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MEPs resolved to secure laws on media protection

Members of the European Parliament will stop at nothing until EU laws aimed at tackling court cases that intimidate investigative journalists and independent media are introduced, MEP David Casa said yesterday.

The Nationalist MEP gave comments to The Sunday Times of Malta in the wake of calls by a cross-party group of europarliamentarians on Friday, proposing new EU laws to address SLAPPs (strategic lawsuit against public participation).

The group – made up of Mr Casa, Ana Gomes, Monica Macovei, Maite Pagazaurtundúa, Stelios Kouloglou and Benedek Jávor – wants the European Commission to create a directive which would allow journalists and media houses to ask for such suits to be dismissed and seek compensation while also fining companies which dodge the directive by filing SLAPP lawsuits in non-EU jurisdictions.

Read: SLAPP down companies bullying free press, MEPs urge Commission

The MEPs have also asked for the creation of a fund for journalists and media houses fighting such suits and that the Commission names and shames companies which resort to SLAPP tactics.

A call for such anti-SLAPP legislation was also made in the report by MEPs from the Pana and Libe committees, who carried out a two-day fact-finding mission in Malta last year. The report was published last Thursday.

The delegation looked into allegations of maladministration and money laundering in Malta, meeting with the Prime Minister, the Police Commissioner, the Chief Justice, representatives of the Malta Financial Services Authority and Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, as well as journalists and civil society activists.

According to Mr. Casa, the MEPs will now be waiting for the Commission to respond, pointing out that if there is no action, a number of options were available to them, including making the call on the Commission during plenary.

“But more concretely we could also use a particular mechanism to draft the directive ourselves and send it to the Commission to propose. We can do this under a provision of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

“What is certain is that we are determined and committed to push for this legislation for as long as necessary,” Mr Casa said.

On the other recommendations in the report – mainly those calling on the European Banking Authority (EBA) and the European Central Bank (ECB) to assess whether the MFSA has fulfilled its obligations and to investigate whether Pilatus Bank holding a licence requires an intervention – Mr Casa said this was a different situation.

While the request to the ECB to take action had originally come from him alone, it was now the European Parliament which was making such calls on both the ECB and the EBA, the MEP explained.

“It should be the MFSA of its own volition that does what should have been done ages ago and revokes Pilatus’ license.

“On my part I will be communicating with the ECB again in the coming week, as I have received further evidence confidentially which needs to be passed on to them,” Mr Casa went on.

On a national level, the report points out that keeping politicians suspected of money laundering in office affects the government’s credibility, fuels a perception of impunity and could result in further damage to State interests by enabling the continuation of criminal activity.

When questioned on Friday about the recommendation to remove those named in the Panama Papers, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said simply: “We take our decisions”.

He added that the MEPs who travelled to the island on the fact-finding mission had decided what they were going to say even before coming to Malta.

Backtrack in Strasbourg as MEPs Compromise on Energy Efficiency

The European Parliament has abandoned its long-held 40% energy efficiency target at the final hurdle, after political groups opted on Wednesday (17 January) to back a binding 35% goal for 2030 instead.

MEPs decided to choose the safe option and agree on one position ahead of talks with the Commission and member states but it meant downgrading its efficiency ambitions.

But they were able to preserve an all-important energy savings goal of 1.5% under Article 7 of the draft report and include the transport sector for the first time. EU climate chief Miguel Arias Cañete welcomed the result, pledging to help secure an “ambitious agreement” in talks with the member states.

German Socialist MEP Martina Werner said the outcome was “a big disappointment, as the Parliament has given up of its ambitious 40% target for the first time” but was hopeful that the result still shows that the institution is “serious about the energy transition”.

The result is a double-edged sword as it represents two milestones: the Parliament’s first shift to 35% and the EPP group’s first commitment to moving up from its previously rigid 30% position.

Wednesday’s vote was difficult to call before MEPs arrived in the hemicycle as the S&D, helmed by Czech MEP Miroslav Poche, and the EPP, under the guidance of German counterpart Markus Pieper, were unable to compromise on the fundamental aspects of the file.

After the vote, the EPP man was happy that his colleagues had rejected the “out-of-this-world” 40% target and said the agreed text is “a good start” with which to enter trilateral negotiations, an opinion shared by Greens/EFA shadow Jávor Benedek.

The Hungarian MEP called on climate chief Cañete after the vote to support the Parliament’s freshly adopted position and help convince the member states to back “at least” 35%.

@javorbenedek: “@MAC_europa ambitious outcome in the context of the leaked @IPCC_CH report could only mean to endorse the #EPlenary position of at least 35% – negotiations need to take the planet first!”

Poche thanked his colleagues for granting him a “strong mandate” after 485 MEPs voted in favour, with only 132 rejecting the text and 58 abstaining.

Poche, who replaced his predecessor Adam Gierek in December, will now represent the Parliament in the upcoming negotiations, where he will have to convince the member states that they should increase their 30% position.

No adjusting

During the period between November’s energy committee vote and this week, Pieper was insistent on adding a so-called adjustment mechanism, which would alter the targets in line with changes to the economy, as his price for supporting 35%.

But Socialist lawmakers, including Vice-President Kathleen Van Brempt, were adamant that the idea was “pointless” and it was  rejected in the final text.

Werner explained that “ambitious efficiency targets do not jeopardise our economy. On the contrary: energy efficiency boosts the competitiveness of European industries.”

Silver-lined disappointment

But some environmental groups were left non-plussed by the Parliament’s willingness to abandon 40%, a figure that its energy and environment committees, as well as numerous resolutions, have all consistently backed in the past.

Friends of the Earth Europe campaigner Clémence Hutin said: “Today’s position falls short: when it came to the crunch, MEPs folded and opted for a disappointing 35%”. She blamed the EPP for bringing down the level of ambition and denounced its role as “deplorable”.

But European Environmental Bureau energy expert Roland Joebstl was more upbeat, insisting that the inclusion of the transport sector in the energy savings mix would make it “part of the energy efficiency success story”.

Until now, waste and pollution from transport was discounted from efficiency plans but the Parliament will now have the chance to argue its case for including the sector during member state talks later this year.

But the EPP claimed victory in a smaller detail of the report, which would have, according to Pieper, imposed “unrealistic renovation rates of public buildings”. Instead, the focus will remain on central government buildings.

No drama elsewhere

A report on the update of the Renewable Energy Directive (REDII) by Spanish MEP José Blanco López passed as expected just before the EED vote, with the Socialist lawmaker securing a strong mandate for further negotiations.

492 MEPs voted in favour, with only 88 against and 107 abstaining.

Despite calls from environmental groups in the lead-up and a recent fall in renewable energy prices, lawmakers stuck with a non-binding 35% target. Proposals for a 40% target or a binding 35% goal both fell through.

Industry group Solar Power Europe said the agree target showed the EU is an “energy champion” and called on the Parliament to fight its corner in trilogue. Wind and ocean power counterparts WindEurope and Ocean Energy Europe also praised the result for upping the Commission’s initial proposal.

The EU executive initially came out with just 27% but has recently conceded that a higher target could be “affordable“, acknowledging that lower prices and the Paris Agreement have changed the game.

In a more controversial aspect of the vote, lawmakers backed a ban the use of palm oil as a biofuel, while agreeing to freeze other crop-based fuels at their current levels.

After the efficiency drama, it was the turn of the energy union governance vote, which yielded a number of encouraging results, including plans for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as well as a carbon budget, a proposal which had looked at risk before the vote.

Article from EURACTIVE

originally published by Sam Jones on Jan. 17, 2018

European Parliament push for clean energy package faces resistance

MEPs agree to increase EU’s renewable and energy efficiency goals but that’s not going to sit well with national governments.

The European Parliament’s evident self-satisfaction over Wednesday’s vote to boost the EU’s green energy ambitions is likely to be punctured in the coming brawl with national governments.

MEPs’ push to speed up the bloc’s transition to clean energy puts it on a collision course with the Council of the EU, where several countries are angry at the possibility of being forced to shoulder an extra, and expensive, burden.

“We are expecting long and tough negotiations,” a Central European diplomat said, adding that the Parliament’s position “is more ambitious and challenging than what we agreed in the Council.”

MEPs said the EU should get 35 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, as well as achieving a minimum 35 percent gain in energy efficiency over the same period. They also agreed on strong rules for ensuring countries are on track to meet their goals.

The votes shape the Parliament’s position on the Renewable Energy Directive, the Energy Efficiency Directive and the Governance Regulation. These are all key files from the European Commission’s Clean Energy Package, which aims to encourage the EU’s uptake of renewable energy and reform of its power market.

But Parliament’s higher targets are a lot more than many EU countries are prepared to accept.

“I expect the negotiations on all files from the Clean Energy Package to be tough,” said Martina Werner, a German MEP from the Socialists and Democrats. “The risk is to end up with the lowest common denominator.”

When EU energy ministers adopted their position in December, they left in place the current 27 percent renewable energy target. In May, when the Commission suggested increasing the target for energy efficiency from 27 percent to 30 percent, the idea ended up getting Council support but several Central and Eastern European countries fought an unsuccessful rearguard action to keep the old level.

Green resistance

National opposition is not too surprising considering the bitter talks over setting the 2030 energy and climate goals in the first place back in 2014. There was strong resistance from several Central and Eastern European countries who felt things were going too far, too fast; many still rely on coal, and were worried about the financial and economic costs of shifting to other power sources in a short period of time.

In the end, EU leaders committed to 27 percent targets for both energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Those promises have to be translated into laws, and now Central Europeans are outraged that Brussels and the Parliament are trying to push beyond the leaders’ 2014 deal by pressing for higher targets in the process.

“The targets are way beyond what is feasible. We cannot come up with commitments like that out of thin air,” said an Eastern European diplomat.

Green energy advocates argue that Central European concerns are outdated.

Renewable energy costs have dropped much faster in recent years than most anticipated, and recent Commission calculations found boosting the bloc’s renewable energy target to 30 percent would cost the EU roughly the same as implementing its current 27 percent goal.

The Commission and especially the Parliament are keen on greater energy ambition amid growing public alarm over global warming, as well as pressure to meet the bloc’s commitments under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete gave Parliament a pat on the back after Wednesday’s votes, calling it a “great day.” The Parliament “shows it means business with Europe’s clean energy transition and our #ParisAgreement commitments,” he tweeted.

His sentiment was largely echoed by NGOs and renewable energy lobby groups.

Matching rhetoric

The differences between national positions and the Parliament will be hashed out in upcoming negotiations.

“We are ready to face member states,” said Michèle Rivasi, a French Green MEP who co-led work on the Governance Regulation. “They will have to be more ambitious and they will have to start seeing things as we see them.”

A compromise could see talks settle on a target in between the positions of the Parliament and the Council. With a strong push from the Parliament, more ambitious governments from Nordic and Western European countries could help sway the general consensus toward a middle ground of just over 30 percent — despite Central European grumbling.

“European governments will now be under pressure to match their rhetoric on climate change with action by supporting the Parliament’s position,” Roland Joebstl, policy officer at the European Environmental Bureau.

Inter-institutional talks are expected to start within the next weeks under the leadership of the Bulgarian Council presidency.

This article is part of POLITICO’s new Sustainability coverage, tracking issues including the circular economy, air and water pollution, nature protection and chemicals, and including the Sustainability Insights newsletter every Monday afternoon. Email pro@politico.eu for more information.

MEPs’ joint call to the European Commission for the protection of media freedom and investigative journalism

MEPs call on European Commission to Protect Investigative Journalists and Stand for Media Freedom 


MEPs David Casa (EPP), Ana Gomes (S&D), Monica Macovei (ECR), Maite Pagazaurtundúa (ALDE) Stelios Kouloglou (GUE) and Benedek Jávor (Greens) have joined forces to push for EU legislation that will address and end “SLAPPs” – lawsuits intended to intimidate and silence investigative journalists and independent media by burdening them with exorbitant legal expenses until they abandon their opposition. According to the MEPs, the practice is abusive, poses a threat to media freedom and has no place in the European Union.

SLAPP was used, for instance, against investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and is now being used against Maltese media houses by firms associated with government corruption and the Panama Papers scandal that are threatening legal action in the United States.

David Casa, Ana Gomes, Monica Macovei, Maite Pagazaurtundúa, Stelios Kouloglou and Benedek Jávor stated:

“In Malta we have seen that firms like Pilatus Bank and Henley & Partners that employ these practices, using American litigation, have succeeded in having stories altered or deleted completely from online archives. And investigative journalists are prevented from reporting further on corrupt practices out of fear of further legal action. But this is not just a Maltese problem. In the UK, Appleby, the firm associated with the Paradise Papers, is using similar tactics against the Guardian and the BBC.

The cross-border nature of investigative journalism as well as the tendency to pursue legal action in jurisdictions outside the EU that only have a tenuous connection with the parties justifies and requires an EU response”.

The MEPs are calling on EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans to propose an EU Anti-SLAPP Directive that will include:


  • The ability for investigative journalists and independent media to request that vexatious lawsuits in the EU be expediently dismissed and claim compensation;
  • The establishment of punitive fines on firms pursuing these practices when recourse is made to jurisdictions outside the EU;
  • The setting up of a SLAPP fund to support investigative journalists and independent media that choose to resist malicious attempts to silence them and to assist in the recovery of funds due to them;
  • The setting-up of an EU register that names and shames firms that pursue these abusive practices.

“We are committed to the protection of investigative journalists and media freedom across the EU and will pursue this issue until Anti-SLAPP EU legislation is in place”, the MEPs stated.

Thomas Gibson from the Committee to Protect Journalists stated: “SLAPP is a serious threat to journalism and media freedom. These sums of money are in no way proportionate.  Independent journalists in Malta already face enormous challenges and restrictions.  Critical journalism must not be stifled. In addition to pushing for full justice of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Commission needs to address the climate in which investigative journalists work in the country.”

Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship, said: “Having a media that is free to investigate corruption and abuse of power – and free to publish the results of those investigations – is fundamental to democracy. These vexatious law suits – deliberately aimed at preventing journalists from carrying out such work – must be stopped.”