Written by Clare Ferguson.
For this second session of the month of June, Parliament sits in Brussels, with formal agreement on funding for the European Union’s green ambitions top of the agenda. António Guterres will address the plenary on Thursday, following his re-appointment to a second term as UN Secretary-General, on his priorities for a fair and sustainable post-pandemic recovery.
On Wednesday afternoon, Members will take part in a joint debate on three regulations in the proposed cohesion policy package under the 2021‑2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF) that together ensure the EU continues to fulfil its goals in strengthening development of its regions through targeted Union funding.
The proposed Common Provisions Regulation for 2021‑2027 sets out new, simplified financial rules for eight EU funds in the light of the EU’s policy objectives for a greener, smarter, more social and connected Europe. Parliament has succeeded in raising co-financing rates for the regions, increasing resources earmarked for sustainable urban development, and ensuring the rules better reflect the EU’s new policy objectives. Parliament will consider formal adoption of the compromise text at second reading during this session.
The debate will also consider the proposal for a regulation on the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund, with Members also due to vote on these proposals at second reading during this session. With around one third of the entire EU budget dedicated to reducing regional disparities and promoting cohesion during this seven-year MFF period, the Regional Development Fund seeks to support infrastructure and energy efficiency investment, as well as providing economic assistance for small businesses, while the Cohesion Fund should encourage environmental projects and transport infrastructure in the least-developed regions. In line with the EU’s climate ambition, fossil fuel and landfill-related investments will be ineligible for funding. The compromise agreed between Parliament and Council takes up Parliament’s focus on lower thematic concentration and greater funding for sustainable urban development. Funding should now be available for job creation and digital connectivity, with a focus on renewables under the Cohesion Fund.
A third element of the proposed package is the revision of the regulation on European territorial cooperation, or ‘Interreg’, with Parliament expected to vote at second reading on the compromise reached between the co-legislators on the changes. Although Parliament has successfully secured the reintroduction of maritime border cooperation, as well as increased co- and pre-financing for Interreg programmes, the increased €8.05 billion budget for cross-border, outermost region and inter-regional cooperation nevertheless falls short of Parliament’s initial ambitions. If agreed, the proposal will launch a revamped cooperation programme, removing barriers to development and fostering innovation and joint strategies to help border regions find solutions to the issues they face in common, emphasising their proximity rather than their location in different countries.
On Thursday morning, Members attention turns to another opportunity to assist EU regions, specifically those facing the greatest challenges to surmount the transition to climate neutrality. The public sector loan facility within the EU Just Transition Mechanism, part of the InvestEU scheme (a key financial element of the EU Green Deal), aims at mobilising €25‑30 billion in public investment through grants and loans during the 2021‑2027 period. Members are expected to vote on formal agreement of a compromise that incorporates many of Parliament’s demands, including beneficiaries’ compliance with EU values, and a greater share of the loans for the poorest regions.
Achieving climate neutrality by 2050, however, is going to take concerted effort. The EU has proposed measures that should both assist the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and ensure that climate ambitions become reality. The European Green Deal provides an action plan for these efforts, and the proposed European Climate Law creates the legal framework underpinning the measures. On Thursday morning, Members are expected to consider adoption of the compromise agreed with the co-legislators. The agreement reflects Parliament’s consistent demands for a higher net greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for 2030, particularly as it states that the EU should advance the volume of reductions and removals of greenhouse gases, possibly to a net reduction of 57 %, by 2030.
As other human activities also threaten biodiversity, Parliament is keen to encourage realistic measures to protect endangered species, such as the Greenland shark, as well as to ensure responsible management of cod fisheries. Parliament has therefore negotiated a provisional agreement with the Council setting out EU compliance with the conservation and enforcement measures for the Northwest Atlantic fisheries. Under the agreement, EU fishing vessels will respect conservation measures when fishing outside national waters in the region. These include seasonal closure and bans on bottom-fishing in some locations. Members are expected to vote on the compromise on Wednesday evening.
In a debate on Wednesday afternoon on the preparation of the next European Council, Members will hear statements from the Council and Commission on the preparation of the European Council meeting scheduled for later in the week, on 24‑25 June 2021.
Finally, the European Ombudsman is the EU’s independent guardian of accountability and transparency, ensuring EU institutions adhere to principles of good administration and respect EU citizens’ rights. In its 27 years’ existence, the role has developed considerably, leading to a need to revise the underpinning Statute, last amended in 2008. Following Parliament’s debate and vote to adopt a new statute for the European Ombudsman during the June I plenary session, and the Council’s subsequent consent, the plenary is expected to formally adopt the revised European Parliament regulation governing the role of the Ombudsman on Wednesday evening. This completes the procedure begun in 2019 to further strengthen and improve the Ombudsman’s role and effectiveness.