Written by Clare Ferguson.
Meeting in plenary for the third time this month, Members are set to return to voting in person in the chamber for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. A number of issues concerning new technologies are on the agenda, such as blockchain and roaming charges. Members are nevertheless most likely to focus on the subject of the Russian war on Ukraine, following a joint debate on the results of the recent European Council meeting in Versailles, and in preparation for the next meeting on 24‑25 March 2022. Members will also hear Council and European Commission statements on a possible EU action plan to ensure food security in light of the Russian invasion (agricultural products imported from Ukraine represent 4.6 % of all EU agri-food imports). The Council and Commission will also update Members on proposals to ensure a more affordable, secure and sustainable energy supply.
The Parliament has long stressed that corruption threatens democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law, and undermines citizens’ trust in the EU and its institutions. The sanctions necessitated by Russia’s war on Ukraine have highlighted the presence of Russian oligarchs and oligarchic structures on EU territory. Denouncing the current situation, especially in certain countries where EU funding is sometimes diverted to such persons (and not just Russians), Parliament’s Budgetary Control (CONT) Committee has adopted a hard-hitting own-initiative report highlighting the need to protect EU funding against the risks of fraud and conflict of interest. On Wednesday, Members are expected to consider the committee’s motion for a resolution, which particularly condemns the use of EU agricultural funding for personal benefit, and warns against the threat to EU values of allowing oligarchs to gain control over the media and the judiciary.
Moldova has found itself on the frontline in Russia’s most recent aggression against its neighbours. The country has experienced Russian interference in its own democratic process in recent years, added to an economic downturn exacerbated by the pandemic. Moldova has nevertheless opened its borders to welcome large numbers of Ukrainian refugees. The country enjoys good political and economic relations with the EU, and signed association and free trade agreements with the bloc – Moldova’s largest trading partner – in 2014. The EU has provided €160 million in EU macro-financial assistance since 2017. Moldova has requested further assistance, and on Wednesday, Members are scheduled to consider a European Commission proposal (from before the outbreak of the war) starting to allocate €30 million in grants and up to €120 million in medium-term loans.
Parliament is always keen to encourage technological solutions that benefit citizens in their daily lives. On Wednesday, Members are expected to debate an agreement reached between the co-legislators on a pilot regime developing trading and transactions in crypto-assets – usually known as cryptocurrencies (such as bitcoin and ethereum). Parliament is in favour of encouraging crypto-assets, as long as they do not pose a risk to financial stability, transparency or market integrity, or permit legal loopholes. Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) therefore proposes to set stricter limits on trading with crypto-assets. The current proposal allows market capitalisation of less than €500 million in shares and issuance of up to €1 billion in bonds. Should Parliament decide to formally adopt the agreed text, it will go to Council for final approval.
Now that travel is getting back to normal, Members are scheduled to return to the issue of extending current EU legislation on roaming charges on Wednesday. In interinstitutional negotiations on the proposal to revise the rules to increase transparency and network quality, Parliament succeeded in capping the wholesale roaming charges at €2 per gigabyte from this year, with a progressive reduction to reach €1 in 2027. Once the Parliament and Council both formally adopt the provisional agreement reached between the co-legislators, citizens should be able to ‘roam like at home’ for a further 10 years.