The highlight of the March II 2021 plenary session was the joint debate on the preparation of the European Council and Digital Green Certificates. A number of further joint debates were held on 2019‑2020 enlargement progress reports on Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia, on the reform of EU own resources, on a capital markets recovery package: adjustments to the securitisation framework and on a European strategy for data. These debates were followed by votes.
Other debates held following Council and Commission statements concerned Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, and the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the rule of law in Malta. Proposals on guidelines for the 2022 EU budget, implementation of the Ambient Air Quality Directives, for a new EU-Africa strategy, and legislation on exports, brokering, technical assistance, transit and transfer of dual-use goods, were also debated and voted.
Own Resources Decision
Members debated the continuing reform of EU financing, following which they voted on three Council regulations that complete the EU budget’s revenue system for the current spending period. The new revenue streams envisaged under the Own Resources Decision are required to raise sufficient resources to repay borrowing for the Next Generation EU (NGEU) funding, which aims at financing key EU objectives on climate change and the digital economy. Members considered the proposed regulation on implementing measures to which the Parliament gave its consent; and approved a further two proposals on which Parliament is consulted, concerning the operational provisions for collecting a new own resource from plastic packaging waste, and modifying provisions on collecting the value added tax-based own resource, agreed under the Own Resources Decision. Further proposals for new own resources are under consideration, however, the Own Resources Decision is currently undergoing Member State ratification, without which urgent spending under NGEU to recovery from the coronavirus crisis cannot begin.
Guidelines for the 2022 EU budget
Parliament also debated and adopted a Committee on Budgets (BUDG) report that aims at proposing a set of guidelines to assist the European Commission in drawing up the draft 2022 EU budget. The committee’s focus is firmly on prioritising the social and economic recovery, particularly in respect of the impact on young people. The BUDG committee also calls for maximum flexibility in disbursing the budget to face the challenges of climate change and digital transition, and underlines the importance of spending on both health and security.
Capital markets recovery package
There is no doubt that the economic shock of the coronavirus measures will be severe. Following a joint debate on the capital markets recovery package, Members approved provisional agreements reached during interinstitutional negotiations on two European Commission legislative proposals. The first updates the framework for securitisation in the EU to enhance banks’ capacity to help to fund the recovery, and the second amends the securitisation framework itself. While the provisional agreements incorporate most of the changes called for by Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON), proposed performance-related triggers and amendments on non-performing exposures were not agreed upon. However, some additional details have been included, such as specifying the formulae to calculate the maximum capital requirement in case of a qualifying traditional non-performing exposures securitisation. The texts also task the European Banking Authority with monitoring the measures and reporting to the European Commission, which will consider whether to propose further amendments.
A European strategy for data
As data is the driving force of the European digital transformation, Parliament debated an EU market for personal and non-personal data that fully respects European rules and values and adopted an own-initiative report on a European strategy for data. Parliament also adopted a resolution on the European Commission’s evaluation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Control of exports, transfer, brokering, technical assistance and transit of dual-use items
Members debated, and approved by an overwhelming majority, the text agreed in trilogue on the revision of the exports of dual-use items, under consideration for some years now. To both protect legitimate business interests and simultaneously reinforce protection of human rights in the world, the need for new limits on exports of dual-use items is clear. There is considerable EU trade in these goods or technologies, which are generally used for civilian purposes, but can also be turned to alternative military use in, for example, weapons of mass destruction, or cyber-surveillance.
Aiming to boost international cooperation on both climate change and migration issues, Members discussed and voted on an own-initiative report from Parliament’s Development Committee (DEVE) on proposals for a new EU-Africa strategy. The DEVE report underlines the need to refocus the partnership towards attaining greater sustainability and inclusive development, with particular focus on security, agriculture and health issues, and human rights.
Cohesion policy and climate change
Despite the economic ravages of the pandemic, the EU stands by its firm commitment to tackle the climate emergency and – accounting for one-third of the entire EU budget – cohesion policy is set to make a major contribution. Members debated and adopted an own-initiative report by the Committee on Regional Development (REGI), which points to the need for coordinated and coherent climate action across all policies and governance levels. The report stresses the key role of local and regional authorities in translating the wider EU climate ambition stated in the Paris Agreement and European Green Deal into action at the local level.
Read the complete ‘at a glance’ on ‘Plenary round-up – March II 2021‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.