Written by Clare Ferguson,
The European Parliament’s plenary session agenda in October covers many of the main priorities facing the European Union today, with items on fundamental EU values, youth and employment, agriculture, energy and how EU actions are decided and paid for.
Listen to podcast: EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights
The EU is built on the fundamental values of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights. However, when these values come under attack in a particular Member State, the high thresholds required in the Council for decisions on sanctions leave them vulnerable. This session, Members will debate moves to create a mechanism to enforce compliance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Treaties, which all EU Member States have signed. The proposed ‘Union pact’ on democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights includes annual reports on the situation in all Member States. Countries which do not comply risk infringement action under the Treaty on European Union.
Tackling youth unemployment is a continuing EU priority. While waiting for the employment market to improve, some 100 000 young people have joined the European Voluntary Service in the past 20 years. Many more could benefit from this opportunity to gain skills and knowledge by volunteering abroad, however a clear and consistent policy on volunteering at is lacking at national level, hampering development of the cross-border voluntary sector. On Thursday morning, Members will invite the Commission to outline the measures it plans to remove barriers to volunteering in the EU such as uneven skills recognition, inadequate training, and uneven legal recognition of rights.
Listen to podcast: Volunteering in the EU
High unemployment, low income, education and skills levels, and few opportunities for young people and women are not exclusively urban problems, but also affect many rural areas in the EU. Rural areas were particularly hard hit by the economic crisis and Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture are preparing for future EU common agricultural policy reform, looking at how CAP payments can boost employment in rural areas. Up for debate on Thursday morning, Members will discuss the report’s recommendations for using this funding to create a more flexible rural employment field, with better support for a more diversified range of businesses. Continuing on agricultural topics, Members will debate a compromise text on new legislation to protect plant health in the EU from risks posed by pests and disease which spread thanks to globalisation and climate change, on Tuesday afternoon. The damage caused to EU agriculture, such as the devastation wrought on Italian olive trees by Xylella fastidiosa, can be considerable. The legislation introduces controls against such plant pests entering the EU, with new risk management, quarantine, and rules on notification and eradication. If the Parliament agrees, plant products could be subject to phytosanitary certification and passporting as early as 2017.
Also on Tuesday afternoon, Parliament will debate its reading of the 2017 general EU budget, and is expected to vote on Wednesday try to reverse the Council’s cuts, and even increase the funding available to counter the crises in youth, job creation and growth; migration, asylum and security; and emergency measures to help the dairy sector. Should the Council disagree with Parliament’s proposals, this will trigger a conciliation procedure, with a deadline to agree by 17 November 2016. If, on this date, the two institutions remain opposed, the Commission will need to present a new draft budget.
The Council and Commission are due to give statements on Wednesday morning on the conclusions of the
European Council meeting held on 20 and 21 October. This will include the results of discussions on border and immigration issues, and free trade negotiations, notably the EU-Canada Free Trade Agreement.
Parliament verifies that the use of the EU general budget complies with the relevant rules, including sound financial management. While Parliament already granted discharge for the 2014 budget of the majority of EU institutions, it postponed decisions in some cases. On Wednesday afternoon, Members will consider a report on implementation of EU budget section II (European Council and Council), where the Council has failed to provide the necessary information to make a decision. Members will also discuss reports on three joint undertakings, Artemis, ENIAC and F4E-ITER, where additional information was received and progress made, making it likely that discharge will be granted this time around.
The Common Provisions Regulation ensures EU funding is spent properly. However, to carry out programmes funded by the European Structural and Investment funds, countries with temporary liquidity problems, due to a difficult economic situation, may need some assistance to adjust. On Tuesday afternoon, Members are likely to vote to agree, without amendment, to a Commission proposal allowing an extension of these facilitating measures for Greece and Cyprus. This provision for financial assistance, furthermore, also applies to any other eligible Member State that is in need.
Another major EU priority is the security of the bloc’s energy supplies. As we head into winter, Members will vote on a resolution proposing an EU strategy for liquefied natural gas (LNG) and gas storage on Monday evening. The strategy would boost the distribution and use of LNG in the EU, as a low-carbon alternative to over-dependency on gas imports from Russia. Although the Commission proposes investment in LNG infrastructure, the Parliament’s Committees are cautious about creating excess, and possibly vulnerable, and storage capacity.
Finally, good legislation depends on a basis of full knowledge of the facts. Public perception of the impact of legislation also depends on access to a complete picture of EU actions and their consequences. Creating a dynamic rail sector and a Single European Railway Area means collecting comparable statistics on rail services for the whole of the European market, and making them public. Parliament would like to improve rail safety by collecting data on rail accidents. Voting on a second reading of the Transport Committee’s report on rail transport statistics in the EU is expected on Tuesday lunchtime, just before a vote on proposed legislation on statistical standards for quality data collection on goods transport by inland waterway. This proposal encourages optimal development of EU inland navigation, with measures based on solid data. Members will vote on a compromise text which allows for voluntary pilot studies on passenger data and a possible financial contribution from the EU budget.
|A list of all material prepared for this Plenary Session:|
|The CAP and job creation in rural areas (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Volunteering in the EU (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Towards an EU strategy for LNG and gas storage (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Amendment of Common Provisions Regulation articles for Member States in financial difficulty (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Parliament’s reading of the 2017 EU budget (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Statistics on goods transport by inland waterway (available in EN)|
|New plant health legislation (available in EN)|
|Discharge procedure for 2014 budget – debate and final vote on postponed decisions (available in EN)|
|Rail transport statistics in the European Union (available in EN)|