Written by Clare Ferguson,
In its relations with the rest of the world, the EU, and particularly the European Parliament, consistently prioritises its human rights principles on its agenda. On Wednesday morning, Parliament will award the 2017 Sakharov Prize to the Venezuelan Opposition. Julio Borges and Antonio Ledezma are expected to attend to receive the prize on behalf of the Venezuelan National Assembly and political prisoners in the country, which recognises their struggle to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms in Venezuela. That follows this session’s key joint debate on the preparation of the December European Council meeting. The state of play of negotiations with the United Kingdom following the country’s decision to leave the EU is the second issue in this debate. Following the agreement on first phase issues reached between the Commission and the UK on 8 December, the focus turns to whether the European Council (without the UK) will authorise the launch of the second phase of negotiations, on a possible transitional period and a framework for future relations.
Listen to podcast ‘The 2017 Sakharov Prize‘.
On Tuesday afternoon, statements are expected from the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) on a number of issues that touch on both human rights and EU external affairs, such as the current situation in Afghanistan, as well as that of the plight of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar. This is followed by a joint debate on European Foreign Security and Defence Policy, including presentation of the Parliament’s annual report on the subject, as well as the new chapter in European defence policy, Permanent Structured Cooperation, known as PESCO. A statement is also expected on the situation of migrants in Libya. VP/HR Federica Mogherini will make a statement on the United States’ controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the Israeli state, as well as a statement on the Iran Nuclear Deal, decertified by the United States administration under President Trump in October 2017. The EU External Action Service annual report on human rights and democracy in the world 2016 will also be presented on Tuesday. Statements are expected on Wednesday afternoon from the Council and Commission on a report on progress towards the UN sustainable development goals, the EU civil protection mechanism, and a proposed EU-wide ban on fascist symbols and slogans.
Members will also consider the renewal of the Enhanced EU-Kazakhstan Partnership Agreement on Monday evening. Kazakhstan is a key partner in the region, both in terms of trade and strategically. However, the country’s human rights record is poor, and the new agreement aims to encourage Kazakhstan to commit to international human rights standards and dialogue.
With an eye to the human rights situation in Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China for the past 20 years, a report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, which invites Parliament to make a recommendation to the Council, Commission and HR/VP, is also on the agenda for debate on Tuesday night. Debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law regarding freedom of expression in Vietnam; the banning of the opposition in Cambodia; and the cases of women prosecuted for miscarriage in El Salvador complete the agenda on human rights on Thursday morning.
Turning to citizens‘ rights within the EU, a report will be debated on Wednesday evening on failures to implement the EU Directive on combating sexual abuse of children in certain Member States. Although progress has been made, there is still room for improvement in the prevention, investigation and prosecution of crimes such as child pornography, including better assistance for victims and blocking or removing offending websites.
Later on Monday evening, the 2017 EU Citizenship Report will be presented to Members, reviewing the efforts to strengthen citizens’ rights in the EU at a time of considerable democratic change. The traditional topical debate on Wednesday afternoon looks at the issues involved in the enlargement and strengthening of benefits of the Schengen area to citizens of Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia.
Paying greater attention to the social consequences of EU policies is a main priority for all the EU institutions. The declaration signed at the recent Gothenburg Social Summit underlined this focus, however social policy nevertheless remains largely in the hands of the governments of the Member States. On Wednesday afternoon, the Commission and Council, as part of the preparations for the European Council meeting in December, will make statements on the implementation of the Social Pillar to tackle the challenges of developing labour markets and welfare in a globalised world. Proposals on extension of the duration of the European Fund for Strategic Investments aim to increase the amount of investment available to small businesses in the EU, with a target amount of €500 billion. Members will consider the text agreed with the Council in trilogue, following the joint report from the Budgets and Economic and Monetary Affairs Committees, on Tuesday morning.
An important item on the plenary agenda on Tuesday morning is the final report and draft recommendation of the Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry investigating alleged contraventions and maladministration of EU law in relation to money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion, an issue highlighted by the EU’s recent publication of a common list of non-cooperative jurisdictions. The committee was set up in the light of the extent of shadowy practices designed to escape regulations such as tax provisions revealed in the successive Panama, Bahamas and Paradise paper scandals. The draft recommendation to be voted in plenary sets out measures to redress the balance in favour of citizens who do not shirk their financial contributions to society.
Listen to podcast ‘PANA committee of inquiry‘.
With the term of the PANA committee completed, broader questions on the Parliament’s powers of inquiry have come back into the spotlight. Two oral questions, to the Council and Parliament, are tabled for Wednesday evening on the European Parliament’s right of inquiry. Although Parliament had proposed a new basis for implementing its right of inquiry, progress has been blocked because of differences between the institutions. The questions thus seek to elicit answers from the other two institutions on how they envisage breaking the deadlock.
Members will vote on changes to current CAP regulations aimed at improving farmers’ lives and the markets for agricultural produce, in a procedure that has split changes to agricultural provisions from the rest of the omnibus proposal to revise the EU’s financial rules, so that they can already apply from 1 January 2018. Technical and policy fine-tuning of the common agricultural policy goes before the plenary on Monday afternoon, for a vote on the text agreed with the Council on a set of amendments to various regulations in the field of agriculture and rural development.
To ensure sustainable management of the EU external fishing fleet, which is regulated by the Fishing Authorisation Regulation, new rules are proposed that should increase the efficiency of monitoring of EU fishing outside EU waters. These proposals aim at tightening up rules on transferring catches between ships, and better control of flagging practices. Members will vote at second reading on a text agreed with the Council that aims to increase measures to counter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
Finally, because the aviation industry produces high quantities of carbon emissions, global market-based measures are necessary to ensure an international effort to reduce emissions. The EU is keen to prepare the aviation industry for the global approach currently under development by the International Civil Aviation Organization. Whilst awaiting agreement, flights within the European Economic Area (EEA) come under the emissions trading system, while extra-EEA flights are temporarily exempt. In the interim, a Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation has been agreed, and Parliament will decide on Monday evening whether to extend the exemption for extra-EEA flights until 2023, when the first phase of that scheme begins. A review of the scheme in the aviation sector is also envisaged, which would apply emission reductions of 2.2 % per year to the aviation sector from 2021. On Tuesday morning, Parliament is also expected to vote on giving consent to the EU-Switzerland agreement on linking greenhouse gas emissions trading systems, while a European strategy for low-emission mobility will be discussed on Thursday.
On Tuesday lunchtime, Parliament will vote, under Rule 69c, on whether to confirm the JURI committee’s mandate for trilogue negotiations on the proposed changes to copyright rules regarding online broadcasting. The proposal would ensure the rules are adapted to the challenges of the impact of the new digital environment on both users and the creative industries. Parliament is also due to vote on a food safety issue, under Rule 106, as to whether to object to a Commission act which would allow the ongoing use of phosphoric acid and phosphates as food additives.
|A list of all material prepared for this Plenary Session:|
|Sufficient progress in first-phase Brexit talks (available in EN)|
|The 2017 Sakharov Prize (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Implementation of EU macro-regional strategies (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|EU–Kazakhstan Partnership Agreement (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Combating sexual abuse of children (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|PANA committee of inquiry (available in DE – EN- ES – IT – PL)|
|Aviation emissions – Towards a global approach (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Management of the EU external fishing fleet (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Implementation of the Social Pillar (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|EFSI – Extension of duration (‘EFSI 2.0’) (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|‘Omnibus regulation’ – Agricultural provisions (available in EN)|