Written by Clare Ferguson.
Parliament’s second plenary session of November takes place in Strasbourg, with Members firmly focusing their agenda on one of Parliament’s most important tasks – its scrutiny of the way in which EU funds are spent.
Citizens expect the EU to spend its budget efficiently and transparently, and the European Parliament represents citizens’ interests through several mechanisms allowing for thorough checks of EU spending. One of the main ways in which the EU spends its budget remains the common agricultural policy (CAP). Following a joint debate scheduled for Tuesday morning, Members are scheduled to vote on the agreement reached (after lengthy negotiations between the co-legislators) on three proposals to reform EU farm policy for the new budgetary period – the 2021‑2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF). However, given the time taken to reach these agreements, the new reforms would come into effect on 1 January 2023, with a temporary extension currently in place for 2021 and 2022 spending. The first file concerns the new requirement for each EU Member State to draw up a CAP strategic plan, setting out exactly how they will use the CAP to support farmers, and market and rural development. This new delivery model should provide greater flexibility and subsidiarity, and is expected to better align CAP spending with EU environmental and climate priorities. The agreement on the CAP horizontal regulation on financing, management and monitoring rules reflects Parliament’s desire for a stronger crisis reserve and a clearer division of tasks in the governance system. Members are then expected to consider the compromise reached on reform of the common market organisation in agriculture, which governs production of and trade in agricultural products, including issues such as geographical indications. Parliament has been keen to ensure that the reform leads to a more agile agricultural market that responds to consumer and producer needs alike, and reflects the EU’s priorities in protecting our natural resources. Underlining the focus on climate measures, Members will also hear Council and Commission statements on the outcome of COP26 in Glasgow on Wednesday morning.
As can be seen from the organisation of CAP funding, 80 % of EU expenditure overall is handled at national level, through shared management of EU programmes. The variety of different reporting systems used by EU governments (over 290) unnecessarily complicates this vital task. A Budgetary Control (CONT) Committee legislative-initiative report calling for digitalisation to streamline the reporting, monitoring and auditing of EU spending is therefore scheduled for consideration on Tuesday afternoon. The report demands that an integrated and interoperable electronic information and monitoring system is set up before the end of 2021, to collect, monitor and analyse information about recipients of EU funding in all Member States. The EU Financial Regulation itself, which governs the establishment, implementation and scrutiny of the EU budget, also needs to be updated to ensure good governance of the funding made available under the new MFF and the Next Generation EU fund. On Monday evening, Members will consider an own-initiative report anticipating the European Commission’s forthcoming proposal for an update to the Financial Regulation. The report calls for modernised budgetary rules that fully reflect EU values (e.g. on the rule of law, on climate impacts and on gender). It also underlines the need to increase transparency and democratic accountability by ensuring information about recipients of EU funding is made public and, importantly, that the Parliament’s role in scrutinising expenditure is respected. This is considered particularly important when managing crises or when ‘off-budget instruments’ are established.
Negotiations to agree the EU budget for 2022 took place in a very dynamic context, with the urgent need to tackle the Covid‑19 pandemic, climate change and humanitarian crises uppermost in negotiators’ minds. On Tuesday afternoon, Members are scheduled to consider Parliament’s position on the provisional agreement reached this week between the co‑legislators. Parliament has insisted that funding should be boosted for the top priorities for 2022 spending: funding the coronavirus recovery and the green and digital transitions, including a focus on groups hard-hit by the pandemic such as small businesses and young people. Parliament also supports stronger health measures, including for the COVAX programme, as well as spending on security, migration, asylum and integration, fundamental rights and Union values.
The rule of law was one Leitmotif of the European Council meeting of 21‑22 October 2021 and Members will hear Commission and Council statements on the outcome of that meeting on Tuesday afternoon. This will be followed by statements on the situation in Belarus and at its border with the EU, particularly the security and humanitarian consequences. Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is expected to make a formal address to Parliament on Wednesday lunchtime.
Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee has tabled a legislative-initiative report for Tuesday afternoon, which calls for a package of amendments to current EU legal migration policy and law, to make it easier for non-EU citizens who migrate legally to the EU to find employment. The EU workforce is ageing, and could fall to 51 % of the total population by 2070. While the EU has already taken measures to allow highly qualified non-EU citizens to take up employment in the EU, a gap remains, as labour markets need low- and medium-skilled workers. The proposals include: creating a talent pool for non-EU applicants who wish to migrate legally; a voluntary framework for talent partnerships with third countries; an admission scheme for self-employed and entrepreneur migrants; a framework to recognise third-country nationals’ skills and qualifications; possibilities for short-term mobility to complement legal migration; and creation of a transnational advisory service network.
Finally, Council and Commission statements are expected on Thursday morning on the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women and the state of play on the ratification of the Istanbul Convention.
- Digitalisation to streamline reporting, monitoring and auditing of EU spending (Think Tank)
- Legal migration policy and law (Think Tank)
- Financing, management and monitoring of the post-2022 EU agricultural policy (Think Tank)
- Amending rules on the common market organisation (CMO) in agriculture (Think Tank)
- Revision of the Financial Regulation (Think Tank)
- Strategic planning in the EU’s post-2022 agricultural policy (Think Tank)
- Adoption of the European Union’s 2022 Budget (Think Tank)