Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson.
During the October II 2021 plenary session in Strasbourg, Parliament held a number of important debates, in particular on: the primacy of EU law, the rule of law crisis and de facto abortion ban in Poland; increased efforts to fight money laundering; regarding pushbacks at the EU’s external border; the right to a healthy environment and on climate, energy and environmental State aid guidelines (CEEAG). Members debated the rise of right-wing extremism and racism in Europe, the humanitarian situation in Haiti and the proposal to build a ‘single market for philanthropy’. Members debated a statement from the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission, Josep Borrell, on the situation in Tunisia.
Parliament also discussed matters in preparation for the European Council meeting of 21‑22 October 2021, and debated the global tax agreements to be endorsed at the G20 Summit in Rome on 30‑31 October 2021, as well as the outcome of the Western Balkans summit.
Parliament announced that its 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought will be awarded to Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, with the formal ceremony to be held on 20 December 2021.
General budget of the European Union for the 2022 financial year
Members voted to amend the Council’s position on the 2022 EU budget, the second annual budget under the 2021‑2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF). Parliament’s Committee on Budgets (BUDG) proposed to reverse the cuts sought by the Council, in favour of a considerable increase in contributions to the Covid‑19 recovery. The BUDG committee proposed greater spending on boosting investment, tackling unemployment, and laying the foundations for a more resilient and sustainable Union. As Parliament approved the BUDG committee position, the file now goes to the Conciliation Committee, bringing together Parliament and Council delegations, for consideration within a period of 21 days.
United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26)
Despite the extreme weather conditions experienced during the past two years, the Covid‑19 pandemic appears to have diverted governments’ attention somewhat from the robust and urgent action needed to follow up on their Paris Agreement commitments. Developed nations have not yet honoured their promises to deliver funding by 2020 to assist less-developed countries’ efforts. With COP26 fast approaching, Members adopted a resolution tabled by Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), calling for stricter rules on voluntary cooperation to reach mitigation goals under Article 6 of the Agreement. Parliament also urges that Europe show greater climate leadership on the green global recovery and climate policies that align with the just transition principle. While underlining the need to end fossil fuel subsidies, the resolution also notes the urgency of tackling other emissions.
Credit servicers and credit purchasers
Members adopted at first reading the provisional agreement reached in trilogue by Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) Committee negotiators on the proposed credit servicers and purchasers directive. With an eye to the possible economic consequences of the Covid‑19 crisis, this legislative proposal aims at safeguarding borrowers’ rights when their loans are sold on, while promoting a sound secondary market in non-performing loans.
Motor vehicle insurance
Under EU legislation, our motor vehicle insurance covers us throughout the EU. Members debated and adopted at first reading an agreed text on the proposed revision of the Motor Insurance Directive. The revision aims at better protecting road traffic accident victims against those who drive without insurance. The agreement includes Parliament’s demands that motor insurance price comparison tools meet certain standards and that they are certified by Member States, with possible fines for misleading consumers.
Farm to fork strategy
Members adopted an own-initiative resolution on the ‘farm to fork’ strategy by a large majority. Aimed at pushing the switch to sustainability in EU food systems, the Parliament’s ENVI and Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) Committees’ joint report welcomed the strategy, but urges greater action on balancing economic needs against sustainability criteria. The committees call for action across the spectrum of the food system, to support farmers and food producers alike in reducing their environmental impact. The report notes that EU countries’ strategic post-2022 common agricultural policy plans will be key to a successful transition to a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system.
Draft amending budget No 4/2021
Members followed the BUDG committee’s recommendation that Parliament endorse the Council position on Draft amending budget No 4/2021. This amending budget updates the revenue side of the EU budget, now that the new system of own resources is in place, including a revised revenue forecast for the 2021 budget. The amendments also cover adjustments to the United Kingdom’s post-withdrawal contributions to the EU budget and certain EU countries’ reductions in annual contributions.
Discharge: EU general budget – Council and European Council
Parliament has exclusive competence to grant or refuse discharge for the execution of the EU budget and returned to the remaining discharge decisions for the 2019 financial year during this plenary. Members adopted a resolution refusing discharge for the 2019 budget of the European Council and Council (postponed since April 2021), following a recommendation by the Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT). The CONT committee regrets that the Council’s continued refusal to cooperate demonstrates a lack of respect for Parliament’s role as guarantor of the democratic accountability of EU institutions’ spending.
Discharge: European Border and Coast Guard
The second debate and vote on discharge concerned the 2019 budget discharge for the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. Members adopted the CONT committee’s report recommending Parliament grant discharge (also postponed since April 2021). The committee recommended freezing part of the Agency’s budget, pending improvement in its operations, human resources and financial management.
EU-Taiwan political relations and cooperation
Members debated and adopted a draft recommendation to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President on EU-Taiwan political relations and cooperation. The Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) report accompanying the draft recommendation calls for an enhanced partnership, a stronger bilateral investment agreement, supports Taiwan’s efforts to gain a seat at the international table, and expresses concern regarding the Chinese position.
Protecting workers from asbestos
Members debated a Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) legislative-initiative report and adopted recommendations to the Commission on protecting workers from asbestos, by an overwhelming majority The committee calls for a ‘European strategy for the removal of all asbestos’, a substance which causes cancer, killing 30 000 to 90 000 people in the EU every year. Given the persistence of asbestos in buildings in the EU and the need to update exposure limits, the EMPL committee proposes to connect policies to remove asbestos and to strengthen worker protection and support for victims.
Opening of trilogue negotiations
Members confirmed, without a vote, six mandates for negotiation: from the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), Civil Liberties, Justice & Home Affairs (LIBE) and AGRI (2 mandates) Committees, and from the Legal Affairs (JURI) and (LIBE) Committees jointly (Rule 58).
A further two mandates from the LIBE committee were also confirmed by vote.
Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Plenary round-up – October II 2021‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.