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Commissioner Hogan announces new #Transparency package

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On 18 February, Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan (pictured) announced his intention to further step up the European Commission's transparency commitments by, among others, systematically reporting on the work of all committees established under EU trade agreements.

Speaking to civil society representatives in Brussels, Commissioner Hogan said: “The EU is already the world's most transparent public authority when it comes to trade policy, and we are keen to do even more. This is why I am proud to announce a new set of commitments to step up our transparency efforts. This will further strengthen our global leadership position in relation to shaping a transparent and inclusive trade policy.”

The new package of transparency measures includes also the publication of:

  • The Commission's decision authorizing member states to conduct bilateral investment negotiations;
  • non-business sensitive summary records from the meetings of the Trade Defence Instruments Committee, and;
  • Commission recommendations for negotiating directives, not only for preferential trade agreements, as this is already the case, but also for non-preferential ones. Commissioner Hogan also confirmed that the Commission's initiative to publish documents released under the Access to documents' Regulation will equally apply to trade-related documents.

The commitments that fall under the transparency package will come into effect as of today and will apply to the relevant documents from this day forward.

Background

The measures announced today build on the pro-active transparent approach to trade policy already pursued by the European Commission. The Commission systematically publishes information at all stages of trade negotiations. These include: Commission proposals to the Council for draft negotiating directives of preferential trade agreements; reports of negotiation rounds, EU initial negotiating proposals, Sustainability Impact Assessments and the negotiated text, as soon as it exists in an agreed consolidated version.

The European Commission also actively reaches out to stakeholders to receive concrete substantive input to achieve an evidence-based EU trade policy at all stages. It carries out open public consultation before a policy initiative, carries out public consultations, civil society dialogues and outreach activities during negotiations and engages with interested stakeholders in the implementation phase of trade agreements through civil society advisory bodies.

More information

Commissioner Hogan's speech

Transparency in action

Civil Society Dialogue

Africa

Senior MEP calls on Parliament to 'restore calm' in Guinea after elections

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A senior MEP has called on the EU to press Guinea to “restore calm” after the weekend presidential elections left the trouble-torn African country in further turmoil.

Official results will not be known for several days and the local media have been banned from publishing exit poll results. But it is widely rumoured that the main opposition candidate, Cello Dalein Diallo, beat the sitting president Alpha Conde by over 50%.

There are now fears of unrest with Diallo suggesting the incumbent may “cheat” and dispute the outcome of Sunday’s (18 October) election in a bid to stay in power.

Diallo is apparently in hiding following rumours that he might be arrested.

Belgian Socialist Maria Arena, chairwoman of the European Parliament’s sub committee on human rights, told this website: “It seems important to me that the European Union, namely the external action service but also the member states, use political and diplomatic dialogue to try to restore calm in Guinea.”

On Monday (19 October), speaking exclusively to this website, Diallo said: “I am convinced from the results obtained that I won this election despite fraud and intimidation. I appeal to officials, territorial administrators and members of the branches of the CENI (Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante) to ensure that all compatriots observe and respect the electoral code and other laws and good practices so that our country does not sink into violence.”

He added: “We don't need it. But, the risk is that if Alpha Condé wants at all costs, and whatever the results of the ballot box, to proclaim itself the winner. Let him understand that we will not accept.”

Diallo went on, “I now ask the international community to take its responsibilities to save Guinea from drift.”

In the vote, which followed months of political unrest where dozens of people were killed during security crackdowns on mass protests, 82-year-old Conde sought a controversial third term.

Diallo told reporters, “Alpha Conde cannot abandon his desire to grant himself a presidency for life.” He warned his rival not take power using “cunning and violence”.

Diallo said that in the election observers had encountered obstructions at polling stations while Guinea’s Prime Minister Ibrahima Kassory Fofana admitted there had been “incidents.”

Ten other candidates besides Conde and Diallo contested the poll and, if necessary, a second-round runoff vote is scheduled for November 24.

Much of the tension in Guinea relates to a new constitution Conde pushed through in March, in defiance of mass protests, arguing that it would modernise the country.

The move controversially allowed him to bypass a two-term limit for presidential terms. Conde became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010 and won again in 2015 but rights groups now accuse him of veering towards authoritarianism.

Maria Arena, also a member of the Parliament’s influential conference of committee chairs and foreign affairs committee, noted that an emergency resolution had been voted by the assembly in February condemning Condé's desire to change the constitution by referendum to allow him to exercise a third term.

She said: “In this resolution, the European Parliament had already pointed out human rights violations and urged the government to organize transparent, pluralist and inclusive elections.

"But Condé, who called himself the president of democracy (“the Mandela of West Africa”) changed his ways and took the path of repression by locking up opponents.”

Turning to the current post-election period, she said: “We must avoid repeating the scenes of violence of 2009.”

She added: “Unfortunately the covid pandemic did not allow the EU to deploy an election observation mission. This is damaging for Guinea.

“Guinea, like the other African countries, has signed the Cotonou Agreement, which is still applicable and this agreement provides for sanctions mechanisms in the event of non-respect for good governance and democracy. The European Council will also be able to use this tool if the elections lead to a failure to respect these principles and if the Guinean population is a victim.”

Further comment comes from foreign affairs committee chairman German MEP David McAllister who told this website he did not want a repeat of the violence seen during the legislative elections and a constitutional referendum in March which he said “was deeply shocking”.

“The EU has rightly called on the authorities to carry out independent and thorough investigations so that those responsible can be prosecuted.

“The presidential election on  Sunday was included amongst the 2020 priorities for an EU-Election Expert Mission but the political situation in the country made it impossible to deploy a mission, as the minimal conditions were clearly lacking. Furthermore, the Guinean authorities did not actively send any invitation to the EU for an election observation,” said the EPP deputy.

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coronavirus

Update: Co-operation under the microscope in COVID-19 crisis – EAPM EU Presidency Conference report available

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As coronavirus infections soar across the planet, and the death toll rises everywhere, not least in Europe, many are asking why European Union member states were so disconnected from each other strategy-wise, and what the EU can do about improving co-ordination this second time round, writes European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) Executive Director Denis Horgan. 

Well, given that health care is a jealously guarded member state competence, locking-down the answer isn’t easy, and never has been. But that doesn’t help Europe’s citizenry, given that COVID-19 is no respecter of borders and national sovereignty. 

This was one of a myriad discussion items discussed in our recent virtual Presidency Conference entitled ‘Ensuring access to innovation and data-rich biomarker space to speed better quality of care for citizens’. You can read the report here.

As highlighted during the Presidency Conference, there is potential future promise in the European policy context, with the legislative and policy initiatives currently on the EU agenda – most recently – the declaration of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in favour of European Health Union which was discussed during the conference. 

EAPM has always argued for more EU-wide co-operation and coordination in health care, and the current crisis has only made that need more obvious. 

Indeed, for the best part of a decade,  the Alliance has been calling for policies to tackle diseases of many different types - not least cancer - through new science and personalised healthcare, with the backing of many MEPs.

It is apt that throughout the topic-specific discussions of the Presidency Conference, the broader themes that emerged most insistently were collaboration and communication, since these have been the hallmarks of EAPM’s activity since its initiation. 

EAPM is by definition a collaborative exercise, bringing together the broadest range of stakeholders – as this conference again demonstrated. And communication has been at the heart of EAPM’s activity, since its role is not just as a thinktank for refining ideas, but as a vehicle for transmitting those ideas from the world of healthcare to the broader world of policy, where the decisions are made that ultimately shape the way health is delivered. 

Principal recommendations 

Although there was no formal process of agreeing recommendations at the meeting, the following are among the recurring recommendations from the discussions. 

  • Inequalities in access to testing and treatment across Europe must be addressed

  • Adequate data infrastructure and processing capacity must be available.

  • Real-world evidence must be developed and acceptance criteria agreed with regulators, HTA agencies and payers.

  • Greater flexibility in regulatory requirements is needed to accommodate evaluation of products destined for small populations.

  • Multi-stakeholder collaboration must be developed to agree research priorities, standards and quality assurance of testing, and evaluation criteria for testing and treatments.

  • Trust must be developed among citizens about the security and possible  use of their data.

  • Communication must be developed by healthcare stakeholders to persuade policymakers to effect constructive change.  

The link to the report is available here.

1 million genome meeting on 21 October

Registration is still very much open for the B1MG meeting on 21 October. The aim of the the 1 million Genome Project is to support the connection of national genomics and data infrastructures, co-ordinate the harmonization of the ethical and legal framework for sharing data of high privacy sensitivity, and give practical guidance for the pan-European coordination of implementing genomic technologies in national and European health-care systems. 

Thus, the B1MG is a means to bring the different stakeholders together on Oct 21st so as to act as a catalyst to provide a benchmark approach for alignment of complex, fractionated health-care provisions into health-care systems.

Register here and read the full agenda here.

Have the best week possible, and keep safe.

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Brexit

We’re disappointed by EU but a deal can be done, says Raab

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Britain is disappointed by the European Union’s demand that London give more concessions to secure a trade deal but a deal is close and can be done, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Friday (16 October), write Guy Faulconbridge and Paul Sandle.

“We are disappointed and surprised by the outcome of the European Council,” Raab told Sky News.

“We’ve been told that it must be the UK that makes all of the compromises in the days ahead, that can’t be right in a negotiation, so we’re surprised by that but the prime minister will be saying more on this later today.”

“Having said that, we are close,” Raab said of a deal. “With goodwill on both sides we can get there.”

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