Written by Katarzyna Sochacka with Rebecca Fredrick.
The highlight of the March II plenary session was the debate on the conclusions of the European Council meeting of 23-24 March 2023. In a formal ceremony held to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, the Presidents of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, the European Council, Charles Michel, and the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, each underlined the significance of the 1998 Agreement and the importance of ensuring reconciliation between the two communities in Northern Ireland. Members debated several legislative files, including on fluorinated gases and ozone-depleting substances, safety of products and equal pay for men and women. In a further debate, Members considered the 2022 rule of law report from the European Commission.
Fluorinated gases and ozone depleting substances
In a joint debate, Members considered two reports from the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee on fluorinated gases and ozone-depleting substances, and subsequently adopted positions for trilogue negotiations on the two proposals. The proposed revision of the Ozone Regulation will update current rules on ozone-depleting substances (ODS) to reduce administrative burden, facilitate monitoring, and further reduce ODS emissions. The second proposed regulation concerns fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases), a particularly strong – although non-ozone-depleting – category of greenhouse gases (GHG). EU rules on F‑gases have been in place since 2006 and have led to significant reductions in GHG emissions. Among the ENVI committee’s proposed changes to the Commission’s proposal are a prohibition on the use of F-gases in sectors where alternatives are technologically and economically feasible, steeper product phase-down trajectories, firmer deadlines after which certain F‑gases will not be allowed to be placed on the market, and the introduction of minimum fines for non-compliance.
General product safety regulation
Members debated and adopted a provisional agreement, endorsed by the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), on the proposed regulation on general product safety, which would replace existing legislation that has lost effectiveness as a result of digitalisation, supply chain evolution and changes in consumer behaviour. The text agreed in trilogue takes into account Parliament’s call that product safety assessments must consider the consumers targeted (for example, children and older people), as well as its stance on consumers’ right to remedy in the event of a product recall.
Equal pay for equal work between men and women
Parliament also debated and adopted the provisional agreement on equal pay for equal work between men and women, reached after five trilogue meetings. Despite the right to equal pay being enshrined in the EU Treaties since 1992, the gender pay gap currently sits at 12.7 %. The European Parliament has for years been calling for stronger measures on equal pay. The proposal will increase transparency around pay and access to justice for victims of pay discrimination. Notably, the legislation requires all companies – regardless of size – to make available to employees their criteria for determining remuneration as well as a breakdown of remuneration in the company.
Rule of law
Members debated a European Commission statement on its third annual rule of law report. Members voted on a motion for a resolution on the report, tabled by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). In its 2022 report, the Commission took into account Parliament’s call for the inclusion of specific recommendations directed at each Member State. While the resolution acknowledges this addition, it expresses concern that many of the recommendations lack specificity. (Members also debated separate Commission statements on the rule of law in Greece, Spain and Malta, resolutions on which are expected to be voted during the April plenary session.)
Opening of trilogue negotiations
Two committees’ decisions to enter into interinstitutional negotiations were approved without a vote: from the Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee on the proposal for a directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law, and from the Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) Committee on the proposal for a regulation on the conversion of the Farm Accountancy Data Network into a Farm Sustainability Data Network.
Read this ‘at a glance’ note on ‘Plenary round-up – March II 2023‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.