COSAC for More Proximity to Citizens in a United Europe
The parliamentary dimension of the Austrian Council Presidency provides a forum for lively exchanges between committees for union affairs of national parliaments of the EU
At the 60th COSAC Plenary Meeting in Vienna from 18 to 20 November 2018, European parliamentarians aired their views on the policies of the European Union in over 150 interventions, said conference chair Reinhold Lopatka in his closing remarks today. According to conference co-chair Christian Buchmann, the excellent collaboration, despite at times diverging views, shows that cooperation among the committees for union affairs of the national parliaments works. At the end of the meeting, Mr. Lopatka handed over the chairmanship to the Romanian delegation, which will head up COSAC during Romania's EU Presidency in the first half of 2019.
COSAC final documents cover a broad spectrum of issues
At the multi-day meeting of the members of committees for union affairs of the national parliaments of the EU member states and of the European Parliament, participants not only addressed concrete challenges, such as climate change and European energy policy, migration and security and the integration of the Western Balkans into the European Union, but also the agreement with the United Kingdom after its withdrawal from the EU. Discussions also centred on the ways and means of dealing with growing EU scepticism, i.e. on bringing the EU closer to its citizens. Consequently, the COSAC final documents place great importance on the principle of subsidiarity to enable political decisions to be taken more transparently and efficiently and to enjoy greater public acceptance. COSAC’s Contribution highlights that it is crucial for EU institutions to cooperate more closely with legislative bodies at national and regional level, and with civil society. The parliamentarians also expressed their support for the so-called “green card” procedure, which allows national legislators to submit constructive proposals on EU policy or legislative proposals to the EU Commission.
In its Contribution, COSAC expressed its commitment to pan-European measures to deal with the issue of illegal migration, to protect the EU's external borders and to combat human trafficking and smuggling. The EU must prevent refugees from dying when crossing the sea on their journey to Europe. Implementing existing repatriation agreements with third countries more consistently and concluding additional such agreements is also important. The parliamentarians welcomed the proposals of the European Commission to this effect, saying that the EU should also act as one in fighting threats to cyber security. In principle, however, digitalisation is seen as a positive step towards increasing prosperity and competitiveness in the EU. Consequently, it is important to advance plans for a fair tax system and updating EU data protection regulations in the digital single market.
Furthermore, COSAC members spoke out in favour of stepping up reform processes in the countries of the Western Balkans, whereby the EU must give the South East European countries clear prospects for EU accession and provide financial support in the spirit of good neighbourliness. Apart from further developing the rule of law, human rights and the economy, the fundamental prerequisite for accession will be the resolution of bilateral disputes in the region.
On behalf of the EU, the members of parliamentary committees for union affairs also reaffirmed efforts to take the necessary steps to combat drastic global warming on the basis of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Certainly, further measures aimed at limiting the global rise in temperatures to as low as 1.5°C if possible are necessary. It is hoped that agreements will be reached on the concrete implementation of climate protection measures at the next climate conference to be held this December in Poland. Against this backdrop, broad support was expressed for all of the efforts aimed at ensuring a clean and sustainable energy supply within the framework of a single market for electricity and improving risk prevention, as well as for making the EU less dependent on energy imports.
With regard to the planned withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the EU, i.e. Brexit, the final COSAC documents affirm that the conference would like to maintain a close cooperation with the UK at parliamentary level. Nevertheless, COSAC also stressed the importance of preserving the unity of the single market and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice with regard to the principles of the single market. Likewise the Good Friday Agreement signed in 1998, which put an end to the Northern Ireland conflict, must also be preserved notwithstanding the outcome of the negotiations between the UK and the EU, stated COSAC, expressing its solidarity with the Republic of Ireland.
More information about the event can be found on the event page.