Tag Archives: European Parliament

MEPs focus on media in Digital Decade

Strasbourg 20.10.2021 European Parliament voices concerns about attacks on EU media in some member states and calls for urgent action to help news media be fit for the “Digital Decade”.

In a resolution adopted on Wednesday by 577 votes to 47 and 76 abstentions, MEPs push for substantial support for the media sector from the EU and member states in order to help the sector recover from the pandemic and transform itself to keep pace with the changing business models of the digital age.

Worried about state capture of media in some member states and lawsuits designed to intimidate and silence journalists (“SLAPPs”), MEPs call for legislative and non-legislative tools to protect media organisations.
In order to safeguard the financial and political independence of European journalists and journalism, Parliament wants a permanent EU news media fund and stresses that EU recovery funds earmarked for the media must support media organisations in those EU countries where media face particular financial and political pressure or rule-of-law concerns.

MEPs also point to the dangers of the “disproportionate economic impact” and “predatory behaviour” of global online platforms that dominate data and advertising markets and have the power to remove legal content provided by media services. Additionally, they demand the urgent adoption of the Digital Services and Digital Markets acts, which can provide a level playing field for the EU media and ensure equal access to data and rules on online political advertising.
To support the EU’s audiovisual industry (filmmakers, producers, distributors and cinemas) MEPs demand the EU to develop special tax policies as well as fiscal and financial incentives to boost production and investments, the setting up of EU insurance guarantees for audiovisual co-productions and rules to ensure catalogues of on-demand services contain a share of European works of at least 30%.

“This is truly a crucial moment to strengthen the EU’s media and audiovisual sector”, rapporteur Dace Melbārde (ECR,LV) said. “The media ecosystem was fragile even before the pandemic but the crisis has reinforced the existing challenges it faces, as well as created new ones. Audiences are increasingly shifting to digital platforms, and the income from these is disproportionally flowing to the global players. Last year, the European media sector experienced a significant drop in advertising income, which is a crucial source of revenue for media organisations. At the same time, the Covid-19 crisis has amplified
the role of quality journalism; an absence of professional and swift reporting during times of
pandemic can cost lives.”

According to early estimates, during the pandemic news media has seen its advertising revenues drop by 20% to 80%.
The EU audiovisual sector suffered a massive revenue loss – a drop of almost 70% in box office revenues for cinemas and distributors in 2020, totalling EUR 4 billion, alongside a reduction of 30% in active productions. MEPs also quote increase of production costs due to stricter health and safety measures.

EU-Poland crisis deepens

Strasbourg 18.10.2021 Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has been attempting to defend an explosive ruling from his country’s top court in front of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).
(Image: European Parliament Chamber, Strasbourg, archive).

The verdict, which declared some EU laws incompatible with Poland’s constitution, has stirred the further argument. The majority of MEPs have pressed for a hard line towards Warsaw after it ignored the EU’s top court order to reverse controversial changes to the judiciary.

The EU has delayed the approval of €36 bn of pandemic recovery fund for months, and as soon as this week it may trigger a new tool to withhold budget payments to members states over democratic backsliding.

Prime minister Morawiecki sent a letter to EU leaders ahead of the Summit to take place later this week on 21-22 October in Brussels, clarifying Poland is open for dialog but that it won’t be pushed around.

FACEBOOK: MEPs invite Frances Haugen

Strasbourg 18.10.2021 Lead MEPs from the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee decided to invite Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen to a hearing on 8 November.(Image: European Parliament,illustration)

The decision to organise a public hearing in the European Parliament on “Whistleblowers’ testimonies on the negative impact of big tech companies’ products on users” was taken this afternoon by the Chair and the coordinators of the political groups in the committee. After the meeting, Chair Anna Cavazzini (Greens/EFA, DE) said:

“Whistleblowers like Frances Haugen show the urgent need to set democratic rules for the online world in the interest of users. Her revelations lay bare the inherent conflict between the platform’s business model and users’ interests. It shows that we need strong rules for content moderation and far-reaching transparency obligations in Europe.

It also shows that corporate self-regulation has not worked. With the Digital Services Act, the European Union is on the right track to fight hate speech and disinformation online by addressing business models that use algorithms to sell more advertising, even if this has a detrimental effect on society. We need to regulate the whole system that favours disinformation and violence over factual content – and we need to enforce it effectively.

All allegations in the ‘Facebook Files’ must be investigated. As the Internal Market Committee is currently negotiating the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act, a public hearing with Frances Haugen will enrich the democratic discourse and our current legislative work in the committees concerned”.

Europarl: Sakharov Prize 2021

Strasbourg 18.10.2021 The 2021 Sakharov Prize nominees  The 2021 finalists for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought are Afghan women, Jeanine Áñez and Alexei Navalny. (Image above: European Parliament, Strasbourg)

Meet this year’s finalists of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, who were chosen at a joint meeting of the foreign affairs and development committees on 14 October:

Afghan women, represented by 11 human rights activists

Jeanine Áñez, Bolivian politician

Alexei Navalny, Russian activist and political prisoner

Afghan women

Under the previous Taliban regime, women experienced forced marriage, high maternity mortality, low literacy, forced virginity tests and couldn’t travel without a man. Following the Taliban’s return to power, women are again excluded from government and education and their rights and freedoms are threatened. The women, who are nominated for their brave fight for equality and human rights, are:

Shaharzad Akbar – chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC)

Mary Akrami – head of the Afghan Women’s Network

Zarifa Ghafari – mayor of Maidan Shar since 2018

Palwasha Hassan – activist and the director of Afghan Women Educational Centre (AWEC)

Freshta Karim – founder of a mobile library and an advocate for education and learning

Sahraa Karimi – first female president of the Afghan state film company

Metra Mehran – women empowerment and education advocate and co-founder of the Feminine Perspectives Movement

Horia Mosadiq – human and women’s rights activist

Sima Samar – human rights advocate, former Minister of Women’s Affairs and former chair of Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission

Habiba Sarabi – member of the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Anisa Shaheed – political reporter

Jeanine Áñez

Jeanine Áñez is a Bolivian politician who became the interim president of her country in November 2019, after alleged electoral fraud by incumbent Evo Morales. In November 2020, after free and fair elections there was a peaceful transfer of power. However, on 13 March 2021 she was arrested on charges of “terrorism, sedition and conspiracy”. Accused of plotting a coup d’état against Morales, she has been imprisoned ever since.

Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny is a Russian opposition politician, anti-corruption activist and major political opponent of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Known through his LiveJournal blog, YouTube and Twitter accounts, where he has millions of followers Navalny came to international prominence by organising demonstrations, running for office and advocating reforms against corruption in Russia, Putin and his government. In August 2020, while on a trip to Siberia, he was poisoned. He spent months recovering in Berlin, but returned to Moscow in January 2021 where he was arrested. In February he was sentenced to 2½ years in prison. Now incarcerated in a high-security penal colony, he went on a 23-day hunger strike in April to protest the lack of medical care. In June 2021, a Russian court banned Navalny’s regional offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation.

MEPs review EU-US relations

Strasbourg 05.10.2021 “…There are some difficult issues: secure the change of supply on the field of semiconductors, to be sure that we are not going to create in the future an overcapacity; to talk about tariffs; data protection; artificial intelligence. This is an incredibly broad set of issues that will shape the future and on which we have to engage more with the United States” said the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell, addressing the European Parliament plenary.

“A last word on COP-26, we look forward to continuing our close coordination with the United States to get every country to do more to fight climate change. Yesterday, I was in Saudi Arabia talking about it. Sometimes it is a difficult discussion, because we, Europeans, are only 8% of the global emissions. Even if we cancel them tomorrow, zero emissions, the problem will be the same. It will still be the 92%, the rest…”

Diplomatic relations between the EU and the U.S. date back to 1953. The relationship between the EU and the U.S. is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world. The EU and U.S. are the biggest economic and military powers in the world, dominate global trade, play the leading roles in international political relations, and whatever one says matters a great deal, not only to the other, but to much of the rest of the world.

Relations between the U.S. House of Representatives and the European Parliament can be traced back to 1972, when a group of Members of the House, led by Representative Sam Gibbons of the House Ways and Means Committee, traveled to Brussels for the express purpose of meeting and exchanging views with the Parliament. The first congressional visits to Brussels were arranged by Members of the House Committee on Ways and Means who were interested in issues such as agriculture subsidies, steel-tariffs, anti-dumping initiatives, and general trade-related areas. These initial parliamentary contacts, which only involved the House of Representatives, became known as the United States European Community Interparliamentary Group. Soon after these early exchanges were initiated, Members of the House and MEPs began meeting twice a year, once in the United States and once in Europe. On January 15, 1999, during the 50th inter-parliamentary meeting in Strasbourg, the European Parliament and the U.S. House of Representatives formalized their institutional cooperation into a framework called the Transatlantic Legislators’ Dialogue (TLD). This inter-parliamentary relationship is, indeed, the longest and most intensive one in the history of the European Parliament.

EU: MEPs debate Arctic policy

Strasbourg 05.10.2021 While the European Commission is currently working on an update of the EU’s Arctic policy, MEPs are concerned about emerging threats to stability in the area.

Since the end of the Cold War, the Arctic has been a zone of peace and international cooperation, but in recent years the situation has changed. The region has witnessed an increased Russian military presence, while China aspires to integrate the Arctic’s northern sea route into its Belt and Road Initiative.

The Commission is re-examining the EU’s role in the Artic ahead of an integrated EU policy by the end of 2021. Parliament will debate and vote on its own report in Strasbourg next week.

The Arctic is home to half a million EU citizens from Finland, Sweden as well as Denmark through Greenland.

“A shift in the perception of the Arctic is urgently needed as an increasingly tense international situation forces us to review our Arctic policy,” said Anna Fotyga (ECR, Poland), author of the Parliament report.

The Arctic will no longer be a remote or inaccessible region, she said, but will in fact play a critical role in Europe’s future.

“The EU’s Arctic strategy must reflect the new security realities in the region, rising geopolitical tensions and new players such as China,” said Fotyga. “Moscow looks at the Arctic in the long term, striving to impose a series of legal, economic and military facts. In this way, it introduces global tensions to a region that we want to preserve as an area of peaceful and fruitful cooperation.”

The report urges Russia to fully respect international law and to be mindful of the consequences of its actions. It also says that potential EU cooperation with Russia in the Arctic must not jeopardise the goals of sanctions against Russian action elsewhere.

The increasing role of the Arctic in trade, navigation, environment and climate, issues related to local communities, in particular indigenous people, must also be taken into account, said Fotyga.

There is growing interest in the Arctic and its rare earth mineral resources, which are crucial in the development of new technologies: both green and military.

“Europe must reduce its dependence on China for these minerals and the Arctic should play a central role in the European Raw Materials Alliance,” said the Polish MEP.

MEPs are worried that Russia and China will exploit the region without proper environmental impact assessment. China’s investments in strategic infrastructure projects and efforts to obtain mining rights are of concern as they are reminiscent of how the country operates in other parts of the world. MEPs therefore urge the Arctic states to carry out thorough screenings of foreign investments.

As China is developing icebreaker programmes, the report suggests that EU countries and partner countries could build icebreakers under an EU flag.

Fotyga, who was part of a Parliament delegation to Denmark, Iceland and Greenland in September, said Parliament wants greater EU visibility in the region, greater EU coordination, as well as cooperation with partners committed to respecting international law, developing peaceful cooperation and guaranteeing freedom of navigation.

MEP Puigdemont arrested in Italy

Brussels 24.09.2021 Member of European Parliament, Catalan politician Carles Puigdemont, who fled Spain after a failed secession bid for the region in 2017, was detained Thursday, 23 September, in Sardinia, Italy, his lawyer said.

MEP Puigdemont, who moved to Belgium and was elected there as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), has been fighting extradition to Spain, which accused him and other Catalan independence leaders of sedition.

Lawyer Gonzalo Boye said Puigdemont was detained when he arrived in Sardinia, where he was due to attend a cultural event this weekend.

The circumstances under which Puigdemont was taken into custody were not announced. Boye wrote on Twitter the Catalan politician was detained under a 2019 European arrest warrant, even though it had been previously suspended.

Police at the airport in northern Sardinia didn’t answer phone calls Thursday night after the arrest, the AP news agency writes, while police in the city of Alghero said they weren’t aware of his detention.

The European Parliament voted in March to lift the immunity of Puigdemont and two of his associates. In July the three EU lawmakers failed to have their immunity restored after the European Union’s general court said that they did not demonstrate they were at risk of being arrested.

Sardinian media reported earlier in the week he was due to attend an event in Alghero on Sunday, so his presence on the Mediterranean island had been expected. Sardinian media had also reported that Puigdemont was invited by a Sardinian pro-independence group.

Puigdemont’s office said in a statement that he had traveled to Alghero from Brussels to attend a folklore festival where he was detained upon arrival by Italian police. On Friday, September 24, Puigdemont will appear in front of a judge in the city of Sassari who would rule on whether he should be freed, the statement said.

Puigdemont and a number of his independalist colleagues fled to Belgium in October 2017, fearing arrest after holding an independence referendum for Catalonia that the Spanish courts and government said was illegal.

Nine Catalan independalists received prison sentences for their role in the 2017 referendum ranging from nine to 13 years. They were pardoned in July.

MEPs strategy towards Russia

Strasbourg 16.09.2021 Parliament says the EU must push back against aggressive policies while laying the groundwork for cooperation with a future democratic Russia.

Assessing the state of EU-Russia relations, the European Parliament makes clear that it distinguishes between the Russian people and President Vladimir Putin’s regime. The latter is, Parliament says, a “stagnating authoritarian kleptocracy led by a president-for-life surrounded by a circle of oligarchs”.

MEPs stress, however, that a democratic future for Russia is possible and that the Council must adopt an EU strategy for this scenario, encompassing incentives and conditions to strengthen domestic democratic tendencies.

The text was approved by 494 votes in favour, 103 against with 72 abstentions.

“Russia can be a democracy and defending ‘Democracy First’ in EU relations with Russia is our first task. The EU and its institutions have to work on the assumption that change is possible in Russia. It also needs more courage in taking a strong stance vis-a-vis the Kremlin regime when it comes to defending human rights; this is what strategic engagement with the Russian people is all about. It is about ending domestic repression, returning the choice to the people, and freeing all political prisoners”, said rapporteur Andrius Kubilius (EPP, Lithuania) after the vote.

“In addition, if this week’s parliamentary elections in Russia are recognised as fraudulent, the EU should not recognise the Russian Duma and should ask for the country to be suspended from international parliamentary assemblies, including the one of the Council of Europe. The Kremlin’s continuous repression of all opposition candidates, free media and NGOs undermines the legitimacy and fairness of these elections. The Russian people must have the right to choose and their choices must be honoured, as in any other democratic country”, he added.

Parliament proposes the EU establishing an alliance with the U.S. and other like-minded partners to counterbalance the efforts of Russia and China to weaken democracy worldwide and destabilise the European political order. It should foresee sanctions, policies to counter illicit financial flows, and support for human rights activists.

Support to Russia’s’ neighbouring countries

On Russia’s aggression and influence over the EU’s eastern neighbourhood, the EU must continue to support so-called “Eastern Partnership” countries such as Ukraine or Georgia, and to promote European reforms and fundamental freedoms in the region. These efforts should also serve to encourage Russian support for democratic reforms.

Reduce the EU’s energy dependency on Russia, fighting “dirty money” at home

The text further states that the EU needs to cut its dependency on Russian gas, oil and other raw materials, at least while President Putin is in power. The European Green Deal and the boosting of new resources will play a crucial geopolitical role in achieving this.

MEPs want the EU to build its capacity to expose and stop the flows of dirty money from Russia, as well as to expose the resources and financial assets that regime-linked autocrats and oligarchs have hidden in EU member states.

Worries ahead of the 2021 parliamentary elections in Russia

Members conclude by demanding the EU be prepared to withhold recognition of the Russian parliament if the 2021 parliamentary elections in September are conducted in violation of democratic principles and international law.

#SOTEU: EU migration Pact slow motion

Strasbourg 15.09.2021 “… Look at what happened at our borders with Belarus. The regime in Minsk has instrumentalised human beings. They have put people on planes and literally pushed them towards Europe’s borders” the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said, while addressing the European Parliament Plenary in Strasbourg.

“This can never be tolerated. And the quick European reaction shows that. And rest assured, we will continue to stand together with Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

“And, let’s call it what it is: this is a hybrid attack to destabilise Europe”.

“These are not isolated events. We saw similar incidents at other borders. And we can expect to see it again. This is why, as part of our work on Schengen, we will set out new ways to respond to such aggression and ensure unity in protecting our external borders. But as long as we do not find common ground on how to manage migration, our opponents will continue to target that.

“Meanwhile, human traffickers continue to exploit people through deadly routes across the Mediterranean.

“These events show us that every country has a stake in building a European migration system. The New Pact on Migration and Asylum gives us everything we need to manage the different types of situations we face.
All the elements are there. This is a balanced and humane system that works for all Member States – in all circumstances. We know that we can find common ground.

“But in the year since the Commission presented the Pact, progress has been painfully slow.
I think, this is the moment now for a European migration management policy. So I urge you, in this House and in Member States, to speed up the process.

“This ultimately comes down to a question of trust. Trust between Member States. Trust for Europeans that migration can be managed. Trust that Europe will always live up to its enduring duty to the most vulnerable and most in need.

“There are many strongly held views on migration in Europe but I believe the common ground is not so far away. Because if you ask most Europeans, they would agree that we should act to curb irregular migration but also act to provide a refuge for those forced to flee.”

“They would agree that we should return those who have no right to stay. But that we should welcome those who come here legally and make such a vital contribution to our society and economy”.

“And we should all agree that the topic of migration should never be used to divide. I am convinced that there is a way that Europe can build trust amongst us when it comes to migration”.

#SOTEU: Future of Europe debate

Strasbourg 14.09.2021 The State of the EU debate, looking at work to date and plans for the future, takes place on 15 September in Strasbourg. .

What is the State of the European Union debate?
The State of the European Union debate takes place every September when the president of the European Commission comes to the European Parliament to discuss with MEPs what the Commission has done over the past year, what it intends to do in the coming year and its vision for the future.

This is an opportunity for Parliament, the EU’s only directly-elected institution, to hold the European Commission to account. Members will scrutinise the Commission’s work and make sure that the key concerns of Europeans are addressed.
Why is the 2021 State of the EU debate important?
The priorities that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented during last year’s State of the European Union debate are still relevant: the EU continues its efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic and move towards social and economic recovery, while staying true to its flagship programmes, such as the European Green Deal and the Digital Strategy.

What is the best way to follow it?
The debate will be streamed live online on our website on Wednesday 15 September from 9.00 CET. Interpretation will be available in all 24 official EU languages – simply select the language of your choice. The Parliament together with the Commission will also stream the debate on Facebook.

You can also join the discussion on our other social media channels, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #SOTEU.

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