Written by Katarzyna Sochacka,
In addition to the State of the Union address by European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, the main debates held during Parliament’s September plenary session included questions such as fire safety in buildings, the impact of hurricane Irma, breaches of human rights and a series of statements related to external relations presented by the High Representative, Federica Mogherini.
On the legislative front, Members voted, inter alia, on proposals concerning the WIFI4EU regulation (an initiative to promote internet connectivity in local communities), security of gas supply, the European Accessibility Act and the European Venture Capital Funds and European Social Entrepreneurship Funds investment schemes. Parliament pushed the Council to move forward with ratifying the Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women. It also raised concerns over the EU Common Position on arms export, as well as adopting three resolutions aimed at modernising EU-Chile trade relations.
State of the Union
The key debate of the September plenary session followed the State of the Union address by Jean-Claude Juncker. Noting that the overall outlook has changed for the better over the past year, notably thanks to an accelerating economic recovery, President Juncker based his address on the scenarios proposed in the Commission’s white paper on the future of Europe of March 2017, followed by the series of more detailed reflection papers on economic and monetary union, EU finances, EU defence, the social dimension and harnessing globalisation.
Much interest focused on Juncker’s advocacy of various euro area and EU institutional reforms. He proposed the designation of a euro-area finance minister, who would preside over the Eurogroup, as well as being a member of the Commission. He supported the development of a European Monetary Fund, but not the creation of a separate euro-area budget, preferring a dedicated budget line within the EU budget. He also said there should not be a separate euro-area parliament either. He favoured combining the presidencies of the Commission and the European Council, and supported a new, additional transnational constituency for the European elections. On the policy front, he advocated a pro-innovation industrial strategy, a reinforced social pillar, an authority to supervise fairness in the single market, better handling of migratory flows, and new trade agreements.
Special committee on terrorism
Parliament voted on the composition of the special committee on terrorism which has been mandated to investigate shortcomings in the EU fight against terrorism. The constituent meeting took place on Thursday 14 September, with Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE, France) elected as chair.
Fire safety in buildings
Following the Grenfell Tower fire in London on 14 June 2017, Council and Commission representatives made statements on fire safety in buildings. With a view to harmonising fire-testing of building facades at EU level, the current revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and the possible revision of the Construction Products Regulation could help to prevent such disasters happening in the future.
As part of the regular Thursday debates on breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, particular attention was devoted to the rapidly escalating humanitarian disaster with regard to the situation of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar.
Read this At a glance on ‘Session round-up – Strasbourg, September 2017‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.