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Plenary round-up – Brussels, March II 2020

27-03-2020

The need to observe strict sanitary measures, in view of the COVID-19 contagion, requires a flexible response from everyone. Consequently, the European Parliament organised and conducted its March II plenary session with new precautionary measures, allowing it to act rapidly to carry out its essential legislative function during the crisis. Parliament's Bureau put in place an alternative voting procedure for the 26 March extraordinary plenary session. The new procedure meant that all Members – with ...

The need to observe strict sanitary measures, in view of the COVID-19 contagion, requires a flexible response from everyone. Consequently, the European Parliament organised and conducted its March II plenary session with new precautionary measures, allowing it to act rapidly to carry out its essential legislative function during the crisis. Parliament's Bureau put in place an alternative voting procedure for the 26 March extraordinary plenary session. The new procedure meant that all Members – with most unable to be present in Brussels – could vote from a distance, sending their voting papers to Parliament’s Secretariat by e-mail. Parliament has adjusted its calendar, replacing the regular plenary part-sessions with shortened sessions until the summer. The temporary voting procedure will be available until 31 July 2020, unless extended by Bureau decision. Moreover, the Secretariat is working to put in place a more advanced remote voting system, which would enable more complex votes to be held among Members, in both committee and plenary, thus ensuring Parliament can carry out its essential budgetary and legislative functions throughout the ongoing public health crisis. The session focused on three urgent legislative proposals responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Parliament adopted its positions on temporary suspension of EU rules on airport slots, creation of a Corona Response Investment Initiative and extension of the EU Solidarity Fund, almost unanimously, less than two weeks after the European Commission tabled its proposals. With the Council also agreed on the three texts, the measures can now be adopted in the coming days. Members also heard from the Commission and Council on the coordination of the European response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The European Council, health policy and pandemics

27-03-2020

The European Council (of EU Heads of State or Government) has been active in its response to the coronavirus crisis. So far it has held three video-conference calls of national leaders on the subject, with a view to seeking to develop a coordinated response both among the Member States and collectively at EU level. This note sketches the context, describes some of the instruments available to the Union, and compares responses to the outbreaks of Ebola in the past and COVID-19 today.

The European Council (of EU Heads of State or Government) has been active in its response to the coronavirus crisis. So far it has held three video-conference calls of national leaders on the subject, with a view to seeking to develop a coordinated response both among the Member States and collectively at EU level. This note sketches the context, describes some of the instruments available to the Union, and compares responses to the outbreaks of Ebola in the past and COVID-19 today.

Remote voting in the European Parliament and national parliaments

25-03-2020

In the words of Parliament’s President, David Sassoli, the 'European Parliament must remain open, because a virus cannot bring down democracy'. Ways have therefore had to be found to enable Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to exercise their public duties should it become impossible for them to attend committees or plenary sessions in person. The need to keep parliaments functioning in emergency situations has been on Member States' agendas too. The European Parliament’s Bureau has taken ...

In the words of Parliament’s President, David Sassoli, the 'European Parliament must remain open, because a virus cannot bring down democracy'. Ways have therefore had to be found to enable Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to exercise their public duties should it become impossible for them to attend committees or plenary sessions in person. The need to keep parliaments functioning in emergency situations has been on Member States' agendas too. The European Parliament’s Bureau has taken the unprecedented decision to provide for remote voting during the extraordinary plenary session on 26 March so as to allow for the rapid adoption of EU legislation to tackle the socio-economic consequences of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

What if smartphones could help contain COVID-19?

24-03-2020

In recent years, smartphones have increasingly attracted attention as a key tools in emergency and disaster situations. Almost all smartphones are nowadays equipped with GPS sensors that can track the location of their owners. Comparing the location history of infected individuals with the location history of all other Smartphone users (tested positive or not yet tested) could help health authorities gain much better understanding of where the transmission might have occurred, and who else should ...

In recent years, smartphones have increasingly attracted attention as a key tools in emergency and disaster situations. Almost all smartphones are nowadays equipped with GPS sensors that can track the location of their owners. Comparing the location history of infected individuals with the location history of all other Smartphone users (tested positive or not yet tested) could help health authorities gain much better understanding of where the transmission might have occurred, and who else should be tested with urgency, avoiding the further spread of the infection.

Suspension of EU rules on airport slot allocation

24-03-2020

On 13 March 2020, the European Commission adopted a legislative proposal to amend Regulation 95/93 on common rules for the allocation of slots at EU airports. The proposal responds to the rapid spread of cases of COVID 19, which has led to a substantial drop in the number of flights and forward bookings. It seeks to support airlines by temporarily suspending slot usage rules. The proposal is expected to be voted during the extraordinary plenary session being held on 26 March to enable the adoption ...

On 13 March 2020, the European Commission adopted a legislative proposal to amend Regulation 95/93 on common rules for the allocation of slots at EU airports. The proposal responds to the rapid spread of cases of COVID 19, which has led to a substantial drop in the number of flights and forward bookings. It seeks to support airlines by temporarily suspending slot usage rules. The proposal is expected to be voted during the extraordinary plenary session being held on 26 March to enable the adoption of this and two other specific measures.

Financial assistance for countries seriously affected by a major public health emergency

24-03-2020

With much of Europe in the grip of the novel coronavirus, the European Commission announced a series of measures on 13 March 2020 to help countries cope with the socio-economic impact of the crisis. As part of this package, the Commission proposes extending the scope of the EU Solidarity Fund to include major public health emergencies, providing valuable additional support. The proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council is due to be voted during the extraordinary plenary ...

With much of Europe in the grip of the novel coronavirus, the European Commission announced a series of measures on 13 March 2020 to help countries cope with the socio-economic impact of the crisis. As part of this package, the Commission proposes extending the scope of the EU Solidarity Fund to include major public health emergencies, providing valuable additional support. The proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council is due to be voted during the extraordinary plenary session organised on 26 March to enable the adoption of this and two other specific measures.

Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative

24-03-2020

On 13 March 2020, the European Commission adopted a legislative proposal to amend the regulations on the European structural and investment funds, to enable Member States to promote investments in healthcare systems and other sectors of the economy. This proposal aims to help Member States to address the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. The proposal is due to be voted during the extraordinary plenary session being held on 26 March to enable the adoption of this and two other specific measures ...

On 13 March 2020, the European Commission adopted a legislative proposal to amend the regulations on the European structural and investment funds, to enable Member States to promote investments in healthcare systems and other sectors of the economy. This proposal aims to help Member States to address the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. The proposal is due to be voted during the extraordinary plenary session being held on 26 March to enable the adoption of this and two other specific measures.

European Union response to coronavirus threat

23-03-2020

Spreading swiftly from the initial November 2019 outbreak in China to pandemic proportions in just a few short months, COVID-19 has led to a need for stringent emergency public health measures to save lives across the world. Organising and providing healthcare in the European Union (EU) is a Member State prerogative and responsibility. However within the limits of its powers, the EU has nevertheless acted quickly to help limit the spread of the virus, ensure medical equipment is available, boost ...

Spreading swiftly from the initial November 2019 outbreak in China to pandemic proportions in just a few short months, COVID-19 has led to a need for stringent emergency public health measures to save lives across the world. Organising and providing healthcare in the European Union (EU) is a Member State prerogative and responsibility. However within the limits of its powers, the EU has nevertheless acted quickly to help limit the spread of the virus, ensure medical equipment is available, boost the search for a vaccine and aid Member States to withstand the social and economic impact.

Temporary border controls in the Schengen area

16-03-2020

Free movement across internal borders is one of the EU's most important achievements, with important benefits for EU citizens. The Schengen Borders Code (or Schengen Code) specifies the conditions under which Member States can introduce temporary checks at their internal borders in cases of serious threats to public policy or internal security. The Code was revised in 2017 in order to strengthen the EU's external borders and to help cope with unprecedented migratory pressure and cross-border security ...

Free movement across internal borders is one of the EU's most important achievements, with important benefits for EU citizens. The Schengen Borders Code (or Schengen Code) specifies the conditions under which Member States can introduce temporary checks at their internal borders in cases of serious threats to public policy or internal security. The Code was revised in 2017 in order to strengthen the EU's external borders and to help cope with unprecedented migratory pressure and cross-border security threats. A Commission legislative proposal to further update the Schengen Code in order to tighten up the rules on temporary border controls is currently with the co-legislators. The recent coronavirus outbreak has pushed several Member States to reintroduce border controls at some of the EU's internal borders in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus.

Outcome of the video-conference call of EU Heads of State or Government on10 March 2020

13-03-2020

Given the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak and the potential EU-wide ramifications, Heads of State or Government of the 27 EU Member States welcomed the initiative to hold a special meeting by video-conference on 10 March 2020. European Council President Charles Michel expressed his sympathy for all those citizens affected by the disease and, in particular, for Italy, the country most affected so far. The Member States discussed the COVID-19 outbreak and agreed on four ...

Given the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak and the potential EU-wide ramifications, Heads of State or Government of the 27 EU Member States welcomed the initiative to hold a special meeting by video-conference on 10 March 2020. European Council President Charles Michel expressed his sympathy for all those citizens affected by the disease and, in particular, for Italy, the country most affected so far. The Member States discussed the COVID-19 outbreak and agreed on four lines of action to contain the spread of the disease. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, the President of the Eurogroup, Mario Centeno, and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, also took part in the discussion.

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