Written by Clare Ferguson.
The last plenary session before the summer recess takes place in Strasbourg on 4-7 July 2022, with Members set to consider a packed agenda of policy decisions, many of which address the new geopolitical and economic realities resulting from Russia’s war against Ukraine. Unsurprisingly therefore, Czechia’s priorities for its second six-month Presidency of the Council of the EU include protecting EU citizens and freedoms, and its interests and values on the world stage; providing momentum for growth and investment; and supporting the ongoing EU climate and social policies. Members will consider the planned programme of activities, which began on 1 July 2022, in a key debate on Wednesday morning. A debate on the conclusions of the 23-24 June 2022 European Council meeting will follow. This session’s ‘This is Europe‘ debate is scheduled to take place on Tuesday morning, with the Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Parliament is set to approve two important pieces of proposed legislation following a debate on Monday evening, – the digital markets act and the digital services act – following a political agreement reached between the co-legislators. The digital markets act is the EU’s answer to tackling the dominance of a few large platforms that act as gatekeepers, controlling access to digital markets, and distorting competition. Through its three main provisions, the legislation should provide a definition of a large platform (those with €7.5 billion in annual turnover and €75 billion in market capitalisation), will oblige them to ensure their services are interoperable, and will ban them from giving preference to their own products in search results or re-using personal data. The European Commission will enforce the law, with the possibility to levy fines of up to 20 % of a company’s worldwide turnover. The new digital services act should boost consumer protection through rules promoting a safer and more transparent online environment. Parliament has ensured that the new law makes the platforms hosting online search engines, social media and marketplace platforms, responsible for protecting users against harmful and illegal content. Online platforms will also be obliged to be more transparent and accountable, with larger platforms subject to stricter rules. The European Commission will share enforcement with national authorities, according to the size of the platform concerned.
On Monday evening, and in advance of an important step set for 1 January 2023, Members are expected to consider a Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) report on Croatia’s pathway to its adoption of the euro. The report concurs with European Commission and European Central Bank assessments that price stability, fiscal sustainability, exchange rate fluctuations and long-term interest rates in the country prove that Croatia is ready to adopt the euro. The legal act is expected to be adopted by the Council in July.
Against the background of Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine, and following EU leaders’ 23 June decision to grant EU candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova and to confirm Georgia’s European perspective, Members turn once again to prospects for EU enlargement, this time in the Western Balkans. Members are set to debate Foreign Affairs (AFET) Committee reports on the Commission’s 2021 assessment of accession prospects for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo on Tuesday afternoon. The AFET report on Bosnia and Herzegovina underlines the pressing need for a broader strategic and security approach to the Western Balkans, and calls for elections and electoral reform to go ahead in the country as planned. The AFET committee notes Kosovo‘s intention to apply for EU membership in 2022, but stresses that, as for other new applicants, there is no fast-track procedure. While judicial independence and reform is one issue to resolve before Kosovo can advance its European ambitions, another is the normalisation of relations with Serbia. While the committee reconfirms unequivocal support for the EU-facilitated Belgrade–Pristina dialogue, the AFET report on Serbia‘s progress towards accession in 2021 obviously underlines the country’s ambivalent attitude to EU policies and values and its reluctance to stand against Russia.
In the context of Russia’s war against Ukraine, Members are set to vote on additional crisis measures to support the EU fishery and aquaculture sectors on Wednesday lunchtime. Given the urgency to act, Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries (PECH) swiftly approved the proposal to provide support for the seafood sector, hard-hit by rising fuel prices and trade disruption, by using amounts leftover from the 2014‑2020 budget.
Returning to the ‘Fit for 55’ package aimed at cutting EU emissions, Members will consider a Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) report on the proposed RefuelEU aviation initiative on Thursday morning. While the initiative seeks to increase availability of sustainable aviation fuels at EU airports, the TRAN committee seeks a wider scope, proposing that more sustainable fuels are made available at more airports and for more aircraft. While the report seeks a wider definition of renewable fuel to include electricity, it supports the exclusion of food and feed based fuel, as well as further research into alternatives.
Ahead of the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15), Parliament will use the revived ‘question time’ scheduled for Tuesday afternoon to scrutinise the Commission on EU biodiversity protection. Parliament strongly supports the current initiatives to protect and restore biodiversity in the EU, and advocates EU-wide mandatory pesticide reduction.
Finally, Parliament is committed to making EU laws and policies simpler and easier for people and businesses. On Thursday morning, Members consider a Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) report that seeks to strengthen the EU strategy on better regulation, outlined in the Commission’s 2021 communication. The JURI committee insists on the need for transparency and openness, particularly as regards the Regulatory Scrutiny Board and the ‘one in, one out’ approach, whereby each new piece of legislation adopted leads to the removal of an older or outdated law. The committee also wishes to see children’s rights mainstreamed throughout EU legislation.
 This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.