Written by Clare Ferguson.
As Members gather in Strasbourg once again for the April 2022 plenary session, the key debates on the agenda return to the subject of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Members are expected to hear Council and Commission statements on EU protection of children and young people fleeing the war against Ukraine on Tuesday morning. They will then hear statements on the conclusions of the European Council meeting of 24‑25 March 2022 on Wednesday, also with the newly re-elected President of the European Council, Charles Michel. The EU leaders’ meeting focused on Ukraine and the issue of energy security, sanctions and economic issues such as commodity imports. In the Parliament’s first ‘Question Time‘ sessions for nine years on Tuesday afternoon, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will spend an hour taking Members’ questions on implementation of the current Commission’s political priorities. Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is then scheduled to answer questions on EU security and the recently adopted Strategic Compass.
Well before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) had insisted that the proposed revision of the rules on trans-European energy infrastructure projects should require energy projects to be more environmentally sustainable and exclude fossil fuel infrastructure. Major energy infrastructure projects benefit EU citizens by boosting the single market and securing EU supplies and such projects of common interest are therefore sometimes eligible for EU funding. The committee argues for a wider role for the EU Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER), and for a new stakeholder committee to ensure projects can call on good expertise. The committee’s report also calls for a transitional period to 2029, as well as for the regulation to cover CO2 storage, and for a derogation for already-included natural gas projects. Members are expected to debate and vote on an agreed text reached between the EU co-legislators on the rules governing funding of major energy projects on Tuesday afternoon.
In line with the EU’s climate ambitions, the European Commission’s ‘Fit for 55’ proposals seek to revise the entire EU 2030 climate and energy framework. The first legislative proposal from the package is expected to come to plenary on Monday evening, when Members are scheduled to debate a proposed revision of the market stability reserve for the EU emissions trading system (ETS). The world’s first and largest carbon market, the ETS aims at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by capping the volume of emissions permitted and encouraging trading of unused allowances. However, a surplus of emission allowances has built up due to recent economic crises. The proposed revision of the market stability reserve aims to correct this, by maintaining the already doubled intake rate (24 %) and minimum number of allowances placed in the reserve (200 million) to December 2030. Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) agrees with the proposal, stressing that it will avoid further increases in the surplus. The committee’s report would form the position for trilogue negotiations with the Council, subject to any amendments voted in plenary.
On Wednesday lunchtime, Members are expected to hold a debate on a provisional agreement reached between Parliament and the Council on the first of the Commission’s proposals on an EU data strategy. The data governance act should set the rules for sharing or trading data for legitimate uses – such as medical research or combating climate change – whilst preserving data rights. The co-legislators reached a compromise on re-use of publicly held data, limiting public authorities’ ability to grant rights to data and ensuring they seek consent. Parliament also succeeded in tightening the rules for ‘data brokers’. Organisations wishing to share data for the common good will have to register as ‘altruism organisations’ and follow a Commission rulebook. Parliament also insisted on strengthening aspects of the composition and tasks of the proposed European data innovation board, which will enforce the act.
The economic uncertainty resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the recent pandemic has underlined the need to strengthen the EU’s economic and competitive resilience. Against this background, Parliament considers two budget-related files during this plenary session. Parliament’s guidelines for the 2023 EU budget (Section III – European Commission) launch the annual budgetary debate on Tuesday lunchtime. Underlining the need for a just transition to a greener economy, Parliament’s Committee on Budgets (BUDG) highlights the importance of economic, social and territorial cohesion. The BUDG committee’s report lists a number of budgetary priorities, including stronger health union, the green and digital transitions, fundamental rights and the rule of law. The report also underlines the need to spread payments evenly throughout the period of the current multiannual financial framework. The guidelines provide the basis for Parliament’s trilogue negotiations on the 2023 budget ahead of the European Commission’s proposal of the draft budget.
Following delays in launching certain programmes, Parliament’s Committee on Budgets (BUDG) reiterates its concern regarding the effect of such payment delays on the Union’s recovery. To prevent payment crises, the committee calls on the Commission to present proposals for payment increases immediately in future. Members are scheduled to consider draft amending budget 1/2022 on Tuesday lunchtime. The amendments seek to strengthen the 2022 EU budget by transferring €12 billion in commitments from 2021. Further transfers will be made to the budgets of subsequent years of the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework.
Parliament returns to goods vehicle hire rules on Monday evening, in its second reading of a proposal to loosen restrictions on transport operators. The European Commission’s proposal to grant haulage companies the same right to hire vehicles without a driver in another Member State as in their own Member State originally aimed at harmonising the rules across the EU. However, Parliament and Council wished to preserve Member States’ ability to protect their national vehicle tax bases from market distortion. The draft agreement reached by Council and Parliament would allow countries to restrict their own haulage companies from hiring vehicles without drivers in other EU Member States, but prevents them from restricting goods vehicle hire outright, if all the rules are observed.
- Trans-European energy infrastructure
- Revision of the market stability reserve for the EU emissions trading system
- Use of vehicles hired without drivers for the carriage of goods by road
- Data governance act
- Amending budget 1/2022: Adjustment of the multiannual financial framework
- Parliament’s guidelines for the 2023 EU budget: Section III – European Commission