Members' Research Service By / November 17, 2023

European Parliament Plenary Session – November II 2023

Members gather in Strasbourg for the second plenary session of November 2023, with the session expected to open on Monday with a debate on the International Day on the Rights of the Child, which is marked every year on 20 November.

© European Union 2019 - Source : EP

Written by Clare Ferguson with Sara Van Tooren.

Members gather in Strasbourg for the second plenary session of November 2023, with the session expected to open on Monday with a debate on the International Day on the Rights of the Child, which is marked every year on 20 November. The Council and European Commission are expected to make statements on Wednesday on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, the need for the release of hostages and for an immediate humanitarian truce leading to a ceasefire and the prospects for peace and security in the Middle East. The Question Time session will see the Commission respond to Members’ queries on progress on the supply of EU artillery ammunition to Ukraine. The Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Nikolay Denkov, is due to attend the plenary on Wednesday, to take part in the latest ‘This is Europe’ debate. William Ruto, President of Kenya, is due to address a formal sitting on Tuesday. The topical debate scheduled for Wednesday is expected to focus on reducing regulatory burden to unleash EU entrepreneurship and competitiveness, a common theme in EU legislation aimed at striking a balance between greening the economy and supporting EU businesses.

This year’s United Nations  Climate Change Conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (COP28), starting at the end of the month, provides an opportunity to renew the European Union’s commitment to collective action on climate change. Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) has therefore tabled a motion for resolution, along with oral questions to the Council and Commission, due for debate on Monday afternoon. The ENVI committee is keen to see major emitters make a fair contribution to the loss and damage fund agreed at last year’s COP27, and underlines the need to support the global energy transition at COP28 by pushing to end fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 and phase out fossil fuels altogether.

Delivering climate neutrality by 2050 means reducing direct emissions where possible. Where it is not, it will require increased investment in and use of carbon removal technologies and initiatives. On Monday, Parliament is therefore set to discuss an ENVI committee report on a proposed EU carbon removals certification framework to ensure credible governance of trusted EU-certified carbon removals. The ENVI report proposes better definition of the different types of removal – carbon farming, permanent carbon storage, and long-lasting carbon storage in products or materials. It also proposes an EU registry and expert platform to monitor implementation, increase transparency and limit the burden on EU governments. Adoption of the report would set Parliament’s position on the file for further negotiations at EU level.

The EU is already looking to strengthen its capacity to produce cleaner technologies, with a proposal aimed at enhancing EU manufacturing capacity of ‘net-zero’ technologies by at least 40 % of the EU’s annual deployment needs by 2030. A report from Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), scheduled for debate on Monday evening, proposes to widen the scope of the proposed net-zero industry act to cover additional components, materials and machinery and sets new manufacturing capacity benchmarks. Should the proposal go ahead, we could soon see ‘net-zero industry valleys’ in EU countries, facilitated by accelerated permits and funding from auctioning EU emissions trading system allowances.

Trucks and buses cause more than 25 % of road transport greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. Aiming to ensure cleaner air for everyone, Members are due to debate an ENVI committee report supporting tighter CO2 emissions performance targets for new heavy-duty vehicles on Tuesday morning. The proposed revision would bring more vehicles into the scope of the current rules and set a 90 % lower average CO2 emissions target for new vehicles by 2040. New urban buses would have to be zero-emission from 2030. The ENVI committee report proposes to raise the interim reduction target, include additional vehicle types and introduce an annual ‘Zero-Emission HDVs Forum’, aiming to increase recharging and refuelling infrastructure. If agreed, the report would constitute Parliament’s position when negotiations begin with EU governments on the proposed CO2 emission performance targets for new heavy-duty vehicles.

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Avoiding waste and the emissions wasted in both creating and disposing of it, is the focus of a move to ensure consumers have the ‘right to repair’, long supported by Parliament. On Monday evening, Parliament is expected to debate a report from the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) on proposed common EU rules to strengthen the repair market. The report suggests reducing inconvenience for consumers and providing financial incentives to encourage companies and consumers to repair broken products. It also suggests extending the legal guarantee period for repaired products by one year. The vote on the report sets Parliament’s position for negotiations with the co-legislators.

Besides fighting the wasteful replacement of repairable goods, the EU is also trying to reduce packaging waste, which continues to increase in the EU. An ENVI committee report, set for debate on Tuesday afternoon, seeks to strengthen proposals to revise the current EU law on packaging and packaging waste. The committee wishes to forbid the use of certain potentially harmful substances in food packaging, as well as lightweight plastic carrier bags. The committee also wants to ban plastic packaging in airports and secondary packaging for cosmetics, hygiene and toiletry products. Removing the Commission’s proposed targets for take-away food and drinks, the report suggests companies should offer the possibility to use reusable packaging at no greater cost, and provide a system for consumers to bring their own container, at a lower price. Micro-companies would enjoy a number of exceptions to the new rules on packaging waste.

While pesticides are necessary to protect crops, these plant protection products can also have harmful impacts on the environment and human health. An EU proposal seeks to reduce their overall use and risk by 50 %, through binding national targets. Members are due to debate an ENVI committee report on Tuesday morning that supports this target, but raises the reduction goal for particularly hazardous pesticides to 65 %. The committee wishes to see increased availability of alternative solutions, and adds new requirements on monitoring, recording and reporting of disease related to the use of plant protection products.

An important debate is scheduled on Tuesday afternoon on the adoption of the provisional agreement reached with the Council on the 2024 EU budget. The negotiations on the budget for next year took place against a backdrop of increased spending pressure on the EU’s long-term finances, due to ongoing global challenges. Nevertheless the agreed 2024 EU budget includes €189.4 billion in commitment appropriations and €142.6 billion in payments, including for special instruments such as the proposed Ukraine facility.

Moving on to trade matters later on Tuesday, Members are due to consider a Committee on International Trade (INTA) recommendation that Parliament give consent to a free trade agreement (FTA) negotiated with New Zealand. Covering protection of certain EU foodstuff geographical indications, removal of New Zealand tariffs on EU imports, facilitation of cross-border data flows and commitments to International Labour Organization standards and Paris Agreement goals, the EU–New Zealand Free Trade Agreement should lead to an increase in bilateral trade of up to 30 %.

Following a debate on judicial cooperation scheduled for Thursday morning, Members are set to vote on an agreed text on proposals to update EU legislation to facilitate cross-border judicial cooperation through increased use of digitalisation. Parliament’s Committees on Legal Affairs (JURI) and Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) have negotiated a compromise on the proposal, under which the rules on digital communication, in both criminal and civil cases, would become mandatory for cross-border court-to-court communication. In particular, the committees propose to modify the definition of videoconferencing, encouraging its use in civil cases and requiring courts to verify consent to its use in criminal proceedings.

Parliament is furthermore due to vote on a Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) report on the proposed directive on value added tax (VAT) in the digital age on Wednesday. Aimed at fighting VAT fraud, and modernising the rules, the ECON report seeks to cut compliance costs for business, and ensure strict data protection.

The cultural and creative sectors employ an estimated 7.7 million people in the EU. However, these professionals often experience a lack of financial and employment security. On Tuesday, Parliament is expected to decide on a joint legislative-initiative report from its Committees on Culture and Education (CULT) and on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL), calling on the European Commission to propose legislation to improve employment conditions in the sector. The committees seek enforceable rules that align national approaches on aspects such as definitions of cultural and artistic activity and social security.

The EU last modified its founding Treaties in 2009, with the Lisbon Treaty. Since then, the need to tackle geopolitical challenges and the prospect of further enlargement have led to calls for measures to make the EU more nimble, democratic and accountable. On Tuesday, Members are set to consider a report by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) setting out the Parliament’s proposals for the amendment of the Treaties. A joint effort, involving several co-rapporteurs and committees, the report proposes changes to the majority required to decide EU laws; a new method to choose the President of the European Commission; the introduction of EU-wide referendums; stronger subsidiarity and rule of law mechanisms; and to create a defence union; among many other proposals. If adopted, the report would form Parliament’s position, and lead to the resumption of interinstitutional discussions on whether and how to proceed with a revision of the Treaties.


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