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Sassoli: 'To earn trust, unity and transparency are needed'

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David Sassoli stressed the need to strengthen democracy in an address to EU leaders at the start of the European Council.

During the online meeting, Parliament’s President said that democracy depends on trust: “Democracy is a system of institutions and laws, which relies on citizens’ trust. As politicians, our role is to do whatever it takes to maintain that trust. This is even more true in times of crisis. Europe, like the rest of the world, is in the throes of a pandemic with grave social and economic implications.” He added: "Granted, our system and our institutions must be improved. But trust is earned by means of unity and transparency, by adopting a clear and consistent stance."

Sassoli also addressed the ongoing vaccine roll-out: “We need to step up vaccine production; speed up the distribution and administration of vaccines both inside and outside the European Union. But we cannot afford to be naïve. It is time to apply the principles of reciprocity and proportionality before giving the green light to exports from the EU.”

Speaking about China’s recent sanctions against MEPs and different EU bodies, the President said: “I am concerned about the growing trend towards authoritarianism and the many movesto destabilise democracy. These are developments we must take seriously. Attempts are being made to steer our recovery plan in certain directions, in a clear bid to undermine our independence.”

Sassoli also referred to the EU-China investment agreement Parliament will soon be discussing: “As always, Parliament will take great care to ensure that the imperatives of free trade do not outweigh human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Cooperation with the US following the election of Joe Biden has also created new opportunities for the EU, Sasssoli said. “Renewed cooperation between the EU and the new administration in Washington will help lend impetus to our global leadership. We recognise how necessary this is, in the interests of our society.”

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Defence

Defence: Is the EU creating a European army?

EU Reporter Correspondent

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While there is no EU army and defence remains exclusively a matter for member states, the EU has recently taken big steps to boost defence co-operation. Security 

Since 2016, there has been significant progress in the area of EU security and defence with several concrete EU initiatives to encourage co-operation and reinforce Europe’s capacity to defend itself. Read the overview of the latest developments.

High expectations for EU defence

Europeans expect the EU to guarantee security and peace. Three quarters (75%) are in favour of a common EU defence and security policy according to a special Eurobarometer on security and defence in 2017 and a majority (55%) were in favour of creating an EU army. More recently 68% of Europeans said they would like the EU to do more on defence (March 2018 Eurobarometer survey).

EU leaders realise that no EU country can tackle the current security threats in isolation. For example French President Macron called for a joint European military project  in 2017, while German Chancellor Merkel said “we ought to work on the vision of one day establishing a proper European army” in her address to the European Parliament in November 2018. Moving towards a security and defence union has been one of the priorities of the von der Leyen Commission.

EN - 2018 Eurobarometer: % of Europeans think that the EU should do more in security and defence policy
Most Europeans want the EU to do more to boost security and defence  

Recent EU measures to boost defence co-operation

A common EU defence policy is provided for by the Treaty of Lisbon (Article 42(2) TEU). However, the treaty also clearly states the importance of national defence policy, including NATO membership or neutrality.

In recent years, the EU has begun to implement ambitious initiatives to provide more resources, stimulate efficiency, facilitate cooperation and support the development of capabilities:

  • Permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) was launched in December 2017, and 25 EU countries are participating as of June 2019. It currently operates on the basis of 47 collaborative projects with binding commitments including a European Medical Command, Maritime Surveillance System, mutual assistance for cyber-security and rapid response teams, and a Joint EU intelligence school.
  • The European Defence Fund (EDF) was launched in June 2017. It is the first time the EU budget is used to co-fund defence cooperation. On 29 April 2021, MEPs agreed to fund the flagship instrument with a budget of €7.9 billion as part of the EU's long-term budget (2021-2027). The fund will complement national investments and provide both practical and financial incentives for collaborative research, joint development and acquisition of defence equipment and technology.
  • The EU strengthened co-operation with NATO on 74 projects across seven areas including cybersecurity, joint exercises and counter-terrorism.
  • A plan to facilitate military mobility within and across the EU to make it possible for military personnel and equipment to act faster in response to crises.
  • Making the financing of civilian and military missions and operations more effective. The EU currently has 17 such missions on three continents, with a wide range of mandates and deploying more than 6,000 civilian and military personnel.
  • Since June 2017 there is a new command and control structure (MPCC) to improve the EU’s crisis management.

Spending more, spending better, spending together

At Nato's Wales summit in 2014, the EU countries that are members of Nato committed to spend 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defence by 2024. The European Parliament has been calling on member states to live up to it.

NATO 2019 estimates show that only five EU countries (Greece, Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Lithuania) spent more than 2% of their GDP on defence.

However, building up EU defence is not only about spending more, but also about spending efficiently. EU countries collectively are the second largest defence spender in the world after the US but an estimated €26.4bn is wasted every year due to duplication, overcapacity and barriers to procurement. As a result, more than six times as many defence systems are used in Europe than in the United States. This is where the EU can provide the conditions for countries to collaborate more.

If Europe is to compete worldwide, it will need to pool and integrate its best capabilities as it is estimated that by 2025 China will become the second largest defence spender in the world after the US.

infographic illustration on benefits of closer cooperation on defence at EU level
The benefits of closer cooperation on defence  

The European Parliament’s position

The European Parliament has repeatedly called for fully using the potential of the Lisbon Treaty provisions to works towards a European defence union. It consistently supports more cooperation, increased investment and pooling resources to create synergies at EU level in order to better protect Europeans.

Challenges involved

Apart from practical challenges, the EU needs to reconcile different traditions and different strategic cultures. Parliament believes that an EU white paper on defence would be a useful way to do it and underpin the development of a future EU defence policy.

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EU

Sassoli: 'Europe must take urgent action to protect its citizens’ lives and futures'

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Today (7 May) and tomorrow (8 May), European Parliament President David Sassoli (pictured) will participate in the Porto Social Summit, taking place in Portugal, organized by the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

President Sassoli will receive the keys to the city of Porto at 11h on Friday from the Mayor of Porto Rui Moreira during a Ceremony at Porto city hall.

In the afternoon, from 14h, Sassoli will participate in a High-Level Conference at the Alfândega do Porto Congress Centre to discuss the best ways to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights. He will give a speech on the topic From Gothenburg to Porto.

President Sassoli will be also in charge of the closing remarks of the Conference at 17h30. A joint press conference with the Prime Minister of Portugal, the President of the European Parliament, the President of the European Council, and the President of the European Commission will follow.

On Saturday 8 May, at 09h30 the President of the European Parliament will open the informal meeting of EU Heads of State and Government, which will take place at the Crystal Palace.

The full programme of the event is available here.

Follow the event live here.

Media coverage

Friday 7 May (Local Times)

11.00 Ceremony at Porto City Hall
Pictures and video via Ebs satellite

14.00 Speech “From Gothenburg to Porto”
Pictures and video via Ebs satellite

17.30 Closing speech of the High-Level Conference
Pictures and video via Ebs satellite

19.00 Joint press conference
Pictures and video via Ebs satellite

Saturday 8 May

09.00 State ceremony for the victims of Covid-19 -
Pictures and video via Ebs satellite

09.30 Opening speech at the Informal EUCO
Photo and video via Ebs satellite


The pictures will be available here.

The videos: EBS satellite or the Multimedia Centre of the European Parliament.

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LUX audience week: Watch films and rate them

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Find out where you can watch the films nominated for the 2021 LUX Audience Award in your country and how to vote for your favourite, EU affairs.

Thomas Vinterberg’s Oscar winning Another Round, Collective by Alexander Nanau and Corpus Christi by Jan Komasa (nominated for Oscars in 2021 and 2020 respectively) are the three films shortlisted for the European Parliament and European Film Academy’s 2021 LUX Audience Award.

How to watch

You can watch all three films free during the LUX Audience week from 10 to 16 May online and subtitled into your language.

Catch the live debate with the three directors on Facebook on Friday 14 May from 5pm CET.

Competing films

Another Round by Danish director Thomas Vinterberg (original title Druk)

Have you heard of a Norwegian psychologist’s obscure theory that a small amount of alcohol in our blood opens our minds, increases creativity and keeps us happy? Four high school teachers experiment with it, but what first seems to offer a cure for a mid-life crisis goes off the rails. Vinterberg‘s movie is not only about drinking. It has a deeper message about how to face life’s highs and lows and be honest about them.

Another Round won the 2021 Oscar for best international feature. Leonardo DiCaprio's production company is planning an English-language remake.

Collective by Romanian director Alexander Nanau (original title Colectiv)

This stirring documentary is titled after a nightclub in Bucharest where a fire killed 27 young people in 2015 and left 180 wounded. The documentary follows a team of journalists who investigate why 37 of the burn victims died in hospitals although their wounds were not life threatening. They uncover terrifying nepotism and corruption that cost lives, but also show that brave and determined people can reverse corrupt systems.

Collective was nominated for an Oscar in the best international feature and best documentary categories this year.

Corpus Christi by Polish director Jan Komasa (original title Boże Ciało)

The film is based partly on the real story of a young convict who experiences a spiritual transformation and wants to become a priest. By a twist of fate, he ends up taking responsibility for a parish in a remote Polish village. As the story evolves, he confronts a tragic secret that is devouring the community. Through the story of this charismatic preacher, Komasa reflects on what creates a community and what makes us susceptible to both fake and real leaders.

Corpus Cristi was nominated for an Oscar in the best international feature film category in 2020.

How to take part

This year the winner will be chosen by MEPs and audiences, each group accounting for 50% of the votes. Rate all three films from one to five stars on www.luxaward.eu by 23 May. You can change your rating and only your last vote will be counted. Vote to have the chance to attend the next European Film Awards ceremony in December 2021.

About the LUX Audience Award

The European Parliament launched the LUX Prize in 2007 with the aim of supporting the production and distribution of European films, stimulating reflection on current political and social issues and celebrating European culture.

This year, Parliament teamed up with the European Film Academy, the European Commission and Europa Cinemas network to bring the newly named LUX Audience Award to a wider audience.

All three finalists have been subtitled into the official EU languages. The winning film will also be adapted for the visually and audibly impaired.

LUX award 

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