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01-10-2020

EP Plenary Newsletter 5-8 October 2020

What will our MEPs be working on in this week's plenary session in Brussels? Highlights include the appointment of Commissioners-designate Ms McGuinness and Mr Dombrovskis; climate law and the EU's long-term budget

 

MEPs set to vote on changes in the European Commission

Parliament is set to decide on the appointment of Commissioner-designate Ms McGuinness and on the new portfolio allocated to Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis.

Before the full House can vote, Mairead McGuinness (Ireland) - Commissioner-designate in charge of Financial Services, Financial Stability and Capital Markets - and Valdis Dombrovskis (Latvia) - set to assume responsibility for the Trade portfolio - will undergo a three-hour hearing in the competent EP committees on Friday 2 October.

Both hearings will be followed by meetings in which the Chairs and group representatives (coordinators) of the committees will evaluate the candidates’ suitability.

On 5 October, the Conference of Committee Chairs will assess the outcome of the two hearings and forward its conclusions to the Conference of Presidents. The latter will carry out the final evaluation and decide whether to close the hearings or request further action, in its meeting on 6 October.

The plenary vote is scheduled for 7 October.

Additional information

Vote: Wednesday, 7 October
Procedure: Proposal for a decision

 

Media Advisory
Hearings page
Rules of Procedure, Annex VII
Free photos, video and audio material
 

EU climate law: MEPs to vote on new 2030 emissions reduction target

To achieve climate neutrality by 2050, the EU needs to agree on a more ambitious 2030 emissions reduction target, MEPs say, prior to Wednesday’s vote.

On Tuesday, MEPs will debate the Commission proposal on a European climate law. It aims to transform political promises that the EU will become climate neutral by 2050 into a binding obligation, to give European citizens and businesses the legal certainty and predictability they need to plan for the transformation.

In their draft report, MEPs call for emissions to be reduced by 60% in 2030 compared to 1990. They insist that both the EU and all member states individually must become climate-neutral by 2050.

Pivotal part of the Green Deal

Following the European Council decision (2019) to endorse the 2050 climate-neutrality objective, the Commission in March 2020 proposed the EU climate law that would make it a legal requirement for the EU to become climate-neutral by 2050. On 17 September, the Commission amended the proposal to incorporate a new 2030 emissions reduction target.

Parliament has played an important role in pushing for more ambitious EU climate legislation and declared a climate emergency on 29 November 2019.

Additional Information

Debate: Tuesday, 6 October
Vote: Wednesday, 7 October
Procedure: Ordinary legislative procedure

Draft report on the European Climate Law
Procedure file
Free photos, video and audio material
 

A permanent monitoring mechanism to protect European values

The legislative initiative targeting “autocratic and illiberal tendencies” and “corruption, disinformation and state capture”will be debated on Monday and adopted on Wednesday.

The draft resolution by Michal Šimečka (Renew, SK) envisions an objective and evidence-based tool that would apply equally, objectively and fairly to all member states, to protect and strengthen democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights. The EU needs a “robust, comprehensive and positive agenda” to effectively protect and reinforce Article 2 TEU values, according to the text previously approved by the Civil Liberties Committee.

A new “Annual Monitoring Cycle”, comprising preventive and corrective measures ranging from country-specific recommendations (which could be modelled after the European Semester) to budgetary conditionality, would integrate and complement existing mechanisms, such as those provided in Article 7 TEU and the Commission’s Annual Rule of Law Report.

In her inaugural address in July 2019 and in her Political Guidelines, Commission President von der Leyen pledged to respond with a proposal for a legislative act whenever Parliament, acting by a majority of its members, adopts a resolution requesting it.

Additional information

Debate: Monday, 5 October
Vote: Tuesday, 6 October (amendments) and Wednesday, 7 October (final text)

Procedure file
Rule of law concerns in member states: how the EU can act (infographic)
Free photos, video and audio material
 

Long-term budget: no EU funding for those who disrespect EU values

With regard to ongoing talks, MEPs may warn against watering down the proposed mechanism that should make EU financing conditional upon respect of rule of law.

MEPs will likely remind the member states that the Parliament will only agree to a long-term budget if there is a concrete “rule of law conditionality” mechanism that allows for EU funding to be reduced or suspended if a member state disrespects the rule of law.

The debate with Council and Commission representatives is scheduled on Monday.

Background

In a resolution following Council’s July agreement on the next long-term budget, MEPs regretted that the European Council has significantly weakened the Commission and Parliament’s efforts to uphold the rule of law, fundamental rights and democracy in the framework of the MFF and the Next Generation EU instrument.

On Wednesday, 30 September, the Council of the European Union adopted its mandate to start legislative negotiations with the European Parliament on the regulation on rule of law conditionality.

Additional Information

Debate: Monday, 5 October
Procedure: Council and Commission statements

Press release: EU long-term budget deal must be improved for Parliament to accept it (23.07.2020)
Legislative train for the “rule of law conditionality” regulation
Free photos, video and audio material
 

Parliament to assess outcome of special summit with Council President Michel

MEPs are to discuss the results of the special European Council meeting, in particular on escalating tensions between Turkey and its EU neighbours.

On Tuesday morning, Council President Charles Michel will present the outcome of the summit, including on Foreign Affairs topics such as relations with China, the situation in Belarus and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. The single market, industrial policy and digital transformation are also likely to have been discussed.

During the debate, MEPs will also look ahead and give their input for the next regular European Council meeting, to be held 15-16 October.

Additional Information

Debate: Tuesday, 6 October
Procedure: Council and Commission statements

 

 

Special European Council meeting agenda (Consilium)
EP Special Summit Press Kit
Free photos, video and audio material related to COVID-19
 

Resolution on rule of law and fundamental rights in Bulgaria

MEPs will discuss on Monday with Council and Commission representatives the ongoing protests in Bulgaria, with a resolution following on Thursday.
Protests in Bulgaria erupted on 9 July, with demonstrators calling for Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev to resign, based on allegations of corruption and state capture. Citizens took to the streets following two incidents that have added to the public’s growing frustration over systemic political corruption.

A draft resolution by rapporteur Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES) has been tabled in the Civil Liberties Committee and is expected to be put to the vote during the upcoming plenary session.

Additional Information

Debate: Monday, 5 October
Vote: Wednesday, 7 October (amendments) and Thursday, 8 October (final text)
Procedure: Non-legislative resolution

Draft resolution (available 07.10.2020)
Press release on committee vote (02.10.2020)
EP Press Release: “European values: towards a permanent monitoring mechanism against backsliding” (22.09.2020)
EP Research Briefing: “European added value of an EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights - Preliminary assessment” (23.04.2020)
Free photos, video and audio material
 

Urgent call on member states to top up European Youth Guarantee

MEPs want the EU to set more money aside to offer young people training or a job, in times of soaring youth unemployment.

In a debate on Monday evening, MEPs will quiz Council and Commission on how the implementation of the Youth Guarantee is going so far in member states; some might insist that the scheme must become obligatory in order for it to work.

Parliament will call, again, for a legal framework to ban unpaid internships, traineeships and apprenticeships in the EU.

In a resolution to be put to the vote on Thursday, MEPs will demand that member states mobilise more money for the Youth Guarantee for the period 2021-2027, by means of an increased ESF+, in line with earlier calls made by the European Parliament.

Background

According to Eurostat figures, the youth unemployment rate stood at 17% in the EU in July 2020, up from 14.9 % before the COVID-19 crisis, and is expected to continue to rise sharply.

Additional Information

Debate: Monday, 5 October
Vote: Thursday, 8 October
Procedure: Questions for oral answers, non-legislative resolution

Draft resolution (available 07.10.2020)
Youth Employment Support: A bridge to jobs for future generations (European Commission 01.07.2020)
 

Supporting the recovery: MEPs to discuss EU’s 2021 budget with Council

MEPs want the next annual EU budget to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak and support the recovery, building on the low-carbon and digital transformation.

Monday’s debate will kick off with Council’s presentation of its position on the first annual draft budget of the - yet to be agreed - 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF, the EU’s long-term budget).

MEPs are likely to condemn any attempt by Council to reduce the 2021 draft budget, as proposed by the Commission, particularly on key EU programmes like research and innovation, Erasmus+, the Just Transition Fund, migration and border management funds, and external action.

You can find a summary of Parliament’s - and an analysis of Council’s - position in the working document by the EP’s rapporteur for the 2021 EU budget, Pierre Larrouturou (S&D, FR).

Parliament’s budget priorities for 2021 were adopted in June.

Background

The debate - and the preparations and negotiations of the Union’s 2021 budget - are taking place under unusual circumstances, as there is still no political agreement on the MFF, which serves as the basis for the annual budgets.

The calendar for this year’s annual budgetary procedure is here.

In case the new MFF is not in place in time for 2021, MEPs have asked the Commission to propose an MFF contingency plan in order to protect beneficiaries of EU programmes and ensure continuity of funding.

Additional Information

Debate: Monday, 5 October
Procedure: Budgetary

Draft Budget 2021 (Commission website)
Steps of the procedure
Council position on 2021 budget (Council website)
Free photos, video and audio material
 

Calls to complete Capital Markets Union and boost EU FinTech

MEPs to call for simplified rules for SMEs and start-ups so that they can access financial markets and for a robust EU framework for digital finance to be set up.

In their non-binding resolution, MEPs call for the Capital Markets Union (CMU) to be developed more quickly, arguing that this would be a viable way for companies deprived of funding to tap into financial markets and reduce their reliance on bank lending.

In a separate resolution, they advocate for a robust EU framework for crypto-assets, cyber resilience, data sharing and customer safety. They stress that digital finance plays a key role in developing financial markets and will contribute to the success of the CMU. It will increase financing and investment options for companies and citizens and also has the potential to help close the SME financing gap.

Both non-binding resolutions will be put to vote on Thursday..

Additional Information

Debate: Wednesday, 7 October
Vote: Thursday, 8 October

Procedure: Non-Legislative resolution

Procedure file: Capital Markets Union
 

Final vote on EU rules for crowdfunding platforms

The plenary is set to approve the deal struck with the Council last December on common rules to boost EU crowdfunding platforms and protect investors, on Monday.

The new rules aim to help crowdfunding services to function smoothly in the internal market and to foster cross-border business funding in the EU, by providing for a single set of rules on crowdfunding services.

The maximum threshold for each crowdfunding offer is set at €5 000 000 calculated over a period of 12 months per project owner. New provisions will be accompanied with additional safeguards, information disclosures and investment advice. European Crowdfunding Service Providers (ECSP) will need to request authorisation from the national competent authority (NCA) of the member state in which a provider is established.

Additional Information

Vote: Monday, 5 October
Procedure: ordinary legislative procedures, second reading (with an agreement)

Text agreed at early second reading: European crowdfunding service providers
Free photos, video and audio material
 

Wirecard and FinCEN scandals: plenary debates on failing  financial supervision

Given that financial misconduct remained undetected until the German payments group collapsed, MEPs will discuss the state of the EU’s financial supervision.

On Wednesday, MEPs will most probably seek answers from Council and Commission on how Wirecard, a German payment service-providing company, was able to operate without any inquiry into its actions, despite numerous signs of fraud, market manipulation as well as doubts about its accounting practices.

They will quiz the Commission and the Council about the weaknesses of the German and the EU financial watchdogs, which lack proper resources and investigative powers. Various gaps in supervision resulted in the Wirecard insolvency this summer defrauding its investors of billions of euros.

Money laundering revelations

In a separate debate on Thursday, MEPs will look closely at the recent money laundering revelations about how the world’s biggest banks moved vast amounts of tainted funds, feeding into global financial corruption. The Parliament warned on numerous occasions that money laundering enables other crimes, and called for interconnected registers of beneficial owners, a preventive blacklisting policy and effective sanctions in the anti-money laundering resolution adopted in July.

Additional Information

Debates: Wednesday, 7 October and Thursday, 8 October
Procedure: Council and Commission statements

Procedure file
EP Research Service: Digital Finance - emerging risks in crypto assets
EP Research Service: European System of financial supervision (06.01.2013)
 

Stop stalling the Women on boards Directive, MEPs tell EU countries

MEPs will reiterate their demand to move forward on the ‘‘Women on boards’’ Directive, blocked in the Council for years, in a joint debate on Monday.

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. The text sought to address gender inequality by requiring that at least 40% of company board members should be women by 2020 in the private sector and by 2018 in the public sector.

Since then, owing to concerns from several member states, no agreement has been reached and the proposal is blocked in the Council.

Background

According to the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), in 2018 women accounted for only 26% of all board members in the largest listed companies registered in the EU. Only in five member states (France, Italy, Sweden, Finland and Germany) did women account for more than a third (33%) of board members.

Additional Information

Debate: Monday, 5 October
Procedure: Council and Commission statements

Video recording of a joint EP hearing on the Women on Boards Directive (21.09.2020)
Legislative train
Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality
Free photos, video and audio material
 

Future EU Forest Strategy: Balancing ecological and economic sustainability

Ways to support high-quality forest management, reinforce disaster resilience and promote sustainable forestry, will be debated on Tuesday.

The Commission’s post-2020 EU Forest Strategy, due out at the beginning of 2021, should not only be aligned with the European Green Deal. It must also guarantee that forests can continue to play a multifunctional role and promote forest management models that seek to ensure their environmental, but also societal and economic sustainability, says the draft text tabled by the Agriculture Committee.

The new strategy, MEPs say, should help to bolster European disaster resilience and early warning tools to increase prevention and preparedness e.g. for fires, floods or pest infestations. MEPs also push for wood to be used more widely as a sustainable construction material, call for the fight against illegal logging to be stepped up and insist on promoting sustainable forestry globally.

Background

Forests and other wooded areas currently cover around 43% of the EU’s surface, reaching at least 182 million hectares and comprise 5% of the world’s total forests. 23% of all forests in Europe are within Natura 2000 sites. Forests absorb over 10% of the EU's greenhouse gas emissions.

Around 60% of EU forests are privately owned, and a large proportion are small size forest holdings (less than 3 hectares). Over 60% of the productive forests in the EU are certified to fulfil sustainable forest management voluntary standards. The sector employs at least 500,000 people directly and 2.6 million indirectly in the EU.

Additional Information

Debate: Tuesday, 6 October
Vote: Wednesday, 7 October
Procedure: Non-legislative resolution

Draft resolution
Press release on committee vote (07.09.2020)
Free photos, video and audio material
 

MEPs to call for measures to tackle impact of COVID-19-outbreak on care homes

Alarmed by the high number of COVID-19-related infections and deaths in long-term care facilities, MEPs will call for EU long-term care provisions to be reviewed.

In a debate with the Commission and Council on the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on long-term care facilities, MEPs are expected to call for lessons to be learned from the tragedy that Europe has experienced.

COVID-19-related deaths in care homes represent 30-60% of all COVID-19-related deaths in a number of member states. This must be examined not only for the health and safety of these vulnerable groups, but also for the sake of staff working in long-term care facilities, who are particularly exposed.

A cross-party group of MEPs has called for a European investigation into how the COVID-19 pandemic has been managed in the long-term care sector “with all the means at our disposal, in order to have comprehensive data in front of us and to identify political and management responsibilities, so that we can change course immediately.”

Background

In Belgium, data recorded up to 17 May 2020 showed that 51% of the 9 052 COVID-19-related fatal cases were reported from long-term care facilities. In France, 50 % of all COVID-19-related deaths between 1 March and 11 May 2020 occurred in long-term care facilities. Spain reported that 66% of all fatal cases linked to COVID-19 recorded until 11 May were care-home residents.Germany reported that 37% of all deaths related to COVID-19 recorded until 17 May were linked to institutions caring for elderly people.

Additional Information

Debate: Thursday, 8 October
Procedure: Council and Commission statements, without resolution

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control: Surveillance of COVID-19 at long-term care facilities in the EU/EEA (19.05.2020)
 

EU-UK relations: MEPs to vote on future Eurotunnel safety and cooperation

Parliament will vote on legislation that aims to ensure the tunnel railway connection between continental Europe and the UK continues to operate safely and efficiently.

The two proposals concerning the Channel Tunnel Fixed Link will be voted on by Parliament under urgent procedure. The main goal is to maintain the same set of rules over the whole infrastructure on both the French and the UK side as well as a single safety authority for the tunnel after the end of the transition period.

The legislation will empower France to negotiate a new international agreement with the UK and maintaining the Intergovernmental Commission as the main safety authority for the Eurotunnel, including after the UK has the status of a third country.

Background

If nothing is agreed, as from 1 January 2021, national safety authorities in the UK and France would have authority over their own half of the tunnel. EU regulations would no longer apply to the part of the tunnel that is under the UK’s jurisdiction.

Additional Information


Vote: Amendments Wednesday, 7 October, final vote Thursday, 8 October
Procedure: Ordinary legislative procedure - urgent procedure

Procedure file “Regulation: Application of railway safety and interoperability rules within the Channel Fixed Link”
Procedure file “Decision: Empowering France to negotiate an agreement supplementing its existing bilateral Treaty with the United Kingdom concerning the construction and operation by private concessionaires of a Channel Fixed Link”
 

Nagorno-Karabakh: how to stop the fighting over the disputed region

MEPs and Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell will debate EU reactions to recent clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The debate will focus on the renewed escalation of violence on the so-called “line of contact” between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, which has, according to reports, yet again claimed the lives of both military personnel and civilians.

The area is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but controlled by ethnic Armenians, who refer to the territory as the “Republic of Artsakh”.
Here is the latest statement by leading MEPs on the resumption of the hostilities.


Additional Information

Debate: Wednesday, 7 October
Procedure: Statement by the Vice-President of the Commission/EU High Representative, followed by a debate

European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee
The European Parliament’s delegation for relations with the South Caucasus
EP Multimedia Centre: free photos, video and audio material
 

MEPs set to object to new legislation on additives that are harmful to children

Objections to market authorisation for food additives that might adversely affect European consumers’ health, especially children, will be put to the vote on Wednesday.

The first objection concerns the Commission’s proposal to amend the maximum levels of acrylamide in certain foodstuffs for infants and young children. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) previously confirmed that acrylamide in food potentially increases the risk of developing cancer in all age groups.

In the draft motion for a resolution, MEPs request that the Commission lowers the maximum level allowed for products often given to infants and young children, as they are the most exposed, based on their body weight. They also underline that biscuits and rusks that do not fall under the specific category of “Biscuits and rusks for infants and young children”, but are often given to or even marketed to children, should face the same, more stringent demands.

The second one is an objection to the Commission’s proposed amendment to the legislation laying down specifications for food additives as regards titanium dioxide (E 171).

Titanium dioxide is a food additive mainly used to colour confectionery, bakery and pastry products. In the draft resolution, MEPs refer to the precautionary principle and state the need to remove titanium dioxide (E171) from the EU list of permitted food additives. They 

are particularly concerned about children being potentially very exposed to the additive. They underline that France banned sales of food products containing titanium dioxide as of 1 January 2020 and that 85 000 citizens across Europe have signed a petition to support the French ban.

If Parliament approves these two objections, the Commission cannot approve the proposed actions and is then obliged to amend or withdraw them.

Additional Information

Vote: Wednesday, 7 October 2020
Procedure: Regulatory procedure with scrutiny (RPS)

Free photos, video and audio material