Written by Clare Ferguson,
This European Parliament plenary session follows International Women’s Day last week, when events organised by the Committee on Women ‘s Rights and Gender Equality focused on gender equality in the media and digital sector. The committee’s own-initiative report seeks to ensure that everyone is represented equally, and that women and girls are empowered through the media. Traditional attitudes about the place of women in society are exacerbated by sexism in advertising that places women in stereotyped roles, or as subordinate to men, and are considered to perpetuate a climate of acceptance of violence against women. In that context, the Commission is to make a statement on Monday on the ratification by EU Member States of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women. Although all EU Member States, and the EU itself, have signed the convention, only 17 of them have so far ratified it. Parliament has also pushed, in a resolution adopted in September 2017, for the EU’s ratification to be speeded up.
International Women’s Day is an important moment to consider the progress (or lack thereof), in ensuring gender balance in EU policies. On Monday evening, the agenda includes a report from the International Trade Committee on reinforcing gender equality measures in EU trade. Although liberalisation boosts employment in the export sector, not everyone benefits from international trade equally. Conscious of the different impact of trade liberalisation on women, the EU includes measures aimed at defending women’s labour rights in trade agreements. To combat the exploitation of women in export-oriented industries and support those running small businesses, the EU insists on trade and sustainable development chapters in all its trade agreements with third countries, to ensure fair work and remuneration, as well as human rights protections. Still on international trade matters, a Commission statement is expected on the recent- US decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium
Recently in the news, extreme weather conditions in Europe have highlighted the tough conditions under which professional drivers have to work. The EU is currently updating the rules on training for lorry and bus drivers, to modernise the training, ensure that qualifications are recognised throughout the EU, and to set up a register to help enforcement authorities end trade in fake licences. Parliament will vote on the provisional agreement, reached with the Council, on Monday evening. More generally, all EU job seekers and employers could benefit from better services for documenting skills, qualifications and professional experience, planned under the revision of the Europass framework, on the agenda for discussion on Wednesday evening.
Deliveries were hit badly by the cold snap, but even had they not been affected, sending or receiving a parcel delivery from another EU country already costs up to five times more than sending inside the same country. Nobody likes paying more than they should for a service, so the EU has reached a provisional agreement on new laws to boost competition and price reductions in the cross-border parcel deliveries sector, which needs to be approved by Parliament and is on the agenda for Monday evening. A new website should soon help consumers and small businesses, who do not have enough bargaining power to negotiate reduced tariffs, to look for the best deals. With so much merchandise moving around the EU by road, a statement is also expected from the European Commission on Thursday detailing its action plan on alternative fuels infrastructure, which seeks to increase the number of vehicles using non-fossil fuels on European roads by 2030. A report on a European strategy on cooperative intelligent transport systems will also be discussed on Monday night.
The Prime Minister of Portugal, António Costa, will attend the session for a debate on the Future of Europe on Wednesday morning, and in a key debate on Tuesday, the Council and Commission are expected to make statements on the Preparation of the European Council meeting of 22-23 March, and on the Guidelines on the framework of future EU-UK relations.
EU measures are financed through what are known as ‘own resources’. However, over time, the ideal of collecting and disbursing funding on a European scale has been diluted by rebates for some countries and a tendency to demand a ‘fair return’ for contributions. To fund common European objectives, the Commission is soon to propose a reform of the system of own resources, and the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU presents an ideal opportunity to abolish rebates and corrections and secure financial autonomy from the Member States. Members will debate a report setting out Parliament’s proposals for this reform, once the current period comes to an end in 2020, on Tuesday afternoon. At the same time, Members will also debate proposals to adapt the EU’s spending framework to provide a post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework with sufficient flexibility to deal with new challenges, maintain funding levels for critical policies, such as agriculture and cohesion, and allow for increased funding for new ambitions, such as in research.
Parliament follows this discussion with a joint debate on the European Semester on Tuesday evening, considering two reports on the Annual Growth Survey 2018 that feeds into the economic and budgetary outlook for 2018. A report on the guidelines for Section III of the 2019 Budget, setting out Parliament’s priorities for the major part of EU spending next year, i.e. that under direct control of the Commission, also takes place on Tuesday afternoon.
On Wednesday afternoon, Parliament holds a joint debate on the linked proposals for a common (consolidated) corporate tax base, which builds on the previous proposal for a common corporate tax base. The proposals aim at setting simpler tax rules within the EU for computing cross-border taxable income for companies, and would replace different national rules. Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs has made some recommendations to make the move, if agreed, smoother for the Member States.
Finally, after 30 years of fisheries agreements, the EU is likely to revoke its agreement with the Comoros, on the grounds that the country has not upheld its responsibilities in the fight against illegal, un-reported and unregulated fishing. As Parliament’s consent is required for the measure, denouncing the EU-Comoros fisheries agreement will be voted in plenary on Thursday. The EU has left the door open, however, should the Comoros decide to take up the recommendations provided for a longer-term vision of sustainable fishing in the region.
|A list of all material prepared for this Plenary Session:|
|Action plan on alternative fuels infrastructure (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Reform of the EU ‘s system of own resources (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Cross-border parcel delivery (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Training of professional drivers (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Denouncing the EU-Comoros fisheries agreement (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Gender equality and trade (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Common (consolidated) corporate tax base (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Gender equality in the media and digital sectors (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
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