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Facts and figures: New term in #EuropeanParliament

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What is the new European Parliament like? Find out about the MEPs who will be working for you over the next five years.

Lots of new faces, younger MEPs and more women

After the highest turnout in 20 years at the European elections, the 9th European Parliament was officially constituted at the first plenary session in Strasbourg in July.

The opening session saw many new faces, as 61% of the MEPs are new to the Parliament.

There are more women than ever, accounting for 41% of MEPs, up from 36.5% at the end of the previous term.

The average age of an MEP is 49.5, down from 53 five years ago. The youngest MEP is a 21-year-old  from Denmark, who is the youngest person ever to sit in the European Parliament. The oldest MEP is an 82-year-old Italian.

In total 751 MEPs were elected from 190 national political parties in 28 EU countries. Once in the European Parliament, they align according to political priorities. The new Parliament is composed of seven political groups, one less than the previous legislature.

9th legislature of the European Parliament
Re-elected MEPs 39%
New MEPs 61%
Female MEPs 41%
Male MEPs 59%
Youngest MEP 21 (Greens/EFA, Denmark)
Oldest MEP 82 (EPP, Italy)
Average age of MEPs 49.5
Political groups 7

Brexit

Brexit - European Commission gives market participants 18 months to reduce their exposure to UK clearing operations

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The European Commission has today (21 September) adopted a time-limited decision to give financial market participants 18 months to reduce their exposure to UK central counterparties (CCPs). The deadline is the clearest sign that the EU intends to move the 'clearing' business out of London and into the eurozone.

The move will come as a blow to London, which is the current world leader in clearing a business worth several billion. The London Clearing House (LCH), clears nearly a trillion euro-worth of euro-denominated contracts a day, and accounts for three-quarters of the global market. Clearing offers a way of mediating between buyers and sellers, it is thought by having a larger clearing business the costs of transactions are reduced. When the European Central Bank in Frankfurt tried to insist that all euro trades were done inside the eurozone this was challenged successfully in the European Court of Justice by George Osborne, then the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer.

In the past the London Stock Exchange has warned that up to 83,000 jobs could be lost if this business were to move elsewhere. There would also be spillovers to other areas such as risk management and compliance.

An Economy that Works for People Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis (pictured) 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.”

Background

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.

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.

Today's 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. On the basis of an analysis conducted with the European Central Bank, the Single Resolution Board and the European Supervisory Authorities, the Commission identified that financial stability risks could arise in the area of central clearing of derivatives through CCPs established in the United Kingdom (UK CCPs) should there be a sudden disruption in the services they offer to EU market participants.

This was addressed in the Commission Communication of 9 July 2020, where market participants were recommended to prepare for all scenarios, including where there will be no further equivalence decision in this area.

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EU

EU-Ukraine relations come under the spotlight

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The EU and U.S are doing a lot for Ukraine on the issue of reforms, not only to economic reforms but reform of the justice system, writes Martin Banks.

Over the past six years, as part of legal reforms, Ukraine has developed and adopted amendments to its constitution, adopting about a dozen laws. 

 The new Supreme Court, the Higher Anti-Corruption Court were created, the qualification assessment of judges and other processes have started, all designed to have a positive impact on the judicial system and the fight against corruption. The EU was actively involved in all these reforms.

The result, though, has not yet met expectations. In 2019, an opinion poll by the Razumkov Centre for the Council of Europe Office in Ukraine showed 46% believe that the judicial reform has “not yet begun at all” and that 43% have a negative attitude towards a judicial reform.

Corruption in Ukraine continues to thrive, and the judicial system has become even more ineffective than before. At the same time, some Ukrainian politicians are actively using the topic of judicial reform for their own interests. In particular, former President Petro Poroshenko used the topic of judicial reform to gain control over the courts. And he succeeded with only a few judges daring to make decisions against Poroshenko's will. 

As a result, the number of experienced judges who have left the system has increased since 2014. Some Ukrainian courts have no judges left at all and the courts have suspended their work, making it difficult or impossible for citizens to access justice at all. 

As of early 2020, the shortage of judicial personnel in the courts was almost 30%. This affects the quality of court proceedings and the timing of consideration of cases. Suspects stay in pretrial detention centers for an inordinate time, cases accumulate, and the dynamics of justice slow down, leading to social tensions.

Almost everybody agrees that the implemented reforms proved to be totally ineffective but why is this happening? Why have all efforts been in vain? The question was to be discussed at an international conference "Dialogue about justice - 2" in Kiev, but the event was badly disrupted.

EU policy makers and civil servants cancelled their participation in the conference, when they learned the day before that the panel consisted of some people with a “dubious” reputation.

Even those who decided to take part faced with problems. Immediately after it started, an anonymous message was received about the mining of the Parkovyi ECC building, where the conference participants were gathered. 

 All those present had to leave the premises and wait outside for an hour while police checked the building.

 Why did someone try to disrupt the conference? The Ukrainian edition of "Vzglyad” said the conference tried to “disrupt” organizations and structures that focus on Poroshenko.

Journalists talked to a representative of one such organization engaged in promoting judicial reform in Ukraine who said that in Ukraine only certain NGOs have the right to contact with Europeans on the topic of judicial and other reforms.

Ukraine, he said, has formed a "caste" of reformers who do not allow anyone else to discuss reforms without their permission and it is these who determine who in Ukraine is "dubious", that is, who EU representatives have no right to communicate. 

One of the conference participants was a well-known Ukrainian lawyer, Rostislav Popovich who noted it was the second such high-level discussion on judicial reform - the first one was held last year in the European Parliament. He wrote on his Facebook page:“The Kiev event was attended by people's deputies, judges of higher courts, leading lawyers, MEPs and specialists from Europe, the U.S and Israel. The composition was representative and the topics discussed were topical. But it was very difficult to hold it in Kiev - not because of the coronavirus, but because the conference was disrupted by people who wrote letters to MEPs, demanding that they refuse to participate, speaking of 'odious' participants. 

“Why such a strange reaction? It was because the conference wasn't held by them and they didn't select the participants. They did not want to allow Europeans to learn the truth about the real situation in the country and about those 'reforms' that have been implemented here.”

He believes that in Ukraine there are people “parasitizing on the problems of the judicial system and many other problems.”

According to Popovich, they “monopolize” the right to speak on behalf of the country with Europe and other Western partners."These people, as a rule, do not understand the topic, do not understand the real situation and promote "reforms" that fail one after another and only make the situation worse. At the same time, activists do not bear any responsibility for the result. Moreover, for them, worse is better. As long as there are problems in the country, these people receive grants to fight these problems.”

He argues that the EU communicates in Ukraine exclusively with a small group of people who call themselves civil society - mostly activists, funded by grants from the EU and international organizations. They purport to represent all Ukrainian people and are often the ones with whom European politicians often come into contact to discuss reforms.

In reality, says the lawyer, these activists “represent no one - they have neither support nor even respect among Ukrainians, and are often accused of corruption themselves”.

It was, he states at the insistence of those pushing for judicial reform that those who work directly in the judicial system were “eliminated” - judges, lawyers and lawyers. He says this is an abnormal situation for any country and one reason why the reforms failed.

It is quite understandable why few people in Europe seem to have a good understanding of what is happening in Ukraine, on reason why Europeans involved in promoting certain models of unworkable judicial reform worsen the situation.

Europe should maintain contacts not only with professional activists, but also with a wider range of people in Ukraine to be able to form an objective picture of what is happening in the country. That would ensure the reforms really benefit Ukraine.Ukrainians have already shown that they are against external management by Russia. But now they say that Ukraine has fallen under the external control of the West and Ukrainian people will not accept such a situation.

This could have dramatic consequences and some politicians are already calling for a rejection of European integration with such appeals gaining support among voters.

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coronavirus

Ireland tightens Dublin COVID-19 restrictions as cases surge

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The Irish government on Friday (18 September) announced strict new COVID-19 restrictions for the capital Dublin, banning indoor restaurant dining and advising against all non-essential travel, after a surge in cases in recent days. Ireland, which was one of the slowest countries in Europe to emerge from lockdown, has seen average daily case numbers roughly double in the past two weeks and significant increases in those being treated for the virus in hospitals, writes Conor Humphries.

“Here in the capital, despite people’s best efforts over recent weeks, we are in a very dangerous place,” Prime Minister Micheal Martin said in a televised address to the country, announcing the restrictions.

“Without further urgent and decisive action, there is a very real threat that Dublin could return to the worst days of this crisis.” The measures, which include a ban on indoor events, will last for three weeks, he said. Ireland had the 17th highest COVID-19 infection rate out of 31 European countries monitored by the European Centre for Disease Control on Friday, with 57.4 cases per 100,000 people in the past 14 days.

The government reported three deaths from the virus on Friday, bringing the total toll to 1,792. Countries across Europe, including Britain, Greece and Denmark, on Friday announced new restrictions to curb surging coronavirus infections in some of their largest cities. Ireland on Thursday tightened its COVID-19 travel restrictions by imposing quarantines on travellers from major holiday markets Italy and Greece.

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