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EP Plenary Session Newsletter 10-13 December 2018

Strasbourg at nightStrasbourg at night
Strasbourg at night

What will MEPs be working on in next week's plenary session in Strasbourg? Highlights include; the Sakharov Prize 2018, Brexit and the Future of Europe


MEPs to debate state of play on Brexit after UK House of Commons’ vote

At 9.00 on Wednesday, Parliament will debate the state of play of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, following UK House of Commons’ meaningful vote on 11 December.  

This debate will allow MEPs to assess the state of play of the UK's withdrawal following the agreement at the European Council on 25 November, where heads of state or government backed the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the political declaration regarding future relations with the UK.

A resolution will be voted at the next part-session.

Free photos, video and audio material

Irish MEPs following this issue are: Marian Harkin, Independent (Midlands North-West); Mairead McGuinness, Fine Gael (Midlands North-West)


European Parliament to assess global situation of human rights and democracy

MEPs will discuss on Tuesday and vote on Wednesday on the European Parliament’s annual report on the state of human rights and democracy in the world in 2017.

New threats to the state of democracy are emerging, say MEPs. In 2017, attacks against the press around the world hit a record high, while the spread of fake news and disinformation affected many elections.

The report, tabled by the EP Subcommittee on Human Rights, also highlights the need to develop a better protection framework for migrants and refugees, who accounted for 4.2 % of the total EU population last year. MEPs recommend that EU countries should work together more closely to establish safe and legal migration routes and solutions, for example by granting humanitarian visas.

Press release on the committee vote (13.11.2018)
Profile of rapporteur Petras Auštrevičius (ALDE, LT)
Procedure file
EP Research: EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Human Rights
EP Research: EU support for human rights defenders around the world
Free photos, video and audio material

Irish MEPs following this issue are: Mairead McGuinness, Fine Gael (Midlands North-West)


Oleg Sentsov to receive the 2018 Sakharov Prize

The Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov will be awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in a ceremony on Wednesday at 12.00

Mr Sentsov, who is currently imprisoned in Russia for “plotting terrorist acts” against the Russian “de facto” rule in Crimea, will be represented in Strasbourg by his cousin Natalya Kaplan and his lawyer Dmitriy Dinze. The prize will be handed over to them by EP President Antonio Tajani in a ceremony in the Strasbourg plenary chamber on Wednesday 12.00.

President Tajani will hold a press conference immediately after the award ceremony at 12.30

You can watch the plenary ceremony via EP Live and EbS+.

Also shortlisted for the prize were 11 non-governmental organisations rescuing migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea and Nasser Zefzafi, leader of the Moroccan mass protest movement, Hirak.

MEPs on the Committees on Foreign Affairs, on Development and on the Subcommittee on Human Rights will hold a discussion with the representatives of the 2018 Sakharov Prize winner, on Monday 10 December from 19.30 – 21.00.

Background information

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, is awarded each year by the European Parliament. It was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Website of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought
Sakharov Prize 2018: meet the finalists
Sakharov Prize 2018: discover the nominees
Sakharov Prize 2018
EPRS note: The 2018 Sakharov Prize
Former laureates
Multimedia package: Sakharov Prize 2018

Social security rules for EU mobile workers: vote on EP position  

The Employment committee’s decision to start negotiations with Council on updated rules for EU mobile workers will be put to a plenary vote on Tuesday.

The modernised rules for coordinating social security systems, adopted by the Employment and Social Affairs Committee on Tuesday, 20 November, focus on facilitating labour mobility while safeguarding rights in cross-border situations, by determining under which country’s system a person is insured (i.e. paying contributions and receiving benefits).

Profile of the rapporteur: Guillaume Balas (S&D, FR)
Procedure file
EP Research: Amending social security coordination
EP Research: Coordination of Social Security Systems in Europe

Irish MEPs following this issue are: Marian Harkin, Independent (Midlands North-West)


Final vote on next year’s EU budget

Parliament is set to approve a deal on the 2019 EU budget on Wednesday, boosting funds for Erasmus+, climate protection, research, tackling migration and youth unemployment.

For the last EU budget of this legislature, MEPs have fought for and obtained an additional €688.5 million more than the first draft budget proposed by the Commission for programmes they consider key to boosting growth and jobs, namely Erasmus+ (young people’s mobility), the Youth Employment Initiative, Horizon 2020 (research) and COSME (support for SMEs).

Details about these and other budgetary reinforcements, e.g. in the areas of climate protection, tackling the migration crisis or support for farmers, are listed in the on Tuesday 5 December.

Around 94% of the EU’s budget goes to citizens, regions, cities, farmers and businesses. The EU's administrative expenses account for approximately 6% of the total.

Additional Information

Debate:  Tuesday, 11 December

Vote:  Wednesday, 12 December

Press release on deal with the Council (05/12/2018)
Budgetary powers of the European Parliament
Fact sheets on the European Union – The budgetary procedure
Committee on Budgets
European Commission: Budgetary documents 2019
Daniele Viotti (S&D, IT), lead rapporteur (Commission section of the EU budget 2019)
Paul Rübig (EPP, AT), rapporteur for the other sections
Free photos, video and audio material

Parliament set to decide on EU-Japan trade deal

Parliament votes on Wednesday on the free trade agreement between the EU and Japan, the largest bilateral trade deal ever done by the EU.

The Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Japan opens up services, creates common rules for bilateral trade and common standards for the two trading blocs and will eventually remove almost all tariffs on goods. EU wine and spirits, meat, dairy, textiles and leather sectors, companies interested in public procurement in rail, and SMEs emerge as the biggest winners of the agreement that enters into force on 1 February 2019, once the Parliament,and Council formally ratifies it .

The same day, the Parliament will also consider the EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement, which aims to extend the scope of cooperation from trade to other sectors.

About the agreement

The economic partnership agreement, signed on 17 July 2018, creates a trade zone of 600 million people, and covers a third of global GDP and about 40 percent of global trade. It will eventually remove almost all customs duties worth roughly €1 billion annually on European products and services exported to Japan.

The Strategic Partnership Agreement extends cooperation to areas such as energy, education, research and development, development, and the fight against climate change and terrorism. It needs to be ratified by each EU member state before entering into force.

Negotiations for a separate investment protection agreement with Japan to set up a mechanism to solve disputes, to ensure equal and fair treatment of EU foreign direct investment in Japan and vice versa, are still ongoing.

Draft recommendation to give consent to EU-Japan trade deal
Draft resolution on EU-Japan free trade agreement
Press release on committee vote (05.11.2018)
Profile of rapporteur : Pedro Silva Pereira (S&D, PT)
Procedure file (consent)
Procedure file (resolution)
EP think tank: EU-Japan Trade Agreement
The EU’s position in world trade in figures (infographic, 21.08.2018)
EU-Japan relations: new trade agreement dawn of a new era (03.12.2018)
Free photos, video and audio material

Plans for more transparent EU food safety authorisation

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) would have to publish the details of its risk assessments under legislation to be voted on Tuesday.

The new rules aim to make risk assessment more transparent and to ensure that the studies used by EFSA in its risk assessment, risk communication and governance are more reliable, objective and independent. More resources should be allocated to the agency to be able to fulfil its scientific tasks.


The proposal is a follow-up to the European Citizens' Initiative on glyphosate, especially to concerns expressed in the initiative that the scientific studies used to evaluate pesticides were not independent enough and not accessible to the public. It also follows a fitness check of the General Food Law, launched in 2014 and completed in January 2018 by the European Commission.

Additional Information

Debate:  Monday, 10 December

Vote:  Tuesday, 11 December

Free photos, video and audio material
Briefing: reconsidering the General Food Law
Press release on committee vote (27.11.2018)
Draft report on transparency and sustainability of the EU risk assessment in the food chain

European Labour Authority: Plenary vote on EP position on Tuesday

The Employment Committee’s decision to start negotiations with Council on establishing a European Labour Authority will be put to a plenary vote on Tuesday.

The report on the proposal to establish a European Labour Authority (ELA), adopted by the Employment and Social Affairs Committee on Tuesday, 20 November, said that the ELA should focus on enforcing EU rules on labour mobility and have a limited number of tasks.

Moreover, the authority should mediate and facilitate finding a solution in cases of disputes between member states concerning labour mobility issues, including by means of conciliation, if agreed upon by all EU countries concerned.

Profile of the rapporteur: Jeroen Lenaers (EPP, NL)
Procedure file
EP reasearch Briefing: European Labour Authority

Irish MEPs following this issue are: Marian Harkin, Independent (Midlands North-West)


MEPs to debate priorities for upcoming EU summit and outcome of Eurogroup

MEPs will discuss upcomingEU summit and the outcome of the last Eurogroup with the Austrian Presidency,Commission President and the Eurogroup President, on Tuesday morning

EU heads of state or government will meet in Brussels on 13-14 December to exchange views on the EU’s 2021-2027 long-term budget (Multiannual Financial Framework - MFF). They will discuss the remaining barriers in the single market; options to tackle these barriers; migration; as well as the upcoming summit with the League of Arab States, in February 2019. They will also hear from EU Foreign Policy Chief, Federica Mogherini on the action plan to fight disinformation.


Debate:  Tuesday, 11 December

Procedure: Debate without resolution

Preliminary agenda of the European Council 13-14 December 2018
Free photos, video and audio material

Irish MEPs following this issue are: Mairead McGuinness, Fine Gael (Midlands North-West)


Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to debate future of Europe with MEPs  

President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades will debate the future of Europe with MEPs and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday at 10.00.

This will be the fourteenth in a series of future of Europe debates between EU heads of state or government and MEPs. Find out more about previous debates here.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will address MEPs at the January plenary session in Strasbourg.

Future of Europe debates
Free photos, video and audio material
Short Biography of the President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades

Humanitarian visas to avoid deaths and improve management of refugee flows

Parliament will vote on a new proposal for an EU humanitarian visa system to allow asylum-seekers to come to Europe without resorting to smugglers.

Under the mechanism, people seeking international protection would be able to request a visa at EU embassies or consulates abroad, which, once granted, would give them access to European territory - specifically to the member state issuing the visa - for the sole purpose of submitting an asylum application.

The aim is to reduce trafficking and the subsequent death toll on the migration routes to the EU, particularly in the Mediterranean Sea, but also to optimise member states’ and the EU’s budget for asylum, law enforcement procedures, border control, surveillance and search and rescue activities.

The draft report calls on the European Commission to table a legislative proposal setting up a European humanitarian visa system, by 31 March 2019. In order to be adopted, it will need the backing of an absolute majority of MEPs.

Additional Information

Vote: Tuesday, 11 December

Press conference: Tuesday, 11December, at 15.00 with rapporteur Juan Fernando López

Draft report with recommendations to the Commission on Humanitarian Visas
Press release on committee vote (3.12.2018)
Procedure file

Digital service tax should cover more companies

MEPs will on Wednesday debate and on Thursday vote to widen the scope of the directives on taxing digital businesses operating in the EU.

The plenary will be considering two proposals for Council directives on corporate taxation on significant digital presence and on revenues from digital services.

The vote is expected to confirm the position of the economic and monetary affairs committee, which proposed including more types of digital services that should be covered by law and to reduce the threshold of non-taxable revenues of such companies.

The Parliament has a consultative role, while the Council needs to decide by unanimity.

Additional Information:

Debate:  Wednesday, 12 December

Vote:  Thursday, 13 December

Press release on committee vote (03.12.2018)
Procedure file
Free photos, video and audio material

MEPs call for closer foreign, security and defence policy cooperation in the EU

The European Parliament is set to vote on two resolutions reviewing key EU foreign, security and defence policy choices on Wednesday.

Parliament´s annual reports on the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) have been tabled by the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Setting up an EU Security Council

In the resolution on the CFSP, MEPs argue that member states should prioritise unified EU positions over national interests. They suggest setting up an EU Security Council and improving decision-making by replacing the unanimity requirement in the Council, where everyone has to be in agreement, with qualified majority voting (a system of weighted votes) on matters relating to the CFSP. MEPs also highlight the EU’s need to become more resilient to external interference, especially with the next European Parliament elections coming up on 23-26 May 2019.

Strengthening common defence

EU defence integration is moving forward, MEPs note in the report on the CSDP. While welcoming the implementation of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), they also stress the need to invest more in areas such as intelligence and surveillance. MEPs reaffirm the importance of improving EU civilian and military capabilities, and reiterate that the EU and NATO should guarantee full respect for each other’s autonomy and decision-making procedures.


Debate: Tuesday, 11 December

Vote: Wednesday, 12 December

European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee
Procedure file (CFSP)
EP Multimedia Centre: free photos, video and audio material

MEPs want to ease transport of military equipment and troops across EU

MEPs will discuss on Monday, and vote on Tuesday, on ways forward in allowing military equipment and soldiers to move smoothly across EU territory.

To increase smooth cooperation, EU countries should ensure that their militaries are able to cross EU borders without hindrance. Efficient military mobility would increase the EU’s ability to respond to natural disasters and emergency crises, which is essential for a more effective EU defence. To ensure this, legislative and infrastructural differences blocking the movement of troops and heavy military equipment need to be resolved, say MEPs.

Additional Information:

Debate: Monday, 10 December

Vote: Tuesday, 11 December

Press release on the committee vote (13.11.2018)
Procedure file
Free photos, video and audio material