Written by Aidan Christie.
The European Parliament traditionally holds two plenary sessions in Strasbourg in the month of October, and for the first of them, Members will focus on events beyond the EU’s borders. The key debate this session, on Wednesday morning, will address, with the Council and Commission, the latest developments in Russia’s war on Ukraine. The debate comes in the context of Russia’s recent escalation of the conflict and its attempts to annex additional areas of Ukrainian territory. A further topical debate will discuss the problems of anti-European and anti-Ukrainian propaganda circulated within the EU in support of Russia. Following last month’s debate on energy prices, Members are due to vote a resolution on the issue, as Europe seeks ways to deal with the energy price and supply crisis ahead of the winter season.
On Monday evening, Members will debate provisional agreements reached with Council negotiators on two proposals that aim to create a European Health Union. Drawn up in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Commission’s plans aim to ensure the EU is better prepared for future health threats. The proposed regulation on serious cross-border health threats would ensure the EU and each Member State have in place complementary preparedness plans for health crises. These would be coordinated, and regularly reviewed and updated. In addition, networks would be developed to improve contacts and knowledge-sharing among epidemiological and medical surveillance bodies. The proposed extension of the mandate of the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) would broaden its role to monitor health systems across the EU, and ensure data are made available to address all major health threats.
Later that evening, Parliament will address measures to bring the latest rules of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) into EU law. The western Indian Ocean is a key fishing ground for tuna for the EU fishing fleet, with a catch of some 217 000 tonnes in the area in 2020. As a contracting party to the IOTC, the EU is obliged to ensure its conservation and fisheries management measures are taken over into EU law. Members are due to vote on an agreement reached with the Council on the proposed measures.
On Tuesday, the long-running issue of compatibility of chargers for electronic devices – such as smart phones, tablets, cameras, headphones, game consoles and portable speakers – is finally due to be resolved, when Members vote on the proposal on a common charger for such devices. With a voluntary approach from industry not having reduced the numbers of chargers needed by consumers, nor their frustration at not having a compatible one to hand, the Commission proposed to standardise chargers using the USB Type-C connector and port. Members will vote on the text agreed with the Council in trilogue, which should simplify life for consumers and reduce electronic waste.
During Tuesday’s voting session, Members will vote on a range of legislative proposals, including one on the establishment of an EU customs single window, enabling traders and shippers to deal with all the varied documentary requirements – such as those relating to health, the environment, agriculture, and compliance with standards, as well as customs – through a single electronic gateway. Another proposal to be voted is that on the modernisation of the way agricultural statistics are collected in the EU, specifically on new rules for data on input and output of agricultural activity, including use by farmers of agro-chemicals.
Tuesday afternoon in the plenary session will feature, among other debates, two rounds of question time, where Members have the chance to pose questions on specific topics. First, to a member of the Commission, on the issue of tackling depopulation through cohesion policy instruments, and then to the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, on heightening tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Among other foreign policy issues to be tackled in Tuesday afternoon’s debates are the protests in Iran, following the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini. Iran has seen growing protests across the country, and their increasingly brutal repression by the authorities, since the death of Amini on 16 September. The 22-year-old Kurdish woman was arrested for allegedly violating the Iranian law requiring women to wear a veil. The protests are reportedly being led by women in solidarity with Amini, but commentators underline that the demonstrations also come in a context of deteriorating economic conditions and the soaring cost of living.
Members will also consider a set of recommendations to the Commission, Council and High Representative on EU policy on the Horn of Africa. The eight countries in this region suffer from violent conflict and food insecurity, but are of strategic interest for the EU, being on major trading routes through the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. EU policy towards the region is shifting from one focused on development to take much greater account of security concerns. Parliament is due to consider a report from the Committee on Foreign Affairs, which assesses the strategy on the Horn of Africa agreed by the Council in May 2021. The report makes recommendations on implementation of the strategy, in particular underlining the need to combat the influence of third parties in the region that do not act under similar values to those of the Union.
On Wednesday, after debating Russia’s war in Ukraine, Members will turn to another situation with pressing humanitarian needs, the widespread flooding in Pakistan. The country is prone to extreme weather events, and since early 2022 has experienced a run of exceptional weather, with heat waves being followed by the heaviest monsoon rains in over a century. Over a third of the country has been under water, equivalent to an area three times the size of Portugal. More than 1 600 people have been killed, many times that injured, and some 8 million have been displaced. On top of damage to houses, infrastructure and farms have also been badly hit.
Visit the Parliament’s website for the full agenda for the week’s plenary session.