Written by Clare Ferguson,
Financial matters figure largely on the Parliament’s agenda for this last plenary session before the summer recess. The series of debates on the Future of Europe also continues, with a contribution from the Prime Minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki, expected on Wednesday morning, followed by an address by the President of the Republic of Angola, João Lourenço, in a formal sitting on Wednesday lunchtime. Just as the summer recess begins, the Bulgarian Council Presidency comes to a close on 30 June, and Parliament will hear statements from the Council and the Commission on the outgoing presidency on Tuesday morning, as well as a presentation of the programme of activities of the Austrian Presidency, which starts on 1 July. The European Council and Commission will also make statements on Tuesday afternoon on the conclusions of the European Council meeting of 28 and 29 June 2018.
Parliament will begin its discussion of the EU’s finances with Amending Budget No 2 to the 2018 EU budget, which moves the surplus in the 2017 EU budget to the 2018 budget. The sum involved, €555.5 million, will decrease Member States’ contributions to the 2018 budget. The surplus is a result of the previous amending budget, plus the high level of competition fines feeding into the EU budget in 2017, and delays in implementation of programmes and therefore spending. Parliament will vote on a Committee on Budgets report on Wednesday lunchtime, followed by consideration of Amending Budget No 3 to the 2018 EU budget: Facility for Refugees in Turkey. Parliament’s Committee on Budgets has agreed to the allocation of funding for some 5 000 teachers currently providing education for over 300 000 refugee children in Turkey, on the condition that Parliament must be fully associated in the future decision-making process over the facility, when it comes up for review within the 2019 budgetary procedure. Returning to budgetary matters later on Wednesday afternoon, Parliament will also consider the mandate for trilogue for the 2019 draft EU budget, its position for initial negotiations with the Council. Parliament’s priorities for the 2019 budget are sustainable growth, innovation, competitiveness, citizenship, security, the fight against climate change, transition to renewable energy and migration, and young people. Parliament’s Committee on Budgets, however, notes that the current proposals leave very little flexibility for unexpected expenditure. Still on the budget, while the reform of EU financial rules for five sectoral regulations in the common agricultural policy field has already been separately agreed, Parliament will discuss the compromise its negotiators have agreed on the revision of the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union on Wednesday evening. The new amended Financial Regulation would limit trust funds to external actions; retain the non-profit principle and end transfers from structural funding to the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI); as well as maintaining the competences of the budgetary authority. Finally, a statement is expected by the President of the Eurogroup on Wednesday afternoon on the conclusion of the third economic adjustment programme for Greece.
The related issues of EU migration and security are likely to eat up a fair proportion of the EU budget for some time to come. During the July plenary session, Parliament will consider the next building block in the EU’s efforts to increase its military capabilities, the European defence industrial development programme (EDIDP), to be discussed on Monday evening. The proposed programme would be part of the European Defence Fund, and the EU has responded to an increasing security threat and key allies’ withdrawal of support, by setting up an envelope of €500 million to fund the development of defence equipment and technologies and boost the competitiveness of the EU defence industry.
Still on security, Parliament will again consider proposals for a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) to manage information about third-country nationals travelling within the Schengen area on Wednesday afternoon. The proposals seek to create an online system similar to those used in the USA and Canada to address the current lack of information about visa-exempt nationals travelling into Europe. Parliament wants to ensure that the information used in the system is strictly relevant, and that the system is secure, transparent and accountable.
When it comes to spending the EU budget, farm statistics provide the evidence used to make decisions on where to allocate funding within the framework of the EU common agricultural policy. In line with its policy to update all its statistical data, the Commission has made a proposal to update integrated farm statistics to make their collection more flexible, more detailed, more coherent, and to reduce the burden of data collection. Parliament will consider the agreed text on Monday evening.
Parliament will consider three current proposals on mobility in the EU during this session, in a joint debate on Tuesday afternoon. While the Transport Committee adopted the reports on social and market rules in the road transport sector, the Parliament as a whole did not endorse the committee’s mandates during the June session, and the three reports thus automatically come onto the agenda this session. While the majority of the Transport Committee voted in favour of enforcement requirements and specific rules for posting drivers in the road transport sector; and on daily and weekly driving times, minimum breaks and rest periods and positioning by means of tachographs, the Employment and Social Affairs Committee has decided to reintroduce its amendments in order to provide greater focus on working conditions for drivers in the road transport sector.
On employment more generally, a statute for social and solidarity-based enterprises would establish a common definition, based on specific criteria and good practices, enabling enterprises with a positive social, environmental or community impact, and which provide employment for 14.5 million people, to overcome regulatory obstacles. A great many legal forms of social enterprise exist in the EU, and Parliament will consider a recommendation to create a ‘European social label’ scheme on Thursday lunchtime.
Finally, with just under a year to go, Members are naturally turning their minds to the next European elections. On Wednesday afternoon, Parliament will vote on the reform of the electoral law of the EU which, among other things, sets new minimum thresholds for constituencies. While these will not be implemented until the 2024 EU elections, the proposals also include facilitating the extension of voting to different methods, and increased data protection. The idea of ensuring all EU citizens resident in third countries are able to vote was, however, not taken up by the Council. The Commission will also make a statement on the participation of persons with disabilities in the European elections on Thursday morning.