Written by Clare Ferguson.
This month’s second plenary session in Strasbourg takes place against a sombre background of the continued economic consequences of Russia’s war on Ukraine, the recent pandemic, and adaptation to climate change. Parliament is due to welcome the Slovak President, Zuzana Čaputová, who will address Members in a formal sitting on Wednesday. The Council and Commission are then expected to make statements on the preparation of the European Council meeting of 20 to 21 October 2022. Tony Murphy, the new President of the Court of Auditors will also attend the session on Wednesday, for the presentation of the Court’s 2021 annual report.
Recent attacks on gas pipelines and cyber-attacks on transport networks in Europe have highlighted the urgent need to protect critical EU infrastructure in the EU. The regular Question Time session on Tuesday afternoon will see Members pose questions to the European Commissioner for Promoting our European Way of Life, Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, on measures to counter such attacks, including hybrid attacks.
Russia’s aggression has underlined our dependence on fossil fuels. With no room left for any doubt that this human activity is driving climate change, Members are due to consider a motion for a resolution setting out Parliament’s position on the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on Tuesday afternoon (with vote on Thursday). The motion for a resolution, tabled by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), looks to move the debate forward from promises to real action on global goals for climate adaptation, in advance of COP27, taking place in Sharm el‑Sheikh, Egypt, from 6 to 18 November 2022. The ENVI committee urges all parties to align with the Paris Agreement, in particular by setting immediate goals while working towards future adaptation targets. The committee considers that targets should always include action on compensation for loss and damage, and that the global community should ensure developing nations have an effective role in the decision-making process.
Turning to some of the concrete measures by which the EU plans to tackle the drivers of climate change, Members are expected to take part in a joint debate on ‘fit for 55’ package proposals related to vehicle fuels on Monday evening. The focus of the debate is on encouraging the use of ‘clean’ vehicles and sustainable maritime fuels. The lack of alternative fuel infrastructure – recharging and refilling stations – hampers the wider take-up of electric and other vehicles in EU countries. More outlets, closer together (as the vehicles require more frequent recharge) could boost adoption of cleaner vehicles. Members are therefore due to consider a draft report from Parliament’s Transport and Tourism (TRAN) Committee that proposes greater ambition, notably to speed up the rollout of higher-power refilling stations, particularly in regions where uptake is slow. As exhaust gases produced by shipping are also a significant source of air pollution, Members are also expected to debate measures supporting greater use of sustainable maritime fuels. Here too, a TRAN committee report proposes higher cuts to emissions and introduces a target for the use of renewable fuels. Recognising that the sector will need support to adapt, the TRAN committee also proposes setting up an Ocean Fund aimed at decarbonising maritime transport. The vote on these TRAN reports will set Parliament’s position for negotiations with the Council.
The Russian war and the recent pandemic have also led to revised estimates on growth and inflation. Members are expected to vote on an amending budget (the fourth of this year), concerning the EU’s own resources on Wednesday afternoon. A Committee on Budgets (BUDG) report proposes that Parliament agree to the proposed changes, reflecting updated revenue forecasts (and already endorsed by the Council). The committee notes the €3.6 billion increase in own resources and urges greater speed in introducing new own resources to pay for the COVID‑19 recovery. However, as Parliament has not yet taken a position on the REPowerEU proposal, it underlines that changes proposed in amending budget DAB 4/2022 will have no bearing on the legislative outcome on that file. While the committee also commends the changes to Eurojust’s mandate in relation to support for Ukraine, it criticises the redeployment of resources within Eurojust as set out in the proposal.
On Tuesday afternoon, Members are expected to consider amendments to the Council’s position on the draft EU budget for 2023. A Committee on Budgets (BUDG) report on the proposals reverses most of the reductions proposed by the Council, instead proposing to make a considerable increase in spending on Parliament’s priorities: addressing the consequences of the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis, defence, research, humanitarian aid, Erasmus+, digitalisation and infrastructure. Once Parliament has completed its reading of the Union budget for 2023, negotiations between the co-legislators will begin.
As the EU institutions run on a budget provided by European citizens, Parliament is naturally responsible for overseeing their use of this funding. In May 2022, Parliament considered the 2020 budget spending for all EU institutions. At the time, it was yet again unable to grant budget discharge to the European Council and the Council, due to a persistent lack of cooperation in this procedure. Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) has re-examined the situation, with its report, tabled for a vote on Tuesday lunchtime, noting a continued lack of progress. The committee therefore proposes that Parliament denies discharge once more. Among other criticisms, CONT again proposes to increase transparency by splitting the European Council and Council budget sections, and reiterates concern regarding European Council interference in legislative matters where it has no role to play. Parliament also postponed a budget discharge decision concerning the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) in May, citing the need for more action on fundamental rights. The CONT committee also considers allegations of harassment, misconduct and migrant pushbacks involving the Agency sufficiently serious as to recommend refusing discharge until the Agency has addressed the findings of the EU Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) investigation. Conversely, while Parliament had previously withheld the discharge decision for the 2020 budget of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), the CONT committee now recommends granting budget discharge. The committee report notes that the institution has addressed issues of staff harassment and misconduct and particularly welcomes measures improving auditing and transparency within the EESC.
See the full agenda here.
- Question time: Protecting critical infrastructure in the EU and countering hybrid attacks
- COP27 climate change conference in Egypt
- Deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure
- FuelEU Maritime – Sustainable maritime fuels
- Discharge for the 2020 budget: European Council and Council
- Discharge for the 2020 budget: European Economic and Social Committee
- Discharge for the 2020 budget: European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex)
- Amending budget No 4/2022: Own resources and other technical adjustments
- Parliament’s reading of the 2023 EU budget