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European Parliament Plenary Session, October I 2018

Written by Clare Ferguson,

European Parliament (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

On the Parliament’s agenda for this first October session, the Council and Commission will make statements on Tuesday morning on the preparation of the European Council meeting of 18 and 19 October 2018, which is due to focus on the issues of migration and internal security, most recently discussed by EU leaders at their informal meeting in Salzburg in September. The future partnership with the UK, following its withdrawal from the EU, is also likely to be discussed by the 27 leaders, as they push for agreement on the framework for that future relationship. Looking to the future of Europe, on Wednesday, the plenary will hold the next in the series of debates on the future of Europe, this time with the Prime Minister of Estonia, Jüri Ratas.

On Monday evening, the Commission is set to answer an oral question on the issue of blockchains and distributed ledger technologies, which have reached a point where great claims are made of their potential applications across a wide range of fields, but the regulatory environment remains uncertain. Parliament’s Industry Committee thus wants to know the Commission’s plans to bring legal certainty to the sector and what it is going to do to support a competitive blockchain ecosystem in Europe.

Tuesday morning features a formal sitting, with an address by Milo Đukanović, President of Montenegro, a candidate country for EU membership. Later that day, Members will vote on draft amending budget No 5/2018, which cancels the reserve set aside to support Turkey under the Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA II), due to the country not fulfilling the conditions for its disbursement. The funds will be reallocated to reinforce the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) and to humanitarian aid for other urgent actions.

Few could have predicted the rapid changes in the audiovisual market just a few short years ago. There is a pressing need to update the rules to provide a more flexible and future-proof framework for the provision of audiovisual media services, and one that protects vulnerable viewers, such as children, limits advertising and regulates what can be shown on our screens. On Tuesday, Parliament is also due to vote on an overhaul of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. While co-regulation and self-regulation will remain important, the proposals as agreed in trilogue with the Council expect VOD and VSP platforms to share responsibility for ensuring that harmful audiovisual content is controlled.

Two proposals from the Commission will be debated on Tuesday evening on updating the VAT framework (which dates back to the 1960s), taking the next steps towards a definitive VAT system for the EU. The first proposal concerns the harmonisation of VAT rates, which can distort the single market when, because of VAT charges, goods are more expensive in one country than in a neighbouring EU state. Countries would still be able to apply some VAT reductions in certain circumstances, and some goods be exempted, but the proposed minimum would be 12-15 %, with Parliament suggesting a maximum of 25 %. An EU VAT Web Information Portal would also be set up to provide information on EU VAT rates, and Parliament expects the benefits of reduced rates to be transferred to consumers. The second proposal concerns the proposed VAT regime for cross-border trade; which aims to tackle VAT fraud, as well as simplifying the rules for e-commerce and for SMEs.

Two more pieces of the law enforcement puzzle should fall into place on Wednesday afternoon when the proposals to reinforce and enhance the role of the EU Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) are debated. This EU agency has seen its activities in fighting terrorism, cybercrime, migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings increase in recent years, and Parliament is ready to support its increased workload through a new governance model, now that the equally necessary and connected function of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office has been decided. On Wednesday, Parliament will also debate a new regulation, aimed at improving the legal framework governing the freezing and confiscation of criminal assets in cross-border cases. The proposed regulation would improve mutual recognition in criminal matters in the EU, and improve the procedures recognising, freezing and confiscating criminal gains. Importantly, the proposals also prioritise the victims of such crime and their rights to compensation and restitution.

The issue of data is also on the agenda for Wednesday evening, but in this case, the debate will cover the free flow of non-personal data within the EU, allowing businesses to stock and process non-personal data (personal data, meaning that which can identify an individual, are already covered by the General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR) anywhere in the EU without unjustified restriction (except for public security). The proposal could enable data such as accounting and financial information to flow across borders in the EU, giving companies more choice in the location of their data services.

A list of all material prepared for this Plenary Session:
The Audiovisual Media Services Directive (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)
Steps towards a definitive VAT system (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)
EU Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)
Freezing and confiscation orders (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)
Free flow of non-personal data in the EU (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)
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