Members' Research Service By / June 30, 2017

EP Plenary Session July: Parliament continues efforts to promote democracy and sustainability

Written by Clare Ferguson, There is a sense of an ending around this month’s plenary session, as European leaders say…

Written by Clare Ferguson,

Flags outside the European Parliament building Louise Weiss in Strasbourg - LOWThere is a sense of an ending around this month’s plenary session, as European leaders say a final farewell to that quintessential citizen of Europe, Helmut Kohl, the personification of German reunification and European integration, this weekend. Parliament will also mark the passing of Simone Veil, the first woman to be President of the European Parliament, and the first to lead the institution in the era of direct elections, from 1979 to 1982.

The Maltese EU Council Presidency comes to a close too, with Malta handing the baton to Estonia. For the next six months, the Estonians will prioritise measures to ensure an open and innovative European economy, with a focus on digital issues such as the free movement of data. Safety and security are also top of the ‘to do’ list, as well as measures to make Europe both inclusive and sustainable. In another reorganisation of EU responsibilities, and eight months after the previous Commissioner’s resignation, Members will vote on the appointment of the new Bulgarian designate, Mariya Gabriel, on Tuesday lunchtime. Proposed to take over the Digital Economy and Society portfolio, replacing Günther Oettinger, Gabriel is currently an MEP (a position from which she will be required to resign if successful). Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy, and Culture and Education Committees have already questioned Gabriel on her suitability for the job.

The Commission will make two important statements on Tuesday afternoon, concerning the preparation of the 2018 work programme, and the newly published reflection paper on the future of EU finances by 2025. However, external relations with trading partners occupy most of the agenda for this session. Most importantly, good relations with Turkey come up for discussion on Wednesday afternoon. Recent political changes in the country have led to a succession of Parliament resolutions expressing alarm at the direction the country has taken. Members will vote on a further resolution, this time on the Commission’s 2016 report on Turkey, reportedly the ‘harshest ever written’. The future of Turkey’s EU accession talks hangs in the balance, should the country continue repressive and anti-democratic policies, such as recent violations of human rights and proposals to reinstate the death penalty.

Members will also take part in a joint debate on Tuesday afternoon on EU-Cuba relations, where until recently dialogue was ad hoc, and cooperation piecemeal. Parliament will vote on whether to give consent to the 2016 EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement, which aims to promote democracy and respect for human rights.

Despite Parliament’s support for democracy and capacity-building in Moldova, an Eastern Partnership country, the political situation has not progressed. Parliament is due to vote on a report on macro-financial assistance to Moldova on Monday evening, which raises concern over the continued lack of economic reform, of respect for democracy and the rule of law, and freedom of speech in the country. The European Commission’s plans to accord temporary autonomous trade preferences for Ukraine, another Eastern Partnership country in economic difficulties, are also not running smoothly. The Parliament is due to vote on a report on the Commission’s proposal on Tuesday. However, the scope of measures, particularly regarding agricultural products, is contentious. Kosovo also figures on the agenda this session. Members will discuss the EU-Kosovo Framework Agreement for the country’s participation in EU programmes on Tuesday. This follows publication of the Commission Kosovo 2016 country report, which highlighted the country’s continued difficult political dialogue and non-compliance with the conditions for visa liberalisation.

During a joint debate on Wednesday evening on sustainable development, following Council and Commission statements on a high-level political forum on sustainable development, Parliament will discuss a report on EU action for sustainability. The report calls for measures to ensure that all EU policies reflect the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including specific recommendations on climate change, biodiversity, migration and poverty. Parliament will also vote on the proposal to set up a European Fund for Sustainable Development, using EU grants and guarantees to leverage public and private investment in countries suffering from the conflicts, instability and poverty that leads to migration. Often exacerbated by climate-change-related issues, far-flung European territories experience unique socio-economic pressures, thanks to their geographical situation. On Wednesday evening, Members will debate a report on measures promoting development in the outermost regions where life is unavoidably more isolated and expensive than at the heart of Europe.

Listen to podcast ‘Promoting development in the outermost regions

Without proper funding and a clearly defined programme, the proposed EU strategy for international cultural relations cannot serve effectively as a driving force for growth. Europe’s cultural and creative industries boost both the economy and social cohesion, through promoting respect for the great variety of European traditions, cultures and languages. Members will vote on Tuesday evening on a report that urges the Commission to increase its strategic ambition. One policy that should both contribute to social cohesion and make it easier to access the EU’s cultural riches is the subject of a joint debate on Thursday morning. Parliament will vote on legislation implementing the Marrakesh Treaty, which seeks to give blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled people access to published works. The aim is to modernise copyright rules to allow cross-border exchange of special format works, which could possibly also benefit people with other disabilities in future.

Listen to podcast ‘EU strategy for international cultural relations

As many EU citizens head off for their holidays in another EU country, some may be unlucky enough to fall victim of a traffic accident. Unfortunately, such cross-border mishaps can lead to legal difficulties due to the differences between Member State rules, such as the limitation periods for claiming compensation. A report by Parliament’s Legal Affairs committee making recommendations for Commission action on the issue is on the agenda on Tuesday.

Regarding civil legal cases, common minimum standards of civil proceedings would increase mutual trust between EU judicial authorities that they can be sure that EU courts deal with offences in similar ways. Members will vote on a report, also on Tuesday, requesting that the Commission propose broad principles and rules for civil judgments

Finally, all EU Member States retain the right to raise taxes as they wish. This presents problems, however, when taxpayers earn revenue in two different countries. As part of a general reform of corporate tax, the Commission proposes to review double taxation dispute-resolution mechanisms, and Members will on Wednesday debate a report on the need to ensure that the approach to dispute resolution in these cases is clearer and more efficient.

A list of all material prepared for this Plenary Session:
Limitation periods for traffic accidents (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)
Implementing the Marrakesh Treaty (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)
Double taxation dispute resolution mechanisms in the European Union (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)
EU action for sustainability (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)
Promoting development in the outermost regions (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)
EU-Cuba Agreement (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)
EU strategy for international cultural relations (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)
Macro-financial assistance to Moldova (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)
Common minimum standards of civil proceedings (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)
2016 report on Turkey (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)
European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD) (available in EN)

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