Written by Clare Ferguson.
With less than nine months to go to the next European elections, Members of the European Parliament return to Strasbourg to start clearing the decks of the remaining files still to be finalised during this legislature. In particular, they will debate three proposals to strengthen protection of human and environmental health in the EU, as well as proposals to ensure media freedom, on maintaining a strong trading position when faced with attempts at economic coercion, and an adequate budget for the EU to put all the necessary measures in place.
In view of the need to address the urgent budgetary shortfall and to provide additional financial support to Ukraine, Members are set to debate the Committee on Budgets (BUDG) interim report on the proposal for a mid-term revision of the 2021-2027 EU multiannual financial framework (MFF) on Tuesday morning. The BUDG committee would like to see the amount proposed (€65.8 billion) increased by a further €10 billion. Of this increase, €2 billion should go to reinforcing the single market, an additional €1 billion to migration management, and an increase of €1 billion each to the budget allocations for security and defence and for the EU’s action in the rest of the world. With the remaining extra €5 billion, the committee proposes to strengthen the EU Flexibility Instrument and the Solidarity and Emergency Aid Reserve. To prevent another payment backlog towards the end of the MFF period, the committee also suggests abandoning the annual appropriation payment cap.
Non-EU countries are attempting economic coercion, restricting trade or investment to influence the EU or its Member States’ sovereign choices – and the phenomenon is on the rise. As the EU currently has no legal framework in place to fight such coercion, a new proposal seeks to deter countries from this type of action. The text agreed with the Council sets a clear definition of economic coercion and EU action to counter it. Parliament’s negotiators succeeded in adding a timeframe and a broad list of possible responses. While retaliation should be proportionate, Parliament has insisted on stronger democratic control of the substance and process, and ensured that non-EU countries should pay for damages caused by economically coercive practices. On Monday, Members are expected to debate, and later adopt, the political agreement reached in trilogue negotiations by the International Trade Committee (INTA).
Intelligent transport systems (ITS) use real-time traffic information to make transport safer and more efficient, and also reduce emissions and energy consumption. Current EU rules governing ITS date back to 2010, so the Commission proposed to update the rules to bring them into line with the latest technological developments, and also to accelerate the availability of data to feed into ITS tools and enhance its interoperability. On Monday evening, Members will debate a provisional agreement on the proposal, reached in trilogue with the Council by the Transport and Tourism (TRAN) Committee. Parliament’s negotiators were successful in having included among the data to be shared crucial data on various restrictions on roads.
With consequences for human and environmental health, micro-organisms, solvents, detergents, fats and oils, metals and other substances from households and industry all end up in urban wastewater. On Thursday, Members are scheduled to debate a Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) report supporting a proposal to update EU urban wastewater legislation. As the new law would introduce a system where pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies pay for any water pollution they cause, the ENVI committee would like to see EU countries also contribute a maximum of 20 % of the financing to upgrade their wastewater treatment plants, to avoid a knock-on effect on medicine prices. The committee seeks stronger monitoring and better reuse of treated wastewater. It also calls for new washing machines to include microfiber filters to tackle microplastic pollution by the end of 2027. The report as adopted would form Parliament’s position for future negotiations with the Council (which has not yet fixed its position) on protecting our rivers, lakes and seas.
The EU is also proposing to update chemicals legislation on the classification, labelling and packaging of hazardous substances and mixtures. On Tuesday, Members are set to debate a Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) report seeking to fine-tune the proposal, clarify rules on mixed substances, exempt renewable botanicals, and reinforce the scientific basis for classification. The ENVI committee would also like to see new hazard criteria for immunotoxicity and neurotoxicity by the end of 2025, and to assess progress in the development of alternative methods to animal testing. Should Members adopt the report, it will form Parliament’s position for negotiations with the Council.
Despite the ban on asbestos in the EU, exposure to this carcinogen kills more than 70 000 people a year in Europe. On Monday evening, Members are due to debate an agreement reached in negotiations with the Council by the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL), on proposals to amend current EU law on asbestos in the workplace by lowering the limits to which workers may legally be exposed. According to the agreed text, new exposure limits would be 10 times lower than current limits, and demolition companies across Europe would need a permit. The new rules also aim to help workers avoid exposure to asbestos by delineating necessary protective equipment and decontamination procedures.
On Wednesday, Members are set to debate a Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) report on a proposal to regulate European green bonds (debt securities for climate and environmental projects). While the EU is a global leader on the green bond market, the risk of market disruption through ‘greenwashing’ necessitates a uniform definition and a regulated standard. A provisional agreement on the proposal should ensure that all green bond proceeds go towards sustainable activities included in the EU taxonomy (with some flexibility). Companies using the standard will have to disclose how investments feed into their transition plans, and the committee is insisting on greater transparency on green bonds making environmental claims in general. It is hoped that the framework will encourage better scrutiny in the market overall.
On Tuesday, Members are set to debate a Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) report on a proposal to establish a common framework for media services in the internal market (known as the ‘European Media Freedom Act’). The CULT committee proposes, among other things, greater transparency on state and non-EU financial support for media outlets, better protection for journalists who do not wish to reveal their sources, and stronger rules on the use of spyware against journalists suspected of criminal behaviour. Once adopted, the report would set Parliament’s position for negotiations with the Council.
On Wednesday, Members are expected to hear a formal address by Petr Pavel, President of the Czech Republic. Dependent on the results of hearings to be held by the ENVI committee at the beginning of the week, Members are set to vote on Thursday on the approval of new responsibilities for Commission Executive Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, as well as on the approval of the appointment of Wopke Hoekstra as member of the European Commission. These changes follow the resignation of Frans Timmermans. Commissioners are expected to respond to Members’ queries on EU-China trade relations during the question time session scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday, the Council and Commission are expected to make statements on the urgent need to adopt the migration pact, particularly in the light of the resurgence of the crisis in Lampedusa – a decade since the first major loss of life when a boat full of migrants sank of the island.
Plenary sitting 2-5 October 2023 – Agenda