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Ireland: Cabinet approves law to criminalize purchase of sex

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europe_sex_industry_0224On 25 November, the Irish Cabinet agreed to proceed with legislation to criminalize the purchase of sex. The new sexual offences legislation will also strengthen laws on grooming, child pornography and harassment.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill was due to be published this week.

On the age of consent issue, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald abandoned moves by her predecessor Alan Shatter to lower the age of sexual consent from 17 to 16.

Fitzgerald brought a memo to Cabinet on the issue seeking approval to prepare legislation to criminalize the purchase of sexual services without criminalizing the sellers of the services on Tuesday.

Her aim is to put the burden of the legal system on those who avail of prostitution.

The detailed legislation, containing 70 sections, will include measures to broaden the definitions of some sexual offences and strengthen measures so that offences will be easier to prosecute.

The Oireachtas justice committee has previously recommended that the purchase of sex be criminalised.

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EU

Financial stability: Commission adopts time-limited decision giving market participants the time needed to reduce exposure to UK central counterparties

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The European Commission has adopted a time-limited decision to give financial market participants 18 months to reduce their exposure to UK central counterparties (CCPs). A CCP is an entity that reduces systemic risk and enhances financial stability by standing between the two counterparties in a derivatives contract (i.e. acting as buyer to the seller and seller to the buyer of risk). A CCP's main purpose is to manage the risk that could arise if one of the counterparties defaults on the deal.

Central clearing is key for financial stability by mitigating credit risk for financial firms, reducing contagion risks in the financial sector, and increasing market transparency. An Economy that Works for People Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said: “Clearing houses, or CCPs, play a systemic role in our financial system. We are adopting this decision to protect our financial stability, which is one of our key priorities.

"This time-limited decision has a very practical rationale, because it gives EU market participants the time they need to reduce their excessive exposures to UK-based CCPs, and EU CCPs the time to build up their clearing capability. Exposures will be more balanced as a result. It is a matter of financial stability.”

The heavy reliance of the EU financial system on services provided by UK-based CCPs raises important issues related to financial stability and requires the scaling down of EU exposures to these infrastructures.

Accordingly, industry is strongly encouraged to work together in developing strategies that will reduce their reliance on UK CCPs that are systemically important for the Union. On 1 January 2021, the UK will leave the Single Market. The temporary equivalence decision aims to protect financial stability in the EU and give market participants the time needed to reduce their exposure to UK CCPs.

The text is available here and a full press release is online

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EU

Financial Stability: EU rules on third-country central counterparties enter into force

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On 1 January 2020, new EU rules under the ‘European Market Infrastructure Regulation' or EMIR 2.2 on the supervision of EU and non-EU central counterparties (CCPs) became applicable. CCPs play a systemic role in the financial system as they act as a buyer for every seller and a seller for every buyer of derivatives contracts. In order for the new rules to be given full effect, they needed to be complemented with three delegated acts.

The acts have been published today in the Official Journal of the European Union and will enter into force today (22 September). These new rules will improve the EU's capacity to manage and address external risks to the financial system. They will also contribute to the resilience of financial market infrastructure, which is important to promote the international role of the euro and strengthen Europe's open strategic autonomy.

The delegated acts specify, among other things, how the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) can supervise non-EU CCPs, depending on the degree of systemic risk that they pose to the EU's financial system or to any of its member states. They set out criteria on how ESMA should tier third-country CCPs based on their systemic importance, and how ESMA should assess if CCPs' compliance with third country rules is comparable to EU rules.

An Economy that Works for People Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said: “Protecting financial stability is one of our key priorities and CCPs play a systemic role in our financial system. We need to have predictable, proportionate and effective rules to address risks related to non-EU CCPs. This is in line with international efforts to bring stability and transparency to global derivative markets.”

For more information, see here and here

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Economy

Commission supports Estonia in increasing the efficiency of its transport sector

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The European Commission, in co-operation with OECD International Transport Forum (ITF), has been providing support to Estonia through the Structural Reform Support Programme (SRSP) to help prepare a new transport and mobility development plan for the period 2021-2035. The result of the support project, an analysis of the transport sector in Estonia, was presented today during an event in Tallinn.

The analysis focuses on the main challenges and opportunities facing the Estonian transport sector and identifies the country's needs in terms of infrastructure and reforms. The final report provides recommendations to guide reforms and collects best practices from other Member States.

The outcome of the project should help Estonia develop better policy on transport and ultimately contribute to reduce CO2 emissions for the benefit of its people and businesses. The SRSP offers expertise to all EU countries for the implementation of growth-enhancing reforms. The support is based on request and is tailor-made for the beneficiary member state. Since 2017, the programme has been supporting over 1,000 reform projects in all 27 member states.

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