Written by Clare Ferguson,
Following the recent warning from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that action needs to be taken more urgently to keep global temperatures down, it is unsurprising that a strong environmental focus kicks off the agenda
for the European Parliament’s second plenary session of October, with a joint debate on Monday evening on the EU position for the UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland (COP24)
and the 14th meeting of the Convention of Biological Diversity (COP14). Two oral questions concern progress on EU climate change measures. A key supporter of the Paris Agreement, Parliament is seeking significant progress on action under the Agreement, not least through calls from the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) to raise the EU emissions reduction target from 40 % to 55 % by 2030. Parliament will set out its position in a motion for resolution scheduled for a vote on Thursday lunchtime, when it will also take a position in advance of the 14th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP14) of the Convention on Biological Diversity
in November, in Egypt.
On Monday evening, Parliament will debate EU water quality standards, which date from 1998; today over 98.5 % of drinking water tested in the EU meets those standards. However, not least in response to the first successful European Citizens’ Initiative, ‘Right2Water’, the Commission has proposed to revise the Drinking Water Directive
to ensure the safety and sustainability of the water supply, including through encouraging restaurants to supply customers with free (or low cost) tap water, which would have the added benefit of reducing the use of plastic bottles. Such single-use plastics have a severe impact on the marine environment in particular, and a debate will also take place on Monday night on proposals to reduce marine litter: single-use plastics and fishing gear
, which threatens marine and coastal biodiversity. The demands of Parliament’s ENVI committee include reducing plastics use by 50 % by 2025 and 80 % by 2030, and setting a 50 % minimum collection rate for fishing gear.
When it comes to road transport, Parliament is keen to apply the ‘user pays’ and ‘polluter pays’ principles, and particularly in the charging of heavy goods vehicles
for using road infrastructure. A wholesale revision of what is known as the Eurovignette Directive is under way, with Parliament pushing for greater harmonisation in road toll charges for heavy goods and heavy duty vehicles, that today neither cover costs nor incentivise cleaner operations. Members will debate the proposal on Wednesday evening, before discussing measures to move towards ‘clean mobility’ through the promotion of clean and energy-efficient vehicles
for use by public services – which has met with limited success to date. Parliament’s ENVI committee considers that contracting authorities and entities that face additional costs due to these measures need EU financial support, and links the proposals to EU measures on alternative fuels infrastructure, on the agenda for debate on Thursday morning.
The next in the series of debates on the future of Europe is scheduled for Tuesday morning with Klaus Iohannis, the President of Romania. Members will hear European Council
and Commission statements on the conclusions of the European Council meeting held on 17 and 18 October 2018 on Wednesday morning, as well as a statement from the Commission on its work programme for 2019 on Tuesday afternoon, and on the use of Facebook users’ data by Cambridge Analytica and the impact of this on data protection on Tuesday morning.
As usual at this time of year, Parliament will also debate the EU budget for next year. On Monday evening, Parliament’s reading of the 2019 EU budget will consider whether and how to amend the Council’s position in the light of the Committee on Budgets report reversing most of the Council’s proposed cuts, and increasing funding for Parliament priorities on sustainable growth, competitiveness, security, migration and young people. Votes on all sections of the draft general EU budget for 2019 will take place on Wednesday lunchtime.
On Tuesday lunchtime, Parliament consent is sought for two appointments, for the managing and deputy managing directors of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI)
. Wilhelm Molterer, and Iliyana Tsanova are likely to have their appointments renewed, following their earlier hearings before the EP. Later on Tuesday evening, Parliament will debate the second reports on the remaining EU institutions awaiting budgetary discharge for 2016
. Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee, insisting that the expenditure of all EU institutions is scrutinised in exactly the same way, proposes to refuse to grant discharge to the Council and the European Council, as in recent years, due to the ongoing lack of transparency in spending by those institutions, particularly on buildings. The committee also proposes to grant discharge for the European Asylum Support Office, where the spending and staffing issues that previously gave cause for concern, are considered to have been sufficiently resolved.
Parliament is well aware of EU citizens’ demands to better address migration and security challenges and to counter terrorism and serious crime in the EU. However, it is also determined not to strengthen security measures at the expense of safe treatment of personal data. Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice & Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee is in favour of stronger centralisation of data such as fingerprints, and is calling for further harmonisation of alerts on refusals of entry to the Schengen area. The committee is also concerned about the ineffectiveness of the current EU policy on returning unsuccessful asylum candidates to third countries. Following an informal agreement on a package of measures on the use of the Schengen Information System
with the Council, Parliament will consider the final texts in a joint debate on Tuesday afternoon.
A joint debate on the animal medicines package
, which includes improved rules on authorisation of medicinal products for human and animal use, veterinary medicinal products and the manufacture, sale and use of medicated feed, is scheduled for Wednesday evening. The proposed changes to the current framework seek to ensure that medicines are available where they are needed, yet not abused, which may lead to raised antimicrobial resistance, for instance. Parliament particularly insists that EU food standards are reciprocal, and that trading partners respect EU rules on antibiotics and antimicrobials that aim to protect citizens’ health.
Finally, while no EU legislation exists at present on the import of cultural goods
(except from Iraq and Syria), on Wednesday afternoon, Parliament will debate a proposal to simplify EU customs rules, while ensuring that trade operators and buyers can be certain of the legality of the artefacts they buy.