Written by Clare Ferguson and Katarzyna Sochacka with Rebecca Fredrick.
The war in Ukraine was again central to the plenary session in June, with a debate on the humanitarian and environmental consequences of the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam and sustainable reconstruction and the integration of Ukraine into the Euro-Atlantic community. Another important debate concerned the preparation of the European Council meeting set for 29‑30 June 2023, in particular in the light of the recent steps forward on agreeing the EU migration pact.
Members held a number of debates, inter alia, on the rule of law in Poland, negotiations on the European electoral law, establishment of an EU ethics body, the water crisis in Europe, and how to make Europe the place to invest. Members also debated the situation in Lebanon, in Nicaragua and on the state of the EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement.
Finally, Members held the latest ‘This is Europe’ debate, this month with Nikos Christodoulides, the President of Cyprus. And, in a formal sitting, they heard an address by Vjosa Osmani, President of the Republic of Kosovo.
Artificial intelligence act
The EU is keen to ensure a ‘human-centric’ approach to regulating artificial intelligence (AI), to ensure an optimum balance between the benefits and risks of these new technologies. Members voted overwhelmingly in favour of a joint Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) and Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee report which proposes to greatly amend the proposed artificial intelligence act, setting Parliament’s position for trilogue negotiations. The changes would increase the number of prohibited practices, and introduce stricter categorisation of high-risk systems, such as those that risk harming people’s health, safety, fundamental rights or the environment – and social media platforms and systems used to influence political processes. The report also proposes boosting protection of fundamental rights, health, safety, the environment, democracy and the rule of law in general-purpose AI systems like ChatGPT and increasing their transparency. National governance and enforcement should be stronger, and Parliament proposes to establish a new EU AI body to ensure the rules are applied.
Batteries and waste batteries
Members adopted the proposed new regulatory framework for batteries, agreed in interinstitutional negotiations in December 2022. The proposal seeks to address all steps of a battery’s life cycle, setting rules for sustainability (minimum recycled content, performance criteria, etc.), safety, labelling, and disposal. It also introduces due diligence obligations for businesses sourcing raw materials. With the goal of zero-emission mobility in mind, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) sought to widen the proposed scope to include batteries used in light transport (e.g. e-scooters).
Electronic evidence in criminal matters
New technology offers the opportunity to revolutionise the exchange of evidence in criminal investigations, including across borders. In a joint debate, Members considered and adopted a compromise reached between the co-legislators on cross-border access to electronic evidence. To make evidence easier for law enforcement authorities to access, two new pieces of legislation will therefore introduce a European production order and a European preservation order. The compromise text on the proposals includes a mandatory 10‑day response deadline for production orders (8 hours in emergencies) and a notification system for some categories of data, among other things.
European Union Drugs Agency
Members adopted the provisional text agreed in trilogue negotiations, following a LIBE committee report, on the proposal to strengthen the EU Drugs Agency’s mandate. It seeks to shift the focus of the Agency away from law enforcement and control-related issues and towards harm reduction and health. The illicit drugs landscape in Europe has changed greatly since the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) was set up to provide scientific analysis in 2006, with drugs such as amphetamines and ecstasy increasingly produced in the EU. Members also demand greater transparency in the EMCDDA, and more focus on the human rights, age and gender dimensions of drug use and addiction.
EU-Mauritius Fisheries Partnership Agreement
Fisheries agreements between the EU and non-EU countries generally focus on the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The EU/Mauritius Fisheries Partnership Agreement is part of a set of EU tuna agreements aimed at sustainable fishing in the western Indian Ocean. Signed in December 2022, a four-year protocol implementing the agreement currently applies provisionally. Members voted to grant Parliament’s consent to concluding the protocol, allowing fishing opportunities for up to 40 EU vessels.
Following the discovery that government bodies from both EU and non-EU states have used Pegasus spyware and equivalents against journalists, politicians, diplomats, civil society actors and others, the European Parliament established a Committee of Inquiry to investigate the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware (PEGA) in March 2022. Members debated the committee’s findings and adopted a recommendation to the Commission and the Council. The PEGA committee recommendation condemns governments’ illegitimate use of spyware. It underlines failures to implement EU law, not just by those Member States that have used spyware, but also criticises EU support for non-EU countries to develop surveillance capacities. Parliament calls for common EU standards on use of spyware, better enforcement of related EU law (including data protection law and the Dual-use Regulation) and for new legislation placing due diligence requirements on producers and exporters of surveillance technologies.
Assessment of the communication on outermost regions
Remote, insular or small in size, with a challenging geography or climate, a lack of economic opportunity often disadvantages those living in the EU’s outermost regions. Members considered an own-initiative report from the Committee on Regional Development (REGI) on the assessment of the European Commission’s 2022 strategy to improve living conditions in the EU’s outermost regions. The committee supports greater ambition for these regions, particularly to provide more opportunities for young people. One demand is to reproduce the compensation scheme mitigating higher prices in agriculture in the fisheries, transport, energy and other sectors. The committee underlines the importance of sustainable tourism in these regions, and highlights the need for better digital infrastructure and connectivity.
Food security and the long-term resilience of EU agriculture
Members debated a Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) own-initiative report on ensuring food security and the long-term resilience of EU agriculture. Parliament has long pushed for stronger strategic autonomy in food and agricultural supplies such as fertiliser. Parliament also supports measures to shield consumers from food inflation. The AGRI report recommends taking measures to ensure food safety both at home and globally, including to reduce dependence on imports and support farmers in the search for innovative means to produce food. The AGRI report nevertheless opposes a blanket ban on the use of pesticides and fertilisers, which it states could threaten farmers’ livelihoods.
Question Time – Relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan
During ‘question time’ with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, Members heard answers to questions regarding relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and in the Lachin Corridor, where the EU is playing a prominent role in trying to prevent a flare-up in the frozen conflict between the two countries.
Read this ‘at a glance’ note on ‘Plenary round-up – June 2023‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.