Members' Research Service By / June 3, 2016

Nuclear, new technology and the space race: June Plenary Session

Written by Clare Ferguson, Access to space is becoming ever cheaper and easier, which makes it ideal timing for the…

European Union, EP

Written by Clare Ferguson,

Access to space is becoming ever cheaper and easier, which makes it ideal timing for the European Union to renew efforts to build a European space policy. Space capabilities now number an array of practical applications, such as weather and natural disaster forecasting, and defence capabilities, however, to date, Europe’s space industry has remained in the shadow of nations with much larger budgets. Parliament has already identified a fragmented market, policy barriers, governance difficulties, technical issues and a lack of skills as brakes on the industry. On the other hand, the new-style space race raises questions regarding sustainability and the long-term safety implications for the whole international community. A joint debate will take place during the European Parliament plenary session on Tuesday to discuss the five priorities for EU investment in space capabilities. Members will also debate a report on space capabilities for European security and defence: a report which underlines the need for the EU to ensure European ‘non-dependence’ for access to space and critical space technologies.

Listen to podcast: EU Space Policy [Plenary podcast]

Back on earth, at Ostrovets, only 50 km from Vilnius, Russia is assisting Belarus to build the first new nuclear power plant since the Chernobyl accident 30 years ago, ostensibly as a means for Belarus to gain energy independence. Members will begin their Monday evening by listening to a European Commission statement on the state of safety of nuclear installations in Belarus. Construction of the plant, due to become operational in 2018, has alarmed Lithuanians, concerned about the environmental and health impacts of the project, and Belarus’ failure to adhere to the UN Espoo and Aarhus Conventions. European hopes are that regional cooperation will help Belarus to comply with international safety standards to ensure nuclear safety in the region.

Listen to podcast: The safety of nuclear installations in Belarus [Plenary podcast]

Talk of technology is not something generally associated with agriculture and farming. However, technological innovation may be key to responding to the need to increase global food production to match increases in the world population. With some 9.7 billion people expected to need food to eat by 2050, research needs to be carried out now into resource management, precision farming techniques and plant protection. A short presentation of an own initiative report on technological solutions for sustainable agriculture is scheduled for Monday evening. The report calls for farmers and researchers to work together to find cost-effective solutions for all farm sizes; for the continued survival of traditional farming methods; and for changes to the EU framework to reconcile the dual objectives of higher productivity and sustainability. Still on the topic of innovation in EU agriculture, Members will also vote on a report calling for an update of EU legislation on innovative techniques in farming, and measures to increase farming community awareness of technology such as drones, insect proteins and ‘green manure’, designed to make farming more efficient, along with the funding possibilities available.

Tax avoidance has hardly been out of the headlines since the Luxleaks and Panama Papers scandals broke. This session, Members will hear a first reading of proposed rules against tax avoidance practices that directly affect the functioning of the internal market, one of two measures contained in the European Commission’s ‘Anti-tax avoidance Package’. Aggressive corporate tax schemes where businesses operating in several countries take advantage of disparities and loopholes (such as the infamous ‘double Irish’ or ‘Dutch sandwich’), to reduce their tax bill have widely angered citizens. Responding to the impetus to act, the Commission has consulted Parliament on its proposals for a draft directive setting legally binding minimum standards, which is then to be adopted by the Council.

Moreover, Parliament will vote on Wednesday on the mandate for the committee of inquiry to investigate possible contraventions and maladministration of EU law in relation to the ‘Panama Papers’ affair.

On a more positive financial note, on Wednesday morning, the Commission will give a statement on the Mid-term review of the EU investment plan, ahead of the review of the Multiannual Financial Framework. This mechanism to bridge the EU funding gap aims at mobilising a total of at least €315 billion in additional investment up to 2018. The funding for infrastructure and business projects in 24 Member States is closely monitored and will be evaluated by the European Parliament and progress discussed by Heads of State or Government in the course of 2016.

EU citizens currently enjoy the right to study, live, work or do business in another Member State. However, citizens also sometimes encounter difficulties in full enjoyment of this right to free movement, due to the red tape involved in administrative formalities. Public documents in particular are often not accepted if issued in another country. This causes problems when citizens need a recognised translation of their birth or marriage certificate, to get married or buy a house, for instance. Members will vote on a second reading of the proposal to simplify requirements for public documents issued by another Member State during this plenary session. However, with an eye to European citizens’ security, MEPs also want the measures to offer sufficient protection against forgery and fraud.

The session will close on Thursday with the traditional debates on cases of breaches of human rights, a priority for the Parliament. However, before then, an oral question is expected on Tuesday afternoon regarding the follow-up to the recent US Senate report on the use of torture by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during extraordinary rendition proceedings. The alleged transportation and illegal detention of prisoners in European countries by the CIA is the subject of some discord between Parliament and the Council, particularly with regard to sovereignty and human rights, and is being pursued by the Civil Liberties Committee.

A list of all material prepared for this Plenary Session:
Safety of nuclear installations in Belarus : DEENESFRITPL
EU space policy: Industry, security and defence : DEENESFRITPL
Easier acceptance of public documents : DEENESFRITPL
Innovation in EU agriculture : DEENESFRITPL
Technological solutions for sustainable agriculture : DEENESFRITPL
Mid-term review of the EU investment plan : EN
Call for stricter rules against tax avoidance : EN
CIA renditions and secret detention programme : EN

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