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EP Mini-Plenary Session Newsletter, 30-31 January 2019


What were your MEPs working on during this week's plenary session in Brussels? Highlights included: Brexit debate with President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and Eu Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier; International Holocause Remembrance Day; and, Future of Europe debate with Prime Minister of Finland Juha Sipilä.


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

At the start of the session on Wednesday, Parliament is debated the state of play on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, one day after the UK House of Commons’ vote on 29 January.

The debate with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier featured one speaker per political group.

In a vote on 15 January, the UK House of Commons rejected the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration negotiated and agreed by the EU and the UK government.


MEPs observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day

The European Parliament held formal sitting to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day at 15.00 on Wednesday.

EP President Antonio Tajani opened the sitting in the Brussels plenary chamber, which also featured a speech by Charlotte Knobloch, former President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is an international memorial day on 27 January; the date that the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by the Soviet Red Army in 1945. It commemorates the victims of the genocide carried out by the Nazi regime and its collaborators during the Second World War.

It is estimated that around 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.


Specialist: Viktor

Debate: Wednesday, 30 January 

Procedure: Formal sitting

Free photos, video and audio material:

Irish MEPs following this issues are: Mairead McGuiness


Future of Europe debate with Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä

MEPs exchanged views about the future of Europe with Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä on Thursday at 10.00.

This was the sixteenth in a series of debates between MEPs and EU heads of state or government.

Find out more about previous debates here.

President Tajani and Prime Minister Sipilä held a joint press point following the debate around 12.00 (PHS ground floor, protocol area).

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will address MEPs at the February plenary session in Strasbourg.


Topic: Interinstitutional

Specialist: Iina

Debate: Thursday, 31 January, at 10.00

Procedure: Debate (without resolution)

Joint press point: Thursday, 31 January, around 12.00

Biography of PM Sipilä
Free photos, video and audio material

Combatting violence against democratically elected mandate holders

Following recent attacks, both verbal and physical, on elected mandate holders in different EU member states, MEPs debated this topic on Wednesday afternoon.

The statement by the EU Commission on how to “combat the climate of hatred and physical violence against democratically elected mandate holders” was followed by interventions by one member from each political group.


Topic: Interinstitutional

Specialist: Andreas

Debate: Wednesday, 30 January

Procedure: Debate (without resolution)


MEPs to debate the situation of fundamental rights in Hungary

On Wednesday afternoon, Parliament assessed rule of law and fundamental rights developments in Hungary, following the Article 7 vote in September.

In September last year, the Parliament activated the process laid down in EU Treaty Article 7(1), due to concerns on the state of core European values in Hungary. These values, which are enshrined in EU Treaty Article 2 and reflected in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, include respect for democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights. This is the first time that the Parliament has called on the Council of the EU to determine whether there is a clear risk of serious breach of these values in a member state.

MEPs now assess the state of affairs in Hungary since September in a debate with the European Commission and the Romanian Presidency of the Council. Latest developments (e.g. the so-called “slave law” and news around the Central European University) continue to raise concerns among MEPs.


Topic: Fundamental Rights

Specialist: Kyriakos

Debate: Wednesday, 30 January, pm

Procedure: Commission and Council Statements

Free photos, video and audio material

Political crisis in Venezuela up for debate and vote in plenary

MEPs assessed the latest developments in Venezuela during this week’s plenary session, followed by the vote on a resolution on Thursday.

Plenary voted at the opening of the session on a proposal to add a debate on Venezuela  early on Wednesday evening and to adopt an urgent resolution to wrap it up on Thursday at around 12.00.

Juan Guaidó, President of the opposition-controlled national assembly, declared himself interim President of Venezuela on 23 January, in an attempt to oust President Nicolás Maduro. Guaidó was promptly recognised as the legitimate President of Venezuela by several countries, including the US, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Canada.

On 26 January, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini declared the EU’s full support to the national assembly as the democratically elected institution whose powers need to be restored and respected, and called for free, transparent and credible presidential elections to be held urgently in accordance with internationally democratic standards and the Venezuelan constitutional order.

Mogherini warned that, “in the absence of an announcement on the organisation of fresh elections with the necessary guarantees over the next days, the EU will take further actions, including on the issue of recognition of the country’s leadership”.

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SCRIBO topic: Foreign affairs

Procedure Code:

Specialist: Estefanía

Debate: Wednesday, 30 January

Vote: Thursday, 31 January

Procedure:  Non-legislative resolution

President Tajani: Maduro must go. Peaceful transition through free and fair elections essential
AFET Chair McAllister calls for democratic transition in Venezuela
EP resolution on the migration crisis and humanitarian situation in Venezuela and at its terrestrial borders with Colombia and Brazil (5.07.2018)
EP resolution on the elections in Venezuela (3.05.2018)
Multimedia material

Rocky cross-strait relations between China and Taiwan

MEPs debated the latest developments in the difficult relationship between China and Taiwan on Wednesday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping made a speech at the beginning of the year, in which he said that Taiwan ‘must and will be united with China’ and did not rule out the use of force to achieve this.

Although Taiwan is a self-governing state and de facto independent, it has never formally declared its independence from mainland China. Beijing considers Taiwan to be a separatist province on Chinese territory and has long advocated for a peaceful unification between the two parties on a “one country, two systems basis” (a similar arrangement to the one that currently applies for Hong Kong and Macao).


Specialist: Viktor

Debate: Wednesday, 30 January

EP Foreign Affairs Committee
European Parliament resolution of 12 September 2018 on the state of EU-China relations
EP Multimedia Centre: free photos, video and audio material

EU-US trade: MEPs react to proposed EU negotiating stance

Parliament on Wednesday gave its initial reaction to the EU Commission’s proposed position in future trade negotiations with the US.

The European Commission presents its proposals for negotiating directives for its trade talks with the US on conformity assessment and on eliminating tariffs for industrial goods. The proposal, based on the Joint Statement agreed between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and United States President Donald Trump in July 2018, has to be endorsed by EU member states before the Commission can start talks.

The US published its negotiating objectives on 11 January.

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SCRIBO topic:

Procedure Code: 2019/2530(RSP) 

Specialist: Eszter

Debate: Wednesday 30 January

Procedure: Commission statement

European Parliament resolution on the state of EU-US relations (12.09.2018)
Standing rapporteur for EU-US trade relations: Bernd Lange (S&D, DE)
Procedure file
Press release of the Commission on the negotiating directive proposal (18.01.2019)
Joint Statement of the EU and US (25.07.2018)
US negotiating objectives (11.01.2019)
Standing rapporteur for EU-US trade relations: Bernd Lange (S&D, DE)
Procedure file

Irish MEPS following this issues are: Mairead McGuinness, Matt Carthy, and Seán Kelly.


MEPs to urge EU ministers to unblock the ‘‘Women on boards’’ directive

MEPs pressed EU ministers to move forward with the ‘‘Women on boards’’ Directive, which has been stuck in the Council for years, in a joint debate on Thursday morning.

The Commission proposal for a Directive on gender balance among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges (the so-called ‘‘Women on boards’’ Directive) was supported by the Parliament back in November 2013. Since then, owing to reservations from several member states, no agreement has been reached and the proposal is blocked in the Council. The text sought to address inequality by requiring that women should make up a minimum of 40% of company boards by 2020 in the private sector and by 2018 in the public sector.

MEPs are likely to ask the Romanian presidency what it plans to do to resolve the situation. During a hearing in the Women’s Rights Committee last week, the Romanian Minister for Labour and Social Justice, Marius-Constantin Budai, declared that he would do his best to unblock negotiations and that he was ready to move forward.


In 2017, according to the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), women accounted for only a quarter of all board members in the largest publicly listed companies registered in the EU.


SCRIBO topic:

Specialist: Nicolas

Debate: Thursday, 31 January

Procedure: Question for oral answer to the Council

Proposal for a Directive on gender balance among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges
EP resolution on the proposal for a Directive on gender balance among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges (20 November 2013)
EP Research Service - Gender balance on company boards (December 2015)

Irish MEPS following this issues are: Mairead McGuiness; Matt Carthy.


Parliament to revamp its rule book: a step towards more transparency

A series of changes to the internal rules on how the European Parliament operates was put to the vote on Thursday.

The main features of the reform concern Members’ standards of conduct (including transparency rules and measures to prevent harassment), parliamentary questions and interpellations and the procedure related to European political parties and foundations.

In the report drafted by Richard Corbett (S&D, UK), the Constitutional Affairs Committee’s members proposed more transparent legislative drafting and use of allowances.

According to the proposed provisions, the key actors involved in the legislative process - rapporteurs, shadow rapporteurs and committee chairs - would have to publish online all scheduled meetings with interest representatives falling under the scope of the Transparency Register. Other MEPs should also publish online all scheduled meetings with interest representatives.


SCRIBO topic: Institutional

Procedure Code: 2018/2170(REG)

Specialist: Cezary

Vote: Thursday, 31  January

Procedure:  Parliament's Rules of Procedure

Draft report on amendments to Parliament’s Rules of Procedure
Press release following the committee vote (06.12.2018)
Procedure file 2018/2170(REG)
Free photos, video and audio material


Implementation and functioning of the .eu top level domain name, Federley (COD), debate Wed, vote Thu

-Irish MEPs following this issue are: Seán Kelly

Annual report on competition policy, Reimon, debate Wed, vote Thu

Irish MEPs following this issue are: Mairead McGuiness; Seán Kelly

Annual report 2017 on the protection of the European Union’s financial interests- fight against fraud, Marinescu, debate Wed, vote Thu

Roma integration strategies, Council and Commission statements, debate Wed, vote: next part-session

State of the US-EU trade negotiations, Commission statement, debate Wed

Irish MEPs following this issue are: Matt Carthy; Seán Kelly;  Mairead McGuiness.

Harmonisation of gross national income at market prices (GNI Regulation), Gualtieri, vote Thu

Irish MEPs following this issue are: Seán Kelly

An action programme to support inland waterway transport, Naiades, vote Thu

Irish MEPs following this issue are: Matt Carthy; Seán Kelly; Maired McGuiness