European Commission

EU and UK issue joint statement on Northern Ireland Protocol
The  Chancellor  of  the  Duchy  of  Lancaster  Michael  Gove  and  European  Commission  Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič issued a joint statement this week on the Northern Ireland Protocol, following a meeting after an exchange of letters last week. In its letters, the UK Government had called for the extension of a number of grace periods for checks on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as number of overall reforms to the Protocol. In the statement both sides said they would aim to find “workable solutions” for the implementation of the Protocol and agreed to a further meeting on24 February. (link)

Meanwhile in the European Parliament, all relevant Committees have recommended the  Parliament  give  its  consent  to  the  EU-UK  Trade  and  Cooperation  Agreement.  (link)  However, Member States are expected to request a 2-month extension period to the provisional application of the Agreement, in order to allow more time for it to be translated to all EU languages.

Commission   presents   factual   assessment   of   Council   cooperation   with   partner   countries   on readmission
The European Commission has this week published its first factual assessment looking at the Council’s cooperation with partner countries on readmission. The Commission highlighted that effective return and  readmission  as  well  as  sustainable  reintegration  are  essential  elements  of  comprehensive, balanced, tailor-made and mutually beneficial migration partnerships with countries outside the EU. The  New  Pact  on  Migration  and  Asylum  from  last  September  also  showed  the  need  for  improved procedures inside the EU. Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas emphasised that the assessment shows that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to cooperation on readmission. (link)

Commission launches public consultations on fighting child sexual abuse and gender-based violence
The European Commission has this week launched a consultation on combatting child sexual abuse. The  consultation  is  an  opportunity  to  contribute  to  the  Proposal  for  a  Regulation  addressing  the detection,  removal  and  reporting  of  child  sexual  abuse  content  online,  and  follows  an  impact assessment carried out in December 2020. The consultation period closes on 15 April 2021. (link) The Commission is also consulting on proposals to better combat gender-based violence. The consultation period will be open until 10 May 2021. (link)

Council

Council Presidency and Parliament reach provisional agreement on civil protection mechanism
The Council Presidency and the European Parliament this week reached provisional agreement on a proposal to strengthen the EU civil protection mechanism. The proposed new rules would allow the EU and  member  states  to  better  prepare  for  natural  and  man-made  disasters  as  well  as  allowing  the Commission to address gaps in the area of transport and logistics and directly procure certain additional rescEU capacities when needed. (link)

European Parliament

MEPs debate state of COVID vaccination strategy and adopt Recovery and Resilience Facility
During a Plenary session this week, MEPs debated the  state of the EU’s COVID vaccination strategy together with representatives from the Commission. Many MEPs as well as Commission President von der Leyen defended the EU’s choice to order vaccines collectively. Members also acknowledged that the EU underestimated the challenges of vaccine mass production, and the Commission acknowledged lessons must be drawn from past mistakes. MEPs also repeated their call for transparency in vaccine contracts and well as calling for clear data on vaccine rollout at the national level. (link) MEPs also this week gave their approval for the Recovery and Resilience Facility, voting in favour of the Regulation setting  out  the  objectives, financing  and rules for accessing  the  Facility.  (link) This was followed  by adoption by the Council, which means the Regulation can now be published in the Official Journal of the EU after which it will enter into force. Member States can then submit their national plans to access the grants and loans provided through the Facility to support them in recovery from the COVID crisis. (link)

Parliament adopts report on human trafficking
The European Parliament this week adopted a report assessing the 2011 EU Anti-trafficking Directive, calling  for  more  robust  measures  against  all  forms  of  trafficking,  focusing  on  protecting  women, children and migrants. The report calls on the Commission to amend the Anti-Trafficking Directive to ensure that member states explicitly criminalise the “knowing use” of services provided by victims of trafficking. It also recognises that COVID has worsened the situation of trafficked victims. (link)

Other news

SIRIUS Project hosts annual Advisory Board meeting
The  SIRIUS  Project  has  held  its  annual  Advisory  Board  meeting  this  week  presenting  its  2020  main achievements. As part of the meeting, the second edition of the EU Digital Evidence Situation Report was presented. The meeting brought together representatives of the European Commission, CEPOL, the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (UNCTED), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the United States Department of Justice, the European Cybercrime Training and Education Group (ECTEG), the European Judicial Network (EJN), the European Judicial Cybercrime Network (EJCN) and the European Judicial Training Network (EJTN). (link)

Look Ahead

–     16  February:  Commissioner  for  Equality  Helena  Dalli  holds  a  videoconference  call  with representatives of the European Confederation of Police

–      19  February:  FRA  Online  Event  ‘Crime,  victims  and  rights:  what  can  EU  countries  do  to strengthen victims’ rights?’

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