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European Parliament Plenary Session, January II 2019

Written by Clare Ferguson,

European Union, EP

The first item on the agenda for this week’s part-session is a formal sitting on Wednesday to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In remembering the fate of the millions of Europeans who suffered between 1933 and 1945, Parliament has made its position clear that racism and xenophobia are not opinions but crimes. The worrying recent rise in anti-Semitism in Europe adds to the difficult social conditions under which Holocaust survivors live, many of whom suffer physical and psychological consequences of the persecution. To alleviate this situation, the EU has decided on a common approach to protect Jewish communities in Europe.

A statement by the European Commission on combatting the climate of hatred and physical violence against democratically elected mandate holders is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, and Members will also debate a report calling to block sites when the domain name is defamatory or racist later on Wednesday evening. The trilogue agreement on new rules on the .eu top level domain (TLD), to be debated on Wednesday, ensures greater promotion of EU data protection rules and values in the proposed revamping of the rules on domain names, as well as encouraging best practice and reorganising the management of domain names in the EU.

Also on Wednesday afternoon, the Council and Commission will make statements on the rule of law and fundamental rights in Hungary. Parliament has made several resolutions on the risks of serious breaches of the EU’s founding principles by the Hungarian state. A proposal currently under consideration seeks to allow for sanctions measures with regard to EU funding.

Parliament will then debate a Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) report on the 2017 annual report on the protection of EU financial interests, and the fight against fraud. The European Commission prepares the annual report, based on information provided by the Member States’ authorities, who manage the actual expenditure. While the CONT committee acknowledges that irregularities decreased during the period, the amount of money involved actually increased. The report stresses the uneven geographical distribution of fraud, and decries the low average recovery rate.

In the latest, and one of the last, of the current series, a debate will be held with the Prime Minister of Finland, Juha Sipilä, on the Future of Europe on Thursday morning. Perhaps the Prime Minister will touch upon some of the burning issues for the next few years: such as an EU at 27 Member States, trade issues and other geopolitical changes, as well as security, the environment, or the challenges of the digital transformation.

Finally, on Thursday lunchtime, Members will vote on a report on the European Commission proposal to change the way EU overseas countries and territories are funded. Parliament’s Development Committee is proposing to increase the budget for the non-UK linked overseas territories plus Greenland to €669 million, and to include these territories in EU regional dialogues with their immediate neighbours. The measures also seek to reinforce environmental and human rights considerations, as well as the territories’ competitiveness.

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