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13-01-2020

EP Plenary Newsletter 13-16 January 2020

What will our MEPs be working on in this week's plenary session in Strasbourg? Highlights include the COP25 UN Climate Change Conference; the  Istanbul Convention; and MEPs voting on the College of Commissioners

 

Make the Green Deal work: MEPs to discuss funding with the Commission

Before voting on the Green Deal, MEPs will first discuss legislative proposals to help EU communities succeed in making the transition to low carbon, on Tuesday.

The Commission, will present the much-awaited legislative proposals on the “Just Transition Mechanism and Fund” on Tuesday at 15.00, followed by a debate.

To wind up December’s plenary debate with Commission President von der Leyen on the overall package of the Green Deal, MEPs will vote on a resolution outlining Parliament’s views, on Wednesday.

The text is expected to back the objective to reach climate-neutrality by 2050 and to reiterate Parliament’s call for a revision of the EU 2030 emission reduction targets ahead of the December 2020 UNFCCC climate conference in Glasgow. 

Parliament has already stressed that the EU should cut emissions by 55% by 2030 to become climate neutral by 2050 and that an ambitious long-term EU budget for 2021-2027 must be agreed urgently to allow related policies to kick in.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Debate: Wednesday, 11 December

Vote: Wednesday, 15 January

Procedure: Non-legislative resolution

Press release after the debate: “Green deal for Europe: First reactions from MEPs” (11.12.2019)
Press release: “The European Parliament declares climate emergency”
Press release: “Climate change should be Parliament’s first priority, according to citizens”
A European Green Deal (Communication from the Commission)
EP Research briefing on the European Green Deal

Irish MEPs following this issue are: Seán Kelly, Fine Gael/EPP (South); Frances Fitzgerald, Fine Gael/EPP (Dublin); Mairéad McGuinness, Fine Gael/EPP (Midlands-North-West), Billy Kelleher, Fianna Fáil/ Renew (South)

 

Conference on the Future of Europe: citizens to have their say on reforming the EU

Parliament will kick off a bottom-up approach to shape the future of Europe together with citizens of all backgrounds and ages.

Following a debate with Council President Charles Michel and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday morning, Parliament will vote at noon on a resolution setting out its vision for the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe.

MEPs want citizens’ voices to be at the core of broad discussions on how to tackle internal and external challenges that were not foreseen at the time of the Lisbon Treaty. The Conference should start in 2020 and run for two years.

The draft resolution highlights that citizens of all backgrounds, civil society representatives and stakeholders at European, national, regional and local level must be involved in setting the EU’s priorities in line with citizens’ concerns in a bottom-up, transparent, inclusive, participatory and well-balanced approach (5). The Conference could result in treaty review and the establishment of a permanent citizen participation mechanism.

Parliament, Council and Commission should provide high-level patronage to ensure proper commitment and follow-up on the Conference’s outcome.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Debate: Wednesday, 15 January

Vote: Wednesday, 15 January 

EP Research briefing: Preparing the Conference on the Future of Europe
Recommendations submitted by the Constitutional Affairs Committee
Free photos, video and audio material

Irish MEPs following this issue are: Maria Walsh, Fine Gael/EPP (Midlands-North-West); Mairéad McGuinness, Fine Gael/EPP (Midlands-North-West); Billy Kelleher, Fianna Fáil/ Renew (South)

 

Parliament to discuss bushfire emergency in Australia

MEPs will discuss the ongoing bushfires in Australia, along with other extreme weather events resulting from climate change, on Monday.

The devastating bushfires in Australia have cost the lives of 24 people. Millions of acres of burned land correspond to an area larger than Belgium and Denmark combined, according to media reports.

In the state of New South Wales alone, it is estimated that at least one billion animals have died in this season’s bushfires, including about 1/3 of all koalas in the state.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Specialist: Thomas

Debate: Monday, 13 January 2020

Procedure: Commission statement

Press release: The European Parliament declares climate emergency (29.11.2019)
Video: How the EU is fighting climate change
Free photos, video and audio material

Irish MEPs following this issue are: Grace O'Sullivan, Green Party/ EFA (South)

 

Brexit: Parliament to issue warning over citizens’ rights

In a resolution to be put to the vote on Wednesday, MEPs will express their concern over how the UK and EU27 governments will manage citizens’ rights after Brexit.

The European Parliament will discuss and vote on a resolution addressing a multitude of issues that citizens (both EU citizens residing in the UK and UK citizens residing in the rest of the EU) might face in the event of the UK’s departure from the EU.

The draft resolution highlights that the Withdrawal Agreement contains fair and balanced provisions to protect citizens’ rights during and after the transition period. A thorough implementation of the provisions of the Agreement is of the essence, MEPs underline, in order to protect affected persons, their families and their social security rights in the long-term.

Particular reference is made to issues arising from the UK government’s EU Settlement Scheme, as well as a call to EU27 governments to be consistent and generous in their approach towards UK citizens residing in the EU.

Background

To enter into force, the Withdrawal Agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom needs to be approved by the European Parliament by a simple majority of votes cast (Article 50 (2) of the Treaty on European Union). Parliament will vote on the Withdrawal Agreement after the ratification process in the UK has been completed.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Debate: Tuesday, 14 January

Vote: Wednesday, 15 January 

Procedure: non-legislative resolution

EP resolutions and composition of the EP Brexit Steering group
More information
Free photos, video and audio material

Irish MEPs following this issue are: Maria Walsh, Fine Gael/EPP (Midlands-North-West); Mairéad McGuinness, Fine Gael/EPP (Midlands-North-West); Billy Kelleher, Fianna Fáil/ Renew (South)

 

Closing the gender pay gap in the EU

MEPs will debate on Monday ways to close the gender pay gap and are likely to urge the Commission to propose legally binding measures without delay.

In her political guidelines for 2019-2024, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen committed to closing the gender pay gap within the framework of the upcoming Gender Equality Strategy. Furthermore, the new Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, announced actions to introduce legally binding pay transparency measures during the first 100 days of this Commission.

Although the principle of equal pay for equal work is enshrined in the EU Treaty, the overall gender pay gap within the EU remains at 16%, with huge differences between member states. The situation gets even worse when women retire: their pension is about 40% lower than that of men.

A resolution wrapping up the debate will be put to a vote during the January II session (29-30 January).

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Debate: Monday, 13 January

Vote: January II session

Procedure: Commission statement, with resolution

European Commission - The gender pay gap situation in the EU
Free photos, video and audio material

Irish MEPs following this issue are: Maria Walsh, Fine Gael/EPP (Midlands-North-West); Frances Fitzgerald, Fine Gael/EPP (Dublin)

 

Housing: Urgent action needed to address homelessness in Europe

MEPs will push the European Commission and member states to make the fight against homelessness a top priority.

In a debate on Monday, MEPs are expected to call on the Commission and member states to take urgent action to tackle homelessness, in particular to avoid winter deaths, and to investigate how to broaden affordable housing options for people who are at risk of housing exclusion.

The EP has on several occasions called on the Commission to address the rising levels of housing exclusion, in line with Principle 19 of the European Pillar of Social Rights which states that “access to social housing or housing assistance of good quality shall be provided for those in need.”

An estimated 700.000 people were homeless in the EU in 2019, with numbers rising across Europe, except in Finland, which reported a decrease of 45%.  Latvia saw an increase of 389% between 2009 and 2017, and homelessness in Ireland increased by 203% between 2014 and 2018. Housing deprivation is at the heart of poverty and social exclusion, and closely linked to unemployment.

The Parliament will vote on a resolution at a later stage.

Additional information

Debate: Monday, 13 January

Fighting homelessness and housing exclusion in Europe. A study of national policies (European Commission, 2019)
EP Report on European Semester for economic policy coordination: Employment and Social Aspects in the Annual Growth Survey 2019
EP report on meeting the antipoverty target in the light of increasing household costs
Committee on Employment and Social Affairs
Free photos, video and audio material

Irish MEPs following this issue are: Grace O'Sullivan, Green Party/ EFA (South); Billy Kelleher, Fianna Fáil/ Renew (South); Frances Fitzgerald, Fine Gael/EPP (Dublin)

 

Iran/Iraq: MEPs to debate escalating tensions in the Middle East

MEPs will debate the consequences of the latest confrontation between the US and Iran, on Tuesday afternoon, with EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell.

Relations between the US and Iran were put under further strain when the US killed top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Friday 3 January.

Following the assassination, Iran threatened the US with severe retaliation. Shortly after, the Iraqi parliament adopted a resolution calling on the government to no longer have foreign troops present in the country.

MEPs will debate the latest developments together with EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Debate: Tuesday, 14 January

Procedure: Statement by the Commission, without a resolution

EP Multimedia Centre: free photos, video and audio material

Irish MEPs following this issue are: Grace O'Sullivan, Green Party/ EFA (South)

 

Saving biodiversity: Parliament to call for binding targets

The global biodiversity conference COP 15 should agree on legally binding targets similar to the Paris agreement on climate change, MEPs are set to say on Thursday.

The 2020 UN biodiversity conference, the COP 15, should help stop the current trajectory of biodiversity loss, says the draft resolution.

It calls on the EU to lead the way, for instance by ensuring that 30% of EU territory consists of natural areas by 2030 and by taking biodiversity objectives into account in all EU policies. MEPs also want at least 10% of the EU’s long-term budget to support efforts to improve biodiversity.

Background

Parliament has consistently prioritised biodiversity, and repeatedly warned of its continuing, unprecedented loss.

The UN Biodiversity Convention entered into force on 29 December 1993. A delegation from the European Parliament will attend its 15th meeting in Kunming, China, from 19 October to 1 November 2020.

COP 15 is expected to adopt a post-2020 global biodiversity framework setting the global biodiversity course for the next 10 years and beyond.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Debate: Wednesday, 15 January

Vote: Thursday, 16 January

Procedure: non-legislative resolution

Press release on Committee vote (03.12.2019)
Website of the Convention on Biological Diversity
Free photos, video and audio material

Irish MEPs following this issue are: Grace O'Sullivan, Green Party/ EFA (South)

 

EU Ombudsman’s activities in 2018

MEPs will discuss the outcome of the Ombudsman’s inquiries in 2018 and vote on the annual report.

According to the report, the Ombudsman’s office opened a total of 490 inquiries and closed 545. 17 996 citizens called on its services for help. 2 180 requests were handled as complaints, among which 880 fell within the EU watchdog’s mandate.

Background information

The office of the European Ombudsman is an independent and impartial body, established in 1995, to hold the EU’s institutions and agencies (excluding the Court of Justice) to account and to promote the principles of good administration.

The current EU Ombudsman is Irishwoman Emily O’Reilly. She first took office in July 2013 and was re-elected for a five-year mandate by Parliament on 18 December 2019.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Debate:  Wednesday, 15 January

Vote:  Thursday, 16 January

Procedure:  Non-legislative resolution

Draft report on the activities of the European Ombudsman – 2018 annual report
Press release on committee vote (12.11.2019)
Profile of rapporteur : Peter Jahr (EPP, DE)
Procedure file
Website of the European Ombudsman
EU Ombudsman: 2018 Annual Report
Free photos, video and audio material

Irish MEPs following this issue are: Maria Walsh, Fine Gael/ EPP (Midlands-North-West)

 

Hungary and Poland: Parliament to assess progress of Article 7 proceedings

MEPs will assess the progress made by EU ministers in determining whether rule of law is at risk in Hungary and Poland. Plenary  will adopt two resolutions  on Thursday.

In September 2018, Parliament demanded that the Council act to prevent the Hungarian authorities from breaching the EU’s founding values. MEPs were chiefly concerned about judicial independence, freedom of expression, corruption, rights of minorities, and the situation of migrants and refugees.

In the case of Poland, the European Commission requested EU action in December 2017 in view of the perceived threats to the independence of the judiciary. In a resolution adopted in March 2018, the European Parliament agreed with the Commission on the risks to the rule of law in Poland.

According to Article 7 of the Treaty, following these requests, the Council may determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of EU values in the concerned countries. Before doing so, ministers shall hear the views of the national authorities.

EU ministers have held two hearings with the Hungarian government, in September 2019 and December 2019. MEPs have repeatedly complained about not being formally included in these discussions. The Polish authorities have defended themselves in front of the Council on three occasions, between June and December 2018.

At a later stage, the European Council may determine, by unanimity and with the Parliament’s consent, that there is a serious and persistent breach of the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights. This could eventually lead to sanctions, such as voting rights being suspended in the Council.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Debate:  Wednesday, 15 January

Vote: Thursday, 16 January 

Procedure:  Council and Commission statements, with resolutions

EP Research Service: Protecting the rule of law in the EU: Existing mechanisms and possible improvements (6.11.2019)
Rule of law in Poland and Hungary: MEPs ask for better protection of EU values (17.12.2019)
Infographic: Rule of law concerns in member states: how the EU can act
Free photos, video and audio material
 

The Croatian Presidency of the Council presents its priorities

On Tuesday morning, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković will present the priorities of the rotating Council presidency for the next six months.

The Croatian presidency’s programme focusses on four main priorities: a Europe that is developing, a Europe that connects, a Europe that protects, and an influential Europe.

The topics the Croatian presidency will deal with include Brexit and the EU's long-term budget, the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027.

Croatia joined the EU in 2013 and will hold the presidency of the Council for the first time. The country took over this duty from Finland on 1 January and will hand it over to Germany on 1 July.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Debate: Tuesday, 14 January

Procedure: Resolutions on topical subjects Council and Commission statements - Presentation and Debate with the HR PM

What do Croatian MEPs expect from the Croatian presidency:
Croatian presidency website
Croatian presidency priorities
Council of the European Union: The presidency of the Council of the EU
Procedure file:
 

Jordan’s King Abdullah II to address MEPs

The King of Jordan, His Majesty Abdullah II ibn Al-Hussein, will address MEPs during a formal sitting in Strasbourg on Wednesday at 12.00.

This will be King Abdullah II’s fifth visit to the European Parliament, following his previous visits in 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2015. Jordan is an important partner for the EU at global, regional and bilateral level, in particular due to the country’s key role in promoting stability and inter-faith tolerance in the Middle East.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Formal sitting: Wednesday, 15 January  

Procedure: Formal sitting

Official website of King Abdullah II of Jordan
Jordan and the European Union (European External Action Service)
Watch King Abdullah II’s speech in the European Parliament in 2015
Press release: “MEPs call for sanctions against Turkey over military operation in Syria” (24.10.2019)
 

Conflict-of-interest investigations of Czech PM Babiš: MEPs to ask for update

MEPs expect the Commission to update Parliament on the ongoing EU investigations and on future measures to protect the EU’s financial interests.

On Wednesday afternoon, MEPs will debate with the Council and the Commission on the ongoing investigation into the conflict of interest of the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš who has, allegedly, misused his influence over many years to multiply his personal wealth through EU programmes.

The European Parliament will vote on a resolution to wind up the debate in a later session.

Background

The European Parliament has been calling for the situation in Czechia to be addressed since 2017. In December 2018, MEPs expressed deep concerns over the Czech Prime Minister’s links to the “Agrofert” Group, which has received large amounts of EU agricultural subsidies.

MEPs also regretted that the Commission has “remained passive for such a long time” despite “strong indications” since 2014 that Mr Babiš has been in a conflict of interest in his role as Minister of Finance and later as Prime Minister.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Debate:  Wednesday 15 January

Procedure:  Council and Commission statements

MEPs ask to stop the flow of EU money to pockets of oligarchs - summary of the 2019 plenary debate
European Parliament resolution on conflicts of interest and the protection of the EU budget in the Czech Republic (13.12.2018)
Free photos, video and audio material
 

A social Europe at the centre of EU priorities

MEPs will call on the European Commission to urgently deliver on the EU Pillar of Social Rights with concrete proposals and adequate funding, in a debate on Tuesday.

Following the Commission’s presentation of a roadmap to social Europe, MEPs will discuss how to translate the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights into concrete action, as promised by the Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit during his Parliament hearing in October 2019.

MEPs have called for legislative proposals to set up an EU minimum wage and a fund to grant loans to national unemployment insurance schemes, to be activated in the event of a major economic shock. MEPs have also urged the Commission to develop a European Child Guarantee within the European Social Fund+, the EU’s main tool to support the implementation of the principles in the Pillar.

The European Pillar of Social Rights, launched on 17 November 2017, sets out 20 key principles and rights to support fair and well-functioning labour markets.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Debate: Tuesday, 14 January

Procedure: Statement by the Commission

Press release Hearing of Commissioner-designate Nicolas Schmit (01.10.2019)
EP Research: Commitments made at the hearing of Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner-designate Jobs and Social Rights
Press release: MEPs call for decisive action to fight inequalities in the EU (10.10.2019)
Free photos, video and audio material
 

Call to introduce common charger for all mobile phones

To reduce electronic waste and make consumers’ life easier, MEPs want binding measures for chargers to fit all mobile phones and other portable devices.

In the 2014 Radio Equipment Directive, EU lawmakers called for a common charger to be developed and gave the Commission powers to pursue this via a delegated act.

The Commission's approach of “encouraging” industry to develop common chargers fell short of the co-legislators’ objectives. The voluntary agreements between different industry players have not yielded the desired results.

A common charger should fit all mobile phones, tablets, e-book readers and other portable devices, MEPs will insist.

The debate on Monday will be wound up by a resolution in a forthcoming plenary session.

According to estimates, old chargers generate more than 51 000 tonnes of electronic waste per year.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Debate:  Monday, 13 January

Vote: forthcoming session

Procedure: Commission statement followed by debate (with resolution)

Press release: MEPs push for common charger for all mobile phones (13.03.2014)
Standard chargers for mobile phones: Inception impact assessment (2018)
Procedure file
Free photos, video and audio material
 

The fight against cross-border crime and its impact on free movement in the EU

MEPs are to discuss serious cross-border crime and its impact on free movement, in particular through the reintroduction of border controls within the Schengen area.

In their discussion on Monday, MEPs are expected to raise the issue of border controls reintroduced by Denmark in November along its border with Sweden as part of an effort to stem cross-border organised crime and terrorism. The reintroduction of controls followed violent attacks in Copenhagen that Danish authorities suspect were carried out by criminals coming from Sweden.

Denmark has also extended its border checks with Germany. In addition, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Norway and France currently have internal border checks in place.

Member states can carry out temporary checks at internal borders within the Schengen area, in the event of a serious threat to public order or to internal security. The time limits and conditions for such border controls are currently under revision.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Debate: Monday, 13 January

Procedure: Council and Commission statements

European Commission: list of current temporarily reintroduced border controls
Free photos, video and audio material
 

Review of EU foreign policy, defence and human rights with Josep Borrell

MEPs are expected to express their support for multilateralism and stress the need for a stronger and united Europe that stands up for universal values.

On Tuesday afternoon, Parliament’s rapporteurs will present the annual reports on the implementation of the EU’s common foreign and security policy (CFSP), the common security and defence policy (CSDP), and the situation for human rights and democracy in the world. MEPs will discuss future policies on these topics with EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell in Strasbourg.

Votes on each resolution will follow on Wednesday.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Debate: Tuesday, 14 January

Vote: Wednesday, 15 January

Procedure: non-legislative resolutions

Press release on the Foreign Affairs Committee vote - CFSP (04.12.2019)
Press release on the Foreign Affairs Committee vote - Human Rights (04.12.2019)
Profile of rapporteur David McAllister, (EPP, DE)
Profile of rapporteur Arnaud Danjean (EPP, FR)
Profile of rapporteur Isabel Wiseler-Lima (EPP, LU)
Procedure file: Implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy - annual report
Procedure file: Implementation of the common security and defence policy - annual report 2018
Procedure file: Human rights and democracy in the world and the European Union's policy on the matter - annual report 2018
 

Libya conflict: MEPs to assess the situation

Parliament will discuss on Tuesday the recent developments in Libya and the efforts to prevent an international conflict.

Airstrikes against the military school in Tripoli, on 4 January, and the  Turkish Parliament’s subsequent decision  to authorise military deployments in Libya escaladed the violence in the Mediterranean country.

As outlined by EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell, the EU is firmly convinced that there is no military solution to the Libyan crisis and calls on all sides to engage in a political process under UN leadership.

Parliament’s President David Sassoli met with Fayez Al-Sarraj, Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya and Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord on 8 January, during a visit by Mr Al-Sarraj to Brussels to discuss the ongoing situation in Libya with various EU leaders.

MEPs will debate the situation in the region and the way forward with Josep Borrell on Tuesday afternoon.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Debate: Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Procedure:  RSP - Resolutions on topical subjects

Press release:
Multimedia package
 

Venezuelan crisis: MEPs to reaffirm their support for Juan Guaidó

MEPs are set to condemn the “illegal” election of Luis Parra as new Speaker of the Venezuelan National Assembly, in a resolution to be put to the vote on Thursday.

Mr Parra and opposition leader Juan Guaidó both declared themselves new speakers of the Venezuelan National Assembly on Sunday 5 January, triggering another wave of political unrest in the country. A year ago, Mr Guaidó, in his capacity as parliamentary speaker at the time, also declared himself Venezuela’s interim President - a declaration which was supported by almost 60 countries, as well as the European Parliament - after disputing the 2018 re-election of incumbent authoritarian President Nicolas Maduro.

MEPs will discuss the continuous tumultuous situation in Venezuela with EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell on Tuesday afternoon, followed by a vote on a resolution on Thursday.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Debate: Tuesday, 14 January

Vote: Thursday, 16 January

Procedure: Statement by the Commission, followed by a resolution

https://multimedia.europarl.europa.eu/en/

Irish MEPs following this issue are: Billy Kelleher, Fianna Fáil/ Renew (South)

 

Human rights and democracy resolutions

Parliament will hold urgent debates on the following human rights, democracy and rule of law topics on Thursday morning, with the votes following at 12.00.

  • Burundi, notably the case of imprisoned journalists
  • Nigeria, notably the recent terrorist attacks

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Debate: Thursday, 16 January

Vote: Thursday. 16 January

Procedure: non-legislative resolutions

EP Multimedia Centre: free photos, video and audio material