Written by Clare Ferguson and Katarzyna Sochacka.
The war in Ukraine was again an important point on the agenda of the July 2022 plenary session, with Members debating the conclusions of the European Council meeting that took place on 23‑24 June 2022, as well as a long list of Council and Commission statements, including on facilitating exports of Ukrainian agricultural products, and on relations of the Russian government and diplomatic network with extremist, populist, anti-European and other European political parties. Parliament also debated statements on the Czech Presidency’s programme of activities for the next six months, and a ‘This is Europe’ debate was held with the Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsokakis. Members addressed European Union initiatives to address inflation, implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, and taxing energy companies’ windfall profits. Members rejected a motion to oppose the inclusion of nuclear and gas as environmentally sustainable economic activities in the EU taxonomy. A debate on the activities of the European Investment Bank took place in the presence of its President, Werner Hoyer. Members also considered the consequences of the recent heat waves and drought in the EU. Looking further afield, Members debated the United Kingdom’s unilateral introduction of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill and respect of international law, and the United States Supreme Court decision to overturn abortion rights. Debates took place on the treatment of refugees at the Spanish-Moroccan border, and on the post-Cotonou Agreement. Finally, Members debated and voted on a number of legislative files.
Digital single market
Parliament approved two important legislative proposals – 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, 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 firm’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. 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.
ReFuelEU aviation initiative
Returning to the ‘Fit for 55’ package aimed at cutting EU emissions, Members adopted Parliament’s position on the RefuelEU aviation initiative. While the initiative seeks to increase availability of sustainable aviation fuels at EU airports, a Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) report sought to widen the scope, proposing that more sustainable fuels are made available at more airports and for more aircraft. The decision supports a wider definition of renewable fuel, to include electricity, hydrogen and even used cooking oil, while excluding unsustainable food and feed crop-based fuel, such as palm oil, and encouraging further research into alternatives.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Crisis measures in the fisheries and aquaculture sector
In the context of Russia’s war against Ukraine, Members approved an agreement reached between the co‑legislators on additional crisis support for the EU fishery and aquaculture sectors. Given the urgency to act, Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries (PECH) had swiftly approved and tabled a report on the proposal to provide support for the seafood sector (which is hard-hit by rising fuel prices and trade disruption), by using amounts left over from the 2014‑2020 budget.
Croatia’s adoption of the euro on 1 January 2023
Members overwhelmingly adopted a Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) report on Croatia’s pathway to its adoption of the euro, which is expected to take place on 1 January 2023. Concurring 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, Parliament’s opinion will now be forwarded to the Council, which is expected to give the final green light on Croatia adopting the euro later in July.
2021 Reports on Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia
Members approved Foreign Affairs (AFET) Committee reports on the Commission’s 2021 assessment of accession prospects for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo. The AFET report on Bosnia and Herzegovina underlined the pressing need for a broader strategic and security approach to the Western Balkans, calling for elections and electoral reform to go ahead in the country as planned. Parliament voted in favour of granting Kosovo’s citizens access to the EU visa-free travel scheme. However, the AFET report on Kosovo‘s intention to apply for EU membership in 2022 stressed 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 reconfirmed unequivocal support for the EU-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Members noted that 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, and called for the country to align with the EU position.
As Parliament is committed to making EU laws and policies simpler and easier for people and businesses, Members voted a Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) report seeking to strengthen EU strategy on better law-making. Parliament 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 must be accompanied by the removal of an older or outdated law. The JURI committee report also calls for children’s rights to be mainstreamed throughout EU legislation.
Question time: Increasing EU ambition on biodiversity ahead of COP15
Parliament strongly supports the current initiatives to protect and restore biodiversity in the EU, and advocates EU-wide mandatory pesticide reduction. During plenary ‘question time’, scheduled to allow closer scrutiny of the European Commission’s activities, Members questioned Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius on EU biodiversity protection, ahead of the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the UN Convention on Biodiversity, scheduled for December 2022.
Opening of trilogue negotiations
Members confirmed, without vote, three mandates for negotiations with the Council: one from the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee on the proposal for a regulation on general product safety; and two from the Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) Committee, on the proposal for a regulation on the scope of eligible assets and investments, the portfolio composition and diversification requirements, rules on the borrowing of cash and other funding; and on a proposal for a regulation regarding 11 legal acts in the field of national accounts.
Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Plenary round-up – July II 2022‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.