Written by Clare Ferguson and Katarzyna Sochacka.
The highlight of the December 2022 plenary session was the ceremony awarding the 2022 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to the brave people of Ukraine. Also, in a ‘This is Europe’ debate, the Prime Minister of Slovenia, Robert Golob, addressed the plenary.
With Council and European Commission representatives, Members debated the preparation of the European Council meeting of 15 December 2022. A number of debates also took place: on the outcome of COP27; addressing persistent challenges in the aviation sector; and turning the Child Guarantee into reality. Debates also took place on the recent Council decision on Schengen accession; the EU response to the US Inflation Reduction Act; and defending the European Union against the abuse of national vetoes. The Commission’s reports on the situation of journalists and the implications of the rule of law; the 30th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities; recognising the Holodomor as genocide; and the humanitarian situation in Ukraine were also debated. Members also discussed foreign affairs issues, such as prospects for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine; Turkish airstrikes on northern Syria and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq; and EU-ASEAN relations.
In the wake of allegations of corruption in and around the Parliament, Members held a debate with the Commission on the need for transparency and accountability in the European institutions and adopted a resolution on the issue. The also voted for the early termination of the mandate of the vice-president arrested and charged in recent days.
2022 Sakharov Prize for the brave people of Ukraine
Supporting people’s basic rights and democratic values, both in the EU and the wider world, is one of Parliament’s top priorities. Parliament has awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought for outstanding achievements in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms every year since 1988. Having taken a courageous stand for freedom and democracy in the face of great hardship since the Russian invasion, the 2022 award goes to the brave people of Ukraine. President Roberta Metsola presented the Sakharov Prize in a ceremony during a formal sitting.
Members considered and adopted a Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) report on the European Commission’s proposal to amend EU energy legislation under the REPowerEU plan. The ITRE committee proposes to reduce the time taken to approve new renewable energy installations and upgrade existing ones. The adopted report sets Parliament’s position for forthcoming interinstitutional negotiations.
Upscaling the 2021-2027 MFF
The war in Ukraine and its consequences are having a considerable impact on the EU’s finances. The MFF was not designed to cope with emergencies with huge financial implications, such as COVID‑19 and Russia’s invasion of its neighbour. Members debated and voted on a Committee on Budgets own-initiative report calling for an urgent revision of the MFF to increase the EU budget and make it more flexible. The committee calls for the Commission to propose an upscaled 2021-2027 MFF to provide a resilient EU budget fit for new challenges – with a bigger and more flexible budget, fresh revenue streams, action on preserving the budget from fluctuations in debt repayment for the EU recovery instrument, and greater scrutiny and transparency.
A long term vision for the EU’s rural areas
Over 80 % of total EU territory is rural, supplying much of the EU’s natural resources in terms of biodiversity, agriculture and more. Those living in many rural EU areas face challenges ranging from finding employment to connecting to the internet. To remedy this, the Commission has drawn up a long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas to encourage their resilience in the face of an ageing population, poor connectivity, and lack of opportunity. Members debated and voted an own-initiative report on the proposals from Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI). The report underlines the key role of rural areas in the EU, and the need for action to support the needs of their populations, underpinned by dedicated funding.
Towards equal rights for persons with disabilities
Continued discrimination and a failure to ensure equal rights for persons with disabilities to participate in social and political life are compounded by a lack of suitable accommodation, among other things. Members debated and voted on a Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) own-initiative report on progress towards implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the EU. While the report recognises the efforts made to meet the standards set out in the Convention, the committee decries a number of serious failings, particularly the use of EU funding to construct institutions, despite an EU target to end the practice of placing persons with disabilities in care.
Cultural policy in EU and external relations
Parliament debated and voted a Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) own-initiative report on the implementation of the new European agenda for culture and the EU strategy for international cultural relations. The first strategy sets social and economic objectives for EU cultural policy (for the post-pandemic recovery, employment) and touches on opportunities also identified in the second, for cooperation with non-EU countries on the role of cultural diversity and heritage in sustainable socio-economic development and driving peace. The CULT committee recommends, among other things, paying stricter attention to employment conditions for creative workers and easier access to funding for small entities. Looking to cultural relations outside the EU, the report regrets the lack of focus on sustainable development and warns against perceptions of cultural diplomacy as ‘Eurocentric’.
Question time: Protecting strategic infrastructure against China’s influence
Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President of the Commission, attended the plenary to provide answers to Members’ questions on protecting EU strategic infrastructure from China’s influence during the regular question time session.
Opening of trilogue negotiations
Members confirmed, without vote, a mandate for negotiations from the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justices and Freedom (LIBE) on the proposal for a regulation on the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).
This ‘at a glance’ note is intended to review some of the highlights of the plenary part-session, and notably to follow up on key dossiers identified by EPRS. It does not aim to be exhaustive. For more detailed information on specific files, please see other EPRS products, notably our ‘EU legislation in progress’ briefings, and the plenary minutes.
Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Plenary round-up – December 2022‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.