Monday

21st Jan 2019

Agenda

Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK

  • Under the EU Commission proposal, whistleblowers such as LuxLeaks' Antoine Deltour would be better protected (Photo: Mélanie Poulain)

The European Commission will set the agenda this week with a series of propositions on the protection of whistleblowers, on the fight against fake news and digital issues such as artificial intelligence and e-health.

On Monday (23 April), justice commissioner Vera Jourova will present, with the commission's first vice president Frans Timmermans, a text expected to increase protection of whistleblowers in Europe, in the wake of scandals such as LuxLeaks.

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  • Aleppo, Syria. The Brussels II conference will discuss humanitirian aid and political options for a postwar transition (Photo: Reuters/Abdalrhman Ismail)

According to Le Soir newspaper, the proposed rules will guarantee the protection of people who reveal abuses or irregularities within their companies or to authorities, but also those who turn to media to expose the wrongdoings.

If they are prosecuted, whistleblowers will be able to argue that their revelations are in the framework of EU laws. Their employer or any person suing them will also have to prove that the complaint is not just retaliation.

Under the commission proposal, whistleblowers will be protected if they reveal wrongdoings regarding public procurements, money laundering, public health or environment, as well as actions that do not violate the law but contradict the aim of the law.

This last proposal would help protect whistleblowers such as Antoine Deltour, the former PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) employee who revealed the tax rulings in Luxembourg in 2014. After several trials, Deltour was eventually acquitted in January.

Digital and fake news

Later in the week, the commission will continue with new proposals on digital, one of the priorities set by EU leaders last year.

On Wednesday (25 April), it will present a communication on artificial intelligence - a new field of R&D in which the EU wants to compete with the US and China.

Amid controversies over the use and commercialisation of personal data - sometimes without the consent of users - the EU executive will also make new propositions about the economy of personal data, as well as on e-health - the development of health services through IT tools and mobile apps
.

On Thursday (26 April), the commission will add to its package a legislative proposal on relations between companies and online platforms.

The EU digital agenda will also be discussed at a high-level conference at the European Parliament about "the challenge of the digital revolution", which will gather the EU digital commissioner Mariya Gabriel, MEPs and business representatives.

Also on Thursday, the commission will publish a communication on how to deal with fake news. Last month, it was asked by a working group of experts to set up a coalition representing the relevant stakeholders to establish a code of practice about the media and advertising sectors' role and responsibility.

Syria

Meanwhile, on Tuesday and Wednesday (24-25 April), some 85 countries and international organisations, as well as over 200 NGOs will meet in Brussels to discuss how to help the Syrian people and prepare a post-war transition.

The EU-UN co-chaired Brussels II conference, following a similar one last year, will cover "key aspects of humanitarian and resilience assistance in Syria and the region" as well as longer-term issues such as youth and education and inclusive economic and social regional development.

A cultural event will also be organised at the Bozar cultural centre and in the Ravenstein gallery nearby.

Trade and China

Global tension over trade will be on the European Parliament agenda on Monday, when the international trade committee will discuss the current EU-US dispute over US tariffs on steel and aluminium.

The committee will also discuss trade issues with Chinese EU ambassador Zhang Ming.

The exchange will be part of a wider discussion in EU-China relations, first in the international trade committee on Monday and then in the foreign affairs committee on Tuesday.

A draft parliament opinion will be put to vote on Wednesday. It calls on China to "further open up the Chinese market to foreign investors, strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights and level the playing field by making China's market more transparent and better regulated."

It also calls on Beijing to "support to the multilateral rules-based trading system", expresses "concern about industrial overcapacity in China's steel sector" and demands "further reciprocity in market access."

Eurozone

The week will end with more thinking and discussion on eurozone reform in Sofia, where EU finance ministers will meet for an informal Eurogroup on Friday (27 April) and an informal Ecofin on Saturday (28 April).



While EU leaders and ministers still aim to adopt a roadmap for the next years in June, they are still waiting for France's Emmanuel Macron and Germany's Angela Merkel to agree on a common position.

In Berlin on Thursday (19 April), the two leaders confirmed their willingness to work together while stressing the need to find a compromise.

EU told to create coalition against fake news

After almost two months of talks, a panel of experts set up by the EU commission have issued a series of recommendations on how to fight fake news or what they prefer to term 'disinformation'.

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