Tag Archives: GenderEquality

Working document – on European Court of Auditors’ Special Report 9/2017 (2016 Discharge): “EU support to fight human trafficking in South/South-East Asia” – PE 607.978v01-00 – Committee on Budgetary Control

Download PDF

Minutes – Monday, 20 November 2017 – PE 615.203v01-00 – Committee on Development

Download PDF

Minutes – Monday, 20 November 2017 – PE 615.203v01-00 – Committee on Development

Download PDF

Text adopted – Towards a digital trade strategy – P8_TA-PROV(2017)0488 – Tuesday, 12 December 2017 – Strasbourg – Provisional edition

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 207(3) and 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS),

–  having regard to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Information Technology Agreement (ITA),

–  having regard to the WTO Work Programme on E-commerce,

–  having regard to the Joint Declaration by G7 ICT Ministers at the Meeting in Takamatsu, Kagawa on 29 and 30 April 2016,

–  having regard to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Ministerial Declaration on the Digital Economy in Cancun in 2016,

–  having regard to the Dynamic Coalition on Trade at the Internet Governance Forum,

–  having regard to the ongoing EU trade negotiations with third countries,

–  having regard to the agreement in principle announced by the Commission on 6 July 2017 on the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement,

–  having regard to Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (Directive on electronic commerce)(1)

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation)(2)

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 14 October 2015 entitled ‘Trade for All: Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy’ (COM(2015)0497),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 19 April 2016 entitled ‘Digitising European Industry’ (COM(2016)0180),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 19 April 2016 entitled ‘European Cloud Initiative – Building a competitive data and knowledge economy in Europe’ (COM(2016)0178),

–  having regard to the Commission report of 23 June 2017 on trade and investment barriers (COM(2017)0338),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 10 January 2017 entitled ‘Building A European Data Economy’ (COM(2017)0009),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the respect for private life and the protection of personal data in electronic communications and repealing Directive 2002/58/EC (Regulation on Privacy and Electronic Communications) (COM(2017)0010),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal of 13 September 2017 for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on a framework for the free flow of non-personal data in the European Union (COM(2017)0495),

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document of 2 May 2017 entitled ‘Digital4Development: mainstreaming digital technologies and services into EU Development Policy’ (SWD(2017)0157),

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 July 2016 on a new forward-looking and innovative future strategy for trade and investment(3)

–  having regard to its resolution of 3 February 2016 containing the European Parliament’s recommendations to the Commission on the negotiations for the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA)(4)

–  having regard to its resolution of 8 July 2015 containing the European Parliament’s recommendations to the European Commission on the negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)(5)

–  having regard to the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development and the outcome document adopted by the UN General Assembly on 25 September 2015 entitled ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),

–  having regard to the upcoming 11th Ministerial Conference of the WTO, to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 10 to 13 December 2017, where e-commerce is likely to be discussed,

–  having regard to the UN International Telecommunication Union’s initiatives in support of Developing Countries (ITU-D),

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 8(1) of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and to Article 16(1) of the TFEU,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,

–  having regard to the reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on the protection of freedom of speech on Freedom of Expression and the private sector in the digital age (A/HRC/32/38) and on the role of digital access providers (A/HRC/35/22),

–  having regard to the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline, adopted by the Council (Foreign Affairs) on 12 May 2014,

–  having regard to the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, European Treaty Series No 108, and the additional protocol thereto,

–  having regard to its resolution of 26 May 2016 on transatlantic data flows(6)

–  having regard to the Commission report to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the implementation of the Trade Policy Strategy Trade for All – Delivering a Progressive Trade Policy to Harness Globalisation (COM(2017)0491).

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on International Trade and the opinions of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0384/2017),

A.  whereas technological developments, access to the open internet and the digitalisation of the economy are an engine for growth as they enable companies particularly start-ups, micro-enterprises and SMEs, to create new opportunities in developing, ordering, producing, marketing or delivering products and services, and to reach customers all over the globe at a faster pace and lower cost than ever before; whereas emerging technologies such as distributed ledger technology have the potential to enhance digital trade by improving the transparency of international contracts and expediting the transfer of value; whereas trade in physical goods has been replaced by increasing amounts of cross-border transfers of digital content, sometimes blurring the distinction between goods and services;

B.  whereas data collection, data aggregation and the ability to transfer data across borders has the potential to be a key driver of innovation, productivity and economic competitiveness;

C.  whereas the globalisation and digitalisation of our economies and of international trade have enabled businesses to grow and provided economic opportunities for citizens; whereas the digitalisation of traditional industries affects supply chains, manufacturing and services models, which could lead to job creation in new industries, but could also disrupt current jobs and lead to precarious working conditions as more and more tasks traditionally performed by humans are either automated or off-shored, or both; stresses in this regard that the necessary social flanking measures must be put in place for them to benefit the whole society, such as strong education and training policies, active labour market policies and measures to overcome the digital divide;

D.  whereas the digital economy requires a rules-based framework, including modern trade rules which can reconcile the rapid changes in the market with the rights of consumers, providing the policy space and room for new regulatory initiatives needed by governments to defend and strengthen the protection of human rights;

E.  whereas access to a free, open and secure internet is a prerequisite for rules-based trade and development in the digital economy; whereas the principle of net neutrality should be a key part of the EU’s digital trade strategy in order to allow for fair competition and innovation in the digital economy, while ensuring freedom of speech online;

F.  whereas investment in infrastructure and access to skills remain key challenges to connectivity and, therefore, digital trade;

G.  whereas the UN’s SDGs stress that providing universal and affordable access to the internet for people in least developed countries by 2020 will be crucial for fostering development, as the development of a digital economy could be a driver of jobs and growth, e-commerce being one opportunity to increase the numbers of small exporters, export volumes and export diversification;

H.  whereas women can benefit as entrepreneurs and as workers from better access to global markets, and as consumers from lower prices, whereas many challenges and inequalities still hinder women’s participation in the global economy, as many of women in low- and middle-income countries, still have no access to the internet;

I.  whereas e-commerce is also booming in developing countries;

J.  whereas governments around the world are engaging in digital protectionism by putting up barriers that hinder market access and direct investment, or create unfair advantages for domestic companies; whereas a number of broad measures in third countries taken in the name of national (cyber)security have an increasingly negative impact on trade in ICT products;

K.  whereas foreign companies currently benefit from far greater access to the European market than Europeans do to third countries; whereas many of our trade partners are increasingly closing their domestic markets and resorting to digital protectionism; whereas the EU should anchor its digital trade strategy in the principles of reciprocity, fair competition, smart regulation and transparency with a view to restoring consumers’ trust and restoring a level playing field for businesses;

L.  whereas geo-blocking should be put to an end and no forms of unjustified discrimination based on a customer’s nationality, place of residence or place of establishment within the internal market should take place in the future;

M.  whereas the building blocks that preserve the open internet in the EU’s digital single market, including principles such as fair competition, net neutrality and intermediary liability protections, should be promoted in all trade negotiations; whereas the global dimension of digital trade makes the WTO the natural venue for the negotiation of a rule-based multilateral framework; whereas the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in December 2017 provides the platform for launching such a process;

N.  whereas the European Union is bound by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, including Article 8 thereof on the right to the protection of personal data, by Article 16 TFEU on the same fundamental right, and by Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU); whereas the right to privacy is a universal human right; whereas high data protection standards help to build trust in the digital economy among European citizens and thus foster the development of digital trade; whereas promoting high data protection standards, in particular as regards sensitive data, and facilitating international trade must go hand in hand in the digital era, in order to support freedom of expression and information, e-commerce, and encryption, and to reject digital protectionism, mass surveillance, cyber espionage and online censorship;

O.  whereas digital trade must protect endangered wildlife species, and whereas online market places must ban the sale of wildlife and wildlife products on their platforms;

P.  whereas private companies are increasingly setting norms and standards in the digital economy, which will have a direct impact on citizens and consumers, as well as on domestic and international trade and at the same time accelerate the development of technological solutions to safeguard business and customers;

Q.  whereas the OECD recommendations against base erosion and profit shifting and the EU’s plans for a common consolidated corporate tax base have highlighted the need to address a number of tax challenges, including those posed by the digital economy; whereas taxes should be paid where profits are made; whereas a more transparent, efficient and fair system for calculating the tax base of cross-border companies should prevent profit shifting and tax avoidance; whereas a coherent EU approach to taxation in the digital economy is necessary to achieve fair and effective taxation of all companies and to create a level playing field; recalls that trade agreements should include a clause on tax good governance that reaffirms the parties’ commitment to implementing agreed international standards in the fight against tax evasion and avoidance;

R.  whereas, according to the OECD, up to 5 % of goods imported into the EU are counterfeited, resulting in substantial losses in jobs and tax revenues;

S.  whereas sensitive sectors such as audio-visual services, and fundamental rights such as the protection of personal data, should not be subject to trade negotiations;

T.  whereas digital trade must also aim to promote the growth of SMEs and start-ups, and not only that of multinationals;

U.  whereas Mexico fulfils the conditions for accession to Council of Europe Convention No 108 on data protection;

V.  whereas the protection of personal data is non-negotiable in trade agreements, and whereas data protection has always been excluded from EU trade negotiation mandates;

W.  whereas trade agreements can be a lever to improve digital rights; whereas the inclusion of provisions on net neutrality, a ban on forced unjustified data localisation requirements, data security, security of data processing and data storage, encryption and intermediary liability in trade agreements can strengthen, in particular, the protection of freedom of speech;

1.  Underlines that the EU, as a community of values and the world’s biggest exporter of services, should set the standards in international rules and agreements on digital trade flows based on three elements: (1) ensuring market access for digital goods and services in third countries, (2) ensuring that trade rules create tangible benefits for consumers and (3) ensuring and promoting respect for fundamental rights;

2.  Stresses the need to bridge the digital divide in order to minimise potential negative social and development impacts; underlines, in this regard, the importance of promoting female participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), of removing barriers to lifelong learning, and of closing gender gaps in access to and in the use of new technologies; calls on the Commission to explore further how current trade policy and gender equality are linked and how trade can promote women’s economic empowerment;

3.  Notes that the network effect of the digital economy enables one company or a small number of companies to hold a large market share, which could lead to excessive market concentration; stresses the importance of promoting fair and effective competition in trade agreements, in particular between digital service providers such as online platforms, and users such as micro-enterprises, SMEs and start-ups, and of promoting consumer choice, reducing transaction costs, ensuring non-discriminatory treatment of all market players and avoiding the creation of dominant positions that distort the markets; stresses, in this context, the importance of including net neutrality as a key part of its digital trade strategy; considers that a digital trade strategy must be complemented by a reinforced and effective international framework for competition policy, including by increased cooperation between competition authorities and strong competition chapters in trade agreements; calls on the Commission to ensure that businesses and companies comply with competition rules and that there is no discrimination against competitors to the detriment of consumers’ interests;

4.  Stresses that access to secure broadband internet connectivity and digital payment methods, effective consumer protection, in particular redress mechanisms for online cross-border sales, and predictable customs procedures, are essential elements in relation to enabling digital trade, sustainable development and inclusive growth;

5.  Considers that trade agreements should provide for increased cooperation between consumer protection agencies and welcomes initiatives to foster consumer trust-enhancing measures in trade negotiations, such as disciplines on electronic signatures and contracts and unsolicited communications; highlights that the rights of consumers must be protected and must not in any event be diluted;

6.  Underlines that SMEs in developing countries make up the majority of businesses and employ the majority of manufacturing and service sector workers; recalls that facilitating cross-border e-commerce can have a direct impact on improving livelihoods, fostering higher living standards and boosting economic development;

7.  Recalls that nothing in trade agreements shall prevent the EU and its Member States from maintaining, improving and applying its data protection rules; recalls that personal data can be transferred to third countries without using general disciplines in trade agreements when the requirements – both at present and in the future – enshrined in Chapter IV of Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data(7)
and in Chapter V of Regulation (EU) 2016/679, are fulfilled; recognises that adequacy decisions, including partial and sector-specific ones, constitute a fundamental mechanism in terms of safeguarding the transfer of personal data from the EU to a third country; notes that the EU has only adopted adequacy decisions with four of its 20 largest trading partners; recalls the importance of guaranteeing, in particular through adequacy dialogues, the transfer of data from third countries to the EU;

8.  Calls on the Commission to prioritise and speed up the adoption of adequacy decisions, provided that third countries ensure, by reason of their domestic law or their international commitments, a level of protection ‘essentially equivalent’ to that guaranteed within the EU; calls on the Commission to adopt, and to make public, updated and detailed binding procedures with a specific timeframe for reaching these decisions, while fully respecting the powers of national supervisory authorities and the opinion of Parliament;

9.  Recalls that the ability to access, collect, process and transfer data across borders has become increasingly important for every type of company that delivers goods and services internationally; notes that this matters for both personal and non-personal data and includes machine-to-machine communication;

10.  Urges the Commission to draw up rules for cross-border data transfers as soon as possible which fully comply with the EU’s existing and future data protection and privacy rules; calls on the Commission, furthermore, to incorporate into the EU’s trade agreements a horizontal provision, which fully maintains the right of a party to protect personal data and privacy, provided that such a right is not unjustifiably used to circumvent rules for cross-border data transfers for reasons other than the protection of personal data; considers that such rules and provisions should form part of all new and recently launched trade negotiations with third countries; stresses that any disciplines in this regard should be exempted from the scope of application of any future chapter dealing with investment protection;

11.  Calls on the Commission to strictly prohibit unjustified data localisation requirements in free trade agreements (FTAs); considers that the removal of such requirements should be a top priority, and emphasises that the relevant data protection legislation should be adhered to; regrets attempts to use such requirements as a form of non-tariff barrier to trade and as a form of digital protectionism; considers that such protectionism seriously hampers opportunities for European businesses in third country markets and undermines the efficiency benefits of digital trade;

12.  Calls on the Commission to put forward, as soon as possible, its position on cross-border data transfers, unjustified data localisation requirements, and data protection safeguards in trade negotiations, in line with Parliament’s position, so as to include it in all new and recently launched negotiations and to avoid the EU being sidelined in international trade negotiations;

13.  Calls on the Commission to combat measures by third countries, such as ‘buy local’ policies, local content requirements or forced technology transfers, to the extent that they are not justified by UN-led programmes on closing the digital divide or TRIPS-related exceptions, so as to ensure that European companies can operate in a fair and predictable environment;

14.  Stresses that the EU should continue to pursue its efforts at bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral level to ensure that third countries offer a level of openness towards foreign investments equivalent to that of the EU, and that they maintain a level playing field for EU operators; welcomes the EU’s proposal for a regulation establishing a framework for review of foreign direct investments into the Union and supports its objectives to better protect critical infrastructures and technologies;

15.  Underlines that a digital trade strategy must be fully in line with the principle of net neutrality and safeguard the equal treatment of internet traffic, without discrimination, restriction or interference, irrespective of its sender, receiver, type, content, device, service or application; recalls, moreover, that traffic management measures should be permitted only in exceptional cases where they are strictly necessary, and only for as long as necessary, to comply with legal requirements, preserve the integrity and security of the network or prevent impending network congestion;

16.  Strongly deplores third country practices which make market access conditional on the disclosure and transfer to state authorities of the source codes of the software that companies intend to sell; considers that such measures are disproportionate as a blanket requirement for market access; calls on the Commission to prohibit signatory governments to FTAs from engaging in such activities; stresses that the foregoing should not prevent state authorities from promoting transparency of software, encouraging the public disclosure of source code through free and open-source software, as well as sharing data through open data licenses;

17.  Recalls that in some cases local presence requirements are necessary to ensure effective prudential supervision or regulatory oversight and enforcement; reiterates its call on the Commission, therefore, to undertake limited commitments in Mode 1, so as to avoid regulatory arbitrage;

18.  Notes that pro-development technology transfer requirements should not be ruled out by disciplines on digital trade;

19.  Calls on the Commission to prohibit third country authorities from requiring the disclosure or transfer of details of the (cryptographic) technology used in products as a condition of manufacturing, selling or distributing these products;

20.  Notes that the protection of intellectual property (IP) rights and investments in R&D are a precondition on the EU’s knowledge-based economy, and that international cooperation is key to combating the trade in counterfeited goods throughout the entire value chain; encourages the Commission, therefore, to push for the worldwide implementation of international standards such as the WTO TRIPS Agreement and the WIPO Internet Treaties; recalls that legal protection throughout the EU, both online and offline, is needed for new creations since it will encourage investment and lead to further innovations; stresses, however, that trade agreements are not the place to extend the level of IP-protection for rights holders by providing for more extensive copyright enforcement powers; stresses that access to medicines in third countries should not be challenged on the basis of IP protection; stresses that trade in counterfeited goods requires a distinctly different approach to IP infringements in the digital economy;

21.  Exhorts the Commission to keep a close eye on ICANN’s gTLD Program, which expands domain names to thousands of generic names, and to guarantee, in line with its commitment to a free and open internet, the protection of rights holders, in particular those relating to geographical indications;

22.  Calls on the Commission to use trade agreements to prevent parties from imposing foreign equity caps, to lay down pro-competitive wholesale access rules for incumbent operators’ networks, to provide transparent and non-discriminatory rules and fees for licensing, and to secure genuine access to last-mile infrastructures in export markets for EU telecom providers; recalls that rule-based competition in the telecommunications sector leads to higher quality services and lower prices;

23.  Calls on the Commission to continue its efforts towards developing a set of binding multilateral disciplines on e-commerce in the WTO, and to continue focusing on concrete and realistic deliverables;

24.  Calls on the Commission to urgently re-launch TiSA negotiations in line with Parliament’s adopted recommendations; espouses the view that the EU should seize the window of opportunity to take the lead to set state-of-the art global digital standards;

25.  Recalls that, since 1998, members of the WTO have upheld a moratorium on tariffs on electronic transmissions; stresses that such tariffs would entail unnecessary additional costs for businesses and consumers alike; calls on the Commission to transform the moratorium into a permanent agreement on banning tariffs on electronic transmissions, subject to careful analysis of the implications in the area of 3D printing;

26.  Calls on the Commission to use trade agreements to promote the interoperability of ICT standards that benefit both consumers and producers, notably in the context of a secure Internet of things, 5G and cybersecurity, while not circumventing legitimate fora for multi-stakeholder governance which have served the open internet well;

27.  Considers that particular consideration should be given to the increasing number of consumers and individuals who are selling and buying items on the internet and are caught up in burdensome customs procedures for goods purchased online; recalls the need to put in place simplified, tax- and duty-free customs treatment of items sold online and returns unused; recalls that the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement aims to speed up customs procedures and improve their accountability and transparency; stresses the need to digitise customs information and management via online registration and operation of information, which should facilitate clearance at the border, cooperation in fraud detection, anti-corruption efforts and transparency of prices relating to customs; believes that the broader use of tools such as online dispute settlements would be beneficial for consumers;

28.  Calls on the Commission to encourage signatories of trade agreements to include, in the telecommunications chapter of their FTAs, provisions making both international roaming fees and the fees applied to international calls and messages transparent, fair, reasonable and consumer-oriented; calls on the Commission to support policies that promote cost-oriented retail prices for roaming services with a view to reducing prices, promoting transparency and preventing commercial practices that are unfair or in any way negative for consumers;

29.  Recognises that the principles of the E-commerce Directive (2000/31/EC) have contributed to the development of the digital economy by creating favourable conditions for innovations and by guaranteeing freedom of speech and the freedom to conduct a business; recalls that the Commission is bound by the EU acquis
in its trade negotiations;

30.  Calls on the Commission to further mainstream digital technologies and services into the EU’s development policy, as outlined, inter alia, in the Digital4Development agenda; calls on the Commission to use trade agreements to improve and promote digital rights; recognises that only 53,6 % of all households worldwide have access to the internet; deplores the fact that there is still a significant digital divide; calls on the Commission to increase investments in digital infrastructure in the Global South in order to bridge this digital divide, including by stimulating public-private partnerships, but while still respecting the development effectiveness principles; notes in this context the contribution of the UN ITU-D in the creation, development and improvement of telecommunication and ICT equipment and networks; urges the Commission to make investments in broadband infrastructure in developing countries contribute integrally to, and contingent on, respect for a free, open and secure internet and to develop adequate solutions to promote mobile internet access; stresses that such investments are particularly important for local micro, small & medium enterprises, especially in developing countries, in order to enable them to interact digitally with multinational enterprises and to access global value chains; recalls that facilitating cross-border e-commerce can have a direct impact on improving livelihoods, fostering higher living standards and boosting economic development; recalls the contribution that such endeavours could make to gender equality since a great number of these companies are owned and run by women; reiterates that digital trade could also be a resource for public administrations and thus support the development of e-government;

31.  Stresses that it is imperative that any digital trade strategy must be fully in line with the principle of policy coherence for development, and should in particular seek to promote and enable start-ups and micro, small & medium enterprises to engage in cross border e-commerce, recalling the contribution this could make to gender equality;

32.  Considers that digital issues should also feature more prominently in the EU’s Aid for Trade policy to facilitate the growth of e-commerce via increased support for innovation and infrastructure and access to financing, notably via micro finance initiatives, as well as assistance in increasing online visibility for e-commerce businesses in developing countries, facilitating platform access and promoting the availability of e-payment solutions and access to cost-effective logistics and delivery services;

33.  Stresses that any digital trade strategy, including its flanking measures, must be fully in line with and contribute to the realisation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; notes that SDG 4 on quality education: providing free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education to all girls and boys, SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, SDG 8.10 on promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, in particular by strengthening the capacity of domestic financial institutions and expanding access to financial services, as well as SDG 9.1 on developing reliable and resilient infrastructure with a focus on equitable access for all and SDG 9.3 on increasing the access of small enterprises, in particular in developing countries, to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets, are particularly relevant in this regard;

34.  commits to updating its digital trade strategy every 5 years;

35.  Highlights that the deployment of and access to infrastructure, especially in rural, mountainous and remote areas, that is adequate in coverage, quality and security and supports net neutrality, is crucial for digitising European industry and increasing e-governance;

36.  Supports the Commission communication of 19 April 2016 on ICT standardisation priorities for the digital single market (COM(2016)0176); stresses that while ICT standardisation must continue to be primarily industry led, voluntary and consensus driven, based on the principles of transparency, openness, impartiality, consensus, effectiveness, relevance and coherence, a clearer set of priorities for ICT standardisation, together with high-level political support, will boost competitiveness; notes that this process should make use of the instruments of the European Standardisation System and involve a wide range of stakeholders, both within the EU and at international level, to ensure delivery of improved standard-setting processes, in line with the Joint Initiative on Standardisation; calls on the Commission to foster the emergence of global industry standards under EU leadership for key 5G technologies and network architectures, notably through the exploitation of the 5G public-private partnership (5G PPP) results at the level of key EU and international standardisation bodies;

37.  Notes the efforts made by the WTO to advance its work programme on e-commerce; asks the Commission to seek the further expansion of the WTO’s Information Technology Agreement to include more products and more WTO members, and takes note of the WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires scheduled for December 2017; asks the Commission to consult European businesses and Member States as soon as possible on its position on e-commerce and other digital trade matters to be agreed at the conference in order to ensure a united European position;

38.  Believes that digital trade should be further facilitated in procurement policies, including by taking advantage of possibilities to provide services remotely and by enabling European companies, particularly SMEs, to obtain access to public and private procurement;

39.  Stresses the importance of international standards on digital equipment and services, especially in the area of cybersecurity; asks the Commission to work to ensure the introduction of basic cybersecurity measures into Internet of things products and cloud‑based services;

40.  Stresses that even though the Digital Single Market strategy addresses many of the problems facing digital trade, EU companies still face significant global obstacles such as non-transparent regulations, government intervention and unjustified data location or data storage; points out that some of the key actions of the Digital Single Market strategy, such as the EU cloud initiative and the copyright reform, have an international dimension that could be addressed in a European digital trade strategy;

41.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the EEAS.

(1) OJ L 178, 17.7.2000, p. 1.
(2) OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 1.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0299.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0041.
(5) OJ C 265, 11.8.2017, p. 35.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0233.
(7) OJ L 281, 23.11.1995, p. 31.

Joint motion for a resolution on the situation in Afghanistan – RC-B8-2017-0678

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the results of the Brussels International Conference on Afghanistan of 5 October 2016 co-chaired by the European Union,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Afghanistan, in particular those of 26 November 2015 on the situation in Afghanistan, in particular the killings in the province of Zabul(1) and of 13 June 2013 on the negotiations on an EU-Afghanistan cooperation agreement on partnership and development(2),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions on Afghanistan of 16 October 2017,

–  having regard to the statement made by the UN Security Council President on 14 September 2016 on the situation in Afghanistan,

–  having regard to UN Security Council Resolution 2210 (2015), UN Security Council Resolution 2344 (2017) and to the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA),

–  having regard to the joint communication from the Commission and the EEAS to the European Parliament and the Council on ‘Elements for an EU Strategy on Afghanistan’ of 24 July 2017 (JOIN(2017)0031),

–  having regard to the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report of 13 February 2017 entitled ‘Pakistan Coercion, UN Complicity: The Mass Forced Return of Afghan Refugees’,

–  having regard to the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) Quarterly Report to the United States Congress of 30 January 2017,

–  having regard to the EU‐Afghanistan Joint Way Forward (JWF) on migration issues signed on 3 October 2016,

–  having regard to the EU-Afghanistan Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development signed on 18 February 2017,

–  having regard to the UN report on the Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees in Afghanistan of April 2017,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) and (4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the European Union and its Member States have been working with Afghanistan and the wider international community since 2001 to combat terrorism and extremism, while also striving to achieve sustainable peace and development; whereas, on account of increasing insurgent and terrorist pressure, a struggling economy and instability in the political sphere, these goals and the substantial progress which has been achieved are at risk;

B.  whereas the EU and its Member States have contributed billions of euros in humanitarian and developmental aid and assistance to Afghanistan since 2002; whereas the EU is Afghanistan’s largest development cooperation partner and is expected to provide up to EUR 5 billion of the total EUR 13.6 billion pledged to Afghanistan for the period 2017-2020 during the Brussels International Conference on Afghanistan in October 2016;

C.  whereas ensuring democracy, human rights, the rule of law and good governance throughout the transition in Afghanistan and into its decade of transformation (2015-2024) are essential to establishing a stable and prosperous state;

D.  whereas major increases in the standard of living have occurred over the past 15 years since 2001, as access to basic healthcare and education and the empowerment of women have increased GDP per capita fivefold and average life expectancy by 15 years; whereas, according to the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), since the collapse of the Taliban in 2001, attendance at general schools had risen from one million students, most of whom were boys, to almost nine million by 2015, with female students accounting for an estimated 39 % of the total;

E.  whereas on 24 July 2017 the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy published a Joint Communication on an EU Strategy on Afghanistan; whereas the EU’s four priority areas critical to achieving progress in Afghanistan concern: a) promoting peace, stability and regional security; b) reinforcing democracy, the rule of law and human rights and promoting good governance and women’s empowerment; c) supporting economic and human development; d) addressing challenges related to migration;

F.  whereas, following the 2014 presidential election crisis, the National Unity Government (NUG) has experienced stalled progress on its reform agenda, resulting in an increasingly unstable political situation; whereas the unemployment rate in Afghanistan is 39% and over 39% of the population live in poverty;

G.  whereas widespread corruption, entrenched patronage systems and the inability of the politically fractured Afghan Government to move forward on reforms threaten to reduce progress or reverse past achievements;

H.  whereas the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which was established in 2002, supports the Afghan Government in its efforts to achieve peace, the protection of human rights and good governance; whereas its mandate is renewed annually by the UN Security Council and was most recently unanimously extended to 2018;

I.  whereas, although some socio-economic and political gains have been made in recent years, a resurgent Taliban, Al-Qaeda and a newly emerged Islamic State (IS) presence in Afghanistan, such as the emerging local franchise in Afghanistan (Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP)), all threaten to turn instability into larger-scale conflict; whereas the recent report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has documented the highest number of casualties since 2009, with 11 318 civilian casualties in 2016, while from January 2017 to September 2017 casualties already amounted to 8 019; whereas this has also led to increased migration to Europe;

J.  whereas, under the new US strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia, an additional 4 000 soldiers will join the existing US contingent of 8 400 soldiers; whereas the new US strategy demands that Pakistan stop harbouring and supporting terrorists and calls for greater involvement by the Republic of India in helping to stabilise the region; whereas the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission will increase its current troop level from 13 000 to 16 000; whereas the new US strategy will be developed favouring a conditions-based approach according to which diplomatic and economic agreements will be integrated within the framework of the military effort;

K.  whereas Afghanistan is facing an unprecedented increase in returns of documented and undocumented Afghan nationals, mainly from Pakistan; whereas around two million undocumented Afghans and one million Afghans with refugee status are living in Iran and returning to Afghanistan; whereas according to the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), there are more than 1.8 million IDPs in Afghanistan as a result of the conflict, with a record 650 000 people fleeing to other areas of the country in search of safety in 2016, representing an average of 1 500 per day; whereas in the second half of 2016 there was a 10-year high surge in the number of Afghan refugees returning from Pakistan, rising to 370 000 from 55 000 in 2015;

L.  whereas the Republic of India is the largest regional donor to Afghanistan, providing some USD 3 billion in assistance since the Taliban Government was ousted in 2001; whereas this assistance has funded, among other things, the building of more than 200 schools in Afghanistan, over 1 000 scholarships for Afghan students, and the possibility for roughly 16 000 Afghans to study in India; whereas India has also provided assistance in the construction of critical infrastructure, such as around 4 000 km of roadways in Afghanistan, most notably the Zaranj-Dilaram highway, the Salma dam and electricity transmission lines, and the Afghan parliament building;

M.  whereas instability in Afghanistan has negative economic and security repercussions for Iran and the wider region as a whole; whereas Afghanistan’s economy is highly dependent on poppy production, which has increased significantly in recent years, resulting in a spike in drug use in neighbouring Iran; whereas this illicit drug trade is used by the Taliban to fund its operations; whereas limiting this trade and finding economic alternatives to it would be mutually advantageous for Iran and Afghanistan; whereas opium from Afghanistan is the main source of heroin in the EU; whereas working with Iran and other border countries such as Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan is necessary to further limit the flow of opiates to Russian and European markets;

N.  whereas a new infrastructure dimension is pivotal for the future of Afghanistan in order to enable an entirely new reality of economic and social opportunities for one of the poorest countries in the world; whereas a new national infrastructure development programme will attract positive and growing regional investment within the framework of the new Silk Road;

O.  whereas reports indicate that Afghanistan has between one and three trillion dollars of undeveloped mineral reserves; whereas illicit mining is a major problem that threatens to turn a potential driver of Afghan development into a source of conflict and instability; whereas mining is the Taliban’s second largest source of revenue;

1.  Recognises that, despite substantial international efforts over a long period of time, Afghanistan is still facing a serious conflict which is hampering its economic and social development substantially; recalls that Afghanistan has been torn apart by nearly 40 years of conflict and war; reiterates the European Union’s goals of promoting peace, stability and regional security, strengthening democracy, the rule of law and human rights, promoting good governance and women’s empowerment, supporting economic and human development, and addressing challenges related to migration;

2.  Recalls that Afghanistan in the last decade and a half has achieved progress in the political, security, economic and development spheres; highlights that the GDP per capita has increased fivefold, life expectancy has increased by almost 15 years, and there has been a significant increase in the number of girls attending schools in comparison to 2001, the figure today being some 40 % of the total of 8 to 9 million children; stresses that none of the above would have been possible but for the dedication of the Afghan population and the commitment of the international community, and the provision of funds, know-how and personnel on the ground; underlines that the progress achieved is very fragile and reversible; emphasises that advancing it will require further reforms to take place, stable relations with neighbours and the continued provision of a necessary level of security and stability;

3.  Recognises the efforts and pays tribute to the sacrifices of the international community which provided security to Afghanistan for over a decade through Operation Enduring Freedom and the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, during which nearly 3 500 servicemen and women died; welcomes the 39-nation NATO-led Resolute Support Mission operating since 1 January 2015, which is mandated to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces and institutions; commends the great sacrifice of the ANSF, which endure heavy losses on an annual basis in their fight against insurgents; recalls the international community’s annual contribution of approximately USD 1 billion to sustain the ANSF’s financing until 2020;

4.  Welcomes the commitment of the Afghan Government to pursuing a national strategy focused on a political, social, economic and safe environment that will allow for a peaceful, secure and sustainable Afghanistan, as outlined in the conclusions of the Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan in Brussels on 5 October 2016; calls for the post of Prime Minister to be enshrined in the Afghan Constitution in order to enable greater political stability in Afghanistan; calls on the Afghan Government to ensure a transparent electoral process in 2018; calls on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to match his strong public commitments to the protection of rights and freedoms with swift and robust implementation of legislation to protect them;

5.  Stresses that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process is the only way forward, unreservedly integrating the whole of civil society and all parties to the conflict; reminds the Afghan Government that in order to permit development and promote peace and stability, political infighting must cease; calls for the EU to actively support an Afghan-led disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme for former insurgents;

6.  Underscores the importance of Afghanistan for regional stability; emphasises that a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan is vital for peace and stability in the region as a whole; reiterates, in this context, the importance of regional partners, such as the countries of Central Asia, Iran, China, India and Pakistan; encourages them to cooperate constructively to promote a genuine and results-oriented negotiation process without preconditions; takes note of the activities of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) on Afghanistan comprising the US, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as established in December 2015;

7.  Expresses extreme concern that, despite the political agreement following the 2014 presidential elections, the security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and the number of terrorist attacks has multiplied; is alarmed by the Taliban’s ongoing territorial expansion and the recent strengthening of IS and Al-Qaeda terrorist groups; points out that, according to the US SIGAR, 6 785 members of the Afghan forces were killed and another 11 777 wounded from January to November 2016, and that the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also reported a 3 % increase in civilian casualties (3 498 killed, 7 920 wounded) in 2016 compared with the previous year; regrets the deteriorating security situation that is allowing criminal groups to kidnap both Afghan nationals and foreign citizens, including humanitarian and aid workers;

8.  Expresses strong concern about the emergence of the Islamic State as the latest element to contribute to the increasing fragility of the security landscape in Afghanistan; underlines that in addition to its stronghold in the east of the country (Nangarhar) it is attempting to assert its presence in the north of the country with the assistance of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU); highlights that, should this be successful, an environment conducive to the harbouring of foreign fighters and militants will be created, as they are pushed out of Iraq and Syria on account of IS military setbacks in those two countries;

9.  Underscores the importance of a genuine internal reconciliation process; calls for the EU to actively support an Afghan-led disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme for former insurgents; underscores the need to fight radicalisation, extremism and recruitment for terrorist organisations; underlines that combating terrorism and its financing is a key ingredient of creating an environment conducive to security in Afghanistan;

10.  Warns that the poor capabilities of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) and National Police Force remain one of the most critical issues compromising Afghanistan’s security and reconstruction; welcomes the continued EU focus on the enhancement of the role and rights of Afghan women and recognises the need to train female police officers; welcomes the Republic of India’s commitment to assisting Afghanistan with the provision of defence hardware to the Afghan military in December 2015 and the military training of thousands of Afghan security personnel, which significantly helped to enhance its military capability, in accordance with the objective of NATO-led mission ‘Resolute Support’ to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces and institutions, launched in January 2015; is encouraged by the work carried out and cooperation by the Republic of India and Afghanistan on infrastructure projects and humanitarian support;

11.  Believes that the fight against corruption within the Afghan governmental institutions must be a permanent core priority on account of all the negative direct impacts of corruption on the quality of governance in the country; calls on the Government of Afghanistan to increase political inclusiveness, strengthen accountability and actively combat the culture of corruption and nepotism; welcomes notably, in this respect, the establishment of the Anti-corruption Justice Centre in June 2016; notes, in addition, the UNAMA’s call for continued support and assistance from the international community for the Afghan Government’s anti-corruption efforts;

12.  Calls on the Government of Afghanistan and its regional partners, in particular Iran, to fight against illicit drug trafficking and illicit mining and coordinate with one another to eliminate these illegal practices, which are detrimental to the stability of the region; reminds all parties that these are the main sources of funding for terrorist organisations in the region; recognises that any further mining development must be sustainable and beneficial to the general population, in accordance with international standards; condemns the repression, illicit drug trafficking, land grabbing, unlawful confiscation and extortion carried out by warlords; recalls that the production and trafficking of opium in Afghanistan has devastating consequences on the local population and the overall security of the country;

13.  Welcomes Afghan membership of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative; urges the Afghan Government to increase transparency in the mining sector and to establish robust requirements for licences and monitoring in order to ensure a sustainable extractive industry; urges the Government to step up efforts to protect vital public resources such as land and minerals from exploitation by criminal and insurgent networks;

14.  Stands with the people of Afghanistan and insists that all parties involved in the conflict adhere to international humanitarian law and respect the rights of all members of society, in particular minorities, women and children, who are disproportionately affected by the situation; urges the Afghan authorities to fully enforce the UN-Afghan action plan signed in Kabul on 30 January 2011 regarding the practice of ‘bacha bazi’ and enabling the rehabilitation of child victims of sexual abuse; condemns the attacks on hospitals and health clinics, schools and humanitarian operations; condemns in the strongest terms the continued disregard for human rights and the barbaric violence carried out by the Taliban, IS and Al-Qaeda against the people of Afghanistan; draws attention to the risk associated with the return of former war criminals, notably Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the founder of Hizb-e-Islami, who was designated a terrorist by the US in 2003 and has been associated with the increased presence of IS in Afghanistan;

15.  Is alarmed by the increasing resurgence of violence against women and the obliteration of women’s rights and living conditions within areas controlled by the Taliban in Afghanistan; repeats its call on the Afghan Parliament and the Afghan Government to revoke all laws that contain elements of discrimination against women, which are in breach of the international treaties signed by Afghanistan; welcomes the focus on women’s empowerment and gender mainstreaming in EU assistance to Afghanistan, in particular the fact that 53% of EU programmes have gender equality as a significant objective; fully supports full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, and other domestic measures to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in Afghanistan, as well as to tackle violence against women;

16.  Calls on the governments of regional partners such as the countries of Central Asia, Iran, India, Russia and Pakistan to work together to pursue a peace settlement in Afghanistan, continuous socio-economic development and increased domestic stability, as well as cooperation on security and terror issues, and encourages intelligence sharing and cooperation to fight terrorists and extremists on both sides of the border; urges all Afghan regional actors to commit unreservedly to pursuing transparent engagement in the fight against terrorism;

17.  Reiterates the need for the international community to continue its engagement in Afghanistan and to contribute to rebuilding the country, developing the economy and resisting terrorism; welcomes the financial engagements confirmed by the EU and the Member States at the Brussels Conference; calls notably for support for initiatives that address the priority needs of internally displaced and returning refugees;

18.  Recognises the responsibilities of the EU and its Member States to respect the right to seek international protection and to participate in UNHCR resettlement programmes; stresses the right and ability to seek refuge in safe and legal ways as critical for preventing deaths among asylum seekers;

19.  Notes the conclusion of the Joint Way Forward informal readmission agreement between the EU and Afghanistan; regrets the lack of parliamentary oversight and democratic control on the conclusion of this agreement; calls on governments in the region to refrain from the repatriation of Afghans; points out that this is a direct violation of international humanitarian law and that the increasing number of refugees being treated this way only lends strength to terrorist groups and creates more instability in the region; underlines that repatriations to Afghanistan put the lives of returnees at grave risk, in particular those of single persons without a network of family or friends in Afghanistan who stand little chance of survival; underlines that EU assistance and cooperation must be tailored to achieving development and growth in third countries and to reducing and eventually eradicating poverty, and not to incentivising third countries to cooperate on readmission of irregular migrants, to forcibly deterring people from moving, or to stopping flows to Europe (European Parliament resolution of 5 April 2017 on addressing refugee and migrant movements: the role of EU External Action);

20.  Takes note of the decision of the ICC Prosecutor to commence an investigation into possible crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan since 2003;

21.  Calls on the Afghan authorities to commute all death sentences and to reintroduce a moratorium on executions with a view to achieving the permanent abolition of the death penalty; urges the Government of Afghanistan to implement in full its National Plan on the Elimination of Torture and deplores the reported use of torture and ill-treatment of conflict-related detainees by all sides in Afghanistan;

22.  Expresses its deepest concern over the massive increase in the number of internally displaced people in 2016, with over 600 000 new displacements, which could lead to a massive humanitarian crisis; encourages all parties involved to provide for these vulnerable Afghans, and calls on the Afghan Government to help reintegrate them into Afghan society; stresses that, according to estimates by the Afghan authorities, UN agencies and other humanitarian agencies, over 9.3 million people will have required humanitarian assistance by the end of 2017;

23.  Welcomes the provisional entry into force of the Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development between the European Union and Afghanistan on 1 December 2017, representing the first legally binding framework for relations between the two sides; further encourages the swift ratification of the agreement by EU Member States in order for it to enter into force in full;

24.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the Governments and Parliaments of the Member States, and the Government and Parliament of Afghanistan.