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General Assembly Takes Action on Second Committee Reports by Adopting 41 Texts, also Passes Overhaul of United Nations Peace, Security Pillar

Increasing Official Development Assistance, Updating Bank Policies to Support 2030 Agenda among Resolutions Approved

Gearing up to implement the international community’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the General Assembly today adopted 41 resolutions and two related decisions aimed at strengthening nations’ efforts to reach agreed goals.

At the meeting’s outset, the Assembly also adopted, without a vote, a resolution on restructuring the United Nations peace and security pillar, presenting what several delegates described as “sweeping” proposals to overhaul it.

By the resolution’s terms, the Assembly took note of a Secretary‑General’s report containing five proposals, including the creation of a single political‑operational structure under Assistant Secretaries‑General with regional responsibilities, and establishment of a “Standing Principals’ Group” of the Under‑Secretaries‑General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and for Peace Operations.

Focusing then on the Second Committee, the Assembly turned to macroeconomic policy questions, adopting a resolution on international financial system and development in a recorded vote of 180 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly stressed that development banks should make optimal use of their resources and balance sheets, updating their policies to support of the 2030 Agenda.

By further terms, the Assembly committed to substantially curb illicit financial flows by 2030 by combating tax evasion, transnational organized crime and corruption through strengthened national regulation and increased international cooperation and reducing opportunities for tax avoidance.

Adopting another resolution on external debt sustainability and development, the Assembly stressed creditor and debtor responsibility in avoiding build‑up of unsustainable debt to diminish the risk of crisis.  By further terms, it urged countries to direct resources freed by debt relief to sustained economic growth and internationally agreed development goals.

By a resolution on commodities, adopted in a recorded vote of 182 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions, the Assembly directed the international community to address factors creating structural barriers to international trade, impeding diversification and limiting access to financial services.  By other terms, it called on relevant stakeholders to address low industrialization and diversification of economies of some commodity‑dependent developing countries.

Other resolutions on macroeconomic policy questions concerned unilateral economic measures, international trade, financial inclusion, illicit financial flows and financing for development.

Focusing on special groups of countries, the Assembly adopted a draft on Follow‑up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries.  By that text, the Assembly underlined the urgent need to reverse the decline in official development assistance (ODA) to least developed countries, urging nations that had not met commitments to increase their contribution and make concrete efforts towards ODA targets.

By another resolution on Development cooperation with middle‑income countries, it encouraged shareholders in multilateral development banks to develop a graduation process (from a nation’s lesser developed status) that was sequenced, phased and gradual.

Addressing sustainable development, the Assembly adopted several resolutions, including one on disaster risk reduction, emphasizing that preventing and reducing such risk would provide exponential returns and significantly curtail response costs.  It also emphasized the importance of increasing the availability of multi‑hazard early warning mechanisms in ensuring early action.

According to another draft, the Assembly called for ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, adopting it in a recorded vote of 183 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 1 abstention (Venezuela).  It also called on Governments to expand the use of renewable energy beyond the power sector to industry, heating and cooling, infrastructure and the transport sector.

Adopting a further draft on combating sand and dust storms, it recognized that such weather had inflicted substantial economic, social and environmental damage on the inhabitants of the world’s arid, semi‑arid and dry subhumid areas, underscoring the need to treat and promptly take measures to address them.

Other sustainable development resolutions spotlighted development of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan, sustainable tourism development in Central America, agricultural technology, desertification, biological diversity, education, camelids and World Bee Day.

Turning to a related item, the Assembly adopted a resolution on agriculture development, food security and nutrition in a recorded vote of 185 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions. By that text, the Assembly stressed the need to increase sustainable agricultural production globally by improving markets and trading systems as well as increasing responsible public and private investment in agriculture, land management and rural development.

By further terms, it stressed that a universal, rules‑based, open, non‑discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system promoted rural development and contributed to world food security and nutrition.  It urged national, regional and international strategies to promote the participation of farmers, fishers and fish workers in their various markets.

The Assembly also adopted a resolution concerning natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Syrian Golan in a recorded vote of 163 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, United States) with 11 abstentions, which called for Israel to cease exploitation of natural resources in those territories.

Further to the text, the Assembly called on Israel to comply with international law and cease all policies and measures to alter the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It also called on Israel to stop harming the environment, cease destruction of vital infrastructure, remove obstacles to the implementation of critical environmental projects, and cease efforts impeding Palestinian development.

Resolutions were also adopted on transport links, agricultural technology, small islands, global climate, harmony with nature, oil slick on Lebanese shores, human settlements, globalization, science and technology, culture, landlocked developing countries, poverty eradication, women, human resources, operational activities, South‑South cooperation and family farming.

Committee Rapporteur Theresah Chipulu Luswili Chanda introduced its reports.

Also adopted, without a vote, was a plenary resolution on a world against violence and violent extremism.  Introducing that text, Iran’s representative urged Member States to avoid associating violent extremism with any single religion or nationality, adding that the Assembly could provide a platform to address the roots of that phenomenon.

The resolution spotlighted international efforts to combat violent extremism and reaffirmed the importance of the Secretary‑General’s Plan of Action on the matter.

In other business, the Assembly took note of a report of its General Committee and several appointments to the Committee on Conferences.  Botswana, France and the Russian Federation were appointed to serve three‑year terms on the Committee beginning on 1 January 2018.  The Assembly also noted that the Asia‑Pacific Group had recommended China’s appointment to fill a vacancy on the Committee for a term of office beginning on the date of appointment and ending on 31 December 2019.

Introduction of Draft Resolution and Reports

MIROSLAV LAJČÁK (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, introducing a draft resolution titled “Restructuring of the United Nations peace and security pillar” (document A/72/L.33), said the Organization must be able to respond to today’s challenges “in the best way it can”.  However, there were new conflicts today that were harder to identify, as in the case of online recruitment of terrorist groups.  “Different threats require different responses,” he said, calling for adjustments to the Organization’s seventy‑year‑old mechanisms.  “We must evolve,” he stressed, noting that the resolution before the Assembly today would assist in that process, as it called for a second comprehensive report on the United Nations peace and security pillar.  Thanking the facilitators, he urged Member States to adopt the text by consensus.

The representative of Colombia, speaking in explanation of position on that item, said the resolution was critical to help make the United Nations more modern and transparent.  It contained a “visionary proposal” by the Secretary‑General, who had been chosen specifically “for this important task”.  Today’s peace and security challenges required bold measures to save lives, he said, adding that the resolution marked an important step forward in transparency.  It would also provide more feedback on “what is working and what is not working on the ground” in the United Nations efforts to enhance sustainable international peace.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution without a vote.

The representative of the United States said the United Nations would be better able to address the needs of those on the ground with more focused, effective and efficient operations.  Any reform that was implemented must advance political solutions and enable the Organization to tailor its responses to the needs of countries in conflict or transition.  The resolution demonstrated that the Secretary‑General had wide‑reaching endorsement from Member States for his vision to make the United Nations a stronger and more relevant institution that could prevent and respond to conflicts and atrocities.

The representative of Mexico said his country had joined consensus on the resolution, as it supported the Secretary‑General in his vision to make the United Nations a stronger organization.  It was critical to have the full backing of the Assembly so that the proposal could be implemented as soon as possible.  However, it seemed contradictory that the resolution on the reform of peace and security did not include references to sustainable development or the 2015 review process.  He expressed hope that the Secretary‑General’s report would be substantive in helping the Organization move towards greater understanding and the paradigm shift that peace required.

The representative of Argentina, welcoming the Secretary‑General’s initiative to reform the United Nations peace and security pillar, said the Organization should adopt a holistic and comprehensive approach to conflict prevention, building sustainable peace and development.  The text would help decrease the fragmentation in the Organization’s work, she said, adding that the “sweeping” proposal would help the United Nations focus more closely on the root causes of conflict, ensure national ownership, enhance conflict prevention and implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Voicing support for efforts to make the Peacebuilding Office a “liaison” between the various relevant organs of the United Nations, she stressed that “we must move forward”, and expressed hope that the upcoming work would reflect an active exchange of ideas between all Member States.

The representative of China voiced support for the United Nations efforts to better implement the responsibilities entrusted in it by its Charter, as well as to enhance multilateralism.  Also welcoming efforts aimed at integrating the Organization’s resources and improving its efficiency, thereby allowing it to better respond to today’s peace and security challenges, he said the restructuring of the United Nations peace and security architecture would also require greater consultation between Member States.

The representative of the Russian Federation, noting that his delegation had joined in the consensus, said the changes proposed would also impact the Organization’s political dimensions.  Voicing his delegation’s commitment to engage in all discussions going forward, he expressed full respect for the points of view of various Member States, and said the final analysis must help them reach a “mutual understanding”.  While the interlinked relationship between the United Nations three pillars underpinned the Organization’s work, that did not mean that they must be carried out in the same way.  In that regard, he expressed support for the Secretary‑General’s efforts to avoid duplication of labour as well as ensure geographical representation.

The representative of Egypt agreed that the non‑traditional challenges emerging in global peace and security issues required new ideas and a more efficient use of the United Nations toolkit.  Stressing that the Assembly and its organs were the only entities that could adopt any of the restructuring proposals — and that such an adoption must be undertaken with full respect for the mandates of all the United Nations organs without any amendments to those mandates — he warned against including controversial elements which had not been fully agreed by Member States.  In addition, he said, Egypt considered sustainable development to be a right and a standalone objective in itself, which must be achieved without any preconditions.

The representative of Brazil said the United Nations needed to be nimbler if it was to implement all initiatives under the pillars of peace and security, development and human rights.  His country supported reform of the peace and security pillar and welcomed efforts to overcome fragmentation in focusing on restructuring peacebuilding.  However, he said reform would not be complete without reference to the work methods of the Security Council.

The representative of Estonia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Assembly had expressed strong support for the Secretary‑General and reform of the Secretariat’s peace and security pillar.  He looked forward to a detailed report of all aspects of the new pillar.  The Secretariat must act as one while taking into account specificities of all facets on the ground, as through such efforts it could improve on efforts to maintain peace.  The Secretary‑General had the authority and now full political endorsement in proceeding with the first steps of implementing his vision.  With adoption of the resolution, the Assembly had set in motion not only reform but also a good precedent for other reforms.

THERESAH CHIPULU LUSWILI CHANDA (Zambia), Rapporteur of the Second Committee, introduced that body’s reports and the draft resolutions or decisions within, noting oral revisions for some.  She began with Strengthening of the United Nations system; United Nations reform: measures and proposals (document A/72/L.33); Information and communications technologies for development (document A/72/417); Macroeconomic policy questions (document A/72/418); International trade and development (document A/72/418/Add.1); International financial system and development (document A/72/418/Add.2); External debt sustainability and development (document A/72/418/Add.3); Commodities (document A/72/418/Add.4); Financial inclusion for sustainable development (document A/72/418/Add.5); Promotion of international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows in order to foster sustainable development (document A/72/418/Add.6); and Follow-up to and implementation of the outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development (document A/72/419).

Turning then to reports focusing on sustainable development, she introduced Sustainable development (document A/72/420); Implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (document A/72/420/Add.1); Follow‑up to and implementation of the SIDS [small islands developing States] Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (document A/72/420/Add.2); Disaster risk reduction (document A/72/420/Add.3); Protection of global climate for present and future generations of humankind (document A/72/420/Add.4); Implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (document A/72/420/Add.5); Sustainable development: Convention on Biological Diversity (document A/72/420/Add.6); Education for sustainable development (document A/72/420/Add.7); Harmony with Nature (document A/72/420/Add.8); Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (document A/72/420/Add.9); and Combating sand and dust storms (document A/72/420/Add.10).

Next, she introduced reports on Implementation of the outcomes of the United Nations Conferences on Human Settlements and on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‑Habitat) (document A/72/421); Globalization and interdependence (document A/72/422); Role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence (document A/72/422/Add.1); Science, technology and innovation for development (document A/72/422/Add.2); and Culture and sustainable development (document A/72/422/Add.3).

Next, she introduced reports on Development cooperation with middle‑income countries (document A/72/422/Add.4); Groups of countries in special situations (document A/72/423); Follow‑up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (document A/72/423/Add.1); Follow‑up to the second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries (document A/72/423/Add.2); Eradication of poverty and other development issues: report of the Second Committee (document A/72/424); Implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008‑2017) (document A/72/424/Add.1); Women in development (document A/72/424/Add.2); and Human resources development (document A/72/424/Add.3).

Finally, she introduced reports on Operational activities for development (document A/72/425); Operational activities for development of the United Nations system (document A/72/425/Add.1); South‑South cooperation for development (document A/72/425/Add.2); Agriculture development, food security and nutrition (document A/72/426); Towards global partnerships (document A/72/427); Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources (document A/72/428); Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly (document A/72/479); and Programme planning (document A/72/484).

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Assembly then turned to draft resolutions in the reports, beginning with a text on information and communications technologies for development (document A/72/417), which it adopted without a vote.

By that text, the Assembly called on all stakeholders to make bridging digital divides a priority, put into effect sound strategies contributing to the development of e‑government and continue to focus on pro‑poor information and communications technology policies and applications.

Next, it took up Macroeconomic policy questions, taking note of the report and adopting a resolution on Unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries (document A/72/418/Add.1) in a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States) with 48 abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly would call for the elimination of such measures against those States.

It then adopted a resolution on International trade and development (document A/72/418/Add.1) in a recorded vote of 182 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly promoted a universal, rules‑based, open, transparent, predictable, inclusive, non‑discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organization (WTO) as well as meaningful trade liberalization.

Following that, the Assembly adopted a text on International financial system and development (document A/72/418/Add.2) in a recorded vote of 180 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly resolved to strengthen the coherence and consistency of multilateral financial, investment, trade and development policy and environment institutions and platforms.

Next, it adopted, without a vote, a resolution on External debt sustainability and development (document A/72/418/Add.3), by which it stressed the responsibilities of creditor and debtor nations in avoiding the build‑up of unsustainable debt to diminish the risk of crisis.  By further terms, it urged countries to direct resources freed by debt relief to sustained economic growth and internationally agreed development goals.

The Assembly then adopted a draft on Commodities (document A/72/418/Add.4) in a recorded vote of 182 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that draft, the Assembly would have the international community address factors that created structural barriers to international trade, impeded diversification and limited access to financial services, particularly for developing countries.

By other terms, it called on relevant stakeholders to address the issue of the low industrialization and diversification of the economies of some commodity‑dependent developing countries.

Next, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a text on Financial inclusion for sustainable development (document A/72/418/Add.5), by which it encouraged Member States to adopt and pursue national financial inclusion and gender‑responsive strategies to end structural barriers to women’s equal access to economic resources.

It then adopted, without a vote, a resolution on Promotion of international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows in order to foster sustainable development (document A/72/418/Add.6).  By that draft, the Assembly expressed concern that cryptocurrencies were increasingly being used for illicit activities.  It called for greater international cooperation and sustained dialogue to combat illicit financial flows and strengthen good practices on assets return.

The representative of Nigeria said efforts by his country and Norway had led to the establishment of the interlink between achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and combating illicit financial flows, which had been endorsed in numerous fora including the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  While his delegation had expected a more robust outcome, the adopted resolution was sufficient, he said, and appealed to Member States to further request a report by the Secretary‑General on how the issue was central to achieving the 2030 Agenda.  The Assembly setting up an intergovernmental body would be key to coordinating relevant mandates, he said, adding that most developing countries supported that idea.  The African Union’s annual theme would in 2018 be “Winning the fight against corruption:  A sustainable path to Africa’s Transformation”.  Nigeria stood ready to contribute toward holding the high‑level conference on illicit financial flows and asset recovery which would be convened by the President of the seventy‑third General Assembly.  Urging Member States to share information to combat illicit financial flows, he underscored that returning stolen assets had a more positive impact than focusing on conditionalities hindering developing countries’ progress.

Following that, the Assembly adopted a draft, without a vote, on Follow‑up to and implementation of the outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development (document A/72/419).

Turning to sustainable development, the Assembly adopted a resolution on Oil slick on Lebanese shores (document A/72/420) in a recorded vote of 163 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 9 abstentions (Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Tonga, Vanuatu).  By that text, it noted that the oil slick damage to Lebanon amounted to $856.4 million in 2014, and the Assembly requested the Government of Israel to provide compensation to Lebanon for the damage and to other countries directly affected by the oil slick, such as Syria.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, a text on International Year of Camelids, 2024 (document A/72/420), by which it encouraged all Member States, the United Nations system and other actors to take advantage of the International Year to promote awareness among the public of the economic and cultural importance of camelids.

Following that, it adopted, without a vote, a resolution on World Bee Day (document A/72/420), by which the Assembly decided to designate 20 May as World Bee Day to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats that they face and their contribution to sustainable development.

Next, the Assembly adopted a draft, without a vote, on strengthening the links between all modes of transport to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (document A/72/420).  By that text, it called for efforts to promote regional and interregional economic cooperation, including by improving the planning of transportation infrastructure and mobility, enhancing connectivity and facilitating trade and investment.

It then adopted, without a vote, a text on international cooperation and coordination for the human and ecological rehabilitation and economic development of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan (document A/72/420).  By that text, the Assembly urged the international community to assist Kazakhstan in implementing special programmes and projects to treat and care for the affected population, as well as efforts to ensure economic growth and sustainable development in the Semipalatinsk region.

Following that, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a resolution on sustainable tourism and sustainable development in Central America (document A/72/420), by which it stressed the need to promote the further development of sustainable tourism and strengthen the development of ecotourism, maintaining the culture and environmental integrity of indigenous and local communities.

Next, it adopted a draft on Agricultural technology for sustainable development (document A/72/420) in a recorded vote of 152 in favour to 1 against (Syria), with 29 abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly urged stakeholders to strengthen efforts to improve the development of sustainable agricultural technologies and their transfer and dissemination to developing countries.

The representative of Slovenia said that after three years of effort, the resolution on World Bee Day had received its final endorsement.  In the last three years, since the beginning of the initiative of the Slovenian Beekeeper’s Association in 2014, his country had been intensively notifying States around the world on a political as well as an expert level.  In the frame of the official procedures, the initiative had been unanimously adopted by the Conference of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations at its fortieth session in Rome in July.  After that endorsement, it was transmitted to the Assembly, and on 17 November the resolution was adopted by the Second Committee.  Global food security was a key social issue and an important priority in the development of agriculture.  A third of all food produced in the world depends on pollination, and bees had an important role to play in the preservation of ecological balance and biodiversity.  They were also good bioindicators of environmental conditions.

The Assembly then adopted a text, in a recorded vote of 131 in favour to 48 against, with 4 abstentions (Liberia, New Zealand, Norway, Turkey), on Implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (document A/72/420/Add.1).

Next, the Assembly adopted a draft, without a vote, on follow‑up to and implementation of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (document A/72/420/Add.2).

Following that, it adopted, without a vote, a text on Disaster risk reduction (document A/72/420/Add.3), by which the Assembly emphasized that preventing and reducing such risk would provide exponential returns and significantly curtail response costs.  It also emphasized the importance of increasing the availability of and access to multi‑hazard early warning mechanisms in ensuring early action.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, a draft on Protection of global climate for present and future generations of humankind (document A/72/420/Add.4).  By that text, it emphasized that mitigation of and adaptation to climate change represented an immediate and urgent global priority.  It also urged Member States to strengthen mechanisms and provide adequate resources towards achieving the full and equal participation of women in decision‑making at all levels on environmental issues.

Next, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a text on Implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (document A/72/420/Add.5).

Following that, it adopted a draft, without a vote, on implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (document A/72/420/Add.6), by which the Assembly called on Governments and all stakeholders to take appropriate measures to mainstream consideration of socioeconomic impacts and benefits of conserving and sustainably using biodiversity and its components, as well as ecosystems providing essential services, into relevant programmes and policies at all levels.

The Assembly then adopted a text, without a vote, on Education for sustainable development in the framework of the 2030 Agenda (document A/72/420/Add.7).  By that draft, it called on the international community to provide inclusive and equitable quality education at all levels — early childhood, primary, secondary, tertiary and distance education, including technical and vocational training — so that all people had access to lifelong learning opportunities that help them exploit opportunities to participate fully in society and contribute to sustainable development.

Following that, it adopted, without a vote, a text on Harmony with Nature (document A/72/420/Add.8), by which the Assembly decided to continue observing International Mother Earth Day annually.  It also called for holistic and integrated approaches to sustainable development in its three dimensions that guided humanity to live in harmony with nature and led to efforts to restore the health and integrity of the planet’s ecosystems.

Next, it adopted a draft on Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (document A/72/420/Add.9) in a recorded vote of 183 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 1 abstention (Venezuela).  By that text, the Assembly called for ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.  It also called on Governments to expand the use of renewable energy beyond the power sector to industry, heating and cooling, construction and infrastructure, and in particular the transport sector.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, a draft on Combating sand and dust storms (document A/72/420/Add.10), by which it recognized that that meteorological phenomenon had inflicted substantial economic, social and environmental damage on the inhabitants of the world’s arid, semi‑arid and dry subhumid areas, underscoring the need to treat them and take measures to address those challenges.

Next, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a draft on Implementation of the outcomes of the United Nations Conferences on Human Settlements and on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‑Habitat) (document A/72/421).

It then adopted a text on the Role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence (document A/72/422/Add.1) in a recorded vote of 184 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that draft, the Assembly underlined that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and 2030 Agenda depended on means of implementation, particularly finance, international trade, technology and capacity‑building, calling for sincere and effective follow‑up on global commitments.

The Assembly then took note of the Second Committee’s report on “Promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence”.

Following that, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a draft on Science, technology and innovation for development (document A/72/422/Add.2), by which it called for strengthened support to those areas, particularly in developing countries.  It would also proclaim 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements to enhance global awareness of and education in the basic sciences.

Next, it adopted, in a recorded vote of 185 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions, a text on Culture and sustainable development (document A/72/422/Add.3).  By that draft, the Assembly encouraged all relevant stakeholders to cooperate in supporting developing country efforts to develop, strengthen and consolidate cultural industries, tourism and related microenterprises.

It then adopted, without a vote, a text on Development cooperation with middle‑income countries (document A/72/422/Add.4), by which the Assembly encouraged shareholders in multilateral development banks to develop a graduation process (from a nation’s lesser developed status) that was sequenced, phased and gradual.

The Assembly then took note of the Second Committee’s report on “Groups of countries in special situations”.

Following that, it turned to a draft on Follow-up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (document A/72/423/Add.1), adopting it without a vote.  By that text, the Assembly underlined the urgent need to reverse the decline in official development assistance (ODA) to least developed countries, urging nations that had not met commitments to increase their ODA and make concrete efforts towards the ODA targets.

Next, it adopted, without a vote, a draft on Follow-up to the Second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries (document A/72/423/Add.2).  By that text, the Assembly stressed that cooperation on fundamental transit policies, laws and regulations between landlocked developing countries and their neighbours was crucial for the effective and integrated solution of cross‑border trade and transit transport problems.

The Assembly then took note of the Committee’s report on “Eradication of poverty and other development issues”.

It then adopted, without a vote, a draft on Implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008‑2017) (document A/72/424/Add.1).  By that text, the Assembly emphasized the importance of structural transformation leading to inclusive and sustainable industrialization for employment creation and poverty reduction.

Following that, it adopted, without a vote, a draft on Women in development (document A/72/424/Add.2), by which the Assembly emphasized the need to link policies on economic, social and environmental development to ensure that all people, in particular women and children living in poverty and in vulnerable situations, benefited from inclusive economic growth and development.

The representative of Sudan, explaining his delegation’s position on the “women and development” resolution, said it had joined the consensus.  However, he expressed concern over the wording of some of the resolution’s paragraphs, including false criticisms of particular national legal systems, and disassociated himself from that text.

Next, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a text on Human resources development (document A/72/424/Add.3), taking note of the report on the same topic.  By that text, it called on the international community to place human resources development at the core of economic and social development as educated, skilled, healthy, capable, productive and adaptable workforces were the foundation for achieving sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth and development.

The Assembly then turned to a draft on Operational activities for development of the United Nations system (document A/72/425/Add.1), adopting it without a vote.  By that text, it took note of the Secretary‑General’s report on “Repositioning the United Nations development system to deliver on the 2030 Agenda: ensuring a better future for all”.

The Assembly then took note of the Second Committee’s report “Operational activities for development”.

Following that, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a text on South‑South cooperation for development (document A/72/425/Add.2), by which it stressed that such assistance was not a substitute for, but rather a complement to, North‑South cooperation.  It also called on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other relevant organizations to assist developing countries in implementing projects of South‑South cooperation.

Next, the Assembly adopted, in a recorded vote of 185 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions, a draft on Agriculture development, food security and nutrition (document A/72/426).  By that text, it stressed the need to increase sustainable agricultural production globally by improving markets and trading systems as well as increasing responsible public and private investment in sustainable agriculture, land management and rural development.

By further terms, the Assembly stressed that a universal, rules‑based, open, non‑discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system promoted agriculture and rural development in developing countries and contributed to world food security and nutrition.  It urged national, regional and international strategies to promote the participation of farmers, fishers and fish workers in community, national, regional and international markets.

It then adopted, without a vote, a draft on the United Nations Decade of Family Farming (document A/72/426), by which the Assembly proclaimed 2019‑2028 the Decade of Family Farming, and called on FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to lead implementation of the initiative.

The Assembly then adopted a draft decision to postpone discussion of the agenda item on “Towards global partnerships” until the General Assembly’s seventy‑third session.

Following that, it adopted, in a recorded vote of 163 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 11 abstentions, a text on Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources (document A/72/428).  By that draft, the Assembly called on Israel to cease exploitation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Syrian Golan.

Further to the text, the Assembly called on Israel to comply with its obligations under international law and cease all policies and measures aimed at the alteration of the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It also called on Israel to halt all actions harming the environment, cease destruction of vital infrastructure, remove obstacles to the implementation of critical environmental projects, cease efforts impeding Palestinian development and export of discovered oil and natural gas reserves.

The Assembly then adopted a draft decision to approve the Second Committee’s programme of work for its seventy‑third session.

Finally, it took note of a report on programme planning.

The Assembly then took up a draft resolution titled “A world against violence and violent extremism” (document A/72/L.32).

The representative of Iran, introducing that text, said it was a follow‑up to Assembly resolutions 68/127 and 70/109, both of which had been adopted by consensus.  That unity demonstrated the pressing need to act to combat violent extremism, especially through the principles of tolerance and moderation.  Calling for collective international action in that regard — especially in the wake of the atrocities committed over the last few years by extremist groups in Iraq and Syria, including by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh) — he stressed that “dialogue, moderation and tolerance are the most effective antidote to violent extremism”.  Urging Member States to avoid associating violent extremism with any particular religion or nationality, he said doing so “played right into the terrorists’ hands” and further spread extremist ideology.  Noting that the Assembly could provide a strong platform to help address the roots of that phenomenon, he said the text also reaffirmed measures taken at the international level such as the Assembly’s high‑level 2016 meeting on the topic, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) 2016 conference on youth and the Internet.  It also spotlighted the Secretary‑General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism and requested him to report on the implementation of the present resolution at the Assembly’s seventy‑fourth session.

The Assembly then adopted that draft resolution without a vote.

Speaking following the adoption, the representative of Canada said her delegation strongly condemned all violent extremism, including violence committed on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  The rights of all people must be respected, she stressed, noting that the Secretary‑General’s Plan of Action recognized the important link between social exclusion and violent extremism.  All States — especially the resolution’s main sponsor — should comply with their international obligations to protect human rights.

The representative of Israel said her delegation had joined in the consensus, but voiced concern not with “the message but the messenger”.  Iran, the text’s main sponsor, was in fact the “nerve‑centre” of violent extremism and terrorist incitement around the globe, as well as its main sponsor.  Iran’s proxies butchered innocent people and violated human rights, she said, adding that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Iran were hanged from cranes, journalists were arrested, girls as young as 12 were married off and prisoners were tortured.  In Syria, Iran’s continued support for the Assad regime had allowed it to use chemical weapons against its own people, and next door in Lebanon it had helped Hizbullah increase its weapons arsenal.  With the adoption of the present text, it was critical for the international community to focus on Iran’s own actions, she stressed, noting that that country had already violated the very resolution it was sponsoring.

The representative of Saudi Arabia said his country had joined consensus on the resolution based on its belief in a comprehensive effort to combat violence and extremism.  It supported all efforts aimed at fighting violent extremism, but must address contradictions concerning security.  It was clear that Iran, the sponsor of the resolution, was also the main sponsor of violence and violent extremism across the world.  Iran had worked to destroy Yemen and was continuing to do so through violations of international law.  Several of its militias had wreaked havoc in Syria and Lebanon, and it was supporting extremist groups with weapons and other prohibited items.  He condemned Iranian support for those groups, stressing the need to prevent and counter all forms of violent extremism.

The representative of the United States noted that the Assembly had on 19 December adopted a resolution condemning Iran for continuing to violate international law and voicing concern over the targeting of minority religious communities.  Yet, 24 hours later, Iran was sponsoring a resolution against violence and extremism.  It had often acted in clear violation of its international obligations, which ran counter to the spirit of the resolution.  Her country had joined consensus on the resolution, as it believed in a comprehensive effort to counter extremism.  While Iran urged countries to unite against violence, its Government actively fomented violence across the Middle East.  Its support for Hizbullah had expanded the group’s arsenal, directly challenging Lebanese sovereignty and threatening Israel.  Iran abused its own people, supported political opponents of other Member States and imprisoned journalists and tourists on trumped up charges.

The representative of the Russian Federation said her country had joined consensus, as it believed in the resolution’s potential.  It viewed extremism as separate from terrorism, although it was a breeding ground for it.  Efforts to counter violent extremism must be based on international law and the United Nations Charter.  That was important when vague terms were being used to put forth dubious concepts.  She noted that extremist propaganda could, without violence, lead to undermining of the rule of law, destabilization of society and mass violations of human rights.

The representative of the European Union delegation rejected any form of discrimination, including on the grounds of sex, race, colour, language, genetic features, religion, membership in a minority group or sexual orientation or any other.  All nations must respect international human rights, promote good governance and uphold the rule of law.  She therefore urged all States — including the resolution’s main sponsor — to respect the rights of all their people, including ethnic, sexual and religious minorities.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Iran responded to the statement delivered by the delegate of the “Israeli regime”, who had levied baseless allegations and lies against his country.  Israel’s anger over the resolution adopted today was understandable, as it was an occupying entity that had created an apartheid system in the territories it controlled.  The representative of Israel had clearly deemed the resolution to be “against itself”, he said, noting that it pursued one of the most extreme policies in the modern world and denied the people living under its occupation their most basic rights.  In contrast, Iran had done everything in its power to combat violent extremism.

Responding to the representative of the United States, he said that country had for almost a year pursued a new policy which included levying baseless allegations and lies against Iran.  It was also working to advance the interests of the Israeli regime in the Middle East and was taking advantage of some regional countries by creating a “local bogeyman”.  It was not a coincidence that the United States had gone into high gear in its false allegations against Iran following the massive condemnation it received on its decision to recognize Al‑Quds [Jerusalem] as Israel’s capital.  The United States Government’s regime change project inflicted severe suffering across the Middle East, he said, adding that that country supported, armed and trained known terrorist groups in Syria.  The United States’ own past aggressions and interventions in the region had created fertile ground for recruitment by those advocating the violent takfirist ideology.

Turning to the representative of Saudi Arabia, he said that that country was a main sponsor of violent extremism worldwide, having lavishly financed the export of its fanatical ideology to poorer nations over the last three decades.  Saudi Arabia remained a critical support base for Al‑Qaida, the Taliban and other terrorist groups, and it supported any group that would fight the Government in Syria.  Noting that ISIL/Daesh was a product of Saudi support and financing, he said that country’s ideology propagated hatred and sought to spread it abroad.

A hard row to hoe for Nigeria to reach food self-sufficiency

On the outskirts of Nigeria’s northern city of Kano is bustling Dawanau, West Africa’s largest grain market. Fortunes change hands here daily, with sacks of millet, sorghum, and cowpeas loaded onto trucks for delivery to countries as far afield as Chad, Mali, and Senegal.

But away from the hubbub of Dawanau, the smallholder farmers who produce more than 90 percent of Nigeria’s food face an uphill battle to maintain that supply.

Northern Nigeria’s vast plains are ideal for agriculture – and rice is an especially lucrative crop. The staple is a must-have at any social event and a cornerstone of some of the country’s most popular dishes, including the ubiquitous spicy favourite, “Jollof”.

Nigeria is both the largest rice producer in Africa and the continent’s biggest importer. The supply shortfall is made up with imports – mainly from Thailand and India – valued at more than $8 million per day.

As with rice, so with wheat, maize, and other grains: Nigeria, with a population of 190 million, is a significant producer, but also a net importer.

So given its abundant arable land, why can’t Nigeria support its farmers to grow more food and plug the foreign exchange drain?

The answer lies in the dominance of oil. Until the country’s oil boom in the 1970s, agriculture was Nigeria’s economic mainstay, able to meet both local demand as well as generate export earnings.

Crude oil changed that. With staggering amounts of easy money sloshing through the political system, agriculture languished.

Today, Nigeria’s annual food import bill is around $20 billion.

But a combination of dwindling oil revenues and dollar shortages has persuaded the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to make agriculture a priority again.

Grow-your-own

Under the slogan of “We must produce what we eat”, the government is encouraging agribusiness as a way to drive economic growth, and as the path out of poverty and food insecurity for millions of smallholder farmers.

The government has set ambitious targets of becoming self-sufficient in rice production by 2018, and turning a net exporter by 2020.

To create incentives for domestic production, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has restricted the allocation of dollars for the imports of 41 food items, and hiked import duties – from 10 to 60 percent in the case of rice. It has also restricted imports across land borders to crack down on smuggling.

When Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, announced earlier this year that he was making a $1 billion investment in Nigeria’s rice production, it seemed to vindicate the government’s approach.

The Dangote Group plans to produce one million tonnes of parboiled milled rice over the next five years, equivalent to 16 percent of domestic demand.

Other big players have also jumped in, including the Lagos-based conglomerate TGI, which opened a rice mill in August with a capacity of 120,000 tonnes, and Olam Nigeria, part of Singapore-based Olam International, which plans to boost its existing rice output.

A number of government initiatives are in place to promote small-scale agriculture. They include the CBN’s $300 million Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, introduced in 2015 to provide cheap loans and input subsidies for hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers.

The World Bank is also supporting the government’s agricultural transformation strategy with a $200 million loan to support small- to mid-scale rice production.

The government’s grow-your-own push seems to be working. Cereal production has increased, despite the impact on farming of the Boko Haram insurgency in northeastern Nigeria, and rice yields are also up, helped along by higher rice prices.

Hard work with little help

But most Nigerian farmers still struggle, noted Mahmoud Daneji, managing director of the Kano State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority.

He is critical of the government’s top-down approach. “You may have a very laudable programme, but in as much as there is no input from the potential beneficiaries, it will definitely fail,” he told IRIN.

Daneji ticked off a list of problems farmers face that includes the lack of access to quality seeds, fertiliser, effective agricultural extension systems, and access to credit for those who need it.

Despite the raft of initiatives aimed at boosting output, farmers still typically work with their bare hands in fields lacking irrigation, live in areas with poor roads that limit their access to markets, and are facing a growing threat of climate change without advice on how to adapt.

In a survey last year, farmers cited the lack of fertiliser as their biggest problem by far, despite a long-running government input programme. Nearly three quarters of respondents said they were unaware of any government interventions aimed at helping them.

Abdulrashid Magaji, chair of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, told IRIN that’s because the bulk of government programmes rarely reach their intended target. They go instead to “political favourites and close associates of politicians,” he alleged.

For example, the CBN launched the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending in 2013 to increase access to bank credit.

But this year only 3,700 farmers out of 523,000 in Kano are on track to receive the loans. The vast majority are unaware of how to access the much-needed financing through NIRSAL, said Magaji.

Nigeria’s disconnected farmers have to rely on middlemen, reducing their profits, because of a broken value chain, inadequate storage facilities, and a lack of organised market information systems.

“Here, our farmers are left on their own,” said Jibrin Jibrin, director of the Centre for Dryland Agriculture at Kano’s Bayero University. “Economists from the World Bank will tell you not to protect the market, but the system doesn’t work for our farmers.”

Dangote’s rice and tomatoes

Dangote’s rice initiative is taking on some of these issues. Its “outgrower scheme” plans to provide inputs such as seeds and fertiliser, as well as training for nearly 50,000 medium and smallholder farmers who then provide their land and labour.

The company says it will pay the farmers the average market price for their rice at harvest, after recouping the cost of the inputs it provided.

But the majority of the smallholders who spoke to IRIN in Kano were unconvinced by the scheme. They doubted they would really get a fair price, and that they could meet the company’s quality control standards.

Some pointed to the failure of an earlier Dangote project, a $13 million tomato paste factory set up in Kano last year, as reason to be concerned.

The plant is currently lying idle even though it signed deals with some 5,000 farmers to supply the tomatoes that would be turned into an annual production of over 400,000 tonnes of paste. 

On paper it made perfect sense. Nigeria produces some 1.5 million tonnes of tomatoes each year, tomato paste is an ingredient in most Nigerian meals, and, with the government threatening to ban imported paste, a local factory seemed an investment winner.

But farmers were unable to produce the quality and quantity of tomatoes the state-of-the-art plant needed.

Firstly, a pest, the Tuta absoluta moth, wiped out much of the harvest. But then it was the same old underlying problems – a lack of fertiliser, poor irrigation, low quality seed, difficult roads and no cold storage – that really undermined progress.

The poverty of rural infrastructure means Nigeria’s post-harvest losses could be as high as $9 billion annually – much of that burden falling on small-scale producers.

Since the 1970s there have been a raft of high-profile government campaigns to fix agriculture. Incrementally, Nigeria seems to be slotting the pieces into place, but getting to the final stage – a country able to feed itself – still eludes policy-makers.

“I pity myself, I pity farmers, I pity the association, because we have a lot of problems,” said Magaji, chair of the farmers’ union. “Sincerely speaking, we have a long way to go.”

lu/oa/ag

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.

Speech by the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, at the European Council meeting on 14 and 15 December 2017

(check against delivery)

 

  1. Brexit

I should like to congratulate the negotiator, Michel Barnier, on the excellent work he has done and express Parliament’s satisfaction at the unity we have shown.

In the resolution we adopted yesterday, Parliament noted the fact that sufficient progress has been made for the negotiations to move on to the second phase. Now we need to be vigilant for the next steps.

In the light of the statements made on the other side of the Channel last weekend, we want to underline that the joint report is a binding document, not an exercise in sleight of hand to enable us to move on to the second phase. There can be no discussions on future relations if the exit agreement is not applied to the letter.

The fact that ‘sufficient progress’ has been made does not mean that we have resolved all the problems. We still have a lot of work to do. Parliament will pay particularly close attention to the measures proposed to genuinely safeguard the rights of citizens and to the procedure which will be introduced to guarantee their special status.

I am also delighted that the British Government has agreed to honour its financial commitments. I never doubted that it would. As regards the issue of the Irish border, Ireland’s problems are the Union’s problems.

The United Kingdom must shed all ambiguity: the specific solution agreed for this border must not become a back door into the internal market.

As regards future relations with the United Kingdom, there are red lines which are non-negotiable: integrity of the internal market, decision-making autonomy of the Union, and third-country status, with all that that implies. In this difficult second phase as well, unity will be our shield.

We will play our part in drafting the agreement on future relations which Parliament will ultimately have to approve.

We face a series of challenges on matters which our citizens regard as priorities.

  1. Security and defence

According to the findings of the Eurobarometer survey, EU citizens want a Union which takes more effective action in the areas of security and defence. We cannot continue to rely on the military might of others. Our security, monitoring our borders, managing migration, fighting terrorism and the stability of regions immediately beyond our borders are our responsibility.  

In signing the Rome Declaration, we made a commitment to revitalise the Union, starting from a common defence. The first step is to develop a European industry and a European market which generate economies of scale and facilitate interoperability.

Twenty-five Member States have just taken an historic step forward by introducing arrangements for permanent military cooperation. The objectives include developing European defence instruments and conducting joint security operations. The EU defence fund, which is currently being discussed in Parliament and which would be used to support the security and defence industry, points in the same direction.

Our industry will benefit from spin-offs generated by research projects and the development of prototypes. The more effective use of funds at EU level will be matched by savings at national level. Common procurement procedures and common standards will enhance our ability to launch joint security operations.

We should follow the example of our space policy where European systems, such as EGNOS, Galileo and Copernicus, have helped to make us more competitive. Drawing on that example, the next budget must set aside the funds needed for proper investment in security and defence.

  1. Social, educational and cultural dimension

Globalisation and new technologies are serious concerns for our citizens, who want a Union which ensures that no one is left behind.

Digitalisation, robotics and artificial intelligence are transforming manufacturing and skills. The new jobs being created are not enough to offset those which have been lost to machines and technologies. Around half of all human activities could be replaced by automated processes.

The Union must steer this ongoing revolution, by investing in training. More effective coordination between universities, training centres and industry is essential if workers’ skills are to develop in line with changing needs.

The new EU budget should make additional resources available, not only for the Erasmus programme for students, but also for apprenticeships and traineeships for persons seeking to re-enter the labour market.

It is firms which create jobs, and for that reason any rational employment policy must be based on support for the real economy. 

Our entrepreneurs must be able to invest in Europe without facing unfair competition from businesses which deal with overcapacity problems by laying off European workers, while taking advantage of subsidies and selling their products below cost price. Parliament insisted that the new method for calculating anti-dumping duties should not impose any additional burden of proof on SMEs and take account of social and environmental dumping.

Parliament’s proposal on the Posted Workers Directive combines provisions to protect workers, enhance competitiveness and create a fairer market. I hope that an agreement can be reached with the Council as soon as possible.

If we want to create jobs, we must also focus on sectors of high labour intensity and creativity. Our history and culture, which go back thousands of years, offer potential for growth which we must exploit to the full.

I am thinking of tourism, design, the digitalisation of cultural sites, luxury goods and high-end craft products. We are not only the continent with the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites; we are also still the leader in many branches of the cultural and creative industries.

In its resolution on A coherent EU policy for the cultural and creative industries, Parliament calls for measures to promote a sector which employs 12 million people.

In this sector as well, the digital revolution is opening up unprecedented prospects, provided that we come up with the right policies to govern it. Digital platforms must not be above the law. Like other firms, they must be accountable, pay taxes, guarantee transparency and safeguard social rights, minors, security, consumers and intellectual property.

The market for pirated and counterfeit goods is continuing to grow, thanks in no small part to the web. If we fail to safeguard creativity and the work done by product and fashion designers and creators of songs, films, articles and books, investment will dwindle, with serious consequences for Europe’s competitiveness.

Even more than our economy, culture is the glue which holds Europe together. Awareness of our own identity is the foundation for a strong and open Europe which sees diversity as an asset.

The European Year of Cultural Heritage, of which the European Parliament has been a strong advocate, offers an opportunity to rediscover and promote that identity and bring the Union closer to its peoples.

  1. Immigration

Our citizens are looking to us to resolve the migration crisis. They no longer accept the uncontrolled flows of migrants, pilgrimages of refugees hopping from country to country in search of asylum, mass deaths in the desert or at sea, or the appalling spectacle of markets where people are sold as slaves.

Piecemeal responses are the opposite of effective solutions. What we need instead is a strong European strategy, genuine coordination and more pooling of resources.

On the one hand, we need to step up checks at our external borders, turning back those who have no right to enter, or arranging quickly and firmly for their readmission; on the other, we need to show solidarity with those fleeing wars and persecution.

The current asylum system, which leaves countries of first entry to bear the full brunt of dealing with migrants, is not working. Parliament has approved by a wide majority an overhaul of the Dublin system, to introduce rules which increase the element of solidarity and make the system more uniform and effective. We want the system for the allocation of refugees to be automatic and to be based on fair and objective criteria, in keeping with the spirit of solidarity on which our Union has been founded from the start.

Now it is up to the Council to do its part, as quickly as possible. Although efforts to achieve a broad consensus on such a sensitive topic are laudable, it is not right to insist on unanimity at all costs in cases where the Treaties provide for decision-making by a qualified majority under the ordinary legislative procedure. The danger is not only that a decision of fundamental importance to EU citizens will be put off indefinitely, but also that Parliament will be deprived of its powers as co-legislator. As President of the European Parliament, it is my duty to safeguard its prerogatives.

At the Abidjan summit, the urgent need for us all to work together to stabilise Libya and protect human rights emerged very clearly. The African Union is calling on us to speak with one voice and coordinate our efforts.

Shutting down the central Mediterranean corridors will require investments similar in scale to those used to halt migration via the Balkan route. This money must be spent in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Niger, Chad or Mali. It must be used to train border guards and members of the security forces, or to set up reception centres under the auspices of the UN, where humanitarian protection can be provided and asylum applications dealt with.

The problem of migration, which is linked to demographics, climate, terrorism, wars and poverty, must be tackled at its root. We must offer young Africans real prospects, otherwise they will leave not in their thousands, but in their millions.

The EUR 3.4 billion investment plan for Africa, which we approved in July, is an important step in the right direction. But much greater efforts are needed if Africa is to develop a manufacturing base, farm efficiently, exploit renewable sources of energy and build up proper infrastructure.

In Abidjan I proposed that as from the next budget at least EUR 40 billion should be set aside for the investment fund. The leverage effect and synergies generated with the funding provided by the European Investment Bank could make it possible to mobilise some EUR 500 billion, thereby doubling foreign investment in Africa.

  1. Strengthening economic governance

We need to complete the Banking Union and the capital market. Reducing risks must imply pooling them.

Parliament is in favour of transforming the European Stability Mechanism into a European Monetary Fund. We also support the idea of appointing an EU Finance Minister; he or she would also be a Vice-President of the Commission and chair the Eurogroup, and would have the confidence of the European Parliament after going through a hearing and approval procedure.

These reforms must go beyond mere window-dressing; what are needed are real powers, a large enough budget and democratic scrutiny.

  1. A political budget

As I emphasised at the last European Council meeting, I agree with Commissioner Stylianides on the need to develop genuine European civil protection.  We could endow ourselves with the joint capabilities and resources needed to respond promptly and more effectively to requests for assistance from Member States and neighbouring countries. In so doing, we could show our citizens the more practical face of European solidarity.

This is another example of how pooling resources in certain sectors generates efficiency gains and savings for all the Member States.

Similarly, we need to pool more resources in the areas of defence, training, culture and immigration. The Union needs a political budget which reflects citizens’ priorities. This reform should be at the top of our list, and it does not even require an amendment to the Treaties.

We must not increase the burden on citizens and SMEs – they already pay too much tax. We need to generate Community own resources by collecting revenue from those who avoid taxes at the moment.

On the basis of the Monti report, Parliament is considering a series of possibilities. These include taxes on digital platforms, which would do away with the problem of tax dumping and the territoriality of profits, and on speculative financial transactions.

I also regard bolder action against tax havens as essential.

ICYMI: State and Local Leaders Push for Tax Reform

Reforming our outdated, complex, and overly burdensome tax code and cutting taxes for hardworking families has the critical support of State and local officials across the country. As Congress works to have a bill on President Donald J. Trump’s desk before the end of the year, a majority of governors have indicated their support for tax reform and 21 governors recently signed a letter to congressional leadership supporting the effort. The governors urge the two chambers to swiftly pass meaningful tax reform legislation, writing, “We’ve proven in our states that you can cut taxes, create jobs, and generate budget surpluses all at the same time. If it can work in our states, it can work for America.”

GOVERNORS

Governor Doug Ducey (R, AZ): “Make no mistake, special interests will fight like crazy to keep their loopholes and special treatment. But government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers. We need to set a rate for businesses that’s fair, close the loopholes and make our tax code simpler and more equitable for everyone.”

Governor Paul LePage (R, ME): “From his long and successful career in business, President Trump knows firsthand that a burdensome tax code doesn’t create jobs, it kills them. When he outlined his vision for tax reform last week, I was pleased to see it will help Maine families keep more of their hard-earned paychecks.”

Governor Chris Sununu (R, NH): “America’s business tax rates are probably the most self-destructive feature of the current system. By reducing the highest business tax rate in the developed world, something that we have shown, right here in New Hampshire, is a huge boost to competitiveness that creates new jobs and higher wages. And finally repealing the death tax is long overdue.”

Governor Kim Reynolds (R, IA): “Iowa families are burdened with high income taxes that lower their take-home pay and business tax rates that limit economic opportunities and wage increases. Because up to 75 percent of the burden of business tax rates falls on workers, paychecks are smaller and raises are all too rare. When working families should be dedicating money to savings, college and retirement accounts, they’re sending too much out of their hard-earned paychecks to Washington, D.C., instead.”

Governor Rick Snyder (R, MI): “It has been more than 30 years since Washington, D.C. passed major tax reform. Since then, the tax code has become a 74,000-page Goliath puzzling American families and businesses. We need reform now to ensure Americans receive much-needed tax relief, provide a boost to our nation’s economic growth and allow millions of workers to keep more of their hard-earned money.”

Governor Phil Bryant (R, MS): “With a level playing field, American businesses and workers will once again dominate a global economy. I am grateful the president and the Republican congressional leadership are committed to making that happen. The framework deserves to become legislation and should pass Congress. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we cannot afford to miss.”

Governor Henry McMaster (R, SC): “For too long, our tax code has been overcomplicated and uncompetitive, placing an outsized burden on business while perplexing the average American. This is a rare opportunity to fix a broken system, putting money back in taxpayers’ pockets and encouraging more companies to invest, expand, hire and profit. It’s a win for South Carolina.”

Governor Jim Justice (R, WV): “President Trump is continuing to keep his promise to Americans to help grow our country by providing our average families with significant tax relief.”

Governor Matt Bevin (R, KY): “Recently, our national economy has been rebounding following a long period of tepid recovery. That makes this the perfect time to tackle federal tax reform and I applaud President Trump for his leadership on this issue.”

Governor Asa Hutchinson (R, AR): “Washington’s system of taxation takes too much money, is too complicated and hampers economic growth. The result is a system that places too heavy a burden on our businesses and citizens. It places our country at a disadvantage in an increasingly competitive and mobile world.”

Governor Eric Greitens (R, MO): “For too long, our tax system has been complex, corrupt, and high. We need a system that is simple, fair, and low. In Missouri, we’re trying to do our part at the state level—but the biggest changes that small business owners need begin at the federal level. The President understands this. We were pleased that he chose Springfield, Missouri, to announce his effort on tax reform. And we were glad to host him in St. Charles, Missouri, on Wednesday, where he again sent a message to Congress to get tax reform legislation done and delivered.”

Governor Gary Herbert (R, UT): “If we want businesses to come to the United States and stay, we have to create the right conditions. I commend Congressional leaders for their efforts to lower the U.S. corporate tax rate and move to a system that will encourage companies to bring their profits to the United States and invest in the American economy. Our corporate rate—highest in the industrialized world—and our treatment of overseas earnings are glaring exceptions to an otherwise business friendly environment. Lower taxes and a simpler tax code means faster economic growth, more jobs, and higher wages. There are still important differences to be ironed out, but it’s refreshing to see Washington tackling something difficult but necessary. Let’s hope it’s the beginning of a new trend.”

Governor Matthew Mead (R, WY): “Eliminating onerous restrictions and regulations would allow businesses to afford to pay employees higher wages and reinvest in their own growth.”

Governor Mary Fallin (R, OK): “Our nation’s tax code, on the other hand, is outdated and in desperate need of reform. Due to incomprehensible regulations and untold pages of forms and instructions, nearly 90% of taxpayers need external help to simply pay their taxes.”

Governor Susana Martinez (R, NM): “New Mexicans deserve a tax system that puts their household budget ahead of more government bureaucracy. Real tax reform on the federal and state levels is long overdue and it is now time we put our communities and businesses first.”

Governor Greg Abbott (R, TX): “Listen, the fact of the matter is that it has been far too long since we’ve had tax reform in the United States of America. This is a meaningful step toward the kind of tax reform that the United States needs. I think it is important especially at the corporate level so that internationally we will be more competitive. … We will be advancing the United States of America economically if this tax plan passes and so I hope it does.”

Governor Rick Scott (R, FL): “My budget cuts $180 million in taxes to build on our success of cutting taxes 75 times saving Floridians more than $7.5 billion. DC needs to follow our lead and get tax reform done now.”

Governor Pete Ricketts (R, NE): “I applaud the President and congressional leadership for making tax reform a top priority this year . . . . Providing relief will put more money back into the pockets of hardworking families and unleash economic growth in communities across our nation.”

Governor Bill Walker (I, AK): The House and Senate conference committee on tax legislation has a singular opportunity to open one of the most prospective onshore areas in the world to safe oil and gas exploration and development – limited to 1/750th of the Coastal Plain or 1002 Area, which itself is just eight percent of ANWR – right here in the United States, on the North Slope of Alaska. It is critical that Congress act and get this legislation over the finish line to put the national resources of the Coastal Plain to use for the good of the country. Alaska’s economy needs this boost, and our nation needs a strong Alaska.

Governor Doug Burgum (R, ND): “North Dakota leaders have worked hard over the past 25 years to reduce individual and corporate income tax rates, pass sensible regulations and foster a business-friendly environment that stimulates investment and job creation, and we appreciate President Trump recognizing those continuing efforts . . . . We share the president’s goals for tax reform: simplify the tax code, lower rates to ease the burden on middle-class families and set corporate tax rates at levels that allow U.S. businesses to better compete in the global economy, bringing back jobs and wealth from overseas. And we urge Congress to work with the administration to achieve meaningful tax reform that encourages economic growth and saves taxpayers time and money.”

Governor Dennis Daugaard (R, SD): “I thank @SenJohnThune, @SenatorRounds and @RepKristiNoem for their support of tax reform. They understand that responsible reform can jumpstart our economy.”

Governor Scott Walker (R, WI): “Our nation’s tax code, on the other hand, is outdated and in desperate need of reform. Due to the incomprehensible regulations and untold pages of forms and instructions, nearly 90 percent of taxpayers need external help to simply comply with paying their taxes. Across the country, this time and energy spent adds up to some 6 billion hours and $15-16 billion in tax compliance costs, according to the Internal Revenue Service and the National Federation of Independent Business.”

Governor Kay Ivey (R, AL): “President Trump is proposing the largest tax cut for American families and businesses in decades . . . . The current tax structure is oppressive to families and businesses alike, and it simply sets us up for failure in today’s global economy. We’ve proven in Alabama, with the lowest unemployment rate in history, lower taxes and less government regulation produces jobs – it’s time Washington joins us in our efforts.”

Governor Eric Holcomb (R, IN): “We must simplify, close loopholes, institute fairness and lower overall rates—especially for small business.”

Governor Brian Sandoval (R, NV): “Reforming the nation’s tax code is an incredibly complex task that is long overdue. I applaud the President for making this a priority in this Congress, and I appreciate Congress’ attention as they reform our tax code with a focus on fairness, competitiveness and economic growth. I continue to appreciate the leadership of Senator Heller and our entire Congressional delegation; their willingness to work with the state will help ensure the final legislative product will be one that will help Nevada grow, put more Nevadans to work, and allow Nevadans to keep more of their hard-earned money.”

LT. GOVERNORS

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle (R, GA): “To reach our nation’s potential we need a tax system that empowers entrepreneurs and businesses to invest in our workforce. Our leaders have an opportunity to set us on a path of economic growth, job creation, and prosperity to enable more of our families to climb up the economic ladder. I applaud the leadership of President Trump and our state’s congressional delegation for their support of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, delivering hardworking Georgians the tax relief they deserve. Americans have waited 31 years for meaningful tax reform, and the stakes have never been greater.”

Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (R, WI): “I am grateful that President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan are finally tackling reform of our broken federal tax code. They’re working right now on an ambitious plan to make the federal tax code simpler, flatter and fairer.”

Lt. Governor Mary Taylor (R, OH): “The President is proposing the biggest tax cut to small and midsize businesses in 80 years, and as we have seen in Ohio, this will jumpstart the nation’s economy. The Council of Economic Advisors has estimated that the average American household income could increase between $4,000 and $9,000 a year in wages and salary alone from this proposal.”

Lt. Governor Brian Calley (R, MI): “The reform plan President Trump unveiled last month will be a game changer for all Americans. We know its principles are sound because of our experience here in Michigan. A simple, fair and efficient tax code will go a long way for everyone.”

Lt. Governor Mike Foley (R, NE): “President Trump is following through on his commitment to help grow America’s middle class with federal tax reform.”

Lt. Governor Mike Parson (R, MO): “The President of the United States is offering a tax plan that would greatly benefit Missouri families . . . . The President’s plan would reduce taxes and allow families to keep more of their hard-earned money. It would also allow the next generation of Missouri workers to invest in themselves, afford a quality education, and get a good job here in our state.”

Lt. Governor Tim Griffin (R, AR): “Individuals and families know how to spend the fruits of their labor and provide for their families better than bureaucrats a thousand miles away. Tax reform will allow Arkansans to save for the future, pay off credit-card debt, or simply make ends meet.”

STATEWIDE OFFICALS

Bill Schuette, Attorney General (R, MI): “The last president to reform America’s tax code was Ronald Reagan. During his time in office, America added 15.9 million jobs, an increase in the nation’s workforce of more than 17 percent. Now more than ever, our economy needs a booster shot. President Trump’s tax reform is just what the doctor ordered to simplify the code, create more jobs and spur greater growth in our economy.”

Josh Hawley, Attorney General (R, MO): “President Trump has a bold plan to change course and give working Missourians a chance to move ahead. His plan honors real work and prioritizes the taxpayers instead of the tax takers.”

John McMillan, State Agricultural Commissioner (R, AL): “Farmers in Alabama and across the nation face natural disasters, significant price fluctuations in the market, increased regulations and many other challenges. Without comprehensive tax reform, the American farmer may eventually be taxed out of business or at least taxed where he or she can no longer pass the farm on to the next generation. The elimination of the estate tax is just one of the revisions in the Tax Reform plan that provide farmers hope.”

Jeff Witte, State Agricultural Director (NM): “The farm and ranch property often has to be split and sold to satisfy estate taxes upon the death of a family member. This predicament leads to the next generation having to take family assets to satisfy the tax in order to preserve the enterprise as a whole, leaving these individuals in a position in which they cannot succeed financially, eventually losing the family business.”

Mike Strain, State Agricultural Commissioner (R, LA): “A lowering and restricting of tax rates will put more money in the pockets of our citizens and will ultimately allow farmers and other business owners to have more money to invest and help grow the economy. Lower tax rates for consumers will also increase their purchasing power for better nutrition for all American families.”

Dave Yost, State Auditor (R, OH): “Tax reform would be good for the economy, and it will be good for Ohio families. The President’s plan will double the standard deduction so that more income is taxed at zero percent. It will increase and expand the Child Tax Credit to help more middle-class families and — finally! — eliminate the marriage penalty.”

Ron Knecht, Controller (R, NV): “The special interests that benefit from exemptions, deductions and credits available only to some parties are few in number, but each member of the group has a large stake in keeping these provisions.”

John Dougall, State Auditor (R, UT): “As the Republican Congress and President Trump take up the daunting issue of tax reform, we encourage our federal colleagues to follow Utah’s lead and create a system that is simple, equitable, and stable for American taxpayers.”

Walker Stapleton, State Treasurer (R, CO): “I applaud and support the efforts of federal lawmakers and President Trump to simplify our nation’s tax code and jump-start our economy. As Treasurer, I know Colorado families and small businesses will benefit from a tax plan that is simpler and our economy will thrive with a lower corporate rate. It will bring jobs and investment back to America and make us more competitive in a global economy . . . . This is a once in a generation opportunity to fundamentally change the structure of our complicated and burdensome tax code. I support the efforts of Congress and the President to get it done.”

SPEAKERS OF THE HOUSE

House Speaker Mike Turzai (R, PA): “It’s the number one policy initiative . . . and nothing will help families and employees and jobs more.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R, FL): “Nationally, it’s clear that we need broad tax reform, and I’ll gladly support any effort to simplify the tax code and cut rates. Luckily for the nation, the conservative spirit that drove Florida’s success is alive and well in the tax framework that Trump laid out.”

House Speaker Brian Bosma (R, IN): “With one of the top business climates in the nation, Indiana’s economic environment stands in stark contrast to the dysfunction of federal tax policy and job-killing regulations.”

House Speaker Tim Moore (R, NC): “Tax relief is about protecting hard-earned paychecks and empowering all families in the workforce to succeed together in the entrepreneurial spirit of the United States. It’s about helping everyday people provide themselves a higher quality of life and build opportunities without an excessive burden on their bottom line. Again, for Congress and President Trump to realize the full potential of the American economy, North Carolina is the bellwether state when it comes to tax reform.”

House Speaker Tim Armstead (R, WV): “President Trump’s plan would provide significant tax relief to the backbone of West Virginia’s economy – our small businesses. Perhaps no segment of West Virginia’s economy has had to weather the economic storm more than our small and family-owned businesses. The President recognizes the challenges our small businesses must meet and has proposed to cap the maximum tax rate these businesses must pay. This step will provide a much-needed boost to these struggling small businesses who mean so much to our neighborhoods across West Virginia.”

Tax Letter 1

Tax Letter 2

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