skip to content

Cookie policy on the European Parliament Liaison Office in Ireland website

We use cookies to give the best experience on our site. Continue without changing your settings, and you'll receive cookies, or change your cookie settings at any time.


EP Plenary Session Newsletter 12-15 December 2016


What will MEPs be working on in next week's plenary session in Strasbourg? Highlights include award of 2016 Sakharov Prize; Pre-Summit debate on Brexit, migration, Energy Union; New rules to boost rail travel; Review of 2016 Foreign Policy:focus on Russia, Middle East and Africa; Europol data leak


Yazidi advocates to receive 2016 Sakharov Prize at European Parliament

Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar, Yazidi advocates and survivors of sexual enslavement by the so-called Islamic State, to receive Sakharov Prize at the EP

Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar, public advocates for the Yazidi community in Iraq and survivors of sexual enslavement by the so-called Islamic State, will receive the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in a ceremony on Tuesday at noon.

A joint press conference with Parliament’s President Martin Schulz will take place immediately after the award ceremony at 12.30.

Also shortlisted for the prize were Can Dündar, former editor-in-chief of the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, and Mustafa Dzhemilev, former chair of Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars People (Tatar Parliament), a former Soviet dissident and a Ukrainian MP. They will both attend the ceremony.

Sakharov Prize

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named after Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, was established in December 1988 by the European Parliament to honour individuals or organizations who dedicate their lives to the defence of human rights and freedoms, particularly the right to free expression.


Procedure: Award ceremony on Tuesday, 13 December 12.00

Press conference: Tuesday, 13 December 12.30-13.10


Website of the Sakharov prize for freedom of thought
Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar winners of 2016 Sakharov Prize
Sakharov Prize 2016: discover the finalists
Sakharov Prize 2016: MEPs present their nominations
Top story: Sakharov Prize 2016
Audiovisual materials for Sakharov Prize 2016
Former laureates

MEPs to vote on rules to boost rail travel

New rules to introduce bidding for public contracts to supply passenger rail services in EU countries and boost the development of new commercial services will be voted on Wednesday.

The new rules aim to boost  passenger rail services, which are lagging behind other transport modes in numbers carried and have mixed customer satisfaction results across the EU.

They would work in two ways.

First, in cases where authorities award public service contracts to provide passenger rail services, bidding for public service contracts should gradually become the standard procedure for selecting service providers.

These contracts, which member states use to provide public passenger transport, account for about two thirds of passenger rail services in the EU. Inviting companies to bid for them should sharpen their customer focus and save costs for the public purse.

It would also be possible to award contracts directly, without bidding, but if this method is used it should offer improvements for passengers.

Second, any rail company would be able to offer commercial services on EU passenger rail markets. However, to ensure that services supplied under public service contracts continue, member states could restrict a new operator's right of access to certain lines.

Further information on the rail market structure across the EU the background information on the rail reform package.

Procedure:  Co-decision, second reading agreement

2013/0028(COD), 2013/0029(COD), 2013/0013(COD)

Debate:  Monday, 12 December

Vote: Wednesday, 14 December



Draft second reading recommendation on public service contracts rules
Draft second reading recommendation on market opening and infrastructure governance
Draft second reading recommendation on the repeal of regulation on normalisation of accounts
EP press release on the agreement on the market pillar (including lead negotiators’ quotes) (20.04.2016)
EP Research in depth analysis (March 2016)
Background note: 4th railway package
Eurobarometer: European’s satisfaction with rail services (2013)
Rapporteur Wim van de Camp (EPP, NL)
Rapporteur David-Maria Sassoli (S&D, IT)
Rapporteur Merja Kyllönen (GUE/NL, FI)
Audiovisual material for professionals and existing

MEPs to urge EU countries to stop inciting hatred of migrants and refugees

MEPs to vote on resolutions on the situation of fundamental rights in the EU and human rights in the world

EU member states should “refrain from inciting fear and hatred in their citizens towards migrants and asylum seekers for political gains”, says a draft resolution on the situation of fundamental rights in the EU to be voted on Tuesday.

The non-legislative resolution, drafted by József Nagy (EPP, SK) addresses the key fundamental rights concerns in the EU in 2015, notably in the fields of migration, protecting children and the online environment. The rights to free movement and life-saving abortion are also stressed.

Human rights in the world

MEPs will also debate human rights and democracy worldwide in 2015, and EU policy in this area, with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Tuesday afternoon. Parliament's annual human rights and democracy report will be voted on Wednesday at noon.


Debate on Fundamental Rights in the European Union in 2015: Monday, 12 December

Vote on Fundamental Rights in the European Union in 2015: Tuesday, 13 December

Press conference: Tuesday 13 Dec at ?? with rapporteur József Nagy (EPP, SK)           

Debate on 2015 Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the world: Tuesday, 13 December

Vote on 2015 Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the world: Wednesday, 14 December

Procedure: non-legislative resolutions

#fundamentalrights  #HumanRights #democracy #humanrights

Draft resolution on the situation of fundamental rights in the EU 2015
Press release on committee vote on fundamental rights in the EU (17.11.2016)
Profile of rapporteur József Nagy (EPP, SK):
Procedure file
EP think thank: Fundamental Rights in the European Union - the role of the Charter after the Lisbon Treaty
Draft report on the Annual Report on human rights and democracy in the world and the European Union’s policy on the matter 2015 2016/2219(INI)
Press release on committee vote on Annual report on human rights (14.11.2016)
Profile of rapporteur on 2015 Annual Report on human rights and democracy in the world, Josef Weidenholzer (S&D, AT)
Procedure file on 2015 Annual Report on human rights and democracy in the world
Audiovisual material for professionals

Pre-summit debate on Brexit, migration, security, Russia and investment in jobs

In preparation for the upcoming 15 December European Council summit of EU leaders, MEPs will debate the most pressing EU policy issues, including migration, security, the economy, jobs for young people, and external relations, with Council and Commission representatives on Wednesday morning.

The EU heads of state or government will meet in Brussels, where Parliament’s President Martin Schulz will deliver his address at the start of the Council meeting at 12.30.

The 27 leaders (minus the UK) will hold an informal working dinner to set out how the “Brexit” process will be handled by the EU 27 once the UK has notified its intention to leave the EU.

Procedure:  Council and Commission statements

Debate:  Wednesday, 14 December

#euco #migrationEU #Russia

Energy Union: first debate on the “clean energy” package on Tuesday

MEPs will discuss the legislative proposals to ensure clean energy for all Europeans with Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, who is in charge of the Energy Union.

Energy Committee chair Jerzy Buzek welcomed the Commission presentation on 30 November, saying: “The package should help us adapt the market to new trends in generation, consumption and saving of energy. It should also enable us to increase our independence and energy security by making efficient and sustainable use of all Europe’s indigenous energy resources, including renewable energy."

Parliament called for clean energy legislation in a September resolution the internal energy market  and a June one on the future of renewables.

The “Clean Energy for all Europeans” package consists of several legislative proposals and three communications on the energy market, energy efficiency, renewables, eco-design and governance of the Energy Union.


Debate:  Tuesday, 13 December

Procedure:  Commission statement

#energyunion #EnergyUnion #EnergyEfficiency

Statement of ITRE Chair Jerzy Buzek (EPP, PL) on the presentation of the “Clean Energy for all Europeans” package
Video of the statement
Commission press release Clean Energy for All Europeans – unlocking Europe's growth potential (30.11.2016)
Audiovisual material for professionals and existing

MEPs to call for visa-free access to US and Canada for all EU citizens

MEPs to ask the Commission to press US and Canada for full visa reciprocity

All EU citizens should have the right to travel to the US and Canada without a visa, just as US and Canadian citizens do when they visit the EU, say MEPs. They will ask the EU Commission on Wednesday what it plans to do to achieve full visa reciprocity with these two countries.

Canada imposes visa requirements on citizens of Bulgaria and Romania (though it has committed to lift them by the end of 2017) and the US imposes them on citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania. Recently passed US legislation could also affect citizens of all countries with certain dual nationalities. 


According to the visa reciprocity mechanism, which entered into force in January 2014, if a third country does not lift its visa requirements 24 months after being notified of non-reciprocity, the EU Commission must suspend the visa waiver for citizens of that country for 12 months, via a delegated act to which Parliament and the Council could object.

Following a notification of non-reciprocity on 12 April 2014, the Commission should have acted before 12 April 2016, but has yet to take any measures to reimpose visas on US and Canadian citizens.


Debate: Wednesday, 14 December

Procedure: Oral question to the Commission


Question for oral answer to the Commission
Abide by the rules and start pressing US for full visa reciprocity, MEPs ask the Commission (EP Press release, 12.10.2016)
Regulation 1289/2013 amending Regulation 539/2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement
State of play and the possible ways forward as regards the situation of non-reciprocity with certain third countries in the area of visa policy (Communication from the Commission, 13.07.2016)
EPRS: US Congress modifies Visa Waiver Program (February 2016)

Key issues for citizens: EU institutions to pledge “substantial progress” in 2017

The EU Parliament, Council, and Commission will pledge to make “substantial progress” next year in key policy areas for EU citizens. The presidents of the three institutions will sign a formal joint declaration to this end on Tuesday.

The formal joint declaration will list 2017 priorities on which Parliament, the Council (EU ministers co-legislating with Parliament) and the Commission (proposing legislation) will work as a matter of urgency.

The three will pledge “substantial progress” on legislation in the areas of jobs, growth and investment; the social dimension of the EU; security; migration policy; Digital Single Market; and the Energy Union.

 “European citizens (...) expect the European Union to make a concrete difference by helping to address the biggest” current “global, economic, environmental and societal challenges”, the declaration states.

This will be the first time that the EU institutions set a joint political agenda. Progress will be monitored throughout 2017, with the presidents of the three institutions meeting in March, July and November.

Procedure: Joint declaration

Signing: Tuesday, 13 December at 15.00



Vote on emergency brake rules for reimposing EU entry visas

MEPs will vote on Thursday to make it easier to reimpose visas on third-country nationals

New rules to allow the EU Commission and member states to reimpose visa requirements faster and more easily will be put to a vote in plenary on Thursday. Parliament and Council negotiators reached an informal deal on the legislation on 7 December.

The agreement on the suspension mechanism paves the way for granting visa-free access to Georgia and Ukraine. Under the new rules, visa requirements may be reintroduced if there is a substantial increase in irregular migration or unfounded asylum applications, lack of cooperation on readmission of migrants or threats to public or internal security.


Debate: Wednesday, 14 December

Vote: Thursday, 15 December

Procedure: Ordinary legislative proposal, agreement in 1st reading

#visa #Ukraine #Georgia


Visa suspension mechanism: Parliament and Council negotiators strike a deal (Press release, 8.12.2016)
Profile of rapporteur Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra (EPP, ES)
Procedure file
Audiovisual material for professionals

EU ports: clarifying rules on user fees and public subsidies

The fees that shipping lines pay for port services should become clearer thanks to new rules to be voted on Wednesday. These rules should also make public funding of ports more transparent and ensure high quality services for port users.

The lack of clear rules on public funding of port infrastructure and charges for using it holds back investment in ports, says the EU Commission. The new rules aim to make EU ports, which employ 470 000 people, more efficient and attractive to investors and turn sea transport into a competitive and sustainable alternative to congested roads for passengers and cargo along EU coasts.

Cargo handling and passenger services will also be subject to the financial transparency rules, but the organisation of these port services will remain subject to national law.


These rules will apply to over 300 EU sea ports listed in the trans-European transport network (TEN-T). In total, 96% of all EU freight and 93% of all EU ship passengers transit through TEN-T ports. Three quarters of the EU goods imports from third countries and 37% of intra-EU freight traffic pass through European ports.

Procedure:  co-decision, first reading agreement


Debate:  Monday, 12 December

Vote:  Wednesday, 14 December


Vote on 800 meter deep-sea fishing limit in the North-East Atlantic

A ban on fishing below a depth of 800 meters in the North-East Atlantic will be put to a vote on Tuesday. Informally agreed with the Council in June, it would apply to bottom trawling, which often wrecks sea-bed habitats, and also restrict deep-sea fishing to the area where it took place between 2009 and 2011.

The regulation also lays down separate rules to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) at depths below 400 metres. If a catch were to exceed set amounts of VME indicator species, then the vessel would have to stop fishing immediately and resume only when it has moved at least five nautical miles away from where it encountered a VME.

Tougher on-the-spot checks and transparent data collection rules are included.


Technological progress in the 1980s and 1990s contributed to new forms of fishing at previously unexplored depths, from several hundred to several thousand metres below the surface. But deep-sea ecosystems still remain largely unknown today. Some deep-sea fish species can live for a very long time (over a century in the case of the orange roughy), and some deep-sea corals can be thousands of years old. Very slow growing and late reproducing fish make such a stock highly sensitive to overfishing. Vulnerable marine habitats (of corals or sponges, for example) are also particularly sensitive to some fishing methods.

In view of the threats to deep-sea stocks, and recognising the fragility of deep-sea ecosystems, initiatives have progressively been developed, both globally (e.g. UN Food and Agriculture Organisation) and at regional level (e.g. North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) to promote more responsible deep-sea exploitation.


Debate:  Monday, 12 December

Vote:  Tuesday, 13 December

Procedure:  Co-decision (Ordinary Legislative Procedure), 2nd reading agreement

Press conference (if applicable: date)

#Deepsea #CFPreality #deepsea #fishing

Draft report on North-East Atlantic: deep-sea stocks and fishing in international waters
Press release on informal agreement with the Council (30.06.2016)
Profile of Isabelle Thomas (S&D, FR)
Procedure file
European Environment Agency research note on the North-East Atliantic Sea
EP Thinktank briefing note on Deep sea fishing
Eurostat: Fisheries Statistics
Audiovisual material for professionals

MEPs to decide on EU trade deal with Ecuador

Parliament will debate whether to give its consent to an EU free trade deal with Ecuador on Wednesday and vote on it on Thursday.  It could save EU exporters at least €106 million, and their Ecuadorian counterparts up to €248 million, each year.

The EU and Ecuador concluded talks in July 2014 for Ecuador to join the EU trade deal with Colombia/Peru.The European Parliament welcomed this in November 2015, but demanded that Ecuador address issues such as child labour, women's rights and deforestation before Parliament voted on the trade deal. Most of these issues were settled in Ecuador’s sustainable development action plan, paving the way for the deal to be signed on  on 11 November 2016 in Brussels.

The agreement will eliminate tariffs on trade in all industrial and fisheries products, increase market access for agricultural products, improve access to public procurement and services, and further reduce technical barriers to trade.

Safeguards to protect EU banana growers

As Ecuador is the largest banana exporter to EU, supplying 26 percent of the EU’s banana imports, the EU will apply a safeguard mechanism to protect EU banana growers against stiff competition. This mechanism is subject to a separate piece of legislation, which is currently being negotiated between the Council and the European Parliament.


Debate: Wednesday, 14 December

Vote: Thursday, 15 December

Procedure:  Consent

#Ecuador  #EUtrade #Comombia #Peru


Draft EP recommendation
EP rapporteur Helmut Scholz (GUE/NGL, DE)
Ecuador joins EU-Colombia/Peru trade agreement (Commission information, 11.11.2016)
EP resolution on the accession of Ecuador to the EU-Peru and Colombia trade agreement (25.11.2015)
Procedure file

Vote to open textiles trade with Uzbekistan

Most of the restrictions on Uzbekistan’s cotton and silk exports to the EU will be removed if MEPs back plans to add a textiles protocol to the EU-Uzbekistan agreement. Their demand that Uzbekistan eradicate the use of child labour to gather its cotton harvest has now been met, thus enabling MEPs to consider approving the protocol, (4) notes the draft resolution, to be voted on Wednesday.

In December 2011 the European Parliament postponed its decision to approve plans to add a textiles protocol to EU and Uzbekistan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) pending an improvement in the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, particularly in the fields of child and forced labour in the annual cotton harvest. (A)

EP  pressure helped reduce child labour

In their draft resolution, MEPs welcome the fact that Uzbekistan has almost fully eradicated child labour over the past three years. (2) However, they also urge it to step up cooperation with the International Labour Organization in order to end adult forced labour (by students or public employees) during the annual cotton harvest. (6)


Debate: Tuesday, 13 December

Vote: Wednesday, 14 December

Procedure:  Consent, non-legislative resolution

#Uzbekistan #cotton #textile #childlabour 

Draft EP recommendation
Draft EP resolution on the conclusion of trade in textile protocol to EC-Uzbekistan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement
EP rapporteur Maria Arena (S&D, BE)
December 2011 EP resolution to halt the consent textile protocol (11.12.2011)
Uzbekistan and the EU (EEAS information, May 2016)

MEPs to review 2016 EU foreign policy: focus on Russia, Middle East and Africa

EU foreign policy should be based on three pillars - diplomacy, development and defence, MEPs will say in a debate with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Tuesday. (17) In a resolution to be voted on Wednesday, they will also advocate a more realistic strategy on Russia and a “less for less” policy towards countries that try to throw democracy into reverse. (34, 38)

In a draft annual resolution reviewing key EU foreign policy choices, MEPs stress that the EU is ringed by an “arc of instability” stretching from an aggressive Russia to proxy wars in the Middle East and North Africa. (B,E) To respond and make EU a strong global player, the draft calls on EU member states to show unity and trust in one another and to speak with one voice. (2)


Debate: Tuesday, 13 December 

Vote: Wednesday, 14 December  

Procedure:  Non-legislative resolution

#CFSP #Defence