Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson.
Among the highlights of the March I plenary session was a debate on the conclusions of the special European Council meeting of 9 February and the preparation of the European Council meeting of 23-24 March 2023, with Charles Michel, the President of the European Council. Members also debated the failure of the Silicon Valley Bank and its implications for European financial stability, a common EU response to save lives at sea, the need to ensure transparency and accountability in the light of alleged conflicts of interest, combatting organised crime in the EU, human rights defenders working in the field of sexual and reproductive health rights, cross-border adoption from third countries, the Bridgetown Agenda on development finance, long-term commitment to animal welfare, and strengthening EU defence in the context of the war in Ukraine.
Members also debated statements by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, on the deterioration of democracy in Israel and the consequences on the occupied territories, on the situation in Georgia, and on the challenges facing Moldova.
During a ceremony celebrating International Women’s Day, in addition to statements by the Presidents of the Parliament, Roberta Metsola, and of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, Samantha Cristoforetti, an astronaut from the European Space Agency and former commander of the International Space Station, and Shirin Ebadi, Iranian activist and 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, gave speeches.
Finally, Members heard and debated a ‘This is Europe’ address by Gitanas Nausèda, President of Lithuania.
Parliament considered and adopted a position for trilogue negotiations on the proposed data act, aimed at governing fair access to and use of data in the EU, on the basis of a Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) report. The report seeks to clarify which data are covered by the legislation, strengthen protection of trade secrets, ensure fairer contracts for customers, and provide them with more power to switch provider. It also demands fair remuneration for access to data, and sets the terms for ‘public emergency’ access to privately held data.
Outcome of negotiations on ‘Fit for 55’ proposals
In a joint debate, Members assessed the outcome of negotiations on several ‘Fit for 55’ proposals aimed at reducing EU greenhouse gas emissions by 55 % by 2030. Members adopted a provisional agreement, endorsed by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), on revising the Effort-sharing Regulation. The legislation sets binding targets for each EU country to reduce emissions not covered under the emissions trading system (ETS), which now need updated to reflect the EU’s increased climate ambition. The revision requires a just and socially fair transition, with Parliament insisting on reinforced corrective action, transparency, and the importance of scientific advice. Parliament also formally adopted a provisional agreement on revising the market stability reserve for the EU ETS, which adjusts the number of allowances in the reserve, the auctioning of which provides significant revenue for EU countries. In addition, Members adopted a text agreed between the co-legislators on revising the Land Use, Land-use Change and Forestry Regulation (LULUCF), which manages carbon removals through sustainable forestry and land management. While some of Parliament’s demands for a stronger framework, and environmental and economic monitoring were not addressed, a review is scheduled for 2025.
Energy performance of buildings
To further reduce the energy wasted through badly insulated and energy-inefficient buildings, Parliament adopted its position for negotiations with the Council on accelerating action under the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. Parliament’s discussion follows an ITRE committee report on the proposed revision of the directive, seeking to set an earlier zero-emissions deadline for all new buildings. Fossil fuel heating systems should disappear altogether by 2035, with residential buildings set to reach EPC class E by 2030. Where renovations would lead to rent rises not compensated by energy savings, however, the report seeks an exemption for public social housing.
European Citizens’ Initiative: ‘Save bees and farmers!’
Parliament debated a European Citizens’ Initiative, backed by over 1 million citizens, calling for bee-friendly agriculture for a healthy environment. Reacting to declining bee populations, the initiative seeks an EU response to redress the balance between priorities on food security, the environment and agricultural practices.
EU relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan
Members debated and adopted Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) own-initiative reports on EU-Armenia relations and EU-Azerbaijan relations seeking to advance discussion on a future Armenia–Azerbaijan peace treaty to address the root causes of the conflict.
Guidelines on human rights defenders
Members debated and adopted an AFET own-initiative report on EU guidelines on human rights defenders assessing the framework for protecting human rights activists working in non-EU countries. The report calls for consistent application of the EU guidelines, to a wider range of rights defenders, and for specific support for those defending women’s sexual and reproductive rights.
In a joint debate on relations with the United Kingdom, Members debated a Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) implementation report on the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU. They also heard a Commission statement on the recently agreed Windsor framework. The framework seeks to facilitate the movement of goods under the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland (the part of the Withdrawal Agreement seeking to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, and safeguard the all-island economy, the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement and the integrity of the EU single market). The chairs of the European Parliament’s UK Contact Group and Parliament’s delegation to the EU-UK Parliamentary Partnership Assembly have welcomed the Windsor framework, but also promised detailed parliamentary scrutiny and thorough monitoring of its implementation.
Commissioner Kadri Simson answered Members’ questions on how to ensure energy security in the EU in 2023. Subsequently, the EU High Representative, Josep Borrell, answered questions on how to strengthen trans-Atlantic ties to face global multilateral challenges.
Opening of trilogue negotiations
Members confirmed, with a vote, the mandate for negotiations from the ITRE committee on a proposal for a regulation on European Digital Identity framework.
Members also confirmed, without voting, ten mandates to enter into interinstitutional negotiations, three from the ITRE committee, on reports on the internal markets for renewable and natural gases, and on a report on a high common level of cybersecurity in EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies; three from the Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) committee, on reports on amendments to the markets in financial instruments rules, MiFID 2 and MiFIR, and on the regulation on central securities depositories; one from the Legal Affairs (JURI) committee on geographical indication protection for craft and industrial products; one from the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee on alignment with EU rules on the protection of personal data, and two from the joint LIBE/JURI committee on proposals for a directive and regulation on digitalisation of cross-border judicial cooperation.
Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Plenary round-up – March I 2023‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.
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