Priority 6 - A New Push for European Democracy

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© European Union, 2021

Protection of the Rule of Law

Better Regulation

Protection of Minorities

Transparency and Democracy

European Commission Work Programme 2023

Defence of Democracy Package

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Legislative and non-legislative, Article 114 TFEU, Q2 2023.

Anti-Corruption Package

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Legislative, Article 83(1) TFEU, Q3 2023.

Rights of Persons with Disabilities

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Legislative, incl. impact assessment, Q4 2023.

European Commission Work Programme 2022

Follow-up to the Rule of Law Budget Mechanism

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Non-legislative Act: On the 2nd of March 2022 the European Commission published a Communication regarding guidelines on the application of the Regulation (EU, EURATOM) 2020/2092 on a general regime of conditionality for the protection of the Union budget (Press release).

Problem: Respect for the rule of law is one of the values on which the Union is founded, whereas the Union budget is one of the main instruments to express the principle of solidarity, therefore, combining both principles, the Conditionality Regulation seeks to protect the Union budget in the case of breaches of the principles of the rule of law in a member state.

Objective: The Regulation on a general regime of conditionality for the protection of the Union budget is a permanent instrument applying beyond the limits of a given multiannual financial framework and aims to protect the Union budget against breaches of the principles of the rule of law. The purpose of the following guidelines is to explain five aspects of the Conditionality Regulation that include the conditions for the adoption of measures, the relation between the Conditionality Regulation and other instruments, the proportionality of the measures to be proposed to the Council, the procedure and assessment process as well as the protection of the rights of final recipients or beneficiaries.

Subject Matter: A series of conditions must be fulfilled to initiate the procedure. In accordance with Article 4(1) of the Conditionality Regulation, ‘[a]ppropriate measures shall be taken where it is established in accordance with Article 6 that breaches of the principles of the rule of law in a member state affect or seriously risk affecting the sound financial management of the Union budget or the protection of the financial interests of the Union in a sufficiently direct way’. When conditions set out in Article 4 are met, the Commission will initiate the procedure set out in Article 6 of the Conditionality Regulation. Additionally, when assessing cases under the Conditionality Regulation, the Commission will apply a comprehensive, proactive, risk-based and targeted approach, aiming at ensuring its effective application and thus at safeguarding the Union budget and protecting the Union’s financial interests. According to Article 4(1) of the Conditionality Regulation, for a given conduct or situation to fall within the scope of the Conditionality Regulation, the Commission needs to identify a breach of the principles of the rule of law and to assess whether such a breach affects, or seriously risks affecting, the sound financial management of the Union budget or the protection of the financial interests of the Union, in a sufficiently direct way. This assessment should be made on a case-by-case basis.

Media Freedom

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Legislative Act: On the 16th of September 2022, the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation on establishing a common framework for media services in the internal market (European Media Freedom Act) and amending Directive 2010/13/EU (Press release).

Problem: Diverging national rules and procedures related to media freedom and pluralism inhibit media companies to operate and impact investment conditions in the internal market. Such rules additionally create fragmentation in the internal market, impacting legal certainty for media market players and resulting in additional costs when operating across borders. The obstacles are further reinforced by the insufficient cooperation among national media regulators. This is the case for the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA), whose scope for action is limited and includes solely audiovisual media services. Thus, ERGA does not provide the tools and resources needed to contribute to solving crossborder matters or practical issues in key areas of media regulation. Moreover, media service providers increasingly face interference in their editorial decisions and ability to provide quality media services in the internal market. Although the severity of the problems varies across the Union, there is, generally speaking, a difficulty for media service providers to use the internal market to its full potential, maintain economic sustainability and properly fulfil their societal role to inform people and businesses.

Objective: The European Media Act is to improve the functioning of the internal media market. To do so, it shall foster cross-border activity and investment in media services by coordinating some of the elements of the diverging national media pluralism frameworks. This shall ensure that the assessment of media market concentrations by independent national authorities approaches media pluralism and media independence in a consistent manner. Regulatory cooperation and convergence will be enhanced by cross-border coordination tools and EU-level opinions and guidelines. The idea is to promote consistent approaches to media pluralism and media independence, and provide effective protection for users of media services from illegal and harmful content. The editorial freedom shall be protected by mitigating the risk of undue public and private interference. Thus, facilitating the provision of quality media services is crucial. This shall guarantee that journalists and editors can work without interference, as well as provide better protection for the interests of recipients of media services. Lastly, the air allocation of economic resources in the internal media market shall be fair and transparent, meaning transparency, non-discrimination, proportionality, objectivity, and inclusiveness of audience measurement methodologies, in particular online.

Subject Matter: A Recommendation accompanies the proposal with the aim to lay out a catalogue of voluntary good practices for media companies to promote editorial independence and recommendations to media companies and member states. Member states will have, after the adoption of the Proposal, between 3 and 6 months to adapt their national frameworks to the legislative instrument. A first evaluation will take place 4 years after the new rules’ entry into force, and subsequent evaluations will be carried out every 4 years. The Board will support the Commission in its monitoring. The European Media Freedom Act turns the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA) into the European Board for Media Services. It shall promote the effective and consistent application of both the European Media Freedom Act and AVMSD across the member states provide expert advice on regulatory, technical or practical aspects of media regulation, opinions, coordinate actions with regard to service not following EU media standards, and promote cooperation and the effective exchange of information, experience and best practices between regulators. A secretariat will ensure that the Board fulfils its mandate as established in this Regulation and assist the Board in its activities, provide administrative and organisational support.

Transfer of Criminal Proceedings

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Legislative, incl. impact assessment, Article 82(1) TFEU, Q3 2022.

Recognition of Parenthood between Member States

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Legislative, incl. impact assessment, Article 81(3) TFEU, Q3 2022.

Equality Bodies

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Legislative, Articles 19 and 157 TFEU, Q3 2022.

Future of Europe: Follow-up

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Non-legislative Act: On the 17th of June 2022, the European Commission published a Communication regarding the Conference on the Future of Europe, putting Vision into Concrete Action (press release).

Problem: In view of current fundamental issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine that has escalated into a full-scale war close to EU’s borders, the Conference identified a number of key actions needed in areas that will define the future of Europe. Climate change, digitalisation, democracy, health and social justice, equality, economy and security, values and culture as well as several other global challenges call for change and reform, to improve Europe and the world as a whole.

Objective: In light of the Conference on the Future of Europe, the Communication introduces several of the next steps that are to be taken, setting out how best to incorporate the evaluations from the Conference and to embed participative democracy into EU’s policy and law making. While in the scope of the yearlong Conference, EU’s citizens assembled a considerable amount of ideas to initiate change, the Commission commits to present specific actions to improve the following nine policy areas: Climate change and the environment, health, a stronger economy in addition to social justice and jobs, EU in the world, values, and rights including the rule of law and security, digital transformation, European democracy, migration, and lastly education, culture, youth, and sport. In order to identify how best to tackle these policy areas, a first analysis shall be conducted. The follow-up to the outcome of the Conference additionally emphasized shared responsibility of the participating institutions, according to their institutional remit and in respect of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. Lastly, through clear and effective communication buy-in from citizens shall be ensured and trust in the process and its outcomes shall be built.

Subject Matter: For an accurate assessment, the Communication annex separates four categories of measures: (1) initiatives already being implemented by the Commission in direct response to the proposals; (2) subordinate proposals currently being worked on by the two legislative bodies (EU Parliament and Council); (3) upcoming measures already planned to implement the ideas of the conference and to incorporate new thinking; and (4) proposals that have been made, some or all of which are new and require new initiatives or proposals from the Commission. Showing a clear direction, the assessment identifies areas where the Commission will need to make proposals. A first set of new proposals is to be announced in President von der Leyen’s State of the Union address in September 2022. Citizens Panels to deliberate and make recommendations ahead of certain key proposals will also be launched in the context of the 2022 State of the Union address. The “Have Your Say” portal established by the Commission is to become a one-stop-shop for online citizen engagement, bringing together all information on citizens’ engagement mechanisms running in the Commission. It will integrate key features of the Conference’s multilingual digital platform: direct exchanges between citizens, commenting – in all EU official languages by eTranslation – but also online polls and hosting online participatory events.

European Commission Work Programme 2021

Rule of Law Budget Mechanism

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Legislative procedure completed: On the 11th of January 2021 the Regulation on a general regime of conditionality for the protection of the Union budget entered into force (Press release) .
With the entry into force of the Regulation entered into force, the Commission will start collecting data on the state of democracy across the EU. The monitoring process has primarily been facilitated by the Commission's annual Rule of Law report, decisions by the Court of Justice of the European Union, reports from the European Court of Auditors, as well as conclusions by relevant international organisations. This new conditionality regime allows the EU to take measures – for example suspension of payments or financial corrections – to protect the EU-budget. Thus, the Union budget has added another layer of protection in cases when breaches of the rule of law principles affect or risk affecting the EU financial interests.

Problem: The deficits encountered in the Art. 7 TEU (principle of unanimity), which enable member states to shield each other from sanctions based on the requirement of unanimity, have been undermining the Rule of Law Mechanism within the EU.

Objective: The mechanisms provided in the Regulation are intended to protect the EU against violations of the rule of law principles that have an impact on the Union's sound financial management as well as the protection of its financial interests. They in particular ought to offset the shortcoming of the Art. 7 TEU by taking up measures against individual member states to protect the Union’s budget when violating the principles of the rule of law. Further, an Internet portal is to provide citizens with a possibility to report infringements in their member states, so that member states are held accountable to assure effective legal protection in the areas covered by EU’s law.

Subject Matter: Appropriate measures shall be taken when breaches of the principles of the rule of law in a member state have a direct impact and/or threaten to impair the financial management stability of the EU budget as well as jeopardize the protection of the Union's financial interests. The Commission and the Council will impose sanctions such as the suspension of payments and of commitments, the suspension in whole or in part of the disbursement of instalments or the early repayment of loans guaranteed by the EU budget, and the suspension or reduction of the economic advantage under an instrument guaranteed by the Union budget. Additionally, entering into new agreements on loans or other instruments guaranteed by the Union budget will be prohibited while the approval of further programs will be ceased. A reduction of funds from existing commitments as well as the prohibition of new commitments to beneficiaries or entering into new agreements on loans or other instruments guaranteed from the Union budget are also to be expected. If, according to the Commission's judgment, violations of the rule of law in a member state affect the Union budget, the Commission may submit a proposal containing appropriate measures. However, before a proposal can be submitted, the member state concerned must be notified and get the opportunity to submit its observations. The Council shall adopt (by a qualified majority) the decision within one month of receipt of the Commission proposal. In order to ensure the implementation of the measures, the Commission will be monitoring the developments in the member state along with the state’s own report on its compliance. A year after the introduction of the measures, the Commission must conduct a re-evaluation of the situation in the member state, so that the Council can repeal the measures as soon as the Commission deems the intervention to no longer be necessary.

Rights of Children

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Non-legislative Act: On the 11th of May 2022 the European Commission published a Communication on a Digital Decade for children and youth: the new European strategy for a better internet for kids (BIK+) (press release).

Problem: In the light of the new Digital Decade, updating the strategy for a better internet for kids (BIK) is crucial in order to protect, respect and empower children online. Children from a very young age, using digital technologies for education, entertainment, social contact and participation in society, increasingly encounter content and services that were not designed for them. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the benefits of digital technology but also the crucial need for equal access to technology (devices and network), digital skills and competences including media literacy for all children. With the following in mind, and to address the risks and harms of the increasingly digitalised society, including for children, the Commission shaped a new vision to promote age appropriate digital services, available to every child in Europe and additionally ensuring their protection and empowerment online.

Objective: BIK+ consists of three pillars: ensuring safe digital experiences to protect children from harmful and illegal online content, conduct, contact, and consumer risks and to improve their well-being online through a safe, age-appropriate digital environment, created in a way that respects children’s best interests; digital empowerment so that children may acquire the necessary skills and competences to make sound choices and express themselves in the online environment safely and responsibly; and lastly active participation, respecting children by giving them a say in the digital environment, with more child-led activities to foster innovative and creative safe digital experiences. To achieve these, evidence-based policy that promotes cooperation and coordination at European and international level is needed.

Subject Matter: By 20224 the design of a comprehensive EU code of conduct on age-appropriate design building on the framework provided in the DSA as well as the development of an EU-wide recognised digital proof of age based on date of birth within the framework of the eID proposal shall supported by the Commission. Moreover, from 2023 a standardisation request for a European standard on online age assurance/age verification in the context of the eID proposal is to be issued. The Commission shall co-fund the safer internet helplines and hotlines in the EU including those recognised in the future as ‘trusted flaggers’ under the DSA, to assist the public, in particular children, when confronted with harmful and illegal content. It shall further support the monitoring of the impact of the digital transformation on children’s well-being by Member States, industry and academics via the BIK portal along with promoting the exchange of good practices for national curricula on media literacy between member states and amongst schools and educators across the EU. Children will be involved in the creation of the EU Code of conduct on age-appropriate design as well as in the action on a digitally relevant topic for the young generation, in synergy with the EU Children’s Participation Platform. Lastly, member states are invited to support peer-to-peer training and child-to-adult teaching on digital and engage an inclusive range of youth ambassadors to contribute to digital policies at local, regional and national level.

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Non-legislative Act: On the 24th of March 2021, the Commission published a Communication regarding a new EU strategy on the rights of the child (Press release).

Problem: Despite numerous EU and Member State policies, legislations and funding that have improved children's rights, opportunities and their safety over the past decade, both within and outside the Union, children continue to be victims of various forms of violence; suffer from socio-economic exclusion and discrimination, in particular on the grounds of their sex, sexual orientation, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability – or that of their parents. In particular, the COVID 19 pandemic exacerbated existing challenges and generated new inequalities.

Objective: This strategy’s overarching ambition is to build the best possible life for children in the European Union and across the globe. It aims to promote their political participation in democratic life and to establish a child-friendly justice system that respects the rights and needs of children. Socio-economic inclusion, health and education are crucial aspects that need to be improved in order to combat child poverty as well as promote inclusive and child-friendly societies. In the light of the societal digitalisation, it is necessary that children can safely navigate the digital environment, and harness its opportunities. Furthermore, the following aspects must be integrated into the EU legal framework as well as implemented globally as a way to support, protect and empower children worldwide.

Subject Matter: The strategy is intended to act in a complementary way to initiatives at national level to ensure better implementation. To do so, the Commission will establish an EU Network on the Rights of the Child by the end of 2021, which will strengthen the dialogue between the EU and member states as well as support the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the following Strategy. Under the Multiannual Financial Framework (2021 - 2027), the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) will support investments in human capacity development and infrastructure. Further funding under the will be implemented in a.o. the new Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), the Justice and Erasmus+ programmes. Children's participation locally in addition to a national and EU level attendance, will be supported through the establishment of an EU platform in a cooperation of the European Parliament and children's rights organisations. Acquiring accessible, digitally inclusive and child-friendly versions and formats of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and other key EU instruments has also been planned. Likewise, the Commission will encourage Commission staff and staff of EU agencies to take greater account of children's participation in their professional and working practices. A legislative proposal to combat gender-based violence against women, domestic violence and a recommendation on the prevention of harmful practices against women and girls have been announced. Finally, the EU will continue allocating 10% of humanitarian aid funding for education in emergencies and protracted crises, and promote the endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration.

Preventing and Combating Specific Forms of Gender-Based Violence

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Proposal: On the 8th of March 2022 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence (press release) .

Problem: Considering that violence against women and domestic violence are pervasive throughout the EU and are estimated to affect 1 in 3 women within the Union, the Commission proposes measures that will effectively combat violence against women and domestic violence throughout the EU.

Objective: The criminalisation of and sanctions for relevant offences, the protection of victims and access to justice, victim support, prevention as well as coordination and cooperation among the member states are on the agenda. Preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence are to ensure a high level of security and the full enjoyment of fundamental rights within the Union, including the right to equal treatment and non-discrimination between women and men. Current EU legal instruments relevant to combating violence against women and domestic violence are being made more effective, while an upwards convergence is created in addition to the filling of gaps in protection, access to justice, support, prevention and coordination and cooperation. The proposal criminalises certain forms of violence that disproportionately affect women and strengthens victims’ rights. It thereby ensures such offences are effectively prosecuted and contributes to the elimination of violence against women and domestic violence and to better support and protection for victims.

Subject Matter: Rules established in the proposal lay down a definition of criminal offences and penalties in the areas of sexual exploitation of women and children, as well as for computer crime. The rights of victims of all forms of violence against women or domestic violence before, during or after criminal proceedings are clarified, while victims’ protection and support are further encouraged in all member states. The increased risk of violence faced by victims experiencing discrimination based on a combination of sex and other grounds shall be taken into consideration while implementing the measures of the Directive. Moreover, member states shall ensure that, in the application of this Directive, particular attention is paid to the risk of intimidation, retaliation, secondary and repeat victimisation and to the need to protect the dignity and physical integrity of victims. The proposal will task the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) to develop common disaggregations and methodology in cooperation with member states as well as support them in the data gathering by establishing common standards on counting units, counting rules, common disaggregations, reporting formats, and on the classification of offenses.

Fighting hate crime and hate speech

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Non-legislative Act: On the 9th of December 2021 the EU Commission published a Communication9 on a more inclusive and protective Europe: extending the list of EU crimes to hate speech and hate crime (Press release10). The Commission still intends to take legislative action in this regard.

Problem: In the light of a rise in extremist ideological movements to target specific populations (on various grounds, including nationality, religion, race, sex, sexual orientation, colour and age), in Europa within the last decade, the Commission aims to bring forward an extension of the list of areas of EU crimes, to include hate speech and hate crime. Through an increase in internet and social media usage that has brought hate speech online as well as by heightened feelings of insecurity, isolation and fear due to the Covid-19 pandemic, an atmosphere of discrimination that undermines EU’s core values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, has been fostered.

Objective: The list of areas of EU crimes is being extended as a first step to creating the legal basis necessary to adopt, in a second step, a common legal framework to combat hate speech and hate crime across the EU. The Framework Decision that was previously established to ensure that serious manifestations of racism and xenophobia are punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal sanctions across the EU and required member states to criminalise hate speech, has been complemented by the following initiative in order to ensure a robust EU level criminal law response to hate speech and hate crime on other grounds than racism and xenophobia, in particular the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, age and disability. Only with a union-wide initiative is it possible to effectively protect the common values enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union, which are undermined by all forms of hate speech and hate crime, regardless of the persons and groups targeted. As follows, a joint effort is meant to respond to the challenges raised by the cross-border nature of the two phenomena, as well as by their scale and increasing trend.

Subject Matter: Through this Communication, the Commission invites the Council, with the consent of the European Parliament, to take this initiative forward and decide on the extension of the list of EU crimes to hate speech and hate crime. Following the adoption of a Council decision, the Commission will be empowered to propose legislation to criminalise hate speech and hate crime at Union level. Giving particular consideration to the national legislative frameworks and in close cooperation with member states and the European Parliament, the Commission will propose a robust response to the challenges posed by hate speech and hate crime across the EU today and in the future.

Digital Judicial Cooperation Package

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Proposal: On the 1st of December 2021 the EU Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation on the digitalisation of judicial cooperation and access to justice in cross-border civil, commercial and criminal matters, and amending certain acts in the field of judicial cooperation (Press release) .

Problem: Although there exists a set of instruments designed to enhance judicial cooperation and access to justice in cross-border civil, commercial and criminal cases, governing the communication between authorities, individuals and legal entities, most instruments do not provide the engagement through digital means. Other gaps may arise such as a lack of secure and reliable digital communication channels depriving judicial cooperation and access to justice of using the most efficient, secure and reliable channels of communication available. Further, the Covid-19 pandemic – as a force majeure- displayed the flaws of the normal functioning of member states’ justice systems, thus revealing the need for the digitalisation of the judiciary.

Objectives: The proposal primarily advocates for a more efficient judiciary within the member states, one that improves the communication flows inherent to the cooperation between judicial and other competent authorities in EU cross-border cases. By easing the administrative burden, shortening case processing times, making communication more secure and reliable, and partially automating case handling, the Commission urges a common approach towards the use of modern technologies in crossborder judicial cooperation and access to justice. The availability and use of electronic means of communication in cross-border cases between member states’ judicial and other competent authorities is to be ensured. In addition to enabling the use of electronic means of communication in cross-border cases between individuals and legal entities, and courts and competent authorities, the initiative promotes a facilitation in the participation of parties to cross-border civil and criminal proceedings in oral hearings through videoconference or other distance communication technology. Further, the recognition of documents in their electronic form as well as securing the validity and acceptance of electronic signatures and seals in the context of electronic communication in cross-border judicial cooperation and access to justice are an objective of the EU.

Subject Matter: In order to facilitate the exchange between the courts and the competent authorities as well as between these entities and natural or legal persons, a decentralised IT system has been planned. Neither data storage nor data processing will be feasible by the entity entrusted with the operational management of the system’s components, ensuring data security. For the purposes of this Regulation, the decentralised IT system will be developed further through implementing acts adopted by the Commission that will set out including but not limited to the technical specifications defining the methods of communication by electronic means for the purposes of the decentralised IT system and minimum availability objectives and possible related technical requirements for the services provided by the decentralised IT system. A European electronic access point will be established on the European e-Justice Portal, by modifying the already developed e-CODEX solution for filing small claims. For monitoring the proposed legal instrument, a system with a comprehensive set of qualitative and quantitative indicators as wekk as a clear and structured reporting process, has been proposed. With the help of a full evaluation every five years impacts and contextual issues are to be assessed. Where electronic communication is used, monitoring will be facilitated by automatically compiling data and using the reporting features of the decentralised IT system, while for data that is not collected automatically, a monitoring sample of at least one court or competent authority to be designated by each Member State will be put in place.

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Proposal: On the 1st of December 2021 the EU Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation establishing a collaboration platform to support the functioning of Joint Investigation Teams and amending Regulation (EU) 2018/1726 (Press release).

Problem: Joint Investigation Teams that are set up by the competent authorities of two or more member states and possibly non-EU countries, to carry out together criminal investigations that cross borders, have increasingly been facing technical difficulties preventing them from being efficient in fostering their operations. Particularly obstacles concerning the secure electronic exchange of information and evidence as well as the secure electronic communication with other JIT members and the competent Union bodies, offices and agencies such as Eurojust and Europol, hinder the efficiency of the JIT.

Objectives: As a measure to improve and speed up JIT’s work, while further enable the secure communication among its members, an IT platform has been proposed. The general objective of the proposal is to provide technological support to those involved in JITs to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their cross-border investigations and prosecution. Additionally, the initiative aims to facilitate the share of information and the collection of evidence in the course of the activities between the members and participants of the JIT. Likewise the Commission expects the members and participants of JITs to communicate with each other more easily and safely. Lastly, the joint daily management of a JIT, including planning and coordination of parallel activities, enhanced traceability of shared evidence as well as the coordination with third countries, specifically where physical meetings are too expansive or time consuming, need to be optimised.

Subject Matter: The JIT collaboration platform is the proposed solution that will not only meet those objectives but also tackle underlying problems of the system. Available to all actors involved in JIT proceedings, i.e. member states’ representatives fulfilling the role of members of a given JIT, representatives of third countries invited to cooperate in the context of a given JIT, and the competent Union bodies, offices and agencies, it is meant to ease electronic communication, allow information and evidence to be shared as well as ensure traceability of evidence. The platform would support the functioning of JITs throughout their operational and post-operational phases, essentially allowing secure, untraceable communication stored locally at the devices of the users, including a communication tool offering an instant messaging system, a chat feature, audio/video-conferencing and a function replacing standard emails. The Commission is to adopt the implementing acts necessary for the technical development of the JITs collaboration platform while two years after the start of operations of the JITs collaboration platform and every year after that, eu-LISA is to submit, to the Commission, a report on the technical functioning of the JITs cooperation platform, including its security. Four years after the start of operations of the JITs collaboration platform and every four years after that, the Commission will conduct an overall evaluation of the JITs collaboration platform which will be sent to the European Parliament as well as the Council.

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Proposal: On the 1st of December the 2021 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation amending Regulation (EU) 2018/1727 of the European Parliament and the Council and Council Decision 2005/671/JHA, as regards the digital information exchange in terrorism cases (Press release) .

Problem: Operating since 2002, the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) coordinates investigations and prosecutions of serious cross-border crime in Europe and beyond. As the European Union’s (EU) hub for judicial cooperation in criminal matters, Eurojust supports national investigating and prosecuting authorities, particularly in combatting terrorism. Efficient cooperation among authorities that enables them to share relevant information among themselves and with EU agencies and bodies to prevent, detect, investigate or prosecute terrorist offences is crucial for the security of EU’s member states. Considering that Eurojust often does not receive the necessary data from national authorities to cross-check information on terrorism cases and on serious crimes while the current case management system and the data processing environment are limiting Eurojust’s more proactive role in digitalised judicial cooperation, the Commission deems it necessary to strengthen Eurojust’s role.

Objective: The following proposal seeks to enable Eurojust to fulfil its stronger, more proactive role envisaged in the Eurojust Regulation in supporting and strengthening the coordination and the cooperation between the national investigating and prosecuting authorities in serious crime, in particular terrorist offences. Eurojust shall be able to identify links between parallel cross-border investigations and prosecutions regarding terrorist offences more efficiently and to provide proactively feedback on these links to member states. Further, the data exchange between member states, Eurojust and third countries shall be distributed more efficiently and cautiously. Lastly, legal certainty on the precise scope of the obligation to share information in terrorism cases and the relationship with Council Decision 2005/671/JHA is established through this proposal.

Subject Matter: To facilitate the exchange of information on terrorism cases, national authorities shall inform their national members of any ongoing or concluded criminal investigations supervised by judicial authorities, prosecutions, court proceedings and court decisions on terrorist offences as soon as judicial authorities are involved. The communication between the competent national authorities and Eurojust under this Regulation shall be carried out through a decentralised IT system, providing secure data exchange. The Commission shall adopt the implementing acts necessary for the establishment and use of the decentralised IT system for communication under this Regulation, setting out the technical specifications defining the methods of communication by electronic means for the purposes of the decentralised IT system as well as the technical specifications for communication protocols. Assistance will be provided to the Commission by a committee.

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Proposal: On the 1st of December 2021 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Directive amending Council Decision 2005/671/JHA, as regards its alignment with Union rules on the protection of personal data (Press release) .

Problem: To combat terrorism effectively, efficient exchange of information considered to be relevant by the competent authorities for the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of terrorist offences between competent authorities and Union agencies, is crucial. However, exchange must be carried out in full respect of the right to data protection and in line with the conditions set by the Data Protection Law Enforcement Directive (LED). Considering that Union rules on data protection have developed since the adoption of the Council Decision 2005/671/JHA of 20 September 2005 on the exchange of information and cooperation concerning terrorist offences, it is necessary to align these with the principles and rules laid down in the LED.

Objective: Ensuring consistent approach to protection afforded to persons regarding the processing of personal data is the key objective laid down by the proposal. It further specifies that the processing of personal data under Council Decision 2005/671/JHA can only take place for the prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of terrorist offences, in line with the purpose limitation principle. The categories of personal data that can be exchanged shall be defined more precisely by Union or member state law, in line with the requirements under Article 8(2) of the LED, taking due account of the operational needs of the authorities concerned.

Subject Matter: Member states shall bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive by one year after adoption at the latest. Additionally, they are advised to communicate to the Commission the text of those provisions. When member states adopt those provisions, they shall contain a reference to this Directive or be accompanied by such a reference on the occasion of their official publication. Member states shall determine how such reference is to be made, as well as communicate to the Commission the text of the main provisions of national law which they adopt in the field covered by this Directive.

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Proposal: On the 1st of December 2021 the EU Commission published a Proposal for a Directive amending Council Directive 2003/8/EC, Council Framework Decisions 2002/465/JHA, 2002/584/JHA, 2003/577/JHA, 2005/214/JHA, 2006/783/JHA, 2008/909/JHA, 2008/947/JHA, 2009/829/JHA and 2009/948/JHA, and Directive 2014/41/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council, as regards digitalisation of judicial cooperation (Press release).

Problem: In order to ensure that communication is conducted uniformly under the scope of all Union legal instruments in the area of civil, commercial and criminal matters, certain provisions already governing communication need to be aligned with the goal of ensuring “digital by default” information exchanges. Thus, the Commission considers it necessary to make amendments to ensure legal certainty in such situations where existing provisions may govern communication differently than the proposed Regulation.

Objectives: The digitalisation of judicial cooperation proposes the adoption of a harmonised set of rules on digitalisation, which aim at improving access to justice and the efficiency and resilience of the communication flows inherent to the cooperation between judicial and other competent authorities in EU cross-border cases. As some of the envisaged digitalisation measures do not harmonize with existing provisions, the amendments intent to reform current directives, bringing them in accordance with the digitalisation of the judiciary within the member states.

Subject Matter: Articles 1-11 introduce amendments to the Framework Decisions and Directives in civil, commercial and criminal matters in order to include references to the digital means of communication and to avoid uncertainty as to the communication means to be used under the existing legal acts. Articles 12 through 15 set out the transposition periods for the implementation of the amendments in the concerned Directives and Framework decisions, while Article 16 provides that the Directive would enter into force on the twentieth day following that of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. In Article 17 it is clarified that the Directive is addressed to the Member States in accordance with the Treaties. Lastly, given that the scope of this proposal is limited to amending certain legal provisions on communication, its impact should be monitored, evaluated and reported on under the individual amended instruments.

Transparency and democracy package

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Proposal: On November 25th 2021, the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation on the statute and funding of European political parties and European political foundations (recast) (press release).

Problem: An evaluation conducted by the European Commission and Parliament identified loopholes that hinder European political parties and foundations from fully fulfilling their mission to contribute to the creation of a European political space. Thus, the current framework does not sufficiently address the need for transparency of political advertising, which is essential for a fair democratic debate and free and fair elections.

Objective: The Commission aspires to increase the financial viability of European political parties and foundations as well as facilitate their interactions with their national member parties, so that European political parties can more easily participate in national campaigns on EU topics. Loopholes that have previously been identified regarding sources and transparency of financing, in particular, donations and financing from outside the EU, shall be addressed. The extensive administrative burden will be cut and the legal certainty increased. Additionally, more specific amendments to the Regulation shall guarantee high standards of transparency that address the emerging new environment of online political campaigning and the risk of foreign interference and the infringement of data protection rules in political advertising.

Subject Matter: This Regulation lays down the conditions governing the statute and funding of political parties at European level ('European political parties') and political foundations at European level ('European political foundations'). The amendments to the previous Regulation are presented in each of the articles, thus member states will make such provision as is appropriate to ensure the effective application of this Regulation.

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Legislative Act: On the 25th of November 2021, the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation on the transparency and targeting of political advertising (press corner).

Problem: Unevenly enforced and fragmented regulations combined with a significant increase in relevant online services have prompted concerns. EU’s internal market does not seem to be equipped to provide political advertising to a high standard of transparency to ensure a fair and open democratic process in all member states. Moreover, action on national level has been promoting regulatory gaps and insufficient transparency, strengthening fragmentation among member states and obstructing monitoring and enforcement strategies.

Objectives: In order to halt further fragmentation, rules on the use of targeting and amplification techniques in the context of political advertising are needed. Harmonised rules for a high level of transparency of political advertising and related services shall contribute to the proper functioning of the internal market for political advertising. The Regulation aims to protect natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data. Preparation, placement, promotion, publication, and dissemination of political advertising, or advertising directed at the citizens in a member state shall be better regulated, specifically at EU level. It is necessary to put these measures in place in 2023 in order for them to be effective ahead of the 2024 elections to the European Parliament.

Subject Matter: Measures include harmonised transparency obligations for providers of political advertising and related services to retain, disclose and publish information connected to the provision of such services. Harmonised rules further apply to the use of targeting and amplification techniques in the context of the publication, dissemination, or promotion of political advertising that involve the use of personal data. The Regulation will apply to political advertising prepared, placed, promoted, published or disseminated in the Union. Additionally, it will engage individuals in one or several member states, irrespective of the place of establishment of the advertising services provider, and irrespective of the means used. Member states shall not maintain or introduce provisions or measures diverging from those laid down in this Regulation. Lastly, providers of political advertising services shall ensure that the contractual arrangements concluded for the provision of a political advertising service specify how the relevant provisions of this Regulation are complied with.

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Proposal: On the 25th of November 2021, the European Commission published a Proposal for a Council Directive on laying down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and stand as a candidate in elections to the European Parliament for Union citizens residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals (recast) (press release).

Problem: Despite current measures that allow mobile EU citizens to fully exercise their EU citizenship rights, some still face difficulties in exercising their electoral rights in elections to the European Parliament. Problems include difficulties in obtaining correct information on how to vote and stand as candidate, burdensome registration processes, and the effect of deregistration from elections in the member state of origin. Additionally, the information exchange between member states on registered voters and candidates in order to prevent multiple voting in elections to the European Parliament is being hindered by an inconsistent scope and deadlines for data exchange and collection.

Objective: The Commission aspires primarily to ensure that mobile EU citizens can fully exercise their EU citizenship rights in the context of the next elections to the European Parliament. Thus, the provision of information to citizens and the exchange of relevant information among member states shall be facilitated and improves respectively. With a new initiative, existing rules are to be updated, clarified and strengthened in order to address the difficulties faced by mobile EU citizens. For the 2024 parliamentary elections, ensure broad and inclusive participation to support mobile EU citizens in exercising their rights and protect the integrity of EU elections.

Subject Matter: This Directive lays down the detailed arrangements whereby citizens of the Union residing in a member state of which they are not nationals may exercise the right to vote and to stand as a candidate there in elections to the European Parliament. However, nothing in this Directive shall affect each member state's provisions concerning the right to vote or to stand as a candidate of its nationals who reside outside its electoral territory. Member states that provide for the possibilities of advance voting, postal voting, and electronic and internet voting, in elections to the European Parliament shall ensure the availability of those voting methods to Union voters under similar conditions as the ones applicable to their own nationals. Additionally, they shall designate an authority with responsibility for collecting and providing relevant statistical data to the public and the Commission, on the participation of Union citizens who are not nationals in elections to the European Parliament.

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Proposal: On the 25th of November 2021, the European Commission published a Proposal for a Council Directive, laying down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in municipal elections by Union citizens residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals (recast) (press release).

Problem: Although measures are currently in place, mobile EU citizens still face difficulties in exercising their right to vote in local elections. Such problems include difficulties for in obtaining correct information on how to exercise their right to vote, burdensome registration procedures and the consequences of deregistering from elections in the home member state. In addition, given the changes in the "basic units of local government" in some member states and the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union, a revision of the current legislation is necessary.

Objective: This initiative will tackle the observed difficulties in the exercise of the right to vote by mobile EU citizens. It shall update, clarify and strengthen the rules in order to ensure the broad and inclusive participation of mobile EU citizens in local elections in the member state of residence.

Subject Matter: This Directive lays down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in municipal elections by citizens of the Union residing in a member state of which they are not nationals. Member states are required to designate authorities with specific responsibilities for providing Union citizens with adequate information on their rights and procedures for participation in and organisation of local elections. In order to ensure the effectiveness of communication, information should be provided in a clear and comprehensible fashion. The national authorities of the member states shall take the necessary measures to ensure that non-national citizens of the Union are informed in good time of the conditions and arrangements for registering as voters or candidates in municipal elections. It is essential that these citizens are registered on the electoral roll before election day so that they can vote with a valid identity card and a formal declaration containing information proving their eligibility to vote. Once registered, non-national citizens of the Union should remain on the electoral roll under the same conditions as citizens of the Union who are nationals of the member state concerned, as long as they fulfil the conditions for exercising the right to vote. Those authorities shall inform those entitled to vote and to stand as a candidate directly and individually of the status of their registration, the date of the election, the manner, and place of voting and the possibilities of obtaining further information on the organisation of the election, including the list of candidates. In order to improve the accessibility of electoral information, such information shall be available in at least one other official language of the EU other than that of the host member state. Different official languages may be in certain parts of member states' territory or in their regions, depending on which is the language understood by the largest group of Union citizens residing in that territory. Within three years of the entry into force of this Directive and every four years thereafter, member states shall report to the Commission on the application of this Directive in their territory. The report shall include statistical data on the participation of voters and candidates in local elections and a summary of the measures taken in this context.

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Proposal: On the 27th of April 2022 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Directive on protecting persons who engage in public participation from manifestly unfounded or abusive court proceedings (“Strategic lawsuits against public participation”) (press release).

Problem: Recently, groundless and exaggerated abusive court proceedings against public participation (commonly referred to also as strategic lawsuits against public participation or ‘SLAPPs’) initiated by powerful individuals, lobby groups, corporations, and state organs against parties who express criticism have been increasingly undermining the independent work of journalists, human rights defenders, media, publishing houses and civil society organisations. Given that none of the EU member states have specific safeguards against such proceedings and only a few are currently considering the introduction of specific safeguards, the Commission deems it necessary to establish a Union wide approach, allowing journalists to conduct their activities effectively to ensure that citizens have access to a plurality of views in European democracies.

Objective: Most importantly, the proposal aims to protect targets of SLAPPs and prevent the phenomenon from further expanding in the EU. To combat the intimidation of journalists and human rights defenders, EU courts shall be provided with effective means to deal with SLAPPs, while targets shall receive the aid needed to defend themselves from unjust court proceedings. Therefore, a common EU understanding on what constitutes a SLAPP as well as comprehensive procedural safeguards for all member states are encouraged. Strengthening media pluralism and media freedom within the Union is only possible with safeguards that apply in cases with cross-border implications. The protection of EU citizens and the civil society from SLAPPs initiated in third countries is further highlighted.

Subject Matter: The proposed Directive provides safeguards against manifestly unfounded or abusive court proceedings in civil matters, specifically with cross-border implications, brought against natural and legal persons, in particular journalists and human rights defenders, on account of their engagement in public participation. Member states shall ensure that when court proceedings are brought against natural or legal persons on account of their engagement in public participation, those persons can apply for security, early dismissal of manifestly unfounded court and remedies against abusive court proceedings. Moreover, it is necessary to ensure that a court or tribunal seised of court proceedings against public participation may accept that non-governmental organisations safeguarding or promoting the rights of persons engaging in public participation may take part in those proceedings, either in support of the defendant or to provide information. In order to assess the implications of this Directive, member states shall provide the Commission with all relevant information regarding its application. On the basis of the information provided, the Commission shall submit to the European Parliament and the Council a report on the application of this Directive that provides an assessment of the evolution of abusive court proceedings against public participation and the impact of this Directive in the member states.

Long-term Vision for Rural Areas

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Non-legislative Act: On the 30th of June, 2021 the EU Commission  published a Communication on a long-term Vision for the EU's Rural Areas - Towards stronger, connected, resilient and prosperous rural areas by 2040 (Press release) .

Problem: In consequence of social and economic changes of the last decades through the globalization, that have largely been affecting the rural regions of the continent, many Europeans find themselves worrying about the erosion of rural infrastructure and service provision.  Which includes the access to healthcare, social services and education as well as to postal and banking services. In addition, there is a threat of worse employment opportunities and possible declines in income.

Objective: The Communication highlights the long-term improvement of the quality of life in rural areas through achieving a balanced territorial development and stimulating economic growth. By 2040, the EU plans on developing rural areas with the vision to establish attractive spaces and local solutions for local effects created by global challenges. Interdependence between urban and rural areas should be enhanced through multi-level and place-based governance. Additionally, food security, economic opportunities, goods and services, community-based high-quality products, and renewable energy can provide well-being, prosperity, equality, and enhance overall the quality of life. Inter-generational solidarity particularly in subject matters such as climate change, digital innovation, education as well as efficient, accessible and affordable public and private services, including cross border services are also on the agenda.

Subject matter: The implementation of EU´s Rural Action Plan will be supervised by the Commission, who in turn will liaise with member states, stakeholders, bodies and institutions on a regular basis creating a platform for exchanges on rural issues. Through so called rural proofing, EU´s policies will be reviewed on all subject matters while evaluating their effects on rural jobs and growth as well as development prospects, social well-being, equal opportunities for all and the environmental quality in such areas.
By centralizing and gathering data in a rural observatory, analyses can be shared among all rural areas, creating an information platform on relevant EU initiatives and analyzing the execution of the EU Rural Action Plan. The Funding opportunities for rural areas will be assembled in a toolkit that bundles information into one document which will be accessible to local authorities, stakeholders, project holders and managing authorities.
At the end of 2021, the Commission will launch the Rural Pact together with stakeholders and review the approach to achieving the vision's objectives together with the Committee of the Regions. Furthermore, a stocktaking of the measures will be done by mid-2023.

EU Disability Strategy

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Non-legislative Act: On the 3rd of March, 2021 the EU Commission published a Communication on a strategy for the rights of persons with disabilities (Press release).

Problem: People with disabilities are disadvantaged in everyday life in areas such as healthcare, education, employment, recreation activities, as well as to the participation in political life. They are also more often at risk of poverty and social exclusion, especially in times of global pandemic.

Objective: The communication demands a new strategy in favor of people with disabilities, which will help to expand supportive measures at the European level and thus to improve people's quality of life in the coming decade. Key to this is the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), as well as highlighting the importance of accessibility and independent living. The EU also wants to support the rights of people with disabilities worldwide and initiate a dialogue on disability.

Subject matter: To achieve the goals, the European Union will launch the resource center AccessibleEU, where exchange of best practices between national authorities and experts will take place. To help enable independent living, the EU will publish guidelines for member states in 2023, which will supplemented by a European Disability Card to facilitate freedom of movement and residence. Furthermore, the Commission will present a specific framework for Social Services of Excellence for people with disabilities by 2024, to improve service delivery for persons with disabilities and to enhance the attractiveness of jobs in this area. In addition, the improved tools for better regulation will support the inclusion of people with disabilities. To promote dialogue, the EU will establish the Disability Platform that will bring together national UNCRPD focal points, organisations of persons with disabilities and the Commission. In order to strengthen disability rights worldwide, instruments of the EU's enlargement and neighborhood policy will applied and cooperation with third countries and development cooperation will strengthened. Following a review of the EU framework in 2022, the Commission will propose new measures.

European Commission Work Programme 2020

Consumer Agenda

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Non-legislative Act: On the 13th of November 2020 the European Commission published a Communication on a New Consumer Agenda, strengthening consumer resilience for sustainable recovery (Press release).

Problem: In order to enable the European consumers to benefit fully from the single market and to be empowered to make informed choices and play an active role in the green and digital transition whenever and wherever they are in the EU, it is essential to encounter the significant challenges raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular in relation to the availability and accessibility of products and services, as well as travel within, to and from the EU. Thus, the Agenda will act as a guide for the implementation of the Single Market Programme, by promoting measures for a greener, more digital and fairer single market, as well as by stimulating economic recovery after the pandemic.

Objective: The New Consumer Agenda primarily aims to address consumers’ immediate needs in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and to increase their resilience. To achieve the following, five key priorities are set forward: the green transition, the digital transformation, redress and enforcement of consumer rights, specific needs of certain consumer groups and international cooperation. New measures shall empower, support and enable every consumer, regardless of their financial situation, to play an active role in the green transition. Commercial practices that disregard consumers’ right to make an informed choice, abuse their behavioural biases, or distort their decision-making processes, shall be tackled, while additional guidance on the applicability of consumer law instruments such as the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive and Consumer Rights Directive is further demanded. Just as businesses are entitled to sell products and offer services to all consumers in the single market, consumers, wherever they are in the EU, shall be able to enforce their rights effectively vis-à-vis these businesses. The vulnerability of the consumers shall be prevented by necessary and appropriate pre-contractual information and advice, enabling informed choices when entering into credit agreements. Lastly, strong international cooperation among authorities and all actors in the supply chain is important to ensure effective protection of consumers.

Subject Matter: A range of immediate actions include the analysis of the longer-term impact of COVID-19 on the consumption patterns of people in the EU as a basis for future policy initiatives, as well as the assistance of the cooperation between the Consumer Protection Cooperation network and other networks and stakeholders. In 2021, the Commission plans to present a legislative proposal to empower consumers for the green transition with better information on products’ sustainability and better protection against certain practices, such as greenwashing and early obsolescence, and a legislative proposal on the substantiation of green claims based on the Environmental Footprint methods. From 2022, the Commission will assess, in the context of the review of the Sales of Goods Directive, how to further promote repair and encourage more sustainable, “circular” products. Additionally, by 2022 and after updating its guidance documents on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive and the Consumer Rights Directive, the Commission plans to analyse whether additional legislation or other action are needed in the medium-term in order to ensure equal fairness online and offline. The evaluation of the application of the CPC Regulation will be evaluated by 2023, in particular in order to assess the effectiveness of enforcement in addressing EU-wide practices that contravene consumer law. Finally, by 2023, the Commission will develop a strategic approach to improving consumer awareness and education, addressing also the needs of different groups, on the basis inter alia of equality and non-discrimination approaches.

Addressing the Impact of Demographic Change

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Non-legislative Act: On the 17th of June 2020 the European Commission published a Report on the impact of demographic change (Press release) .

Problem: While Europe had already been going through a period of profound transformation through climate, societal and demographic change, the demographic transformation in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic presents further challenges and opportunities for EU’s democracy. Appropriately managing the transformation will help ensure that the Union’s systems of government and participation are dynamic, resilient, inclusive and represent the diversity of society. Therefore, addressing these issues will be important for a successful recovery as well as determine the speed and the extent to which the Union will be able to rebuild its everyday lives, social networks and economies.

Objective: Demographic transformation is seen as a long-term opportunity for Europe to build a fairer and more resilient society, while the need for solidarity between generations is highlighted as one of the driving forces of Europe’s recovery. Europe will strive to improve living standards and reduce disparities by ensuring people’s needs are catered for and that there are prospects and job opportunities where they live. The Report is further about providing access to healthcare, childcare and education, as well as other vital local services, such as post offices, libraries or transport. It is emphasised that the European Union, its member states and their regions have a shared interest in responding to the impact of demographic change for the benefit of all Europeans as a part of Europe’s recovery and of building a more resilient, sustainable and fair Union.

Subject Matter: The Commission will put forward a Green Paper on Ageing and a Long-term vision for Rural Areas while also look closely at other issues that are highlighted by this report, such as loneliness, social isolation, mental health, economic resilience and long-term healthcare, among others. Using all instruments at its disposal, notably through the next long-term EU budget and its recovery instrument Next Generation EU, the Commission will support social cohesion, integration and inclusion, rural development, and education and training. Additionally, structural reforms and competitive sustainability shall be reinforced. Given that policymaking needs to zoom in on the reality on the ground and reduce the disparities between regions, the Commission will continue to promote upward convergence, ensure a just transition, uphold social fairness, equal opportunities and non-discrimination, notably through the European Pillar of Social Rights and the EU Gender Equality Strategy. On the basis of this report, the Commission will engage in a dialogue with relevant stakeholders, in particular at regional level, and discuss with Member States, EU institutions and bodies, notably the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.

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Non-legislative Act: On the 27th of January 2021 the European Commission published a Green Paper on Ageing, fostering solidarity and responsibility between generations (Press release).

Problem: The increase in life expectancy at birth by about 10 years in addition to today’s median age in Europe that amounts to 42.5 years, are having significant impact on people’s everyday lives as well as Europe’s society as a whole. While such changes provide new opportunities for creating new jobs, fostering social fairness and boosting prosperity, the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on older people highlighted some challenges an ageing population poses on health and social care. While member states are addressing the impacts, given the scale, speed and impact this trend will have across society, Union-wide approaches are needed to ensure that the EU’s policies are fit for purpose in an era of major change.

Objective: The main purpose of the green paper is to launch a broad policy debate on ageing to discuss options on how to anticipate and respond to the challenges and opportunities it brings. Given that the EU is well-placed to identify key issues and trends as well as support action on ageing at national, regional and local level, it shall help member states and regions to develop their own, tailor-made policy responses to ageing. Some of the specific objectives include promoting healthy and active ageing, specifically with regards to consumption and nutrition patterns and physical and social activity, as well as lifelong learning, thus investing in people’s knowledge, skills and competences throughout their lives. High-quality education and training shall be accessible to all, including to those living in rural and remote regions. Moreover, bringing more people into the workforce shall increase productivity, innovation and business opportunities. Maintaining adequate, fair and sustainable pensions in an ageing society along with meeting the health and long-term care needs of an ageing population are further on the agenda.

Subject Matter: The EU shall support member state action, including through the new EU4Health programme, for example in the fight against cancer, dementia, mental health, and promoting healthy nutrition and diets as well as regular physical activity. Proposing a comprehensive approach to digital learning and education at EU level, the Digital Education Plan allows new approaches, blending classroom teaching with high-quality digital learning and improving access to education and training, both in urban and rural areas. Measures to promote equal participation of women and men in both paid and unpaid family work in addition to specific action to improve gender equality in the labour market and close the gender gap shall enhance men’s participation in household work and family care. Supporting legal migration as well as increasing employment among people with disabilities shall help fill skills shortages in the labour market. Digital connectivity is to provide remote territories with access to quality education and quality job opportunities. Infrastructure and the provision of services, such as education and training, health and long-term care, shall enhance opportunities for development, if adapted to local needs. Lastly, volunteering activities shall promote intergenerational solidarity and cooperation, creating value and benefiting young and old alike in terms of knowledge, experience and self-esteem.

Equality and non-discrimination initiatives

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Non-legislative Act: On the 5th of March 2020 the European Commission published a Communication on a Union of Equality: Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 (Press release) .

Problem: While the gender gap in education is being closed, gender gaps in employment, pay, care, power and pensions persist with too many people still violating the principle of gender equality through sexist hate speech and by blocking action against gender-based violence and gender stereotypes. Gender-based violence and harassment continue at alarming levels, particularly the #MeToo movement has demonstrated the extent of sexism and abuse that women and girls continue to face. Therefore, the Commission deems it crucial to give a new impetus to gender equality by setting out policy objectives and key actions for the 2020-2025 period.

Objective: The Commission's strategy primarily aims to obtain a gender equal Europe, overcoming gender-based violence, sex discrimination and structural inequality between women and men. A Europe where women and men, girls and boys, in all their diversity, are equal as well as free to pursue their chosen path in life, where they have equal opportunities to thrive, and where they can equally participate in and lead our European society is to be achieved. Specific objectives concern ending gender-based violence, challenging gender stereotypes, closing gender gaps in the labour market as well as achieving equal participation across different sectors of the economy. Dismantling the gender pay and pension gap in addition to closing the gender care gap shall encourage a gender-equal economy. Further, is it highlighted that achieving gender-balance in decision-making and politics while funding actions to make progress in gender equality in the EU can contribute to an innovative, competitive and thriving European economy.

Subject Matter: Planned actions include the ratification and implementation of the Istanbul Convention as well as the ILO Convention to combat violence and harassment in the world of work, by all member states. Systematically collecting and reporting data on gender-based violence in addition to supporting the civil society and public services in preventing and combating gender-based violence and gender stereotyping can further encourage gender equality. The Commission calls on the member states to transpose the Work-Life Balance Directive and properly implement EU gender equality and labour law as well as follows up on the Council conclusions of June 2019 “Closing the Gender Pay Gap: Key Policies and Measures”. Moreover, the European Parliament and the Council shall adopt the proposal for a Directive on improving the gender balance on corporate boards and measures to improve gender balance at all levels of their management and in leadership positions. Most importantly, it is required that all EU institutions, member states and EU agencies, work together in partnership with civil society and women’s organisations, social partners and the private sector.

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Proposal: On the 4th of March 2021 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Directive to strengthen the application of the principle of equal pay for equal work or work of equal value between men and women through pay transparency and enforcement mechanisms (Press release).

Problem: Although the right to equal pay between women and men for equal work or work of equal value is one of the EU’s founding principles, the effective implementation and enforcement of this principle in practice remains a challenge within the Union. Partially due to the lack of pay transparency, the gender pay gap in the EU remains around 14%, negatively impacting the quality of women’s life, specifically with regards to their increased risk of exposure to poverty. The Covid-19 pandemic with its economic and social consequences further worsened the stance of female workers, requiring the Commission to tackle the pressing issue by promoting pay transparency.

Objective: In order to tackle the persisting inadequate enforcement of the fundamental right to equal pay and ensure that this right is upheld across the EU, pay transparency standards are to be established within organisations. Facilitating the application of the key concepts related to equal pay, including ‘pay’ and ‘work of equal value’ as well as strengthening enforcement mechanisms shall further promote workers’ right to equal pay. Allowing workers to detect and prove possible discrimination based on sex, pay transparency shines light on gender bias in pay systems and job grading that do not value the work of women and men equally and in a gender-neutral way, or that fail to value certain occupational skills that are mostly seen as female qualities. Moreover, change in attitudes towards women’s pay shall be fostered by raising awareness and stimulating debate around the reasons for structural gender pay differences. In summary the Directive aims at laying down minimum requirements strengthening the application of the principle of equal pay between men and women and the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of sex through pay transparency and reinforced enforcement mechanisms.

Subject Matter: The scope of the Directive encompasses employers in the public and private sectors as well as all workers who have an employment contract or employment relationship as defined by law, collective agreements and/or practice in force in each member state with consideration to the case-law of the Court of Justice. Member states shall take the necessary measures to ensure that employers have pay structures in place ensuring that women and men are paid equally for the same work or work of equal value. They shall further bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive two years after the entry into force as well as immediately inform the Commission thereof. By eight years after the entry into force all the information on how this Directive has been applied and what has been its impact in practice is to be communicated to the Commission by the member states. Lastly, on the basis of the information provided by member states, the Commission shall submit a report to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of this Directive and propose, where appropriate, legislative amendments.

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Non-legislative Act: On the 12th of November 2020 the European Commission published a Communication regarding the Union of Equality: LGBTIQ Equality Strategy 2020-2025 (Press release).

Problem: Although legislative developments, case law and policy initiatives have improved many people’s lives and helped to build more equal and welcoming societies, including for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, non-binary, intersex and queer people, discrimination against LGBTIQ people persists throughout the EU. The COVID-19 crisis has further brought new pressures for the most vulnerable groups; thus, the Commission deems it necessary to address the inequalities and challenges affecting LGBTIQ people, paying particular attention to the diversity of LGBTIQ people’s needs.

Objective: The following Communication sets out a series of targeted actions with the aim to tackle discrimination against LGBTIQ people, ensure their safety, built LGBTIQ inclusive societies as well as lead the call for LGBTIQ equality around the world. Empowering the voices of LGBTIQ people and bringing together member states shall help address anti-LGBTIQ equality effectively. Enforcing and improving legal protection against discrimination in addition to promoting inclusion and diversity in the workplace are to help create equal opportunities in the labour market and improve business outcomes. Inequality in education, health, culture and sport shall further be addressed. Reinforcing legal protection for LGBTIQ people against hate crime, hate speech and violence through stronger measures to combat anti-LGBTIQ online hate speech and disinformation can promote a safer environment. Rights for LGBTIQ people in cross border situations shall be fostered by improving the legal protection for rainbow families as well as the recognition of trans and non-binary identities, and intersex people. Lastly, strengthening EU’s engagement on LGBTIQ issues in all its external relations will initiate specific efforts to combat violence, hatred and discrimination and ensure that LGBTIQ rights are upheld in partner countries.

Subject Matter: The European Commission shall provide appropriate protection of vulnerable applicants in the context of the common European asylum system, as well as assistance for LGBTIQ equality in action under the Asylum and Migration Fund. An initiative presented in 2021 is to extend the list of ‘EU crimes’ to cover hate crime and hate speech, including when targeted at LGBTIQ people. Funding opportunities by the Commission for initiatives that aim to combat hate crime, hate speech, violence and harmful practices against LGBTIQ people are to be provided, while member states are to be encouraged to improve training and capacity-building for law enforcement to better identify and record LGBTIQ-phobic bias. In 2022, the 2009 guidelines on free movement shall be reviewed in order to reflect the diversity of families and contribute to facilitating the exercise of free movement rights for all families, including rainbow families. Lastly, the fulfilment of the enabling condition related to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, as provided in the Commission’s proposal for a new Common Provisions Regulation (CPR) shall be monitored and assessed.

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Non-legislative Act: On the 7th of October 2020 the European Commission published a Communication regarding the Union of Equality: EU Roma strategic framework for equality, inclusion and participation (Press release).

Problem: While Roma inclusion has been high on EU and national agendas, mobilising EU policy, legal and funding instruments, the progress in Roma integration has been limited over the past 10 years, leading to many of EU’s estimated 10-12 million Roma to face discrimination, antigypsyism and socioeconomic exclusion in their daily lives. The COVID-19 pandemic further revealed the extreme exposure of excluded and marginalised Roma communities to negative health and socioeconomic impacts, calling for a new strategy that can adequately combat antigypsyism, hate crime and trafficking in Roma, in particular women and children.

Objective: Promoting effective equality, socio-economic inclusion and meaningful participation of Roma encompasses seven specific objectives that include the fight and prevention of antigypsyism and discrimination as well as the reduction of poverty and social exclusion in order to close the socio-economic gap between Roma and the general population. Participation, thus integration, shall be promoted through empowerment, cooperation and trust, while equal access to quality inclusive mainstream education shall be increased effectively. Additionally, equal access to quality and sustainable employment by cutting the employment gap as well as the gender gap of employment is to be promoted. Roma health shall be improved through the increase of effective equal access to quality healthcare and social services. Lastly, equal access to adequate desegregated housing and essential services are a necessity for stepping up the commitment to Roma equality, inclusion and participation at both European and national level.

Subject Matter: Member states are invited to develop, adopt and implement national Roma strategic frameworks including common features, minimum commitments, possible additional commitments depending on the national context as well as more ambitious commitments for member states with large Roma populations. The national strategic framework is advised to set out national baselines and targets towards the EU objectives and targets based on a comprehensive needs-assessment in addition to targets and measures for specific groups such as Roma children, women, young people, older Roma to reflect diversity among Roma, including gender-responsive and child/age-sensitive measures. In 2022, the Commission shall take stock of national Roma strategic frameworks, assess the commitments made by the member states and provide guidance for any improvement needed. Member states are therefore asked to report on implementation of national Roma strategic frameworks every two years from 2023 onwards, including measures to promote equality, inclusion and participation and making full use of the portfolio of indicators.

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Proposal: On the 7th of October 2020 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Council Recommendation on Roma equality, inclusion and participation (Press release).

Problem: In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic an extreme exposure of excluded and marginalised Roma communities to both short-term negative health impacts and to medium-term socioeconomic impacts has highlighted the need, at European Union level, to combat discrimination and achieve equal treatment of Europe’s largest ethnic minority, including by promoting equality and socioeconomic inclusion.

Objective: Tackling discrimination and socioeconomic exclusion of the Roma are the primarily objectives of the Proposal. With a specific focus on non-discrimination, which includes tackling antigypsyism, socioeconomic areas such as education, employment, health and housing shall be improved accordingly. Notably, the needs of specific groups within the community shall be reflected, involving Roma people in designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating Roma equality and inclusion strategies; improving target setting, data collection, monitoring and reporting as well as making mainstream policies more sensitive to Roma equality and inclusion. Inequalities are to be addressed more effectively, ensuring that Roma people can make full use of social protection systems and that they can deploy their potential to contribute to the economy and society in general, which will lead to better social and economic outcomes for all. The overall purpose of this Recommendation is to confirm a long-term commitment to the shared objectives on Roma equality, inclusion and participation and to provide renewed and strengthened guidance by setting out measures that member states may adopt towards these objectives.

Subject Matter: In order to promote equality, inclusion and participation, member states shall consolidate efforts to step up the fight against direct and indirect discrimination, harassment, stereotyping, anti-Roma rhetoric, hate speech, hate crime and violence against Roma, including incitement thereto, both online and offline. They shall fight multiple and structural discrimination against Roma and, in particular, against Roma women, Roma children, LGBTI+ Roma, Roma with disabilities, elderly Roma, stateless Roma and EU mobile Roma. The Commission urges to combat against the extremely high at-risk-of-poverty rate, material and social deprivation among the Roma population by increasing and improving the channelling of investment in human capital, infrastructure development and social cohesion policies as well as ensuring access to adequate social protection schemes for disadvantaged Roma. Member states are to promote the meaningful participation by and consultation of Roma people, including women, children and young people by supporting active citizenship by promoting social, economic, political and cultural participation, particularly for Roma women and young people. Accordingly, they shall allow equal access for Roma, in particular young Roma to quality and sustainable employment, including through measures such as stepping up outreach to young Roma to raise their awareness of the available, preferably integrated, employment and social services, as well as link them to these services. Lastly, contact points with adequate and necessary resources, staff capacity, mandate and political weight will enable the effective coordination and monitoring of national policies for Roma equality, inclusion and participation.

Democracy

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Non-legislative Act: On the 3rd of December 2020 the European Commission published a Communication on the European democracy action plan (Press release).

Problem: The democracies within the European Union have been increasingly subjected to challenges including rising extremism and polarisation, as well as a perceived distance between people and their elected representatives, threatening the integrity of elections and the environment in which journalists and civil society operate. Efforts to spread false and misleading information and voters’ manipulation, including by foreign actors, have weakened democratic systems and institutions globally. The COVID-19 pandemic further evoked exceptional emergency measures taken to address the unprecedented public health crisis that in some places sparked concerns about its impact on democracy.

Objective: Calling for transparency and accountability with respect to individual rights and freedoms, the Commission seeks to generate measures to adequately approach these global challenges to democracy and to build a basis for partnerships with like-minded democracies. At EU and national level, a coherent approach between internal and external actions is needed that could potentially protect, inspire and support democracies around the world. Specific objectives include in addition to a strong democratic participation, the promotion of free and fair elections, the support of free and independent media as well as the fight against disinformation. Transparency of political advertising and communication along with clearer rules on the financing of European political parties shall encourage citizen engagement and an active civil society. Freedom and pluralism within the media with regards to the safety of journalists in relation to countering lawsuits against public participation shall help develop professional norms and standards that in turn are essential for public trust in the media. Lastly, the fight against disinformation shall be reinforced through the improvement of EU’s and its member states’ capacity to protect its citizen from the distortion of information, the misleading of audience and manipulative tactics such as fake profiles that artificially amplify narratives on specific political issues and exploit existing divisions in society.

Subject Matter: A new joint operational mechanism and other support measures shall build on the previous work of the European Cooperation Network on Elections in order to promote resilient electoral processes and take further practical measures to protect election infrastructure against threats, including against cyber-attacks. The Commission shall organise a high-level event bringing together various authorities related to elections to address current challenges, as well as strengthen cooperation on parity of treatment and balanced media coverage during elections. Additionally, EU funds and opportunities under the EU youth strategy, citizenship education, the Creative Europe Programme and the equality agenda are to be employed to foster access to democratic participation and trust in democracy. Structured dialogue, under the European News Media Forum, with member states, stakeholders and international organisations and sustainable funding for projects with a focus on legal and practical assistance to journalists in the EU and elsewhere, including safety and cybersecurity training for journalists and diplomatic support are needed. Inaugurating the Media Ownership Monitor and developing further possible guidance on the transparency of media ownership shall further foster measures for the transparent and fair allocation of state advertising. Finally, it is essential to develop an EU’s toolbox for countering foreign interference and influence operations, including new instruments that allow imposing costs on perpetrators, as well as strengthening the EEAS strategic communication activities and taskforces.

Future of Europe

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Non-legislative Act: On the 22nd of January 2020 the European Commission published a Communication on shaping the Conference on the Future of Europe (Press release).

Problem: Although popular support for the Union is at one of its highest levels in almost 30 years, the increasing multipolarity of the current international order leaves many Europeans concerned about their future. Thus, the European Union regards it crucial to show that it can provide answers to its citizens’ concerns.

Objective: More involvement of Europeans in the development of the Union is the central premise of the Conference on the Future of Europe. EU’s new policy shall help citizens and businesses benefit from the green and digital transitions as well as address inequalities and ensure that the European Union is a fair, sustainable and competitive economy. Highlighting the pan-European democratic exercise, the Conference is to be a new public forum for an open, inclusive, transparent and structured debate with citizens around a number of key priorities and challenges, promoting key values and standards all around the world. Involvement of national and regional parliaments and regions shall ensure that the Conference goes far beyond Europe’s capital cities and reaches every corner of the Union, enabling a discussion while focusing on what matters to all citizens.

Subject Matter: As a bottom-up forum, the Conference on the Future of Europe shall be accessible to all citizens, from all walks of life, and from all corners of the Union, reflecting Europe’s diversity. It is to be open to civil society, the European institutions and other European bodies, including the Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee, as well as national, regional and local authorities, parliaments and other stakeholders – all contributing as equal partners. As a truly joint effort, the concept, structure, scope and timing of the Conference shall be established by the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission. This cooperation should take the form of a Joint Declaration by the three institutions, later to be opened to other signatories including institutions, organisations and stakeholders. It is essential to create a safe space where Europeans can have their say, in addition to encouraging new forums where citizens’ views and practical policy-making can interact. Such forums shall be digital as well as multilingual with the aim to maximise participation, accessibility and transparency. All EU institutions shall contribute resources, notably financial, for the organisation and roll-out of the Conference in order to effectively strengthen the outreach. Lastly, considering that a discussion of such magnitude will only be fruitful if and when it is followed up with real action and tangible results, the Commission shall take into account citizens’ feedback and proposals in the setting of its legislative agenda.

Rule of Law

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On the 30th of September 2020, the European Commission published its Rule of Law Report with an assessment of the situation in each member state, putting forward equal criteria for the evaluation of democratic backsliding. 

Fundamental Rights

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Non-legislative Act: On the 2nd of December 2020 the European Commission published a Communication on a Strategy to strengthen the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the EU (Press release) .

Problem: While the Charter has led to a greater promotion and protection of people’s fundamental rights in the EU, new challenges have emerged for instance in the areas of migration and security, and most recently, in the context of the COVID-19 crisis that brought about restrictions on a wide array of fundamental rights and freedoms as well as widened the inequality gap. In addition to new opportunities, the green transition and digital transformation bring challenges including the spread of illegal hate speech, increased surveillance, severe discrimination as well as heightened vulnerability of certain groups. Thus, the Commission introduces an optimised strategy to ensure that the EU institutions and the member states apply the Charter to its full potential.

Objective: In order to reinforce the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, four key objectives have been established. The following strategy is to ensure the effective application of the Charter by the member states, empower civil society organisations, rights defenders and justice practitioners, foster the use of the Charter as a compass for EU institutions as well as strengthen people’s awareness of their rights under the Charter. Working towards prevention, promotion, implementation and enforcement, it will complement targeted efforts to make EU rights and values more tangible in areas such as victims’ rights and access to justice, equality and inclusion, anti-racism and pluralism, social rights and inclusive education and training, economic rights, rights of EU citizens and rights of the child. Lastly, the EU shall further promote the respect of human rights globally.

Subject Matter: To ensure the effective application of the Charter, the Commission will strengthen its partnership with the member states, supporting the sharing of best practices between local authorities on the use and awareness of the Charter including through the Network of Towns strand of the new Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values programme. From 2021, it shall present an annual report on the application of the Charter, which will look at the Charter’s impact on the situation in the member states in particular policy areas in order to ensure that they effectively apply the Charter when implementing EU law as well as launch infringements as appropriate where there is a breach of EU law. Additionally, a training module will be developed, where technical assistance is provided to ensure a coherent and effective implementation of the Common Provisions Regulation. The Commission will take action against measures that breach EU law, including the Charter, which affect civil society organisations as well as support an enabling environment for civil society organisations, in particular through the new Union values strand of the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values programme. Prioritising Charter training opportunities for judges and other justice practitioners and supporting the development of a dedicated e-learning tool for judges shall ensure the effective application of the Charter. Finally, the Commission will launch an information campaign to raise people’s awareness of their Charter rights and how to use them, giving specific examples and cooperating with actors on the ground in addition to developing young people’s awareness of their Charter rights through the Erasmus+ programme.

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Non-legislative Act: On the 24th of June 2020 the European Commission published a Communication on an EU Strategy on victims' rights (2020-2025) (Press release) .

Problem: Considering that every year millions of people in the EU become victims of crime in addition to the rise e in domestic violence, child sexual abuse, cybercrime, and racist and xenophobic hate crime due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial to strengthen the framework for support and protection of victims and ensure it is resilient in crisis situations.

Objective: The Communication largely invites actors such as EU member states and the civil society to take action with attention to the specific needs of victims of gender-based violence, with the aim to combat gender-based violence and protect victims of such crimes as well as victims of hate crime, in all its forms, including racial, anti-Semitic, homophobic, or transphobic hate crime. Effective communication with victims and a safe environment for victims to report crime shall empower victims of crime. Facilitating victims’ access to compensation, particularly in view of the often expensive and time-consuming process, is crucial. Cooperation and coordination on EU and national level shall ensure victims’ access to justice.

Subject Matter: Key actions of the Commission include the launch of an EU campaign to raise awareness about victims’ rights and to promote specialist support and protection for victims with specific needs. Promoting training activities for judicial and law enforcement authorities as well as providing EU funding to national victim support organisations and relevant community-based organisations shall provide information, support and protection for victims. The Commission shall further facilitate the cooperation between member states to improve support for victims of terrorism, particularly in cross-border cases, through the pilot EU Centre of Expertise for Victims of Terrorism. Integrated and targeted support to victims with special needs, such as child victims, victims of gender-based or domestic violence, victims of racist and xenophobic hate crime, LGBTIQ+ victims of hate crime, elderly victims and victims with disabilities shall be enabled through EU funding possibilities and the EU awareness campaign on victims’ rights. Additionally, member states are to ensure that fair and appropriate state compensation for violent, intentional crimes, including victims of terrorism is reflected in the national budgets as well as that victims are not exposed to secondary victimisation during the compensation procedure. Setting up the Victims’ Rights Platform shall gather EU level actors relevant in the area of victims’ rights and ensure synergy with other relevant policy strategies. Eurojust, the Fundamental Rights Agency, the European Institute for Gender Equality and the European Network on Victims’ Rights are encouraged to report on how to improve the cooperation and exchange of information and good practices between the competent authorities in cross-border cases. Lastly, strengthening cooperation between national authorities and support organisations of third countries will facilitate access to justice for EU citizens victimised in third countries.

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Non-legislative Act: On the 24th of June 2020 the European Commission published a Communication regarding Data protection as a pillar of citizens’ empowerment and the EU’s approach to the digital transition - two years of application of the General Data Protection Regulation (press release).

Problem: The GDPR is a tool to ensure that individuals have better control over their personal data and that these data are processed for a legitimate purpose, in a lawful, fair and transparent way. It further provides individuals with additional and stronger rights, increased transparency, and ensures that all those that handle personal data under its scope of application are more accountable and responsible. The following report, first of its kind, evaluates the General Data Protection Regulation, set in place in 2018, in particular on the application and functioning of the rules on the transfer of personal data to third countries and international organisations and of the rules on cooperation and consistency.

Objective: With particular attention to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the report reviews the implementation of the Regulation’s key objectives within the last two years. Findings show that a harmonised approach in addition to a European common culture of data protection is essential in order to meet the full potential of the GDPR. It is further important to foster a more efficient and harmonised handling of cross-border cases, as well as ensure that all tools available in the GDPR are used fully to ensure an efficient application for individuals and businesses. The Commission shall continue its bilateral exchanges with member states on the implementation of the GDPR and, where necessary, use all the tools at its disposal to foster compliance by member states with their obligations under the GDPR.

Subject Matter: Member states are advised to complete the alignment of their sectoral laws to the GDPR, consider limiting the use of specification clauses which might create fragmentation and jeopardise the free flow of data within the EU and lastly assess whether national law implementing the GDPR is in all circumstances within the margins provided for member state legislation. The Commission will continue to closely monitor the effective and full independence of national data protection authorities and additionally encourage cooperation between regulators. The Board and data protection authorities are invited to adopt further guidelines which are practical, easily understandable, and which provide clear answers and avoid ambiguities on issues related to the application of the GDPR, for example on processing children’s data and data subject rights, including the exercise of the right of access and the right to erasure, consulting stakeholders in the process. Finally, international enforcement cooperation between supervisory authorities, including through the negotiation of cooperation and mutual assistance agreements, shall be promoted.

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Non-legislativ, 2. Quartal 2020.

Better Regulation

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Non-legislative Act: On the 29th of April 2021, the European Commission published a Communication on Better Regulation; Joining forces to make better laws (press release).

Problem: The Commission took stock of its Better Regulation agenda in 2019, confirming that while the system is broadly working well, improvements are also needed. Given the EU's ambitious agenda and the need to recover from the COVID 19 pandemic, meaningful analysis and reliable evidence are more important than ever. The Communication therefore identifies a number of further improvements to strengthen the EU's resilience in the face of double change and to support its recovery process.

Objective: Better Regulation is the key objective underlined by the Commission. It is crucial to improve the understanding of the needs for and impact of EU legislation within and outside the EU. To engage individuals, businesses and civil society, it is necessary to raise awareness of EU’s public consultations and make it easier to navigate and participate in them. Additionally, the shortcomings identified in the 2019 stocktaking of better regulation shall be addressed. Cooperation among EU co-legislators, with member states and stakeholders shall boost efforts to improve the transparency of evidence-informed policy, raise awareness of benefits of legislation and reduce the burden of EU legislation. Moreover, to sustain trust in the European Union, EU policies have to take into account and reflect the values and concerns of citizens. It is therefore crucial to make it easier for interested parties to provide input through consultations. At the same time, resources cannot be wasted, thus, the public shall only be consulted when needed. Transparency is fundamental to ensuring that people can play an active part in the policymaking process and hold the EU institutions accountable for their decisions.

Subject Matter: The Commission will engage with the European Parliament and the Council on the full implementation of the Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making, including on improving the quality of EU legislation to ensure that it is clear, readable, and understandable. It shall further simplify its consultation process to fewer steps by introducing a single call for evidence, improving questionnaires and consulting only once when revising a piece of legislation. Additionally, the improved Have Your Say web portal is to be promoted more widely. Providing feedback to consultations swiftly and offering follow-up updates share reflect the input of local, regional and national authorities more accurately. Opinions of the Fit for Future Platform shall be taken into account while foresight shall be made an integral part of policymaking and the better regulation. Lastly, for politically sensitive and important initiatives for which it has not been possible to prepare an impact assessment, rationale, and evidence is to be published within 3 months.

Foresight

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Non-legislative Act: On the 9th of September 2020 the European Commission published a Communication on the 2020 Strategic Foresight Report regarding charting the course towards a more resilient Europe (press release).

Problem: In the light of EU’s long-term direction to achieve the transition towards a green, digital and fair Europe that becomes the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, the strategic foresight ensures that short-term initiatives are grounded in the longer-term perspective, helping future-proof EU policymaking.

Objective: This Communication primarily aims to illustrate how the Commission will integrate strategic foresight in EU policymaking. Outlining priorities, the strategic foresight is to help build collective intelligence in a structured manner to better chart the way forward for the twin green and digital transitions and to recover from disruptions. Central themes of the report include the resilience within the EU, specifically with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, that shall not only be able to withstand and cope with challenges but simultaneously undergo transitions in a sustainable, fair, and democratic manner. Resilience shall be strengthened in four interrelated elements that encompass the social and economic, geopolitical, green, and digital dimensions. To effectively mitigate vulnerabilities and optimise capacities in each of the four, resilience dashboards shall be established. Some objectives for the upcoming year include opening strategic autonomy, the future of jobs and skills for and in the green transition, as well as deepening the twinning of the digital and green transitions.

Subject Matter: Europe as a whole shall continue developing a strategic network of partnerships and alliances to reduce dependencies in critical value chains, help peace and stability in its neighbourhood, seek effective solutions to global problems and revitalise a rules-based multilateral global order, as well as to leverage its financial resources in support of its political objectives. At the same time, it shall reinforce its role in the global order and lead the revival of multilateral governance structures. Further, digital resilience dashboards shall be further developed from a forward-looking perspective in cooperation with member states and other key stakeholders, the Commission will develop the resilience dashboards.

ZEI Related Publications

Die Wirkung der Staatsschuldenkrise auf das Legitimitätsniveau der Europäischen Union

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 ZEI Discussion Paper C 273 / 2022

Along with the financial and economic threat of the sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone from 2009 onwards, the crisis also posed a threat to the social acceptance of the European Union. The EU's ability to solve problems was at times strongly doubted by large parts of the public, which called into question the core of the common integration project. This paper reviews the stability and efficiency of the EU for this period and analyses stabilising and destabilising factors. It focuses on the input and output dimensions of the Union's legitimacy during the crisis and their influence on the EU's legitimacy level, which is empirically tested with the help of Eurobarometer data.

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Europäische Parteien als Antrieb für die europäische Integration? 

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 ZEI Discussion Paper C 272 / 2022

Political parties at the European level are still largely unknown to most citizens in the European Union, even 30 years after their inclusion in primary law by the Maastricht Treaty. The introduction of these so-called Europarties was linked the mission of forming a European awareness and expressing the political will of the union’s citizens. It was accompanied by the hope that the parties could be a driving force for European integration, especially regarding a European society. So far, the Europarties have largely failed to fulfill this task. After giving an overview on the current situation of parties at the European level, the article presents proposals for reform and possible opportunities that would arise from party politicization at the European level.

“Loud thunder, little rain” – Participatory Democracy in the European Union, Examining the European Citizens’ Initiative as an example

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ZEI Discussion Paper C 266 / 2021

Die Europäische Bürgerinitiative (EBI) lenkt die Beteiligung von Bürgerinnen und Bürgern von den Mitgliedsstaaten in die Europäische Union in einem beispiellosen Ausmaß. Die Erwartungen an sie und ihr Potenzial sind anfangs so "laut" wie "Donner" gewesen. Im Gegensatz zu den bereits untersuchten Implikationen der EBI in anderen Studien findet diese Studie allerdings, dass nur "wenig Regen" gefallen ist. Anstatt die EBI als einen Misserfolg zu betrachten, sollte die EU diese Herausforderung lieber als Möglichkeit annehmen, eine europäische Öffentlichkeit zu bilden, die Bürgerinnen und Bürger und die EU näher zusammenbringt.

Archive

Further publications can be found in the ZEI archive

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