Written by Aidan Christie.
Members head to Strasbourg for the last plenary session before the summer break, with a packed agenda. With just nine months left before the Parliament goes into electoral recess, ahead of the elections on 6-9 June next year, the urgency of business is stepping up, given the limited time left to find agreement on – often complex – legislative files.
On Monday afternoon, Members will launch the week’s deliberations with a joint debate covering a number of proposals from the ‘fit for 55’ package, along with two linked proposals on industrial emissions. The ‘fit for 55’ package is all about adapting EU law and policies in order to meet the legally binding target, set in the European Climate Law, of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 % (from 1990 levels) by 2030. The Parliament and Council have been making steady progress in negotiating the various proposals since the package was launched in July 2021.
Three of the proposals to be debated have been agreed between Parliament and Council negotiators, and now need to be formally adopted. The proposed regulation on deployment of alternative fuels aims to speed up the installation of infrastructure and take-up of vehicles running on alternative fuels, such as electric and hydrogen-power, with targets for equipment to be installed at minimum intervals along main roads. The FuelEU Maritime proposal seeks to push the uptake of cleaner fuels for ships and reduce carbon emissions from seaborne transport – reducing gradually in coming to years to reach an 80 % cut by 2050. In addition, to using cleaner fuels en route, ships in port would have to connect to on-shore electrical power. The proposed revision of the Energy Efficiency Directive aims to speed up implementation of energy savings and promote renewable energy sources. The agreement would set a binding target of an 11.7 % reduction in final energy consumption by 2030. The public sector will have a specific target for reducing energy consumption, as well as the target of renovating 3 % of public buildings per year.
The linked proposals on the revision of the Industrial Emissions Directive seek to expand existing rules applying to large agro-industrial installations, to cover a broader range of installations, as well as promoting faster adoption of new less-polluting techniques to reduce emissions. Members will vote on the reports from the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) with a view to setting the Parliament’s position for trilogue negotiations with the Council.
Staying on the environmental theme, on Tuesday morning, Members are due to debate the proposed nature restoration regulation, which would establish a legal obligation on Member States to restore degraded ecosystems. During two voting sessions in the ENVI committee, Members took positions on hundreds of proposed amendments, but a tied vote meant that there was ultimately no majority in favour of the proposal as amended. Formally therefore, the committee is recommending that plenary reject the Commission’s proposal, but it is anticipated that large numbers of amendments will be tabled in plenary and the voting may again be very close.
Less controversially, on Tuesday, Members are due to vote on two other reports in the environmental field, with a view to setting Parliament’s position for trilogue talks. Again from ENVI, the report on the proposed regulation on ecodesign requirements for sustainable products aims at making products on the internal market more durable, reusable, reparable, upgradable, recyclable, and generally less harmful to the environment. From the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), the report on the proposed revision of the Construction Products Regulation seeks to boost circular business models and make sustainable products the norm in the building sector.
Integrated circuits or ‘chips’ are fundamental to virtually every aspect of modern life, but Europe has become reliant on chips made elsewhere in the world. The EU chips act would strengthen the semiconductor ecosystem in Europe, bolstering Europe’s capacity to design and produce chips, and giving the Commission powers to implement emergency measures on the chips market if needed in crisis situations. On Tuesday morning, Members are due to consider final adoption of the text agreed in trilogue with the Council.
In the external relations field, on Tuesday afternoon, Members are scheduled to debate reports from the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) on the Commission’s latest annual enlargement reports on progress in candidate countries, with Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina on the agenda this month. In both cases, the committee underlines the importance of continuing progress towards accession, and emphasises areas where the country concerned needs to step up its efforts. In the latter case, AFET denounces the recent increased inflammatory actions of the Republika Srpska leadership. Also on Tuesday afternoon, Parliament is due to debate recommendations drafted by the AFET committee on EU relations with the Palestinian Authority. The committee expresses concern at the mounting violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in recent months, and calls for an immediate end to all violence. Members also urge the Palestinian leadership to organise free and fair elections.
Media freedom and pluralism have come under growing threat in recent years, through increasing harassment of journalists, as well as human rights defenders and activists, with groundless or abusive lawsuits. Such lawsuits seek to silence those speaking out on legitimate matters of public interest, landing them with high costs for defending their freedom of expression. On Monday evening, Parliament is set to debate the report from the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) on the proposed directive on protection of journalists and human rights defenders from unfounded court cases with a view to setting its position for trilogue negotiations.
Threats to freedom of speech come in various forms, and recent events have highlighted potential vulnerabilities to foreign interference and undue influence of Members of the European Parliament. The Special Committee on Foreign Interference and Disinformation (ING2) had its mandate extended to investigate shortcomings in Parliament’s rules on transparency, integrity, accountability and anti-corruption measures. Its recommendations on reforming the rules to protect Parliament’s integrity are set for debate on Wednesday afternoon.
The threats to European society from the coronavirus pandemic have now largely passed, but the Special Committee set up to evaluate the experiences of the crisis has aimed to ensure the EU is better prepared for any future major health threat. Parliament is due to debate the lessons learned from COVID-19 and recommendations for the future on Tuesday afternoon, with the COVI committee calling for action in four areas: a health union, democracy and fundamental rights, addressing social and economic impact, and global action.
A European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) enables citizens to call for the Union to act in a given area, and once 1 million people, from at least 7 EU countries, sign up, the European Commission must respond. The ‘Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics – Commit to a Europe without animal testing‘ ECI has gained the required signatures, and its organisers presented their case in a hearing before the ENVI committee in May. The ECI is scheduled for debate in plenary on Monday evening, before the Commission presents its formal response.
Every year, after closing the financial year, the EU budget generally has a surplus, due to higher than expected revenue and underspending. Amending budget No 2/2023 will enter the surplus from 2022, amounting to €2.5 billion, as revenue in the 2023 budget, and Parliament is expected to vote on Tuesday to confirm this move.
The regular question time session with the Commission will focus this month on EU-Africa strategy, with Members having the opportunity to pose questions to the Commission on Tuesday afternoon on its plans for developing relations with African countries.
Finally, on Wednesday morning, Parliament is scheduled to debate the outcome of the European Council meeting of 29‑30 June 2023, where recent developments in the war against Ukraine and in Russia were discussed.
- Ecodesign for sustainable products
- Revision of the Construction Products Regulation
- Revision of the Energy Efficiency Directive
- Alternative fuels infrastructure
- FuelEU Maritime – Sustainable maritime fuels
- Nature restoration regulation
- Revision of the industrial emissions directive
- Protection of journalists and human rights defenders from manifestly unfounded or abusive court proceedings (SLAPPs)
- Reforming rules to protect Parliament’s integrity
- 2022 report on Albania
- 2022 report on Bosnia and Herzegovina
- EU relations with the Palestinian Authority
- Amending budget No 2/2023: 2022 surplus
- Lessons learned from COVID-19 and recommendations for the future
- EU chips act
- Citizens’ initiative on animal testing