Written by Clare Ferguson
Parliament’s next plenary session in Strasbourg, from 26-29 October 2015 will open with a joint debate on Monday evening linked to the Commission’s tax transparency package. The recent public scandals concerning controversial corporate tax practices have prompted the Commission to propose three measures in a tax transparency package: a proposal on mandatory automatic exchange of tax information, repeal of the existing Savings Tax Directive, and the EU-Switzerland agreement on the automatic exchange of financial account information. Will the measures lead to a revolution in the way corporations do business in Europe – or do they merely represent a natural evolution? Either way, Member States governments are hoping to be able to book higher tax revenues.
Exchange of tax information [Podcast]
Continuing on economic policy, the next day MEPs will vote on a compromise text endorsed by the Economic & Monetary Affairs Committee proposing a number of measures regarding the disclosure and reporting of securities financing transactions (SFTs) – secured transactions which contribute significantly to the efficiency of financial markets.
Also on Tuesday, the Commission will make a statement on the Europe 2020 strategy, the objectives of which are closely linked to cohesion policy, which it intends to review before the end of 2015. EU cohesion policy is an important investment tool, representing around one third of the EU budget, and aiming to make up for the economic difficulties suffered throughout Europe in the wake of the financial crisis. In addition, support for EU cohesion policy measures in the 2014-20 programming period depend on compliance with EU economic governance rules. Already somewhat controversial, the debate on the rules has been reopened by the Commission’s publication of guidelines on their application. The Parliament is concerned that economic governance mechanisms may hinder the EU’s economic recovery. The plenary will vote on a Regional Development Committee report which warns that application of such rules should be justified, proportionate and transparent. Concerns that economic recovery may be threatened by the EU’s underlying structural weaknesses and regional differences will also be addressed in a joint debate on the European Semester, a key monitoring element of the economic governance framework, on Wednesday.
The EU’s own finances come under scrutiny, on Tuesday afternoon, with Parliament’s reading of the 2016 EU budget. This represents a crucial step in the annual budgetary procedure, with the European Parliament due to decide whether and how to amend the Council’s position on the 2016 draft EU budget put forward by the European Commission. The EP’s Committee on Budgets proposes to reverse all the cuts made by the Council, and further increase funding in areas of key concern for citizens, including the migration crisis, youth employment, and research and innovation.
Members will return to the pressing situation of the refugee crisis on Tuesday morning, with a key debate on financing international funding, in preparation for the Valletta Summit in November. They will also vote on a report on the European law enforcement training agency (CEPOL), which proposes a new focus on the cross-border dimension, as well as promoting fundamental rights in law enforcement, such as privacy, data protection and victims’ rights.
Later on Monday evening the plenary will consider one of the main priorities of the European Parliament – human rights – and in particular, the trade in certain goods which could be used for capital punishment and torture. It seems that signing binding international agreements is not enough for some countries to stop using capital punishment or torture on their citizens, highlighted by recent high-profile cases of ‘botched executions’. To dissuade those still taking part in these practices, the Regulation will be reinforced and Parliament’s Committee on International Trade (INTA) has adopted extensive amendments to a Commission proposal – adding a ban on marketing and promotion of the prohibited goods, and forbidding their transport through EU territory, alongside other measures.
The session will resume on Wednesday morning with two measures which concern the food on our plates. No genetically modified organism (GMO) can be imported to the EU without prior authorisation and safety assessment. However, some Member States would like to ban GMOs altogether. MEPs will vote on measures which would provide Member States with an opportunity to ‘opt out’ of authorising the use of genetically modified crops for food and feed in their country. In a similar vein, new or exotic products and ingredients imported to the EU must also be authorised as safe to use, and Parliament has negotiated a Regulation clarifying the definition of a novel food, and speeding up the authorisation process.
Speeding up authorisation of novel foods [Podcast]
Still on health issues, Members round off their debate on Wednesday morning by considering the national emission ceilings for air pollutants. Despite improvements, air pollution still causes over 400 000 premature deaths each year in the EU. The Commission proposes to update and expand the rules on limits for quantities of air pollutants emitted each year by Member States.
Turning to a matter closer to home, a vote on proposals to harmonise the rules on voting in European elections is expected late on Tuesday. While EU law sets out some basic principles for European elections, national electoral laws apply to a great extent, which means that European Parliament elections are not currently run in the same way in all Member States.
Finally, after a second reading in Plenary, Members will vote on an end to roaming charges and EU-wide rules on net neutrality, as part of the strategy to create a digital single market.
|A list of all material prepared for this Plenary Session:|
|Europe 2020 strategy review and cohesion policy : DE – EN – ES – FR – IT – PL|
|Reform of European electoral law : DE – EN – ES – FR – IT – PL|
|European single market for electronic communications : DE – EN – ES – FR – IT – PL|
|Updating rules on trade in torture equipment : DE – EN – ES – FR – IT – PL|
|Speeding up authorisation of novel foods : EN –|
|Exchange of tax information : EN –|
|EU agency for law enforcement training (CEPOL) : EN –|
|Member States’ possibility to ‘opt out’ from GM food and feed import authorisations : EN –|
|Parliament’s reading of the 2016 EU budget : EN –|
|Reporting and transparency of securities financing transactions : EN –|
|Economic governance and cohesion policy : EN –|
|National emission ceilings for air pollutants : EN –|
|European Semester: 2015 priorities and beyond : EN –|