Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson.
Due to the deteriorating Covid‑19 situation, the November II plenary session in Strasbourg was again organised with the possibility for Members to vote remotely. Parliament debated a number of Council and European Commission statements, including on: coordination of Member States’ coronavirus measures; police violence against Roma people; preparation of the 12th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference; state of the Energy Union; a European action plan against rare diseases; and on international port congestion and increased transport costs. Members also debated the conclusions of the European Council meeting of 21‑22 October 2021, and heard Council and Commission statements on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Parliament adopted several resolutions and legislative acts, inter alia on a European strategy for critical raw materials, EU sports policy, and on a pharmaceutical strategy for Europe.
Situation in Belarus
Prior to an address by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Belarusian opposition leader, to a formal sitting of Parliament, Members heard Commission and Council statements on the situation in Belarus, with President Sassoli condemning the security and humanitarian consequences of the instrumentalisation of migrants by Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s Belarussian regime.
Common agricultural policy (CAP)
One of the main ways in which the EU spends its budget remains the common agricultural policy (CAP). Following a joint debate, Members adopted an 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). Given the time taken to reach these agreements, the new reforms should 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. Members then adopted an agreement on the CAP horizontal regulation on financing, management and monitoring rules that reflects Parliament’s desire for a stronger crisis reserve and a clearer division of tasks in the governance system. Finally, Members agreed a compromise reached on reform of the common market organisation in agriculture, which governs production of and trade in agricultural products, where Parliament has ensured the reform leads to a more agile agricultural market and protects our natural resources.
European Union’s 2022 budget
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. Members debated and then adopted the provisional agreement reached between the co‑legislators during recent budgetary conciliation. Parliament has insisted that funding should be boosted for the top priorities for 2022 spending: the coronavirus recovery and the green and digital transitions, focusing 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.
Outcome of COP26 in Glasgow
Members heard and debated Commission and Council statements on the outcome of the 26th Conference of the United Nations Climate Conference (COP26). With countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDC) ahead of the event leading to an estimated 2.7°C warming towards the end of the century, the host, the United Kingdom, set the goal to keep a limit of 1.5°C warming within reach. Members were divided on the success of the conference, although it was largely regarded as an important step in the right direction. However, Members also called for more ambition from EU and non-EU countries (particularly China).
Revision of the Financial Regulation
The EU Financial Regulation, which governs the establishment, implementation and scrutiny of the EU budget, needs to be updated to ensure good governance of the funding made available under the new MFF and the Next Generation EU fund. Members debated and adopted an own-initiative resolution 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.
Legal migration policy and law
Members adopted a legislative-initiative resolution, based on a Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee report, calling 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. 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.
Digitalisation of reporting, monitoring and audit of EU spending
The variety of different reporting systems used by EU governments (over 290) unnecessarily complicates the vital task of scrutinising EU spending to ensure citizens’ interests are respected. Members adopted a legislative-initiative resolution, following a Budgetary Control (CONT) Committee report, calling for digitalisation to streamline the reporting, monitoring and auditing of EU spending. The resolution 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.
International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women
The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) is the first instrument in Europe to set legally binding standards specifically to prevent gender-based violence, protect victims of violence and punish perpetrators. The EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention is a priority under the EU 2020-2025 gender equality strategy. The EU signed the Convention in June 2017. Accession now requires a Council Decision and prior consent by the European Parliament. Parliament adopted an interim resolution in September 2017 and continues to review progress. On the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November), Parliament held a debate on the Commission’s statement on the state of play on the ratification of the Istanbul Convention.
Opening of trilogue negotiations
Members confirmed, without vote, a mandate for negotiations from the Culture and Education (CULT) Committee on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on a European Year of Youth 2022. An Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) Committee mandate for negotiations on the proposal for a directive on the adequate minimum wages in the EU was also approved by a vote in plenary.
Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Plenary round-up – November II 2021‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.