the scope for relocation and reinforce the possibility for member states to provide assistance to each other in carrying out returns, in the form of return sponsorship.

Subject Matter: The modified return sponsorship optimises the previously established policy for situations of crisis and allows the transfer of irregular migrants to the territory of the sponsoring member state if the person concerned does not return or is not removed within four months. Moreover, the extension of the scope of application of the border procedure to third-country nationals and stateless persons whose EU-wide first instance recognition rate is 75% or lower as well as the extension of the duration or the examination of an application of international protection under the border procedure by an additional eight weeks shall be enabled. Member states shall be allowed to derogate from certain provisions on the border procedure to carry out return as set out in the proposed Asylum Procedures Regulation and in the Return Directive, in order to facilitate the enforcement of such procedures in situations of crisis, when specific adjustments are needed to allow the competent authorities under strain to exercise their tasks diligently and cope with significant workload. For this purpose, the proposal extends the maximum duration of the border procedure for carrying out return by an additional period of eight weeks and introduces new specific and well-targeted cases, additional to the ones set in the proposal for a recast Return Directive, in which the existence of a risk of absconding in individual cases can be presumed, unless proven otherwise. Lastly, this proposal provides for an extension of the timeframe for the implementation of the obligation to relocate or undertake return sponsorship when a member state is in a situation of force majeure.

Fostering Europe’s Security

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Non-legislative Act: On the 24th of July 2020 the European Commission published a Communication on the EU Security Union Strategy (Press release) .

Problem: The COVID-19 crisis highlighted the need to guarantee security both in physical and digital environments as well as the importance of open strategic autonomy for EU’s supply chains in terms of critical products, services, infrastructures, and technologies. It has reinforced the need to engage every sector and every individual in a common effort to ensure that the EU is more prepared and resilient, particularly considering that the security of one member state is the security of all. With a constantly changing world, threats such as climate change, demographic trends, and political instability within and beyond the borders of the EU demand for a security union that acts as a management system, working within and outside its borders to contribute to global stability.

Objective: The Security Union shall contribute to building capabilities and capacities for early detection, prevention, and rapid response to crises through an integrated and coordinated approach, both globally and through sector-specific initiatives. Careful threat and risk assessment should be applied to target EU’s efforts to define and apply the right rules as well as develop reliable strategic intelligence as a basis for EU security policies. With a more intense cooperation between member states, involving law enforcement, judicial and other public authorities, in addition to partnerships within EU institutions and agencies, the understanding and exchange for common solutions shall be enhanced. Cooperation with the private sector is also key, particularly given that the industry owns an important part of the digital and non-digital infrastructure central to fighting crime and terrorism effectively.

Subject Matter: Key actions include the revision of the Network Information Systems Directive as well as an initiative on the operational resilience of the financial sector. A European Cybersecurity Strategy shall be accompanied by the creation of a Joint Cyber Unit that develops common rules on information security and cybersecurity for EU institutions, bodies, and Agencies. It is further necessary to ensure the implementation of the cybercrime legislation and additionally establish a Strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse by initiating proposals on the detection and removal of child sexual abuse material. The Union is in need of a Counter-Terrorism Agenda that optimizes anti-radicalisation actions within the EU. Enhanced cooperation with key third countries and international organisations against terrorism should be on the agenda in order to tackle organized crime such as trafficking in human beings. EU Agenda on Drugs and Action Plan 2021-2025 shall, in addition to an assessment of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, be accompanied by a 2020-2025 EU Action Plan on Firearms trafficking. Lastly, strengthening Europol’s mandate shall be complemented by the increased cooperation between the EU and Interpol that will allow an EU-wide framework to negotiate with key third countries on sharing of information.

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Proposal: On the 9th of December 2020 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation on amending Regulation (EU) 2016/794, as regards Europol’s cooperation with private parties, the processing of personal data by Europol in support of criminal investigations, and Europol’s role on research and innovation.

Problem: Evolving and increasingly complex security threats exploit the advantages that the digital transformation, new technologies, globalisation and mobility bring about, including the interconnectivity and blurring of the boundaries between the physical and digital world. Europol’s expertise, while it has previously supported member states in their fight against threats spread across borders that cut across a variety of crimes, the change of the threat environment calls for a different kind of approach that affectively addresses current challenges faced by EU’s member states.

Objective: This proposal primarily aims to strengthen the mandate of Europol within the mission and tasks of the agency, while specific objectives include enabling Europol to cooperate effectively with private parties, addressing lack of effective cooperation between private parties and law enforcement authorities to counter the use of cross-border services, such as communication, banking, or transport services, by criminals. Effectively supporting member states and their investigations with the analysis of large and complex datasets will address the big data challenge for law enforcement authorities. Research and innovation within member states shall be improved through their cooperation with Europol, while strengthening Europol’s cooperation with third countries in specific situations and on a case-by-case basis will help preventing and countering crimes falling within the scope of Europol’s objectives. Strengthening Europol’s cooperation with the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in addition to strengthening the data protection framework applicable to Europol as well as the parliamentary oversight and accountability of Europol shall be implemented.

Subject Matter: Europol must send each year to the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council a Single Programming Document containing multi-annual and annual work programmes and resources programming. Within the document objectives, expected results and performance indicators will be presented in order to monitor the achievement of the objectives and their results. Europol must also submit a Consolidated Annual Activity Report to the management board, the Commission, the European Parliament as well as the Council. To regularly monitor the provision of information by the member states, Europol will also report annually to the Commission, European Parliament, the Council and national parliaments on the information provided by each member state as concerns the information Europol needs to fulfil its objectives, including information relating to forms of crime in the prevention or combating of which is considered a priority by the Union.

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Legislative, incl. impact assessment, Q4 2020.

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Non-legislative, Q4 2020.

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Non-legislative Act: On the 24th of July 2020 the European Commission published a Communication on an EU strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse (Press release) .

Problem: The COVID-19 pandemic has substantially exacerbated child abuse online and offline by enabling unsupervised entry to online communities, as well as reinforcing abuse against children who live with their abusers. Becoming the largest host of child sexual abuse material globally, there has been an increase in reports of online sexual child abuse concerning the EU. The introduction of end-to-end encryption has further impaired the fight against child abuse, facilitating the access to secure channels for perpetrators where they can hide their actions from law enforcement. The Commission, therefore, deems it necessary to introduce possible solutions that could allow companies to detect and report child sexual abuse in end-to-end encrypted electronic communications.

Objective: The submitted strategy preeminently attempts to provide an effective response, at EU level, to the fight against child sexual abuse by developing a comprehensive response to these crimes, both in their online and offline form. Eight initiatives are to be implemented in order to develop the right legal framework, strengthen the law enforcement response and catalyse a coordinated multi-stakeholder action in relation to prevention, investigation and assistance to victims. Improving the protection of children globally through multi-stakeholder cooperation, establishing a European centre to prevent and counter child sexual abuse as well as strengthening law enforcement efforts at national and EU level are some of the objectives.

Subject Matter: The implementation of the Child Sexual Abuse Directive (2011/93/EU) that has been adopted in 2011 shall be finalised. In a first stage, the necessary legislation will be proposed to ensure that providers of electronic communications services can continue their current voluntary practices to detect in their systems child sexual abuse after December 2020. This will be followed by a different legislation that shall tackle child sexual abuse online effectively, including by requiring relevant online services providers to detect known child sexual abuse material and require them to report that material to public authorities. By the end of 2020, the Commission will launch an extensive study to identify legislative gaps, best practices and priority actions in the fight against child sexual abuse both online and offline. Europol is instructed to set up an Innovation Hub and Lab. With the funding of the Commission, the development of national capacities shall be facilitated in order to keep up with technological developments and ensure an effective response of law enforcement against these crimes. The Commission will start immediately to prepare a prevention network at EU level to facilitate the exchange of best practices and support member states in putting in place usable, rigorously evaluated and effective prevention measures to decrease the prevalence of child sexual abuse in the EU. A study launched by the Commission shall work towards the creation of a European centre to prevent and counter child sexual abuse to enable a comprehensive and effective EU response against child sexual abuse online and offline. Lastly, the Commission will continue contributing to increase global standards for the protection of children against sexual abuse by promoting multi-stakeholder cooperation through the WePROTECT Global Alliance, and through dedicated funding.

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Non-legislative Act: On the 24th of July 2020 the European Commission published a Communication on 2020-2025 EU action plan on firearms trafficking (Press release) .

Problem: Increasing the risk of terrorist attacks and organised crime, illicit trafficking, distribution and use of firearms remain a high threat, specifically considering that the sale of deactivated, reactivated and converted firearms has increased, partially due to their more easily accessibility online. The need to increase the flow of information and intelligence between the EU and the Western Balkans, according to Europol the main supplying regions of trafficking to the EU, calls for further intra-EU and international law enforcement cooperation, particularly since national legal frameworks and definitions remain divergent, impeding joint approaches and facilitating the exploitation for criminals.

Objective: The EU action plan of firearms trafficking prioritises the implementation of the Firearms Directive, ensuring that its corresponding delegated and implementing acts are correctly transposed and effectively enforced by all member states. A better intelligence picture shall be established through systematically delivering information to and consulting the Schengen Information System on lost and stolen firearms, as well as sold weapons which are prone to easy conversion into firearms. The Commission urges member states and south-east Europe partners to complete the establishment of fully staffed and trained Firearms Focal Points in each jurisdiction, as recommended by the Best practice guidance of national experts. Cooperation between the EU and non-EU partners, particularly with countries in North Africa and the Middle East, need to be stepped up in line with the priorities set out in the 2018 EU Strategy against illicit Firearms, Small Arms & Light Weapons and their Ammunition. Additionally, as part of this Action Plan, the Commission proposes specific detailed actions and governance for south-east Europe to be taken forward in close cooperation with the High Representative and in consultation with partners.

Subject Matter: Harmonising the legal environment, modernising the administrative structure and facilitating capacity building in addition to increasing stockpile security and stockpile reduction shall be enforced in south-east Europe. Law enforcement activities are to be optimised by the facilitation of operational cooperation, exchange of information, and cooperation on ballistic analysis. The Commission commits to deepen its engagement with south-east Europe partners and allocate dedicated financial resources to bring them up to the required standards. In line with the following, it intends to mobilise and earmark available means of the Internal Security Fund and the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance to meet the most urgent challenges. Together with the High Representative, the Commission will convene a steering committee of key implementing partners and donors including Member State representatives, the European External Action Service, relevant United Nations Agencies (UNDP and UNODC) and NATO. In addition, at the level of the regional law enforcement agencies, the multitude of existing bodies is to be streamlined.

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Non-legislative Act: On the 24th of July 2020 the European Commission published a Communication on an EU Agenda and Action Plan on Drugs 2021-2025 (Press release).

Problem: Considering that significant economic damage can be attributed to drug use and more generally, an indirect negative impact that the drug market has through links with wider criminal activities, the disruption of the legal economy, violence in communities, damage to the environment, and by acting as a significant driver for corruption that can undermine good governance, the Commission deems it necessary to establish a robust new EU Agenda on Drugs. Drug availability remains high in the EU with the public having access to a wide variety of high-purity and high-potency drugs, calling for a national, EU and international level of strategy.

Objective: The introduction of the new Agenda and Action Plan on Drugs aims to protect citizens through better coordinated measures that will have a substantive and measurable impact on the security and health issues arising from drug use and the operations of the drug market. It further addresses the direct and indirect consequences arising from this problem including links to violence and other forms of serious crime, related health and societal problems, environmental damage, while raising public and policy awareness on these issues. As the threats and security challenges evolve, internal and external security are increasingly interconnected, therefore, protecting EU citizens from drug-related challenges requires coherence and close cooperation, where appropriate, between the objectives of the EU Agenda on Drugs and the EU’s external action. Building upon science led, evidence-based responses and fostering innovation, efforts are needed in research to identify priorities, achieve synergies and coordination as well as disseminate findings effectively. Intensifying such efforts to develop, adopt and use new technologies is to better monitoring, analysis and response in relation to trends and threats in the illegal drug markets.

Subject Matter: Disrupting major high-risk drug-related organised crime groups operating in, originating in or targeting the EU member states shall enhance the security within the Union. Here it is necessary to increase international cooperation with third countries or regions as well as EU agencies. Increased detection of illicit wholesale trafficking of drugs and drug precursors at EU points of entry and exit shall particularly focus on the smuggling of drugs in and out of the EU by using established trade channels. Effective monitoring of logistical and digital channels exploited for medium and small-volume drug distribution is planned in addition to increasing seizures of illicit substances smuggled through these channels in close cooperation with the private sector. It is further highlighted that dismantling drug production and processing, preventing the diversion and trafficking of drug precursors for illicit drug production, and eradicating illegal cultivation can reduce health and safety risks as well as environmental damage. For prevention and awareness raising, it is crucial to prevent the uptake of drugs, enhance crime prevention, and raise awareness of the adverse effects of drugs on citizens and communities. The efficiency of risk and harm reduction interventions shall be increased in order to protect the health of drug users and the public. Lastly, developing a balanced and comprehensive approach to the use of drugs in prisons by reducing demand and restricting supply is to disrupt the channels that supply drugs and other illegal objects.

Protecting Health

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Non-legislative Act: On the 3rd of February 2021 the European Commission published a Communication on Europe's Beating Cancer Plan (Press release) .

Problem: While the EU has previously introduced action on tobacco control and protection from hazardous substances that have positively impacted the fight against cancer, there has not been a European action plan that explicitly targets the leading cause of death in the EU. Considering that research and innovation, such as mRNA technologies, alongside digital technologies, have dramatically advanced the understanding for cancer initiation and progression, prevention and diagnosis, there is a need of an optimised as well as a Union-wide strategy that mobilises the collective power of the EU to drive change to the benefit of its citizens. Therefore, the Cancer Plan contains concrete, ambitious actions that will support, coordinate, and complement member states’ efforts to reduce the suffering caused by cancer.

Objective: Prevention, early detection, diagnosis, and treatment as well as the quality of life of cancer patients and survivors build the four pillars of EU’s Beating Cancer Plan. In the Communication, the Commission highlights the need to focus on research and innovation, tap into the potential that digitalisation and new technologies offer, and mobilise financial instruments to support individual member states. Through a Union-wide cooperation, essential expertise and resources will be shared, supporting countries, regions and cities with less knowledge and capacity. It will further help researchers to exchange findings between small and large member states, enabling access to crucial health data on the potential causes of cancer and promising treatments for it. Medical staff and hospitals will be able to tap into a wealth of shared information. Ultimately, it will ensure that all patients across the EU can benefit from better care and treatment.

Subject Matter: Within the Joint Research Center a new Knowledge Centre on Cancer is to be launched in 2021, helping in the coordination of scientific and technical cancer-related initiatives at EU level as well as diffusing best practice implementation and issuing guidelines to support new actions under the Cancer Plan. With a European Cancer Imaging Initiative, the sharing of anonymised images will be made accessible to a wide range of stakeholders across the ecosystem of hospitals, researchers and innovators. Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan will financially support member states’ efforts to extend routine vaccination against human papillomaviruses. Further, actions include the creation of a ‘Tobacco-Free Generation’ by reviewing the Tobacco Products and the Tobacco Taxation Directives and the legal framework on cross-border purchases of tobacco, as well as the revision of EU’s legislation on alcohol taxation and cross-border purchases of alcohol products. Reducing harmful alcohol consumption through support to capacity-building and best practice while also reducing young people’s exposure to online marketing and advertising of alcohol products shall be implemented. Optimising the EU Cancer Screening Scheme and the European Cancer Information System to enable, monitor and assess cancer screening is programmed starting in 2021. To ensure that children have access to rapid and optimal detection, diagnosis, treatment and care, the ‘Helping Children with Cancer Initiative’ shall be launched in addition to a Cancer Inequalities Registry to map trends in key cancer data identifying inequalities between member states and regions.

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Non-legislative Act: On the 25th of November 2020 the European Commission published a Communication on a Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe (Press release) .

Problem: Safe, effective and affordable medicines are essential for the proper functioning of EU’s healthcare systems. Although new medicines, vaccines and treatments have helped to tackle some leading causes of disease and life-threatening illnesses, not all patients can benefit from modern innovations, because medicines are either unaffordable or unavailable. Thus, the Commission deems it necessary to ensure that it has a strong, fair competitive and green industry that delivers for patients, and which draws on the potential of the digital transformation of health and care, driven by technological advances in fields such as artificial intelligence and computational modelling.

Objective: Well-functioning international supply chains in addition to a well performing single market for pharmaceuticals, through an approach that covers the entire lifecycle of pharmaceutical products, from production to distribution, consumption and disposal, is proposed by the communication. While boosting the sector’s global competitiveness, the quality and safety of medicines shall be established. The cooperation between authorities in the member states and the European Economic Area within the European medicines regulatory network shall ensure that patients have access to high-quality, effective and safe medicines. Building on common values of universal access to good quality care, equity and solidarity, the competitiveness and innovative capacity of the EU’s pharmaceutical industry is to be supported. Respectively, the EU will develop an open strategic autonomy and ensure robust supply chains, including in times of crisis.

Subject Matter: Promoting investment and coordinating research, development, manufacturing, deployment as well as the use for novel antibiotics is to be insinuated by the new EU Health Emergency Response Authority. The revision of the legislation on medicines for children and rare diseases with the objective to improve the therapeutic landscape and address unmet through more tailored incentives is planned for 2022. Joint meetings of existing committees of regulators, health technology assessment (HTA) bodies and payers, involving key actors in the development, authorisation and access to medicines is necessary for a lifecycle approach and improved availability and affordability. Based on mutual learning and best-practice exchange on pricing, payment and procurement policies, the affordability and cost-effectiveness of medicines and health system’s sustainability shall be improved. Skills investment shall be prioritised in order to support the availability of a skilled workforce and its adaptability through the NextGenerationEU, and within the new Recovery and Resilience Facility and through commitments under the pact for skills. Enhancing dialogue among regulatory and other relevant authorities in the area of medicines and medical devices will increase cooperation on evidence generation within their respective fields. The support collaborative projects bringing together stakeholders to take forward the use of high-performance computing and artificial intelligence in combination with EU health data for pharmaceutical innovation. Other actions include cooperation with the EMA and the network of national regulators, promoting regulatory convergence as well as ensuring access to safe, effective high-quality and affordable medicinal products globally.

ZEI Related Publications

A European Way of Life?!

Liska Wittenberg

In: Robert Stüwe / Liska Wittenberg (Hrsg.): ZEI Future of Europe Observer, Von der Leyen: Europe’s New Deal Despite Corona?, Bd. 8 Nr. 1 April 2020, p. 12-13.

Diese Ausgabe des ZEI Future of Europe Observer bildet den Auftakt für das neu ausgerichtete Forschungsprojekt des ZEI zu den jährlichen Arbeitsprogrammen der Europäischen Kommission. Das ZEI-Projekt baut auf der bisherigen Arbeit des ZEI zur Juncker-Kommission auf. Zur Veranschaulichung des Stands einzelner Gesetzesmaßnahmen der EU soll die ZEI-Monitor-Ampel dienen. Im vorliegenden Heft analysieren unsere Research Fellows die sechs politischen Prioritäten der von der Leyen-Kommission und werfen einen Blick auf die anstehenden Aufgaben.

Identität und Weltfähigkeit. Sichtweisen aus einem unruhigen Europa.

Ludger Kühnhardt

Baden‐Baden: Nomos, 2020, Schriften des Zentrum für Europäische Integrationsforschung, Band 80, 744 Seiten, ISBN 978‐3‐8487‐6303‐0.

Die Zusammenhänge zwischen Fragen der Identität und der vielschichtigen globalen Transformation waren, weit über Europa hinaus, selten so  offenkundig wie im zweiten Jahrzehnt des 21. Jahrhunderts. Die Suche nach Identitätsklärungen stand – und steht auch weiterhin – im Kern der multiplen europäischen Krisenphänomene. Gleichzeitig war – und ist – die Europäische Union mit der Aufgabe konfrontiert, strategisch sprechen und handeln zu lernen hinsichtlich ihrer Rolle in der Welt. In der Rückschau zeigt sich, wieder einmal, dass und wie Krisen Auslöser einer vertieften und weiterführenden Reflexion über die politische Bedeutung und Zielrichtung der Europäischen Union und der Integrationsidee selbst waren. Professor Ludger Kühnhardt, Direktor am Zentrum für Europäische Integrationsforschung (ZEI) der  Universität Bonn ordnet in diesem Band seine Standpunkte, Sichtweisen und Stellungnahmen aus dem Jahrzehnt 2010 bis 2020.

The Juncker Commission: "Towards a New Policy on Migration"

Liska Wittenberg

In: Robert Stüwe / Thomas Panayotopoulos (eds.): The Juncker Commission. Politicizing EU Policies (Schriften des Zentrum für Europäische Integrationsforschung, Vol. 79), Nomos, Baden-Baden 2020, p. 169-181.

Das primäre Erkenntnisinteresse des Buches besteht darin, Strategien der Europäischen Kommission beim Umgang mit dem Phänomen der Politisierung in der EU‐Gesetzgebung zu erforschen. In einer Fallstudie zur Amtszeit von Präsident Jean‐Claude Juncker analysieren die Autoren des Sammelbandes, wie die EU‐Kommission zwischen 2014 und 2019 bestimmte politische Schwerpunkte gesetzt hat, um ihre Agenda voranzutreiben. Gegenstand der Analyse sind die zehn politischen Prioritäten der Juncker‐Kommission aus den jährlichen Arbeitsprogrammen seit 2014. Ausgangspunkt der Studie ist das von Juncker proklamierte Selbstverständnis als „politischer Kommission“. Die Bewertung der „Politisierung“ integrationspolitischer Vorhaben fällt dabei ambivalent aus: Auf der einen Seite hat die Juncker Kommission politisierte Themen gezielt aufgegriffen und als Gelegenheiten zur politischen Führung sowie zur Schärfung des eigenen institutionellen Profils genutzt. Auf der anderen Seite sah sich die EU‐Kommission zuweilen gezwungen, bei Krisen und Kontroversen Schadensbegrenzung zu betreiben.

Europe´s Migration Policy Towards the Mediterranean. The Need of Reconstruction of Policy-Making

Marvin Andrew Cuschieri

 ZEI Discussion Paper C 168 / 2007

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