Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson.
Russia’s war on Ukraine once again featured at the top of agenda during the October I 2022 plenary session, with a debate held with the European Commission and Council on Russia’s escalation of the conflict, and Members calling for a massive increase in defence support for Ukraine, as well as additional support for those regions most affected. Regarding the related energy crisis, Members demanded that the EU response focus on the most vulnerable. A number of political debates were held, inter alia, on ocean governance; rule of law conditionality in Hungary; Romania and Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area; and the EU strategy on fertilisers to ensure food security in Europe. Members also debated ending discrimination against Roma people, and called for an end to illegal trade in wildlife by 2025.
The long-running issue of the compatibility of chargers for electronic devices (such as smart phones, tablets, cameras, headphones, game consoles and portable speakers) is finally being resolved. As a voluntary approach from industry had neither reduced the numbers of chargers needed by consumers, nor their frustration at not being able to find a compatible one, Members debated and adopted, by a large majority, a provisional agreement on the proposal for a common charger for such devices. The adopted text, agreed with the Council in trilogue, should simplify life for consumers and reduce electronic waste.
European Health Union
Members debated and adopted 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 Commission’s plans should ensure the EU is better prepared to deal with future health threats. The proposed regulation on serious cross-border health threats envisages that the EU and each Member State sets up coordinated, regularly reviewed and updated complementary preparedness plans to deal with health crises. Boosting networks should also improve contacts and knowledge-sharing among epidemiological and medical surveillance bodies. Furthermore, the extension of the mandate of the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) broadens its role to monitor health systems across the EU, and ensures data are made available to address all major health threats.
Customs single window
Members voted to adopt a legislative proposal on the establishment of an EU customs single window, which should streamline the paperwork traders and shippers are required to complete – such as documents relating to health, the environment, agriculture, and compliance with standards, as well as customs – by enabling them to use a single electronic gateway.
Coronavirus relief measures for the aviation sector
Although the pandemic has not yet quite disappeared, air traffic has recently increased. Members therefore voted to revise the pandemic relief measures, including the rules on take-off and landing slots for airlines, which were allowed exceptions due to COVID‑19. Airlines will now have to use 75 % of their landing slots to be allowed to retain them the following season.
Statistics on agricultural input and output
Members also voted to adopt a proposal on new rules for data on input and output of agricultural activity, including farmers’ use of agro-chemicals, within the framework of the modernisation of the collection of agricultural statistics.
Transposition of management measures for Indian Ocean tuna fisheries
Parliament adopted measures, following an agreement with the Council, 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 applied to EU fishing vessels.
Horn of Africa
Instability in the eight countries located in the Horn of Africa stems from violent conflict and food insecurity. However, as they are located on major trading routes through the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, they are of strategic interest for the EU. Members debated and adopted a set of recommendations to the Commission, Council and High Representative on EU policy on the Horn of Africa, 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.
Protests in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini
Among other foreign policy issues tackled during the October I plenary session, Members debated the protests in Iran, following the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini. Iran has seen increasingly brutal repression of protests by the authorities, since the death of Amini on 16 September, following her arrest 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.
Question time: Tackling depopulation through cohesion policy instruments
During a question time session with Elisa Ferreira, European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Members discussed the issue of tackling depopulation through cohesion policy instruments. Several Member States and regions are facing population decline, caused by factors including low fertility rates, net emigration and an ageing society.
Question time: Heightening tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan
Members took the opportunity during Question Time with Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission, to discuss recent tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan, where hostilities have recently broken out on Armenian territory despite the November 2020 ceasefire agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh.
Read this ‘at a glance’ note on ‘Plenary round-up – October I 2022‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.
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