Written by Clare Ferguson and Katarzyna Sochacka.
During the October II plenary session, Members debated with the Council and Commission the despicable terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israel, Israel’s right to defend itself in line with humanitarian and international law, and the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Another important debate followed the Commission’s statement on its work programme for 2024.
Members also debated a range of other topics, including the effectiveness of the EU sanctions on Russia, the situation of Ukrainian women refugees, the Islamist terrorist attack on French schools and the need to protect people and promote social cohesion, the outcome of the SDGs summit in New York, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, water scarcity in the EU, the need for a coordinated European response and legislative framework on intensive spyware, the rule of law in Malta, fighting disinformation and dissemination of illegal content in the context of the Digital Services Act, and the proposed Council recommendation on developing social economy framework conditions.
Martin Hojsík was elected a Vice-President of the Parliament, and Isabel Wiseler-Lima a Quaestor. Finally, Nikol Pashinyan, Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, addressed Members in a formal sitting.
Establishing the Ukraine Facility
Members debated a report jointly prepared by the Committees on Budgets (BUDG) and Foreign Affairs (AFET) on establishing the Ukraine Facility, to support the country’s recovery from Russia’s aggression and its EU ambitions. Sourcing the proposed €50 billion of financial support, in the form of grants and loans, would however necessitate a revision of the EU’s multiannual financial framework. This means that support from EU governments must be unanimous. Parliament’s committees propose that the Facility enable the use of frozen Russian assets to finance Ukraine’s reconstruction. Agreement on establishing the Ukraine Facility is urgent if the EU is to continue to support Ukraine without interruption in 2024. The report now sets Parliament’s mandate for interinstitutional negotiations with the Council.
Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform (STEP)
Recent events have heightened the demand for 21st century technologies, such as artificial intelligence, 5G, semiconductors, green technologies and biotechnologies. Parliament debated a report, drawn up jointly by the Committees on Budgets (BUDG) and on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), on a proposal to set up a platform on strategic technologies for Europe (STEP) to help ensure EU industry can access the technologies it needs. Using reprogrammed EU funding to leverage investment, and with a €10 billion reinforcement from the EU budget, the platform would direct funding towards achieving the green and digital transitions. The report now sets Parliament’s position for negotiations with the Council.
The EU’s common fisheries policy aims to conserve fish stocks and ensure European fishing fleets work in a sustainable manner. The EU fisheries control system seeks to ensure everyone follows the rules, but the current framework has long been due a complete overhaul. Members considered and adopted an agreement reached with the Council to revise the EU fisheries control system. The new legislation introduces tracking of all fishing vessels, electronic reporting of all catches, monitoring of recreational fisheries and improved product traceability – with CCTV to monitor vessels at high risk of not complying with their obligation to land all catches and conserve fish stocks.
General budget of the European Union for 2024
Parliament debated the BUDG committee report on amendments to the Council’s position on the draft EU budget for 2024. The report stresses the need for additional funding to address both the economic and social consequences arising from the COVID‑19 pandemic and Russia’s war against Ukraine, the worsening climate crisis and resulting extreme weather events. The report aligns with Parliament’s position to raise budgetary ceilings in the mid-term revision of the 2021‑2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF), and to integrate funding for STEP (see above), aid, migration and neighbourhood policies – and reverses the Council’s proposed reductions. The adopted report constitutes Parliament’s reading of the 2024 EU budget, and its position for conciliation talks with the Council, which are scheduled to run until 13 November.
Discharge 2021 – European Council and Council
As every year, the European Parliament continues to closely scrutinise how the EU budget has been implemented. Members voted on a report by the Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) which concludes that, due to a lack of cooperation from the Council, it cannot take an informed decision on granting discharge for the European Council and the Council for their 2021 budget, and thus Parliament rejected the discharge for them, as it has every year since 2009. The CONT committee calls on the Council to improve its legislative transparency.
Amending budget 3/2023 – Update of revenue and other technical adjustments
Members voted the BUDG committee report on draft amending budget No 3/2023. The report endorses the Council’s position to update the revenue side of the 2023 EU budget to account for the latest economic forecasts. It also makes adjustments to accommodate expenditure related to the new Defence Industrial Reinforcement Instrument and the European Chips Act; the cancellation of appropriations from the reserve line for the sustainable fisheries partnership; and the reinforcement of the budget of the European Data Protection Supervisor.
European Citizens’ Initiative – ‘Fur Free Europe’
EU citizens are strongly opposed to fur farming, on animal welfare grounds, but also due to the environmental risks of the toxic chemicals used in fur production and the animal waste from intensive farms, not to mention the potential for the development of infectious disease. However, Europe is a major producer of fur products, with Poland, Lithuania, Greece and Finland major producers of farmed mink. Members debated a 1.5 million-signature European Citizens’ Initiative, demanding that the EU ban fur farms and their products. While support for a ban on fur farms is overwhelming, the economic consequences for fur farmers will have to be mitigated.
2022 report on Montenegro
Despite Montenegro’s majority support for joining the EU, and with a new prime minister designate (Milojko Spajić, from the ‘Europe Now!’ movement), seeking to form a new government, Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) report scrutinising the European Commission’s 2022 report on Montenegro’s progress towards EU accession regrets the country’s failure to build on this support to achieve consensus. Members debated the AFET report, which expresses particular concern about the consequent delays to the reforms necessary for the country to aspire to EU membership. Nevertheless, AFET welcomes Montenegro’s alignment with the EU on foreign and security policy, particularly on sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Question Time with the Commission – European Measures to prevent and to fight the rise of organised crime
Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President of the Commission, answered the questions put by Members regarding EU policy on tackling organised crime during the question time session.
Opening of trilogue negotiations
Three decisions to enter into interinstitutional negotiations were approved without a vote: on a report on statistics on population and housing, from the EMPL committee; on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, from the LIBE and FEMM committees; and on liability for defective products, from the IMCO and JURI committees.
Read this ‘at a glance’ note on ‘Plenary round-up – October II 2023‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.