Written by Clare Ferguson with Sophia Stone.
Members gather in Strasbourg for the second plenary session of November 2022 against a backdrop of continued global tension. The agenda once again reflects the difficult situation, with tough budgetary decisions, threats to EU resilience, Ukraine’s situation and EU enlargement all scheduled for debate. Nevertheless, Members will also attend a ceremony to mark a more joyous occasion: Parliament’s ‘birthday’ on Tuesday. Members of the European Parliament, directly elected since 1979, have now represented European citizens’ for 70 years, culminating in Parliament’s position today as a cornerstone of the EU’s democratic legitimacy.
The social and economic crisis triggered by COVID-19, Russia’s war on Ukraine and the resulting energy price rises, are foremost in everyone’s mind. Parliament will therefore hold a question time session on Tuesday afternoon, during which Members will pose questions to the European Commission on the direction of future legislative reform of the economic governance framework. Amid challenging market conditions and the rising cost of refinancing, Members are expected to debate a Committee on Budgets (BUDG) report on the borrowing strategy to finance Next Generation EU – the Union’s temporary post-coronavirus pandemic recovery instrument (NGEU) – on Monday evening. The report welcomes the smooth implementation of the strategy, allowing payment of a combination of loans and grants to Member States through EU programmes. However, the BUDG committee also underlines the need for transparency, urging the Commission to present systematic accounts of the spending to Parliament for proper scrutiny. In light of the growing cost of financing the NGEU debt, the committee also notes that new own resources are needed urgently, both those already under consideration and those due to be proposed in 2023. Members are therefore also due to consider another BUDG report on Tuesday, calling for rapid adoption of a decision on three new own resources. The resources proposed would gather contributions to the EU budget from an extended emissions trading scheme (ETS), a carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM), and a share of reallocated very large multinational company profits. The report also highlights the need for ambitious, balanced and transparent own resources that do not depend on taxing citizens, and that move away from gross national income-dependent resources towards financing tailored to objectives.
Members are also expected to hold a debate on Tuesday on the joint text agreed with the Council in conciliation on the 2023 EU budget, where a last-minute provisional agreement was reached between the negotiators early this week. The compromise reflects Parliament’s priorities to increase funding to address the consequences of the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis, the post-pandemic recovery and to boost the green and digital transitions.
On Tuesday morning, with recent gas pipeline sabotage and the damage done by the pandemic fresh in mind, Members are set to debate a report from the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), following a political agreement reached with the Council on boosting the resilience of critical entities in the EU. The proposal seeks to ensure key infrastructure and networks throughout the EU are prepared to face disruption, whether due to natural causes or hostile actors. The agreement covers 11 sectors, but allows for the exclusion of nationally sensitive entities such as defence, parliaments and central banks. Parliament’s negotiators have ensured protection for systems safeguarding the rule of law, and that entities covering six or more Member States will qualify as of particular European significance.
The rise in cyber-attacks and disinformation also demonstrate the need to set out a strong digital policy direction for Europe, in light of the omnipresence of digital technology in almost every aspect of modern life. On Thursday morning, Members are due to consider a provisional agreement reached with the Council on a proposal to establish the ‘Path to the digital decade‘ programme, setting out action to pursue the EU digital strategy to 2030. Negotiators representing Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) secured a strong role for Parliament in scrutinising progress on the digital targets. Measured according to a ‘digital compass’, these will strengthen broadband infrastructure, digitalise public and private sectors, narrow the digital divide and progress the adoption of new technologies such as artificial intelligence.
The situation in Ukraine of course remains high on the agenda. On Tuesday afternoon, Members will pose questions to the High Representative/Vice-President of the Commission Josep Borrell on the impact of Russia’s war of aggression on non-EU countries, in relation to the ‘Black Sea Grain Initiative‘ agreement. While the agreement has helped to prevent a widespread food global crisis, countries dependent on food imports and aid remain very vulnerable to any change in the situation. The recent renewal of the agreement – despite Russia’s indications that it would pull out – should also ease the pressure over the winter.
An €18 billion Ukraine support package has been proposed for 2023, in the form of highly concessional loans backed by the EU budget. Three acts must be passed for disbursement to begin in early January, and if Parliament approves use of the urgent procedure, Members could vote directly on all three proposals for macro-financial assistance to Ukraine on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Members are expected to vote on a motion for a resolution recognising the Russian Federation as a state sponsor of terrorism, tabled following a debate on 18 October. So far, none of the EU sanctions in retaliation for Russia’s aggression refer to Russia as a terrorist state or a state sponsor of terrorism, a change which could facilitate the confiscation of Russian assets.
Ukraine’s recent request to join the EU, swiftly followed by Moldova and Georgia, has put enlargement firmly back on the agenda. However, European integration prospects for the Western Balkans and Türkiye have seen little progress in recent years. Aimed at re-energising EU enlargement policy, Members will debate an own-initiative report from Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) on a new EU enlargement strategy on Tuesday afternoon. The AFET committee proposes to overhaul the process and provide candidates with roadmaps setting specific milestones to reach on their path to EU membership. The report further suggests formal suspension of the current negotiations with Türkiye.
Members are expected to consider another AFET committee own-initiative report on Tuesday, on the deteriorating political and security situation in Libya. The report proposes to nominate an EU special representative for Libya, redoubling EU diplomatic efforts to promote peace. The AFET committee also recommends strong support for United Nations-led reconciliation efforts seeking a peaceful and democratic transition, in a country where weak governance and a proxy war have strengthened violent groups at the cost of democracy.
On Tuesday morning, Members are set to return to a proposal, blocked in the Council for years, to legislate to improve gender balance on boards in the EU. Gender-diverse company boards contribute to transparency and gender equality in the workplace and provide undeniable economic benefit. Nonetheless, only 34.1 % of the largest EU companies’ board members are women. Parliament has long pushed for progress on the proposal, finally reaching agreement with the Council on the text earlier this year. Parliament negotiators have ensured a 2026 deadline for companies to hit the target of minimum 33 % women directors, and specific penalties for companies that do not comply.
Finally, the common fisheries policy (CFP) gives EU countries equal access to fisheries resources in each other’s waters, but with a long-standing temporary provision enabling countries to reserve waters up to 12 miles from their coastlines for local and neighbouring fishing vessels: Croatian vessels may fish in Slovenian coastal waters, and vice versa, for instance. As the current agreement, which allows Member States to limit access to the 12-mile zone expires at the end of the year, Members are due to vote on Tuesday on a provisional agreement to extend the rules on access to coastal waters for another 10 years.
European Parliament Plenary Session – November II 2022 – agenda
Most of our ‘at a glance’ notes are available in several languages:
- The European Parliament at 70: Origins and long-term trajectories
- Borrowing strategy to finance Next Generation EU
- System of own resources of the EU
- 2023 EU Budget
- Resilience of critical entities
- 2030 policy programme: ‘Path to the digital decade
- Macro-financial assistance for Ukraine in 2023
- Russia’s war on Ukraine: Designating a state as a sponsor of terrorism
- New EU strategy for enlargement
- Situation in Libya
- Extension of EU rules on access to coastal waters
- Question time: New orientations for the EU’s economic governance framework
- Question time: The impact on third countries of Russia’s war on Ukraine in relation to the ‘Black Sea Grain Initiative’ agreement