Written by Clare Ferguson,
The EU’s long term goals and budget figure high on the Parliament’s agenda this week, with the Prime Minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, addressing the plenary on Thursday morning, for the next in the series of debates on the Future of Europe, and the Commission due to make a statement on its proposals for the post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework on Wednesday afternoon, right after it is due to adopt them earlier that morning.
Members will also discuss a report on the European Investment Bank 2016 financial report on Wednesday afternoon. As the European Union’s bank, both receiving and disbursing funding on behalf of the Member States – €53.6 billion in 2016 – the EIB presents its annual accounts to the European Parliament for review. With 70 % of total EIB lending in 2016 going to only six Member States: (Spain, Italy, France, United Kingdom, Germany and Poland), Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee (CONT) seeks greater transparency and geographical balance in the institution’s spending. The committee’s report is also critical of the bank’s arrangements to prevent potential conflicts of interest and corruption.
On the subject of prudent use of the EU’s financial resources, around 74 % of total EU spending is managed by national authorities, and the CONT committee is of the opinion that the Member States and the Commission are not doing enough to detect and prevent fraud when it comes to EU funding. A CONT committee report on the Commission’s 2016 report on protection of the European Union’s financial interests and the fight against fraud is the subject of a debate in plenary on Wednesday evening. Pressing issues include the rise in tobacco smuggling and resulting loss of tax and customs duties, VAT fraud and public procurement irregularities. The report highlights that greater protection for whistleblowers and investigative journalists could contribute to better detection of fraud.
Under considerable stress in recent years, media pluralism and media freedom are essential elements of democracy, and a core EU value. On Wednesday night, the plenary will hear a short presentation of a Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs report that highlights the need for all EU stakeholders to take action against malign interference in information dissemination, to increase transparency of media organisations’ funding, and to tackle the spread of disinformation through increased measures, including encouraging media literacy. The committee also proposes putting the Media Pluralism Monitor on a more permanent footing, particularly in light of its role in evaluating media freedom issues in accession negotiations.
One of the most visible EU policies is investment in promoting sustainable transport and removing bottlenecks in key network infrastructure. Members will debate, on Wednesday evening, an own-initiative report from the Regional Development Committee that urges continued funding for transport projects under EU cohesion policy. These make a significant impact on the economic development of EU regions, and the report recommends a focus on cross-border connectivity, including the EU’s external borders and dealing with gaps in the Western Balkans, as well as greater emphasis on protecting the climate.
Sheep and goat farms may make up a small part of the total EU farming sector, but are important in rural areas that are often remote and geographically unsuited to higher-income types of farming, particularly in the United Kingdom and Greece. On Wednesday night, Members will hear a short presentation of an Agriculture Committee report on the future of the EU’s sheep and goat sector. The report urges greater support for farmers to increase their bargaining power, and improve a market that, due to the combined impacts of low demand, flock health issues, and the new threat of returning predators, is currently reliant on imports.
The Council and Commission will give statements on Wednesday evening on stalking crimes and victim protection in the EU, as well as responding to oral questions on the protection of children in migration; a global ban to end to animal testing for cosmetics; and on farm safety. On Thursday morning, Members return to the file on tackling new psychoactive substances, an issue where the rapid spread of new types of drug requires a more targeted response on illicit drug trafficking.
|A list of all material prepared for this Plenary Session:|
|European Investment Bank: 2016 financial report (available in EN)|
|Promoting sustainable transport and removing bottlenecks in key network infrastructure (available in EN)|
|2016 report on protection of the European Union’s financial interests – fight against fraud (available in EN)|
|Media pluralism and media freedom in the EU (available in EN)|
|The future of the EU’s sheep and goat sector (available in EN)|