Written by Clare Ferguson.
Members of the European Parliament meet in plenary from 8 to 11 May, a significant week in the European Union calendar, as Europe Day, celebrating peace and unity, falls on 9 May. That day, the Chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz, is due to attend the plenary to take part in the latest ‘This is Europe’ debate. The following day, the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, is expected to address Members in a formal sitting. On Tuesday, The Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell is due to make a statement on the situation in Sudan, where violence is aggravating the already immense challenges the people of Sudan are facing in plenary on Tuesday.
The biggest issue on Parliament’s plenary agenda for this session is the EU budget. Members are expected to hold a joint debate on the current EU budget and own resources on Monday evening. The EU’s current financial situation is very tight, with rising EU recovery instrument (EURI) borrowing costs undermining the EU’s capacity to finance its priorities. Members are set to debate a Committee on Budgets (BUDG) report urging a revision of the EU’s long-term budget before 2024. To avoid having to cancel existing programmes due to lack of funds, the committee calls on the Council to act urgently to adopt the stalled Own Resources Decision.
To ensure the transparent and democratic scrutiny of how public funds are spent, Parliament’s elected Members decide whether the EU institutions have disbursed their budget in accordance with the rules. On Tuesday, Members are due to discuss a number of files concerning the discharge procedure for the EU’s 2021 budget. The Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) recommends granting discharge to all 33 EU decentralised agencies and 9 joint undertakings. However, the committee also draws attention to the European Court of Auditors’ recommendations, including the need for all joint undertakings to adopt common guidelines. In the light of the continued institutional differences between Parliament and the European Council and the Council, the committee once again proposes to postpone the decision on discharge of their 2021 budget. In the interests of transparency, Parliament has refused to grant discharge to the Council each financial year since 2009. In contrast, the CONT committee proposes to grant discharge to all other EU institutions and bodies, although it again makes observations on opportunities to improve budgetary management. For the first time, the discharge procedure for the European Commission will also apply to the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). Here, the Commission appears to have taken previous CONT committee criticism on board, and CONT proposes that Parliament grant discharge to the Commission, all executive agencies and for the European Development Funds for 2021. However, it also draws attention to the need for stronger control on spending by national authorities and non-governmental organisations.
Members continue to focus on efforts towards mitigating climate change on Monday evening. The oil, gas and coal sectors are responsible for more than a third of man-made methane emissions worldwide. Parliament’s Committees on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and on Industry, Research and Energy have examined the European Commission’s proposals for an EU strategy to reduce energy sector methane emissions and Members are due to debate their joint report on Monday evening, with the aim of fixing the institution’s position for trilogue negotiations. Among other changes, the report seeks to oblige the Commission to set a binding 2030 methane emissions reduction target for all actors in the sector.
To prevent companies making bogus claims about the environmental impact of their products, among other things, the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) have prepared a report that seeks to strengthen protection and legal certainty for consumers and economic operators alike, in the context of a Commission proposal to empower consumers for the green transition. Members are due to debate the report on Tuesday evening, with the resulting text setting Parliament’s position for trilogue negotiations with the Council.
In a joint debate also scheduled for Tuesday evening, Members are due to consider a recommendation from the Committees on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) and Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) to grant the Council’s request for Parliament’s consent for ratification of EU accession to the Istanbul Convention. First proposed in 2016, six EU countries have refused to ratify the Istanbul Convention on violence against women. However, as the European Court of Justice has ruled that unanimity in the Council is not necessary in this case, the way is open for a broader EU accession to an agreement that addresses gender-based violence (GBV).
Each year, Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) reviews the Commission’s reports on reform progress in countries hoping to join the EU. Members are due to debate the committee’s findings on two of these reports, for 2022, on Tuesday evening. In the first, on Serbia, the committee welcomes the country’s continued ambition for EU membership. However, it regrets Serbia’s failure to align with EU sanctions against Russia and its continued difficult relations with Kosovo. Normalising relations between Belgrade and Pristina would be an important step forward on Serbia’s path to EU membership. Although the second report, on Kosovo, calls for a commitment to genuine dialogue with Serbia, the AFET committee commends Kosovo’s progress on reforms and fighting corruption, and particularly praises Kosovo’s condemnation of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
With over 1.1 million signatures, the European Citizens’ Initiative ‘Stop Finning – Stop the trade‘ has earned support across the EU. Members are therefore due to debate the defence of sharks and rays on Thursday morning. The initiative aims to ban fin trading – other than when naturally attached to the shark’s body – in the EU, which remains one of the biggest exporters and transit centres for shark fins. Indeed catching sharks is now largely for fin trading, according to the ECI’s organisers, in particular with the aim of exporting to Asian regions.
- Situation in Sudan
- Improving the EU’s economic governance framework
- EU Budget Discharge 2021 – European Commission
- EU Budget Discharge 2021 – Other institutions
- EU Budget Discharge 2021 – Decentralised agencies
- Impact on the 2024 EU budget of increasing borrowing costs for the European Union Recovery Instrument
- Reducing methane emissions in the energy sector
- Empowering consumers for the green transition
- EU accession to the Istanbul Convention
- 2022 report on Serbia
- 2022 report on Kosovo
- ‘Stop Finning – Stop the Trade!’: European Citizens’ Initiative in defence of sharks and rays