Written by Clare Ferguson and Katarzyna Sochacka.
The highlight of the May II plenary session in Brussels was an address to a formal sitting of Parliament by Maia Sandu, President of the Republic of Moldova, followed by a debate on the Foreign Affairs (AFET) Committee’s annual report on progress to date with implementation of Moldova’s EU Association Agreement. Members then adopted a resolution calling for more strategic support for the country. Russia’s war on Moldova’s neighbour Ukraine again dominated the agenda. Members held two important debates: on the fight against impunity for war crimes in Ukraine, and on European solidarity and energy security in the face of Russia’s invasion and its recent refusal to supply gas to Poland and Bulgaria. Members also debated Council and Commission statements on prosecution of members of the opposition and detention of trade union leaders in Belarus.
2021 Rule of law report
The rule of law is a key element of democracy and is one of the founding values of the EU, binding on all its Member States as well as candidate countries. Parliament debated and adopted a report from the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee, prepared in response to the European Commission’s 2021 rule of law report, which monitors the situation annually in EU countries. Covering four areas (justice systems, anti-corruption, media pluralism and freedom, and institutional checks and balances), this, the second such report, notes that there have been positive developments, despite the stress that the Covid‑19 pandemic placed on democratic systems. However, the committee repeats its view that the Commission should make country-specific recommendations and monitor their progress. The committee also criticises the latest rule of law report for failing to take account of Parliament’s previous recommendations that it should include monitoring of all key EU values: respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including for minorities.
Reports on North Macedonia and Albania 2021
Members also debated and adopted two AFET committee annual reports on the enlargement process for EU membership candidates North Macedonia and Albania – where the committee regrets the lack of progress within the Council on opening accession negotiations. North Macedonia is the more advanced candidate in terms of its accession process, and the AFET report highlights its positive record in its transition to democracy. However, Bulgaria continues to block the opening of accession negotiations due to a cultural dispute, and the report nevertheless calls for North Macedonia to continue its administrative and political reform. Negotiations on Albania’s EU membership bid have not yet begun. Indeed, Albania’s international standing on corruption has even fallen since its EU application in 2014. The AFET committee’s annual report on Albania‘s progress highlights persisting issues of judicial independence, corruption, freedom of speech and minority rights, and calls on the Albanian authorities to eliminate corruption and criminality in public life.
Minimum level of taxation for multinational groups
Parliament held a debate on a proposal in the areas of taxation of multinational companies in the globalised, digitalised world. In recent years, digitalisation has made it easy for large multinational enterprises to shift their profits to countries with preferential tax regimes, thereby putting their profit before the opportunity to pay fair taxes to the societies that host them. This strips countries of revenue on which they depend to fund social benefits, such as healthcare, and investment. Parliament has long demanded reform in this area, and the Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) recently agreed a framework for a minimum corporate tax rate. Members adopted an Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) Committee report that introduces a clause in the proposals that will allow revision of the proposed minimum tax rate threshold of €750 million a year. Following this consultation of the European Parliament, the proposal to implement the agreement in the EU should now be adopted by the Council, where a unanimous vote is required.
Establishing the European Education Area by 2025
Members also debated the Commission’s and Council’s responses to oral questions on proposals concerning the right to education in the EU. To ensure that people in the EU have access to a quality, inclusive education for personal fulfilment, to enable them to participate fully as citizens, and to boost their employment chances, the Commission proposes to build a European education area by 2025. The aim would be to offer work-based learning to at least 60 % of recent graduates, and learning opportunities for adults up to 65 years old. Further goals should promote learning for a sustainable environment by 2030, such as ensuring a good level of education in mathematics, science and computer skills for all. Members adopted a resolution proposed by the Culture and Education (CULT) Committee supporting the proposals.
Opening of trilogue negotiations
Committee decisions to enter into interinstitutional negotiations were announced: from the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee on the proposal for a regulation on machinery products and from the International Trade (INTA) Committee on the proposal for a regulation on applying a generalised scheme of tariff preferences.
Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Plenary round-up – May II 2022‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.