Written by Clare Ferguson,
The first World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, takes place in a globalised world where record numbers of people – over 89.3 million people in 37 countries – are displaced by conflict, poverty or climate change. The post-World War 2 humanitarian system is struggling to cope, with funding and political concerns seemingly overriding compassion at times. Parliament is keen to negotiate a global consensus on principled, effective humanitarian action, with international human rights protection at its core. An EU delegation, including MEPs, will attend the Summit, where the recent ‘refugee hosting deal’, offering countries financial support in return for hosting refugees is certain to be a hot topic. The Commission and Council will detail their approach before Plenary on Tuesday afternoon. Responsibility for migration and asylum policy is shared between the EU and Member States, and Members will hear the Commission’s statement on the decision taken on the urgently-needed reform of the Common European Asylum System the next day, on Wednesday afternoon. The Commission has identified five priority areas for improvements, including amending the Dublin Regulation, and preventing intra-EU movement of asylum seekers and economic migrants, reinforcing EURODAC, strengthening EASO and finally ensuring a fair system to establish the Member State responsible for asylum seekers.
Later in the session, on Wednesday morning, Members will vote upon a second reading of a proposal for a new directive on the rules regarding the free movement of students and researchers from third countries in the EU. If EU policy is to attract the brightest and the best, to counter the EU skills shortage and competition from other destinations for highly-skilled academics, it must be more effective. After long discussion between the Council, Commission and Parliament, a compromise was reached, broadening the researcher category, cutting the number of hours students can work to 15 hours per week, and setting out grounds for authorisation.
The plenary session will kick off on Wednesday morning with a vote on a compromise text revising the rules for Europol. The changes are designed to boost the agency’s mandate as the EU’s central law enforcement agency, particularly considering developments in international terrorism and serious and organised crime. Human trafficking is one such serious crime which has a clear gender dimension – a majority of the victims are women or girls. Preventing this violation of human rights and protecting the victims in Europe is tackled by a 2011 Directive, the implementation of which has come under the scrutiny of the Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. Parliament will debate the Committee’s report, emphasising the need for greater gender perspective in the prevention of human trafficking, on Thursday morning. Another policy with a gender aspect is that of parental leave, where the EU encourages more equal take-up of leave by both parents. Parental leave can be defined as a protected form of time off from work related to childcare, and is regulated in the EU by a 1996 Directive. However, with time, the application of parental leave has become rather varied between Member States. A plenary debate will take place on Thursday morning on a Committee for Employment and Social Affairs report, which calls for, among other things, the extension of the minimum duration of parental leave to six months.
Europe’s mountainous regions are an abundant source of biodiversity and natural resources. At the same time they are vulnerable to the effects of climate change and development stresses. The main employment possibilities for those living in mountain regions are in services, such as tourism, and farming. Getting the balance of cohesion policies in such areas right is tricky when environmental protection measures have consequences for tourists and farmers alike. Members will vote on Monday evening on a report calling for a specific policy agenda, tailored to the particular needs of the mountainous regions that cover almost 30% of EU territory. Continuing on the EU cohesion policy theme, Members will also debate a report on Monday evening on two new territorial development tools, known as Integrated Territorial Investment (ITI) and Community-Led Local Development (CLLD). The first of these, the ITI, allows local authorities and NGOs to access funding from several programmes. The second, CLLD, affords local action groups the opportunity to design and implement development strategy at the local level. However, both tools are somewhat complicated for untrained, non-expert, actors at the local level to use, and Member States themselves are seen as lukewarm on decisions being taken at this level. The Parliament’s Regional Development Committee would like to see this gap in trust at local level addressed. Furthermore, the Committee insists that priority in territorial development be given to youth unemployment and SMEs. The question remains, will the tools be made mandatory in post-2020 cohesion policy?
EU fisheries measures appear regularly on the Parliament’s agenda this year. During the first May session, Members are likely to vote to approve a new fisheries agreement and protocol between the EU and Liberia. This partnership framework is expected to develop sustainable fishing of the three key tropical tuna species which migrate through Liberian waters, and help the country to combat illegal fishing. Members are also expected to give their consent to a new protocol to the EU-Mauritania fisheries agreement, which is even more significant in economic terms.
Finally, following up on the recent corporate tax avoidance issues, Parliament will consider the mandatory automatic exchange of tax information as part of moves to increase tax transparency late on Wednesday. Country-by-country reporting to tax authorities is considered essential to revealing to tax authorities the operations of companies above the €750 million annual consolidated revenue threshold. The new proposals would also provide tax authorities with information on the activities of multinational enterprise groups. While the Parliament insists on the importance of tax transparency, it is also keen to see tax design favour growth and investment, whilst also minimising the cost to companies.
|A list of all material prepared for this Plenary Session:|
|Implementation of the Human Trafficking Directive from a gender perspective (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|World Humanitarian Summit 2016 (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Parental Leave Directive: Towards a revision? (available in DE – ENFR – IT – PL)|
|Foreign students and researchers: New rules for mobility (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Updated rules for Europol (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|New territorial development tools in cohesion policy (available in EN)|
|An agenda for the EU’s mountainous regions (available in EN)|
|EU-Mauritania fisheries agreement: New protocol (available in EN)|
|New fisheries agreement and protocol between the EU and Liberia (available in EN)|
|Towards a reform of the Common European Asylum System (available in EN)|
|Country-by-country-reporting to tax authorities (available in EN)|