Members' Research Service By / June 21, 2016

Facing change – June II Plenary Session

Written by Clare Ferguson, To paraphrase Benjamin Disraeli, change is constant and inevitable, and necessary for society’s progression. This session…

© European Union 2014 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Written by Clare Ferguson,

© European Union 2014 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
© European Union 2014 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

To paraphrase Benjamin Disraeli, change is constant and inevitable, and necessary for society’s progression. This session Parliament will consider several issues in fast-moving policy areas, where change is being driven by new technologies, by climate change and by the pressure for democratic change. Following a formal sitting addressed by Reuven Rivlin, the President of the State of Israel, the second European Parliament plenary session of June begins on Wednesday afternoon with a statement by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission on the massacres in eastern Congo. The political situation in DR Congo is currently very tense, due to alleged security force inaction and the possibility that elections, due in November 2016, will be postponed. Parliament has repeatedly condemned the abuse of human rights in the region, and may again call for sanctions against the government of President Joseph Kabila and those responsible for the violence.

With galloping developments in online services and cloud computing, concern among legislators is growing regarding international transfers of personal data. Following the recent Schrems case, Members have turned their attention to the security of transfers of personal data to China, and will pose an oral question to the Commission on Wednesday evening as to the level of adequate protection citizens can expect the EU to negotiate on their behalf with the Chinese authorities.

A drastic change in people’s personal lives, divorce and separation is often a minefield for couples to negotiate, however, this situation is made infinitely worse for international couples by the complication of differences in national property regimes. A first attempt to allow for EU Member States to cooperate on the international property rights of married couples or registered partnerships was unsuccessful, however the subject is back on the agenda this month, with a report by the Legal Affairs Committee on a proposed ‘enhanced cooperation’ arrangement covering 18 of the 28 EU Member States. The new proposals allow couples to choose the legal regime applicable to their settlement: married couples may opt for the law of their nationality or habitual residence, whilst registered partners may also choose the law of the country where they registered their partnership.

Although European cooperation in the field of education and training is voluntary, Member States have agreed a strategic framework setting objectives to be attained by 2020. Parliament will discuss a report based on the mid-term review of the framework, concluded last year. Covering both formal and informal education, as well as training, the framework has four strategic objectives, seeking to improve access, quality, fairness and social cohesion, and creativity.

Fisheries have long been a contentious issue in EU affairs – one thing that is unlikely to change – on Wednesday evening, Members will hear a Commission statement on the proposal for a multiannual management plan to manage Baltic fisheries, and will subsequently vote on the Fisheries Committee report on the proposal. The sustainability of stocks of cod, herring and sprat are not only affected by fishing levels, but also by biological interaction between species, when bigger fish rely on smaller fish for food. The plan aims at setting some key reference points for managing fish stocks in the years to come by fixing what is known as ‘acceptable mortality’ levels. However, negotiations have been, to date, quite tough. On Thursday, Parliament will also vote on proposals to include protection for the bluefin tuna species in EU law, hoping to reach a first-reading agreement. This highly valuable species suffered from industrial overfishing for many years, and Members propose to sustain recent recoveries in stock levels by encouraging Member States to allocate fishing quotas to fishermen using non-industrial and traditional methods.

Members reconvene on Thursday morning for a joint debate on energy policy, with two own-initiative reports tabled commenting on the Commission’s progress reports on use of renewables and energy efficiency in the fight against climate change. Cornerstones of the EU’s Energy Union Strategy, a shift to renewable energy sources and increased energy efficiency measures are evident in Member States, with most countries on track to meet their renewables targets, if not quite hitting the mark on energy efficiency. Parliament’s reports, however, express some specific concerns regarding the implementation of the measures.

A further formal sitting will be addressed on Thursday morning, this time by Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority. Members will then vote on the appointments to the special Committee of Inquiry to investigate alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application of Union law in relation to money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion. Then it’s back to the fish.


A list of all material prepared for this Plenary Session:
Energy efficiency and renewables  (available in EN)
Rules on cross-border property regimes of spouses and registered partners (available in EN)
Personal data transfers to China (available in EN)
An updated recovery plan for bluefin tuna (available in EN)
Close to a new plan to manage Baltic fisheries (available in EN)
Follow-up of the Strategic Framework for European cooperation in education and training (available in EN)
Tense situation in the DR Congo (available in EN)

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