Written by Clare Ferguson with Sophia Stone.
During its third plenary session of February, Parliament continues to focus on the energy and climate crises, alongside other urgent priorities. The Council and European Commission are expected to make statements on the EU response to the effects of the recent earthquake in Turkey and Syria, and also on the establishment of an independent EU ethics body. Following President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s address to a special sitting of Parliament on 9 February, the Council and Commission are also expected to give statements as we approach one year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As part of the regular debates on breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, Members are due to debate the Russian regime’s inhuman treatment of Alexey Navalny and other political prisoners. On Tuesday morning, the President of the Republic of Latvia, Egils Levits, will address Members in a formal sitting.
Reaching the end of the legislative procedure on the file, Members are expected to consider the provisional agreement reached with the Council on REPowerEU chapters in recovery and resilience plans on Monday evening. If approved, the amendments to the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) should enable EU countries to use their RRF plans to fund additional energy investment and reform measures necessitated by the twin climate and energy crises. Parliament’s negotiators have ensured that the RRF amendments prioritise tackling energy poverty and small businesses, and that spending under the plans will be fully transparent.
In line with measures to tackle climate change, on Tuesday morning Members are set to debate an agreement reached with the Council on reducing road transport emissions under the ‘Fit for 55’ initiative. Transport is the only sector where greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have continued to rise. To set stricter CO2 emission standards for new cars and vans, Parliament’s negotiators have succeeded in introducing more ambitious zero low emission vehicle (ZLEV) incentives; limits to the maximum contribution of sustainable production (or ‘eco-innovation’) to CO2 reduction efforts; and have ensured measures are based on real-world energy consumption and emissions data.
Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank (ECB), is expected to attend the plenary on Wednesday afternoon, for a debate on an Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) Committee own-initiative report on the 2021 ECB annual report. The report raises concerns about the high levels of inflation – at 2.6 % on average in 2021, but subsequently reaching 9.2 % in 2022. The ECON committee welcomes ECB measures to raise interest rates and its recognition of the need to progress fiscal integration in the EU. However, it also warns that measures must be gradual, targeted and justified. The ECON committee particularly welcomes the ECB’s plans to incorporate climate risk in monetary policy. One area in which inflation has hit hard is agriculture, where farmers have been facing steeply rising prices for fertilisers. An oral question to the Commission on the availability of affordable fertilisers is scheduled for Thursday morning
The digital communications that power much of modern life depend on satellites as well as cabling (e.g. location services, phone calls in rural areas). But the EU depends on other countries for satellite-based service infrastructure. On Monday evening, Members are expected to debate an agreement on a proposal to ensure resilient, interconnected and secure satellite infrastructure in the EU. Known as IRIS², this secure connectivity programme should run until 2027, setting up dedicated EU infrastructure, designed and deployed under private partnership. The programme should focus on improving five areas: multi-orbital infrastructure; cyber-resilience and cybersecurity; links with the EU space programme; deployment of innovative technology; and high-speed broadband and seamless connectivity (including current communication ‘dead zones’). The agreement on the proposal reflects Parliament’s priority for improved telecommunications security and a more sustainable space policy. If Members adopt the text, the EU agency for the space programme (EUSPA) will provide governance.
The Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (known as the Istanbul Convention) sets standards on prevention, protection, prosecution and services for those at risk of gender-based violence (GBV). Parliament has repeatedly called for EU accession to the Istanbul Convention as well as its ratification by those individual EU countries that have yet to do so. However, certain ‘deliberate misinterpretations’ persist. Members are due to debate a joint report from Parliament’s Committees on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) and Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) on EU accession to the Istanbul Convention on Tuesday afternoon. The report calls for constructive dialogue, aimed at dispelling remaining Member State concerns, and stresses that while not exempting individual countries from the need to ratify, EU accession can take place before all have done so.
The European Parliament supports EU enlargement and the European perspective for all Western Balkan countries, and Members are expected to hear from the Commission during the Question Time session on Tuesday afternoon about the strengthened EU Western Balkans enlargement policy. Parliament closely monitors candidates’ overall progress and their implementation of the EU acquis, and has direct influence over the amounts allocated to tools such as the IPA III. While the reform agenda and accession tempo vary for the region’s six countries, Parliament has stressed the need to build on the positive results already achieved to nurture constructive political dialogue.
Nearly 13.7 million EU citizens live in an EU country of which they are not a national. Sometimes termed ‘mobile’ citizens, they have been able to vote in European elections for 30 years, a right safeguarded by the Treaties. In a joint debate scheduled for Monday evening, Parliament is due to debate and vote on a Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) report on proposals to eliminate barriers to exercising the electoral rights of European citizens in European Parliament elections, such as a lack of information or difficult registration procedures. Seeking to square the proposal with other similar files, the AFCO report underlines the need for improved access to voting booths, and encourages civil society involvement in ensuring citizens can obtain information, including in their own language. At the same time, Members are due to debate a Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) report on proposals reinforcing mobile citizens’ electoral rights in municipal elections. The LIBE committee would like to see derogations and restrictions removed, information provided in the language of the voter’s choice, and harmonised data indicators. The committee also urges Member States to facilitate voting for citizens with disabilities. Both files fall under the consultation procedure (where Council is not bound by Parliament’s opinion), and the Council has to adopt the proposals unanimously.
- Agenda for the European Parliament Plenary Session
- Agreement on REPowerEU chapters in recovery and resilience plans
- CO2 emission standards for new cars and vans
- European Central Bank annual report – 2021
- Ensuring fertilisers are available and affordable in the EU
- EU secure connectivity programme 2023-2027
- EU accession to the Istanbul Convention
- Question Time: EU Western Balkans enlargement policy
- Electoral rights of mobile EU citizens in European Parliament elections
- Electoral rights of mobile EU citizens in municipal elections