Members' Research Service By / September 15, 2023

Plenary round-up – September 2023

During the September plenary session, Members heard the annual State of the Union speech from the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

© European Union 2023 - Source : EP / Alain ROLLAND

Written by Clare Ferguson and Katarzyna Sochacka.

During the September plenary session, Members heard the annual State of the Union speech from the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. Other highlights included exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s address to a formal sitting of Parliament. Members debated disaster resilience in the EU, the EU-Tunisia memorandum of understanding, combating the normalisation of extremist discourse, a relief package for smaller businesses, and violence and discrimination in sport. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, made statements on Iran, Latin America and Chile, and answered questions on the situation in west and central Africa in the light of the recent coups d’état. Finally, Members approved the appointment of Iliana Ivanova to the European Commission.

European defence industry reinforcement through common procurement act

As Russia persists in its war on Ukraine, highlighting gaps in EU defence investment, Members considered and adopted a text agreed in trilogue negotiations backing a Commission proposal for a €300 million fund to incentivise joint procurement of urgent and critical defence products – the European defence industry reinforcement through common procurement act (EDIRPA). This should result in funding being made available for defence procurement by consortia of at least three EU Member States.

Critical raw materials

In the face of growing geopolitical challenges, Members debated and adopted a report from the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee, setting Parliament’s position for negotiations with the Council on establishing a framework to ensure a secure and sustainable supply of critical raw materials (‘CRMs act’). Parliament would like to see higher benchmarks, more regular review of the lists of CRMs, and greater support for ‘strategic projects’ eligible for streamlined permitting processes and easier access to financing.

Improving the environment

Members debated and adopted Parliament’s position for trilogue negotiations on a Commission proposal to update water pollution legislation. The legislation would add over two dozen substances, including glyphosate, to the lists of priority water pollutants that EU government authorities must monitor and control. Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) seeks stricter threshold values for groundwater, as these environments are more vulnerable to stressors.

Air pollution is the largest environmental health risk in the EU. Members considered and adopted an ENVI committee report setting Parliament’s position for negotiations on revising air quality legislation with the Council. Parliament seeks stricter limit and target values for several pollutants by 2030, stricter rules on compensation, and suggests Member States finance air quality measures with funding from penalties.

Modernising the energy sector

The EU needs to raise the share of renewables in energy consumption, to tackle climate and energy security challenges. Members adopted the text agreed with the Council on a new revision of the Renewable Energy Directive. Setting a target for a 42.5 % share by 2030, the new legislation should simplify permitting procedures for renewable energy projects and set specific targets for the buildings and transport sectors.

Members also adopted the text reached in trilogue negotiations on the ReFuelEU aviation initiative. The text places requirements on the uptake of aviation fuel at EU airports, to fight the practice of carriers taking on more fuel than necessary where prices are lower, which increases emissions. The minimum share of sustainable aviation fuels suppliers must provide to EU airports will be progressively increased.

Single market emergency instrument

Aiming to plan for future shocks to the EU internal market disrupting the free flow of goods, services and people, such as in the recent pandemic, Members considered a report by the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) on the proposed single market emergency instrument (SMEI) package. Parliament proposes to change the instrument’s governance structure, and underlines the importance of accountability in making emergency decisions and of protecting supply chains, and seeks a greater role in triggering the proposed crisis ’emergency mode’. Parliament proposes to formalise the use of ‘fast lanes’ to facilitate free movement, especially where relevant to an emergency affecting the internal market.

Consumer credits

With inflation rising, it is more important than ever to protect consumers who need to obtain credit to pay for goods and services. Members approved a provisional agreement on a proposal for a new consumer credit directive. The new legislation will ensure consumers have all the information they need to make an informed choice before they sign for a loan, with the updated consumer credit directive also covering risky loans, those under €200, and loans offered through crowdfunding.

Labelling requirements

Members adopted a provisional agreement reached on regional non‑food craft and industrial products, establishing intellectual property rights to protect products whose quality, reputation or other characteristic is attributable to a specific geographical area. Members also adopted a provisional agreement for a regulation aligning the labelling requirements for organic pet food with those for organic human food.

Standards for substances of human origin intended for human application

Members adopted an ENVI committee report setting Parliament’s position on a proposal to update EU law protecting donors and recipients of substances of human origin used in medical treatments. The proposal seeks to improve donation collection rates and planning for emergencies. Parliament seeks stronger measures to improve protection for citizens who donate or are treated with human blood, tissues or cells.

Management plan for bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean

As a contracting party to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which manages the stock of eastern bluefin tuna in the Atlantic, the EU updates fisheries laws to match ICCAT recommendations. As bluefin tuna populations have recovered, Members adopted an agreement setting new rules reflecting the latest ICCAT management plan in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean.

Administrative cooperation on taxation:

Tax authorities struggle to obtain information on tax-payers gains in the fast-moving crypto-asset sector. Members voted on a Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) report on the revision the directive on administrative cooperation in the field of taxation (‘DAC8’), while underlining the need for broader rules, covering ownership information on moveable assets such as yachts and private jets.

Mechanism to resolve cross-border legal and administrative obstacles

Members debated a Committee on Regional Development (REGI) legislative-initiative report seeking to revive proposals for a European cross-border mechanism (ECBM). Parliament proposes that Member States tackle obstacles to cross-border development by establishing cross-border coordination points.

2022 report on Türkiye

The Commission’s 2022 annual report on Türkiye notes ‘serious deficiencies’ in the functioning of the country’s democratic institutions, and points to a lack of progress on relations on Cyprus. Members debated and adopted the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) assessment of the Commission’s report, and called for ‘a parallel and realistic framework’ for EU-Türkiye relations

Opening of trilogue negotiations   

Eight decisions – from the ECON, IMCO, ITRE and EMPL committees – to enter into interinstitutional negotiations were approved without a vote. A further mandate from the ITRE committee, on EU electricity market design, was approved by a plenary vote. 

Read this ‘at a glance’ note on ‘Plenary round-up – July 2023‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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