Written by Clare Ferguson and Katarzyna Sochacka.
The war in Ukraine stayed on the agenda for the June I 2022 plenary session in Strasbourg, with Ruslan Stefanchuk, Speaker of Verkhovna Rada making an address to a formal sitting of Parliament. Members also debated the conclusions of the special European Council meeting of 30‑31 May 2022. Parliament debated the rule of law and the potential approval of the Polish National Recovery Plan, and approved the call for a convention on revision of the EU Treaties. Members debated global threats to abortion rights, particularly in the USA, and the massacre of Christians in Nigeria. A ‘This is Europe’ debate was held with the Taoiseach of Ireland, Micheál Martin. Finally, a ceremony celebrated the 60th anniversary of the common agricultural policy.
Fit for 55 package
Members considered a series of ‘fit for 55’ proposals, and rejected the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) report on the Commission proposal to align the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) with the Climate Law target of a 55 % reduction in net EU greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. The proposal included carbon pricing on housing and transport. The report, which called for an end to free allowances and earlier completion of the CBAM, was therefore referred back to the ENVI committee for further discussion of Parliament’s position. In consequence, the Parliament voted to refer the report on the proposed EU carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) – proposing to phase out free ETS allowances as the carbon border charge is introduced gradually from 2026 to 2032 – back to the ENVI committee too. While the plenary voted on amendments to the proposed social climate fund, reducing its size, these depend on whether private households are covered by the ETS. The final vote on the social climate fund is therefore on hold until agreement is reached on the ETS reform.
For the other elements of the ‘fit for 55’ package, Members adopted Parliament’s positions and referred the files back to the ENVI committee for trilogue negotiations. Legislation governing measures to control GHG emissions in transport, buildings and agriculture covers sectors not included in the ETS, and which account for around 60 % of EU emissions. The proposal on the Effort-sharing Regulation would establish binding national targets and annual emissions allocations (AEAs) for each EU country, while the ENVI committee called for greater transparency and ambition, to align with the 2050 climate neutrality target.
The proposed revision of the Regulation on Land Use, Land-use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) passed with a large majority. Members support proposals for a more ambitious target for carbon sinks and an increased GHG reduction target of 57 %, raising net greenhouse gas removals in LULUCF to at least 310 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Protecting fragile natural carbon sinks is also beneficial in improving biodiversity and reforestation, and should not therefore be considered part of agricultural emissions.
Turning to transport emissions, and the proposed revision of the EU ETS as regards aviation, Parliament agrees to reduce aviation emissions further, to achieve EU and global climate goals. The proposals aim at amending the ETS Directive and implementing the current pilot carbon offsetting and reduction scheme for international aviation (CORSIA). Parliament already supports the elimination of free allowances for emissions from flights to and from third countries, granted due to international pressure. The ENVI committee report on the proposals called for a 50 % reduction of these free allowances in 2024, before ending the exception in 2025. The report also supported the uptake of sustainable aviation fuels.
On stricter CO2 emissions standards for new cars and vans, Members agreed to phase out internal-combustion engine cars and vans in pursuit of a zero-emission objective for 2035. The ENVI committee report on the proposal sought to increase the 2025 emissions reduction target to 20 % and abolish the incentive mechanism to accelerate market uptake of zero- and low-emission vehicles after 2025. However, the committee also insists that assessment of the socio-economic impact of the measures should be more frequent, including whether funding is needed to ensure a just transition in the automotive sector.
EU foreign, security and defence policy after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Members debated and adopted a recommendation prepared by the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET), on EU foreign, security and defence policy, in the light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The report recommends the EU move swiftly to establish a defence union and to underpin its common defence by implementing the Strategic Compass. It calls on the EU to embrace the aim of strategic autonomy and to hold regular Council meetings of EU defence ministers. The AFET committee underlined the imperative for Parliament to scrutinise the Strategic Compass and use of the European Peace Facility.
2021 Report on Turkey
Members debated a report on the Commission’s latest report on Turkey. While Turkey’s EU accession negotiations are currently on hold, due to democratic backsliding, relations with the EU have improved slightly. The AFET committee report welcomed Turkey’s mediation in Russia’s war against Ukraine, and underlined the importance of cooperation with a NATO ally in the currently unstable geopolitical situation. The AFET report on the Commission’s 2021 annual report on Turkey’s accession nevertheless notes that the human rights situation in Turkey continues to deteriorate.
International procurement instrument
Parliament debated and adopted an agreement reached between the co-legislators on the revised proposal for an international procurement instrument (IPI) to facilitate reciprocal access to procurement markets in non-EU (third) countries. The instrument should deter or disqualify tenderers from third countries that close their public procurement markets to EU bidders from bidding in the EU. Parliament successfully negotiated higher thresholds and fewer exceptions to the proposed rules, while minimising the administrative burden.
Question time: Reducing pesticides and strengthening consumer protection
To strengthen its oversight of the EU executive, Parliament has revived the practice of holding ‘question time’ with the European Commission. During the June I session, the Commission answered questions on pesticide use and consumer protection. Members have expressed regret that most EU countries have neither promoted alternative techniques nor reduced the use of pesticides.
Right of legislative initiative for Parliament
Members debated a right of ‘direct’ legislative initiative for the European Parliament. At present, unlike national parliaments, it only enjoys an ‘indirect right’ to propose legislation. Aimed at strengthening the EU’s democratic legitimacy, Members adopted a Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) report calling for a general and direct right of initiative for Parliament – the only directly elected institution.
LUX Audience Award
The winner of the LUX Audience Award this year is Quo vadis, Aida?, directed by Jamila Žbanić. The prize celebrates quality cinema in Europe, with the three competing films obtaining help with distribution, including subtitling in the 24 official EU languages and screening at the LUX Film Days in more than 60 cities. Quo vadis, Aida? will now be adapted for those with visual and hearing impairments.
EU-Mauritania Fisheries Agreement and protocol
Members approved the new EU–Mauritania Fisheries Agreement and Protocol, as recommended by the Fisheries (PECH) Committee. The agreement is the EU’s economically most significant and supports increased fisheries cooperation between EU partners in West Africa.
Opening of trilogue negotiations
Members confirmed, without vote, mandates for negotiation from the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee on a proposal for a decision establishing the 2030 policy programme ‘Path to the Digital Decade’, and from the Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) Committee on a proposal for a regulation on European green bonds.
Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Plenary round-up – June I 2022‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.