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EDITO
Saturday, 25 March 2017
MEPs want the EU's development policy to preserve its independence and not become part of economic cooperation. Parliament's Development Committee therefore rejected on Wednesday a regulation proposed by the European Commission to set up a single financing instrument for development cooperation and economic cooperation (known as the "umbrella regulation").

The committee opposed the proposal unanimously. According to the rapporteur, Gay MITCHELL (EPP-ED, IE), the "umbrella regulation" would result in the merger of two policy areas with quite separate goals and working methods, to the detriment of development cooperation. MEPs believe the regulation would also undermine Parliament's powers, since it would give extensive powers of implementation to the Commission and Council, at the expense of the Parliament's legislative and budgetary powers.
However, the regulation cannot be adopted without support from MEPs, since it has to do with defining EU development cooperation policy and thus comes under the codecision procedure.
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In May 2000 the Commission announced a major reform of the management of its external aid programme, the main objectives being to make radical improvements in the speed and quality of EC external aid, while ensuring robust financial procedures. A key component of the reform is the extensive devolution of aid management tasks and responsibilities to the Commission Delegations. As a result of devolution, Delegations are now responsible for project preparation, contracting, and financial and technical implementation, and they have received substantial extra human and technical resources. Devolution also has important consequences for the central services of the EuropeAid Cooperation Office (or EuropeAid) in Brussels, as their role is moving away from direct management of projects towards monitoring and supporting Delegations.
The devolution of aid management responsibilities to 78 Delegations constituted a major reorganisation of the Commission's services in the area of external aid and its implementation is a considerable achievement, with almost all Delegations operating under devolved management by end 2004.
Regarding the Commission's management of the devolution process, the Court has found that in general Delegations have been reasonably well prepared to operate under devolved management, but that the preparation of the headquarters' (HQ) services has been less well planned, lacking both analysis and consultation.
Regarding the results of devolution, it is still too early, after less than two years of devolved management, to see the envisaged improvements in the speed and quality of EC external aid. Also, the lack of a complete set of performance indicators at an early stage in the devolution process makes it difficult to measure progress against the main objectives.
For the time being, problems in recruiting staff in Delegations with appropriate expertise and using this expertise in an optimal way, difficulties experienced by HQ in providing support to Delegations, as yet inadequate financial information systems and complicated procedures are limiting the expected results of devolution in terms of increased speed and improved quality of project management.

On the basis of its observations the Court recommends that:
- the Commission introduces appropriate indicators, relating to both speed and quality of aid, which measure progress from year to year and against standards to be set;
- the Commission ensures that its recruitment procedures, salaries and other conditions of employment can attract staff with the appropriate expertise to fulfil the increased staffing needs of its Delegations;
- thematic expertise present within HQ services is organised in order to provide good quality support to Delegations in an efficient way;
- HQ's monitoring and support role is further developed, notably by improving the financial information systems and addressing outstanding training needs;
- in order to optimise the results of devolution, the Commission continues to pay particular attention to the simplification, harmonisation and clarification of financial and contractual procedures.
The EU is facing unprecedented demographic changes that will have a major impact on the whole of society. Figures in the Green Paper on Demographic Change launched today by the Commission show that from now until 2030 the EU will lack 20.8 million (6.8 per cent) people of working age. In 2030 roughly two active people (15-65) will have to take care of one inactive person (65+). And Europe will have 18 million children and young less than today.

What should we do?
Many of the issues are the responsibility of the Member States but they concern the whole of the EU. The Commission wants to open a debate on how to tackle them and what role the Union should play. For example, should EU policies for work-life balance and equal opportunities be harnessed to boost the population? How should immigration into the EU be managed?
At a two day hearing on 14-15 March, European Parliament Members from the Civil Liberties Committee and the Development Committee discussed the EU’s immigration policy, the links between legal and illegal migration and the integration of migrants into society. To combat illegal immigration, they recognised the need for an EU policy to facilitate the entrance and living of third country nationals in the EU. It was also recommended to consider as a separate issue the question of immigration and security.
The Commission will organise an European Conference on July 11th in Brussels where it will gather experts, high-level policy makers, civil society, to discuss the follow-up on this Green paper.

International migration and its consequences is a major topic on the European policy agenda and yet there is a dearth of research on the subject as it affects the EU as a whole. A network of specialist institutions was set up with European funding to fill this knowledge gap.To be able reliably to inform policy-making in this area, 19 European research institutes agreed to form a Network of Excellence called IMISCOE (International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion). The Network of some 300 respected researchers pools together a wide set of skills and experience in an international research setting. The partner institutes have put into place an integrated, multidisciplinary research programme which, while comparing the situation in Member States, keeps Europe as its central focus.
The Commission has adopted a strategy to establish new simplified rules of origin for the purposes of the EU's preferential trade arrangements with certain third countries. The rules of origin, which determine which goods can benefit from the lower rates of customs duty under the preferential trade arrangements, are currently too complicated, as well as being susceptible to abuse. The Commission suggests replacing the current rules with a single value-added method for determining origin which would make them clearer as well as more development-friendly. The Commission also envisages improving the management of the system and introducing a monitoring programme. The changes would be made via legislative measures. Work on the first measure will commence immediately.
Preferential trade arrangements are aimed at increasing reciprocal trade in goods and access to the Community market for products from developing countries by eliminating or reducing customs duties. The rules of origin, that are designed to ensure that the customs preferences apply to products that originate (i.e. are wholly obtained or are substantially processed) in the country granted the preference, are currently too numerous, complex and inflexible as well as being open to abuse. The Commission's Communication therefore sets out the following plans for simplifying and relaxing appropriately the present rules:
- a single, across-the-board criterion for determining the origin of non-wholly-obtained goods based, subject to further impact assessment, on a certain threshold of value added in the beneficiary country (or, where appropriate, regional group) concerned;
- a rebalancing of the rights and obligations of operators and administrations. In particular, the current system of proving origin by means of a certificate signed by the exporter and stamped by the competent authorities of the country concerned would be replaced by a statement of origin by registered exporters;
- the development of instruments to ensure that the beneficiary countries comply with their obligations. This would include measures to improve evaluation, information flows, training and technical assistance so as to assist co-operation between the Community and its preferential partners, as well as a system for the periodic monitoring of compliance.
Friday, 18 March 2005
A report by a WTO panel published today confirms that the EU system of protection of geographical indications for agricultural products complies with WTO rules. Geographical indications provide protection for products identified with a particular geographical location, for example Roquefort or Prosciutto di Parma. Rejecting the arguments of the United States and Australia, the WTO ruled that the EU’s system for protecting these names is essentially compatible with WTO rules, including the requirements of the TRIPs Agreement. The WTO confirmed in particular that Geographical Indications can coexist with prior trademarks. The ruling confirms the rights of the holders of Europe’s approximately 700 Geographical Indications.
The protection of geographical indications is an integral part of the EU’s quality policy, while the EU is at the forefront of efforts to strengthen the protection of GIs internationally. This responds to consumer demand for quality products, and at the same time promotes the development of rural communities and specialized agricultural products. The Panel upholds an important element of the EU system, which is the requirement for inspection structures to verify that the conditions for each GI are fulfilled in order to benefit from the high level of protection against unlawful use.

In addition, the EU has repeatedly sought to dispel charges that its system discriminates against GIs relating to geographical areas in third countries in violation of the WTO national treatment rules. In fact, the EU system is open also to applications for registration of GIs from third countries. The panel report asks the EU to clarify the rules in this respect, to allow producer groups from third countries to apply directly rather than having to go through their governments.
This is an explored issue by the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries which should be protecting more their local resources and property rights.