Written by Clare Ferguson and Katarzyna Sochacka.
Members focused on a wide range of legislative files during the July plenary session, in particular on environmental policy, the European chips act, and on journalists’ freedom. Parliament debated the conclusions of the European Council meeting held on 29‑30 June 2023, and the recent developments in the war against Ukraine and in Russia in particular. Members also debated Council and Commission statements on the greening transport package, the state of the SME Union, the need to adopt the ‘unshell’ directive, and global convergence on generative AI. The President made a statement commemorating the victims of the Srebrenica genocide.
Parliament debated and (narrowly) adopted its negotiating position following a long voting session on amendments to the proposed nature restoration regulation, which would establish a legal obligation on Member States to restore degraded ecosystems. The text has now been referred back to the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), so that trilogue negotiations can begin between Parliament, the Council and the Commission.
European chips act
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. Members debated and adopted the text agreed in trilogue with the Council.
Fit for 55 and industrial emissions
The ‘fit for 55’ package aims to adapt EU law and policies to meet the European Climate Law target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 % (from 1990 levels) by 2030. Members formally adopted three proposals, agreed between Parliament and Council negotiators. The 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. FuelEU Maritime seeks to push the uptake of cleaner fuels for ships and gradually reduce carbon emissions from seaborne transport to reach an 80 % cut by 2050. The revision of the Energy Efficiency Directive aims at speeding up implementation of energy savings and promoting renewable energy sources, setting a binding target of an 11.7 % reduction in final energy consumption by 2030. In addition, 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 such installations, as well as promoting faster adoption of new less-polluting techniques to reduce emissions. Members’ vote to adopt ENVI committee reports sets the Parliament’s position for trilogue negotiations with the Council.
Ecodesign and construction products regulations
Votes set Parliament’s position for trilogue on two further environmental files. An ENVI committee report on the proposed regulation on ecodesign requirements for sustainable products seeks to make 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), Members adopted a report on the proposed revision of the Construction Products Regulation, which seeks to boost circular business models and make sustainable products the norm in the building sector.
Protection of journalists and human rights defenders
Media freedom and pluralism have come under growing threat, through increasing harassment of journalists, as well as human rights defenders and activists, including through 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. Parliament debated a report from the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) on the proposed directive on protection of journalists and human rights defenders from unfounded court cases, setting Parliament’s position for trilogue negotiations.
Amending budget No 2/2023 – Surplus of the financial year 2022
Every year, after closing the financial year, the EU budget generally has a surplus, due to higher than expected revenue and underspending. Members adopted amending budget No 2/2023, allowing the surplus from 2022, amounting to €2.5 billion, to be entered as revenue in the 2023 budget.
COVID-19 pandemic: Lessons learned and recommendations for the future
While the threats to European society from the coronavirus pandemic have now largely passed, 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 debated the COVI committee report on the lessons learned from COVID-19 and recommendations for the future, which calls for action in four areas: a health union, democracy and fundamental rights, addressing social and economic impact, and global action.
Parliament’s rules on transparency, integrity, accountability and anti-corruption
Recent events have highlighted potential vulnerabilities to foreign interference and undue influence of Members of the European Parliament. The mandate of Parliament’s Special Committee on Foreign Interference and Disinformation (ING2) was extended to investigate shortcomings in Parliament’s rules on transparency, integrity, accountability and anti-corruption measures. Members debated and adopted its recommendations on reforming the rules to protect Parliament’s integrity.
2022 reports on Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina
Members debated and adopted reports from the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) on the Commission’s latest annual enlargement reports on progress in candidate countries, covering Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. 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 by the Republika Srpska leadership.
Relations with the Palestinian Authority
Parliament also debated and adopted 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.
Question time (VPC/HR) – EU-Africa Strategy
The regular question time session with the Commission this month focused on EU-Africa strategy, with Members having the opportunity to pose questions to Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen, especially in the context of the impact in Africa of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
ECI ‘Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics – Commit to a Europe without animal testing’
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 2023. The ECI was debated in plenary in advance of the Commission presenting its formal response.
Opening of trilogue negotiations
Three decisions to enter into interinstitutional negotiations were approved: on the proposal on combating violence against women and domestic violence; on a regulation on instant credit transfers; and on the definition of criminal offences and penalties for the violation of Union restrictive measures.
Read this ‘at a glance’ note on ‘Plenary round-up – July 2023‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.