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European Parliament Plenary Session, November I 2018

Written by Clare Ferguson,

EE2014 - Eurovision debate between candidates for the Presidency of the European Commission

© European Union 2014 – Source EP / Eve VAN SOENS

The European Parliament agenda this month is dominated by some of the big set-pieces of the EU calendar: the latest in the continued debates on the Future of Europe; the EU budget; the award of the LUX prize to this year’s winning film; not forgetting the campaign now well under way to select nominees, known as ‘Spitzenkandidaten‘, for the election of the next Commission President.

The Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, attends Parliament for the latest debate on the Future of Europe (at 15:00 on Tuesday afternoon) in what may be the last chance that Parliament, at least in its current make-up, gets to hear this particular German Chancellor’s ideas on the way forward for Europe and its democratic institutions. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa will also address Parliament in a formal sitting on Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday morning, Members will discuss the interim report on the Commission’s proposals for a new multiannual financial framework for 2021-2027, which sets out the next EU budget. In the light of the commitments the EU has already undertaken, the report criticises the proposal to cut the EU’s resources as a share of post-Brexit EU-27 GNI. However, it also welcomes the opportunities to increase financial flexibility and the move towards ambitious reform of EU resources and revenue. On the basis of the position agreed during the session, Parliament would be ready to begin negotiations with the Council. In respect of spending under the current budgetary period, Parliament will consider mobilisation of the European Union Solidarity Fund to provide assistance to Latvia. The country could receive some €17 730 519 for reconstruction of the regions affected in floods in 2017, subsequently qualified as a ‘major natural disaster’.

More generally, a Commission statement on Monday evening on floods in Europe will look at responses to the recent series of floods in a number of European countries. Preparing the governance of the energy union to face the challenges of climate change and meeting international commitments on reducing emissions is the subject of a joint debate later on Monday evening, on a clean energy package for the EU. Following negotiations between the EU institutions, Members will consider three proposals, which include a binding 32 % target for use of energy from renewable sources by 2030, and indicative targets on national contributions and on a 32.5 % improvement in energy efficiency.

The LUX prize, to be awarded on Wednesday lunchtime, has become the recognised label of a good film. Nevertheless, whichever laureate wins this year, European filmmakers continue to struggle against fierce competition from the USA and beyond. The LUX prize award continues to support EU cinema through help with distribution and translation costs, allowing winners to break through the barriers of largely national distribution markets, to reach film fans throughout the EU.

Those travelling to the plenary session in Strasbourg by train may unfortunately be familiar with the difficulties of obtaining compensation when booking sections of the journey with different carriers. On Wednesday evening, Members will discuss a Transport Committee report on Commission proposals to strengthen rail passengers’ rights and obligations that deal with this specific issue, as well as others, such as accessibility and assistance. Carriers’ rights to claim force majeure have been a subject of disagreement to date. Should Members endorse the report, this will decide Parliament’s position for negotiations with the other EU institutions.

Migration issues are a persistent priority on the EU agenda. Following Council and Commission statements on EU Member States’ support for the UN Global Compact for migration, the final agenda item for Tuesday evening is discussion of a proposal to establish a system of humanitarian visas in the EU, to give people a clear procedure to follow when in need of international protection. This system would allow non-EU nationals whose lives are in danger to apply for a visa, following appropriate security screening. The comprehensive proposals intend to deal with the issue of irregular migration in the EU, a favourite topic in the influence of foreign actors in recent political campaigns. With the upcoming EP election campaign firmly in their sights, Members will take part in a topical debate on Wednesday afternoon on ways to increase EU resilience in the face of disinformation.

Looking further afield, a joint debate is scheduled for Tuesday evening on the implementation of the EU Association Agreements with Georgia and Moldova. Parliament’s Foreign Affairs (AFET) committee reports that implementation of the 2014 Association Agreement with Georgia is largely positive. While dealing with some foreign interference from both Russia and Turkey, the country is nevertheless making good progress on rule of law and human rights issues, with some exceptions for high-level corruption and the protection of vulnerable groups. Moldova, a priority country for Parliament’s democracy support within the Eastern Partnership, on the other hand, appears to be experiencing some serious backsliding on democratic values and electoral reform.

EU arms-export licences almost doubled between 2014 and 2016. A motion for resolution is tabled for Tuesday evening calling for strict interpretation and full implementation of the EU Common Position on arms export. The EU’s unique position ensures transparency and information-sharing on conventional arms exports by setting common minimum standards for individual Member States to assess export licence applications for military technology and equipment. The motion calls for increased parliamentary and public oversight of national arms exports from the EU, which go to destinations such as the United Arab Emirates, India, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Parliament will discuss the package of telecoms proposals, to establish a European Electronic Communications Code and develop the mandate of the corresponding regulatory body, known as BEREC, in a joint debate on Wednesday morning. The proposals for a lighter regulatory regime seek to boost investment in high-capacity networks, improving use of radio frequencies and providing access to broadband services for all citizens, as well as reinforcing consumer protection. A cap on charges for phone calls at 19 cents and 6 cents for text messages inside the EU has already been agreed, and the file now awaits Parliament’s final decision.

Parliament is also expected to take an initial position on a proposed multiannual plan for Adriatic fisheries later on Monday evening. Anchovy and sardine stocks are overfished in this part of the Mediterranean, and the current fisheries management is criticised as ineffective. Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries (PECH) is opposed to Commission proposals to radically change the way allowable catches are set, preferring to strengthen the current measures instead.

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