Written by Clare Ferguson,
As the long, hot summer draws to a close, Members of the European Parliament are packing their bags once more to travel to Strasbourg for the September plenary session. The agenda for this first ‘back-to-school’ session features the final State of the Union address of the current mandate by the President of the Commission, Jean‑Claude Juncker, on Wednesday morning. Other highlights include the latest in the series of debates on the Future of Europe, with the Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, scheduled for Tuesday morning, followed by an address by Michel Aoun, President of the Lebanese Republic, in a formal sitting on Tuesday lunchtime. Zoran Zaev, Prime Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will also address the plenary on Thursday morning, in advance of a referendum linked to the agreement with Greece on the country’s name, set for the end of this month.
Parliament will discuss on Monday evening an agreement to enlarge the structural reform support programme in both scope and funding. The Commission has proposed to expand the scope and financing of the programme, where demand has far outstripped capacity, to cover future euro membership preparations. Parliament has proposed that requests are prioritised, and stressed that other cohesion policy priorities should not be impacted.
Few people can have missed the tragic images of wildlife struggling to survive in our plastic-littered environment. Around 2 % to 5 % of plastics produced end up in oceans, damaging coastal and marine ecosystems. While plastic is a cheap, durable and convenient material, poor treatment of plastic waste impacts on nature, the climate and human health. Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health & Food Safety has urged the Commission to increase recycling of plastics and curtail the use of single-use plastics by 2020, and following a joint debate on the EU strategy for plastics in a circular economy on Wednesday evening, Parliament is due to vote on a resolution on the Commission’s proposals.
The controversy over whether or not glyphosate is a safe pesticide has raged for three years. On Thursday morning, Parliament will vote on a report on the implementation of the Plant Protection Products Regulation that expresses concerns regarding misuse of emergency authorisations allowing individual countries to apply derogations. Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health & Food Safety would like to see greater action on innovative pest management, as well as more transparency within the approval process to ensure that pesticides employed in the EU are low-risk for humans and the environment.
The modern digital environment has changed the way copyright-protected works and content are created, produced, distributed and used in the EU and beyond, rendering current legislation inadequate to deal with the issues thrown up by widespread use of the internet. On Tuesday afternoon, Members will propose amendments and debate the Commission’s proposal to tackle exceptions to copyright protection in the digital single market for research and education (text and data mining), press publishers’ rights, and the ‘value gap’ created by online sharing. This follows the rejection in plenary in July of the Legal Affairs Committee’s agreed mandate to negotiate with the Council on the proposal.
Digitalisation should also make it easier for citizens to obtain information or carry out an administrative procedure throughout the EU. The Commission has accordingly made a proposal for a single digital gateway. Should the proposal be approved, Member States will have to provide their most frequently used procedures online, in at least two languages. Parliament’s Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection has already succeeded in modifying the proposals to ensure the facility is clear, simple, and provides adequate data protection and access for the disabled. Parliament will discuss a compromise text agreed with the Council, on Wednesday evening. Data protection rules apply to the EU’s own bodies, offices and agencies too, and Parliament will debate a compromise text on the protection of personal data processed by the Union institutions and bodies on Wednesday afternoon. Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice & Home Affairs Committee is keen to see a harmonised regime that also covers the sort of sensitive operational data processed during judicial and police cooperation.
Looking further afield, an own-initiative report on the state of EU-US relations is scheduled for discussion on Tuesday evening, where President Trump’s willingness to withdraw the US from a number of international agreements on trade and security has raised considerable concern. Despite recent divergences, however, Parliament and the US Congress remain committed to working together. Other external relations items on the agenda on Tuesday evening include the state of EU-China relations and a statement by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the emergency situation in Libya and the Mediterranean.
Parliament will debate on Monday evening an initiative announced in the 2016 edition of President Juncker’s State of the Union speech to create a European Solidarity Corps. Parliament has been keen to ensure that this new opportunity for young people to volunteer in education, health, environmental protection, disaster prevention, and the reception and integration of migrants and asylum-seekers, is funded by fresh money, rather than reallocations. Parliament’s negotiators have been largely successful in ensuring that the aim of the Corps is to provide meaningful, non-profit opportunities that help the vulnerable while also improving young people’s job prospects.
Finally, on Tuesday evening, Parliament is due to debate an agreed text on controls on cash entering or leaving the EU, which are intended to close the gaps in existing laws that could be exploited for the purposes of money laundering or financing terrorism, specifically by tightening up definitions of ‘cash’.
|A list of all material prepared for this Plenary Session:|
|European Solidarity Corps (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Protection of personal data processed by the Union institutions and bodies (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Single Digital Gateway (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Structural Reform Support Programme: financial envelope and general objective (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Controls on cash entering or leaving the Union (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Plastics in a circular economy (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Implementation of pesticides legislation (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Copyright in the digital single market (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Countering money laundering with criminal law (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|State of EU-US relations (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Amending Budget No 4 to the 2018 EU budget: Mobilisation of the European Union Solidarity Fund (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|