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08-03-2013

EP Plenary Session News:11-14 March 2013

What will the MEPs be working on during this week's Plenary Session in Strasbourg ?

 
Agenda for the European Parliament Plenary Session
 

Long and short-term EU budgets: EP to set out its stance

Parliament's mandate to negotiate the multiannual EU budget for 2014-2020 with the EU member states' Irish Presidency will be set out in a resolution to be voted on Wednesday. The long-term budget proposal needs Parliament's assent. Also on Wednesday, Parliament will vote on general guidelines for managing the EU's 2014 annual budget.

As the 2014 budget will be the first annual tranche of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) budget, the MFF and 2014 guidelines issues are inevitably linked.

Both resolutions will highlight the growing problem of payment appropriations that have been set too low to meet payments that are already due under existing contracts.

If the payments shortfall issue is not addressed, it will grow ever more pressing in 2013, 2014 and under the new MFF. Last year, several important EU programmes, such as Erasmus, the Research Framework Programme and the Social Fund ran out of funds early in the year. MEPs would like to avoid a repetition.

Parliament will also highlight the need to make the MFF flexible enough to allow available funds to be used optimally. MEPs will also call for a mid-term review of MFF spending, so as to give the newly-elected Parliament and Commission an opportunity to influence the budgets that they will inherit from today's legislators. Parliament will also make the case for a system of genuine own resources to fund the EU budget.

Finally, Parliament wants all EU spending to be financed from the EU budget, not separately.

Irish MEPs on this issue: Paul Murphy (Socialist-Dublin), Marian Harkin (Independent-North West), Pat the Cope Gallagher (Fianna Fail-North West), Nessa Childers (Labour-East), Liam Aylward (Fianna Fail-East), Mairead McGuinness (Fine Gael-East)

 

Input to key EU Summit

Parliament will debate and present its EU summit priorities on Wednesday 13 March. The 14-15 March European Council is to look at how member states have applied last year's "European Semester" economic policy recommendations, the 2013 Stability and Convergence programmes and Europe 2020 "flagship initiatives".

Procedure:  Commission and Council statements
Debate:  Wednesday, 13 March

Irish MEPs on this issue: Paul Murphy (Socialist-Dublin)

 

"Two pack" oversight rules for Eurozone budgets

Measures to promote growth and jobs and protect education and health care would be built into the next batch of EU economic governance laws by amendments to be voted on Tuesday. These "two pack" laws will step up Commission powers to vet Eurozone countries' budgets for fiscal soundness, but also subject them to stronger democratic checks and balances.

MEPs will vote on amendments to ensure that fiscal tightening and structural reforms do not compromise growth, jobs and investment in public goods such as education and health care.

However, the laws' key aims - to step up Commission powers to judge the fiscal soundness of Eurozone countries' budgets and lay down clear rules for countries seeking EU financial help - will be retained.

The oversight powers that the Commission needs to help bring about true economic and monetary union will be subject to many checks and balances. These were inserted by MEPs to ensure that the Commission exercises its new powers transparently. National parliaments will also have more say.

In negotiations, MEPs have secured a Commission pledge to deliver finance to countries undertaking difficult reforms to their economies.  Liberal and centre-left MEPs also pushed for a strong commitment to establish a European debt redemption fund, but this was rejected by member states. However, the Commission did promise to set up a group of wise men to report on the idea by March 2014.    

Procedure:  Co-decision (Ordinary Legislative Procedure), 1st reading (informal agreement with Council)
Vote:  Tuesday, 12 March

Irish MEPs on this issue:Paul Murphy (Socialist-Dublin)

 

MEPs want new EU farm policy that delivers food security and greener farming

Parliament will seek to secure a stable supply of high quality food for EU consumers while insisting on better protection of the environment when it votes on Wednesday on the four pieces of legislation needed to reform EU farm policy. This will pave the way for negotiations with member states, which are expected to start in late March.

MEPs will demand that direct payments go only to active farmers and not to land owners such as airports or sports clubs, if they do not farm. They will also insist on making agricultural payments fairer across the EU and discuss enhancing transparency to show who benefits from EU agricultural funding without falling foul of farmers' privacy rights.

Young farmers should get higher subsidies to rejuvenate the sector while big farms could see their direct payments slashed in stages if the full Parliament backs the position of its agriculture committee.

There should be new, mandatory environmental protection measures, accounting for  30% of the direct payments from each member state. However, the greening measures should be made more flexible, to reflect the size of the farm and the impact of environmental measures already applied by a farmer, the agriculture committee suggests.

To help farmers cope with market volatility and to strengthen their price bargaining position, farmers' organisations should be given new tools and allowed to negotiate contracts on behalf of their members, says the agriculture committee's proposal. Parliament will also vote on provisions to prolong sugar quotas and to extend wine planting rights.

The final shape of the new EU farm policy will be decided jointly by Parliament and the Council, for the first time. The new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will enter into force in 2015.

Procedure: Co-decision (Ordinary legislative procedure), vote on Parliament's negotiating mandate
Debate:  Tuesday, 12 March
Vote:  Wednesday, 13 March
Press conference: Wednesday, 13 March at 15.00

Irish MEPs on this issue: Paul Murphy (Socialist-Dublin), Marian Harkin (Independent-North West), Pat the Cope Gallagher (Fianna Fail-North West), Nessa Childers (Labour-East), Liam Aylward (Fianna Fail-East), Mairead McGuinness (Fine Gael-East)

 

Rapid redress for disappointed shoppers

EU shoppers with complaints against traders over goods or services will be able to use cheap, fast and fair mediation to settle them, rather than lengthy court cases, thanks to two new laws to be voted on Tuesday. These laws, already informally agreed with member states, will govern on-line and alternative dispute resolution respectively.

Many EU member states already have Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), schemes, but lack of awareness, patchy coverage or overloading make it hard for shoppers to use them. The ADR directive will require member states to ensure that ADR bodies exist for all business sectors.

ADR schemes will handle complaints about goods and services whether bought online or in a shop, across borders or in their own country. Disputes should generally be resolved within 90 days and ADR services should preferably be free of charge for the shopper or cost only a "nominal fee".

To resolve disputes over online sales, a separate regulation on Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) will also establish an online platform in all EU languages, to be set up and maintained by the European Commission. The ODR platform will offer standard complaint forms and guide shoppers to the most appropriate resolution scheme for their dispute.

Procedure:  Co-decision (Ordinary legislative procedure), 1st reading agreement (directive and regulation)
Debate/Vote:  Tuesday, 12 March
Press conference: Tuesday 11 March at 16.00 with ODR rapporteur Róża Thun (EPP, PL), ADR rapporteur Louis Grech (S&D, MT), Committee Chair Malcolm Harbour (ECR, UK), Commissioner Tonio Borg and Legal Affairs Committee rapporteur Christian Buşoi (ALDE, RO).

Irish MEPs on this issue: Liam Aylward (Fianna Fail-East)

 

Number of MEPs in European Parliament after 2014 elections

Number of MEPs in European Parliament after 2014 elections

The redistribution of EP seats between member states, in order to comply with the 751-seat limit set by the Lisbon Treaty, will be debated by Parliament at 15.00 on Tuesday and voted on the next day. To keep EU countries' losses to a minimum, 12 would each lose one seat and no member state would gain any, under the solution proposed by the constitutional affairs committee.

Parliament currently numbers 754 MEPs. When Croatia joins the EU this year it will be entitled to 12 seats, bringing the total number of MEPs to 766. To comply with the maximum of 751 seats set by the Lisbon Treaty from next year's European elections, 15 seats must be given up.

The "pragmatic solution" proposed by the committee would mean that 12 member states, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal and Romania, would each lose one seat at the next European elections. The remaining three seats would necessarily come from Germany, whose share under the treaty must be cut from 99 seats to 96 (the maximum allowed by the Lisbon Treaty).

Procedure: Right of initiative conferred on Parliament by the Treaties (art. 41 EP Rules of Procedure)
Debate: Tuesday, 13 March
Vote: Wednesday, 14 March

Irish MEPs on this issue: Paul Murphy (Socialist-Dublin), Pat the Cope Gallagher (Fianna Fail-North West), Nessa Childers (Labour-East)

 

Israeli President Shimon Peres to address Parliament

President Shimon Peres of Israel will deliver a formal address to the House at noon on Tuesday. The relaunch of the Middle East peace process, calls to include Hezbollah on the EU list of terrorist organisations and Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem are expected to be raised by President Peres.

President Peres and President Schulz will hold a press conference after the formal address.

Procedure: Formal sitting
Debate:  Tuesday 12 March
Press conference: Tuesday, 12 March 2013, 12:30, with President Schulz

Irish MEPs on this issue: Paul Murphy (Socialist-Dublin)

 

International Women's Day: votes on crisis cuts, stereotyping and rights

Crisis-driven budget and social spending cuts hit women harder than men and must be offset by investing in job training and female entrepreneurship, says the first of three draft resolutions on women's rights to be voted on Tuesday. The others look at how to reduce the prevalence of gender stereotypes in the EU and protect women's rights in North Africa.

Austerity
Today's austerity policies on social welfare infrastructure such education, child care, health and care services, punish women twice, by cutting their jobs and also pushing them to work part time, says the text on the impact of the economic crisis on women..

To remedy these effects, MEPs will call on EU member states to invest in a lifelong training and new jobs, promote female entrepreneurship by facilitating women's access to micro-credits and develop child care facilities.

Gender stereotypes
The second resolution calls on the Commission to propose new policies and legislation to combat gender stereotyping in education, media and advertising, the labour market and political decision making.

North Africa
The third resolution describes how EU instruments should be used to protect women's rights in North Africa.

All three resolutions will be debated on Monday and voted on Tuesday.

Procedure:  Non-legislative resolution
Debate: Monday, 11 March
Vote: Tuesday, 12 March

Irish MEPs on this issue: Paul Murphy (Socialist-Dublin), Nessa Childers (Labour-East)

 

Parliament to demand action on hormone-disrupting chemicals

EU legislation must be made stricter to take a safety-first approach on substances thought to disrupt hormones, according to a draft resolution to put to the vote on Wednesday. Suspected "endocrine disruptors", found in everyday items such as plastics and cosmetics, have been linked to reduced fertility, early onset of puberty and a number of diseases.

EU-wide action has already taken to ban the use of Bisphenol A in baby bottles. Now MEPs want to see more funding for research and tighter restrictions on hormone- disrupting substances, for example in the current review of the EU's "REACH" regulation on chemicals.

Procedure:  Non-legislative resolution
Debate:  Tuesday, 12 March
Vote:  Wednesday, 13 March

Irish MEPs on this issue: Mairead McGuinness (Fine Gael-East)

 

Removing remaining asbestos in the EU

MEPs will call for an EU-coordinated strategy to remove asbestos, which, despite an EU-wide ban, is still found in buildings, water pipes, trains and ships. Proposals set out in a resolution to be voted on Wednesday include establishing a public registry of buildings containing asbestos in EU member states and ensuring that the workers who remove it are qualified and trained. The strategy would run from 2014 to 2020.

According to the World Health Organization, there are about 20-30,000 asbestos-related disease cases in the EU each year - a figure which is still rising.

Procedure: Non-legislative resolution
Vote:  Wednesday 13 March

Irish MEPs on this issue: Paul Murphy (Socialist-Dublin)

 

Nuclear reactors: MEPs to call for urgent safety measures following stress tests

All the safety improvements recommended following stress tests on the EU's nuclear reactors must be implemented urgently and in full, MEPS will say in a resolution to be voted on Wednesday. They will also insist that the operators of the nuclear plants pay for the improvements and bear all the costs for which they are liable if there is an accident.

MEPs will debate an oral question to the Commission on Monday calling for clear information on the timing and the content of promised proposals for binding rules on nuclear insurance and liability.

Background information
Nuclear stress tests were carried out on all the EU's nuclear reactors (plus 15 reactors in Ukraine and five in Switzerland) from June 2011 to April 2012. Currently, 14 member states have nuclear power plants: Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia (shared with Croatia), Spain, Sweden and the UK.

The assessment was carried out in three stages, involving first the operators themselves, then national authorities and finally multinational "peer reviews" by the Commission and member state representatives.

Procedure:  Oral question to Commission (with resolution)
Debate:  Monday, 11 March
Vote:  Wednesday, 13 March
Go to the page
Nuclear reactors: MEPs to call for urgent safety measures following stress tests

Irish MEPs on this issue: Nessa Childers (Labour-East)

 

Integrating migrants in the EU

Integrating migrant workers into EU labour markets and societies takes commitment from both sides, notes a resolution to be voted on Wednesday. Member states' bilateral social security agreements with third countries should be better coordinated at EU level, to make them consistent with EU law, it adds.

Migrants need to learn the host country's language and understand its laws, political system and customs, says the Employment and Social Affairs Committee resolution, drafted by Nadja Hirsch (ALDE, DE).

Member states' migrant integration programmes should include courses in history, law and the values and principles of European democracy, it adds.

Procedure: Non-legislative resolution
Debate:  Tuesday 12 March
Vote:  Wednesday 13 March

 

MEPs to demand action to tackle racism and xenophobia in the EU

MEPs are expected to demand a fresh look at current EU laws against racism and xenophobia and call on member states to end their five-year deadlock over a proposed anti-discrimination directive. In a debate on Tuesday morning they are also likely to point out that extremist leaders whose parties have won seats in some EU countries' parliaments are spreading hatred and intolerance.

The so-called anti-discrimination directive that has been on the Council table for five years seeks to ensure equal treatment irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. Special rules already exist for the employment sector.

Parliament will vote on a resolution on these issues on Wednesday.

Procedure:  Council and Commission statements followed by debate (with resolution)
Debate:  Tuesday, 12 March 2013
Vote:  Wednesday, 13 March 2013 (tbc)

Irish MEPs on this issue: Paul Murphy (Socialist-Dublin), Sean Kelly (Fine Gael - South)

 

MEPs could veto EU definition of Absinthe

Plans for an EU definition of the "green fairy" spirit drink Absinthe are opposed by public health and food safety MEPs, who recommend the full House to reject them on Wednesday. They say requiring minimum levels of specific substances in order to label a drink "Absinthe" would undermine traditional methods of production.

They have tabled a resolution arguing that traditional Absinthe recipes do not always specify minimum levels of anethole and thuyone, two substances that are mandatory in the draft.. The definition proposed by the Commission would therefore make it impossible for some producers to use the name "Absinthe".

Procedure:  Resolution (objection to implementing act)
Vote:  Wednesday, 13 March

 

Horsemeat scandal: how to tackle food fraud?

MEPs will debate the continuing "horse burger" crisis, which is undermining consumer confidence across the EU and highlighting member states' failure to enforce EU laws on food chain checks, on Tuesday.

They criticised the lack of adequate sanctions to deter food fraud at a recent meeting of the EP food safety committee. Tonio Borg, the health and consumer affairs commissioner, promised legislation to crack down on food fraud, to ensure that "crime does not pay".

Procedure:  Commission statement followed by debate
Debate:  Tuesday , 12 March

Irish MEPs on this issue: Mairead McGuinness (Fine Gael-East), Paul Murphy (Socialist-Dublin), Sean Kelly (Fine Gael-South), Liam Aylward (Fianna Fail-East)

 

Sport: MEPs to urge EU to join efforts to fight match-fixing

EU countries' efforts to fight sports match-fixing would work better if they were coordinated at EU level, says an input paper for a resolution to be voted on Thursday.

Sports match-fixing and fraud involving organised crime take place in the vast majority of member states, says a paper drafted by Emine Bozkurt (S&D, NL) for the Special Committee on Organised Crime, Corruption and Money Laundering.

This paper has an annex listing each country's criminal penalties for sports fraud.

Although sports organisations are taking initiatives to fight match-fixing, the EU and its member states have so far done too little to support them, argues the paper.

Procedure:  Commission statement followed  by a debate (with non-legislative resolution)
Debate/Vote:  Thursday, 14 March

Irish MEPs on this issue: Paul Murphy (Socialist-Dublin), Sean Kelly (Fine Gael-South), Liam Aylward (Fianna Fail-East)

 

Egypt, North Korea, Ukraine, Syria and Mali to be debated with Catherine Ashton

MEPs meet EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in the Chamber on Wednesday. Top of their agenda will be: the run-up to the April elections in Egypt, North Korea's nuclear programme, the Kiev court ruling stripping Yulia Tymoshenko's lawyer of his parliamentary mandate, the intervention in Mali and the humanitarian disaster in Syria.

Egypt
Egypt has asked for EU observers to monitor the parliamentary elections to be held from April to June, after the new constitution is adopted. MEPs are also likely to discuss the violence in Port Said and the expected retrial of ousted president Mubarak on charges relating to the killing of protesters in the 2011 uprising.

North Korea
The House will analyse the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear programme, following the test staged in February, as well as its human rights record. The North Korean regime will face some of the toughest sanctions ever imposed by the UN Security Council.

Ukraine
Parliament's concerns about Ukraine have been stoked by the court ruling stripping Serhiy Vlasenko, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko's chief lawyer, of his seat in parliament. The decision has exacerbated tensions between the ruling majority and the opposition.

Syria
The humanitarian situation in Syria and neighbouring countries will be the focus of the discussion. Over a million people have fled the country, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The UK has announced that it will provide non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition, mainly armoured vehicles, body armour and search-and-rescue equipment.  

Mali
France has announced that it will scale down its military presence in Mali and hand over responsibility to African forces. Talks are underway on possibly transforming the African Union and ECOWAS military mission into a UN one. The EU military training mission has meanwhile started to deploy in Mali, which has announced that it will hold elections in July.

Procedure:  High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Statement (with resolutions on Egypt and North Korea)
Debate:  Wednesday, 13 March
Vote:  Thursday, 14 March

Irish MEPs on this issue: Paul Murphy (Socialist-Dublin)

 

China: MEPs to call for genuine political reform

China needs genuine political reform to match its successful economic policy and pave the way to sustainable growth and stability, MEPs will say in a resolution to be voted on Thursday. The EU should step up its dialogue with China on human rights, the environment, security, and combating counterfeit goods, it adds.

Lasting stability in Tibet and Xinjiang will be achieved only by creating a genuinely shared responsibility for the well-being of these autonomous provinces and not by their forcible assimilation, the draft text says.

It also stresses that it is in the interests of the EU, as China's leading trading partner, that China, Japan and Taiwan should agree on a peaceful solution to their disputes over islands in the South China Sea.

Procedure: Non-legislative resolution
Debate:  Wednesday, 13 March
Vote:  Thursday, 14 March

 

EU cooperation to boost overseas countries and territories' competitiveness

The competitiveness of overseas countries and territories must be enhanced by the next EU overseas association decision (OAD), say MEPs in a resolution to be adopted on Tuesday. The current OAD expires at the end of 2013.

The next OAD should provide for EU measures to help overseas countries and territories to develop niche markets and high-value-added goods and services in areas such as fisheries and tourism, says the draft resolution.

It should also include simplified rules to ease the delivery of 11th European Development Fund aid, adds the text. A report on the 11th European Development Fund will be presented on Monday evening.

Background
The 21 overseas countries and territories (OCTs) have special relations with EU member states: twelve with the UK, 6 with France, 2 with the Netherlands and 1 with Denmark.

Procedure: Consultation
Debate: Monday, 11 March
Vote: Tuesday, 12 March

Irish MEPs on this issue: Liam Aylward (Fianna Fail-East)

 

Human rights and democracy resolutions

Parliament will hold urgent debates on the following topics relating to human rights and democracy, in the morning on Thursday 14 March at 3pm, with the votes following at about 16.00.

• Situation in Bangladesh
• Iraq: the plight of minority groups, in particular the Iraqi Turkmen
• Case of Arafat Jaradat and situation of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails

Irish MEPs on this issue: Paul Murphy (Socialist-Dublin)

 

Other items to be discussed and put to the vote include:

Impact of austerity policies on living conditions of people with disabilities, OQ debate Tuesday, vote Thursday
The oral question was the initiative of Paul Murphy in the EMPL committee.

Irish MEPs on this issue: Paul Murphy (Socialist-Dublin), Nessa Childers (Labour-East), Liam Aylward (Fianna Fail-East)

 

Greenhouse gas emissions: monitoring & reporting rules (Eickhout, Arsenis), vote Tuesday        

Irish MEPs on this issue: Mairead McGuinness (Fine Gael-East), Nessa Childers (Labour-East)

 

Europe Venture capital funds (Lamberts) & European social entrepreneurship funds (Auconie): debates: 12/09/12, votes Tuesday Energy Roadmap 2050 (Tzavela), debate Monday, vote Tuesday (INI)

Irish MEPs on this issue: Paul Murphy (Socialist-Dublin), Sean Kelly (Fine Gael - South)

 

Trans-European energy infrastructure, debate Monday, vote Tuesday
Global Cotton value chain, Commission statement with resolution, debate and vote Thursday

Irish MEPs on this issue: Paul Murphy (Socialist-
Dublin)

 

European Mutual Society Statute (Berlinguer), debate and vote, Thursday

 

For further information, please contact Catherine Bunyan, Press Officer on 086 8559423 or at catherine.bunyan@ep.europa.eu or contact the Irish MEPs' Press Officers directly.

To watch any part of the Plenary Session live, please click on the EP Live section of the Parliament's website and select Live Broadcast from the menu on the left-hand side.

To view a debate which has already taken place, please click on the Multimedia Library section of the Parliament's website, select 'search by date' from the menu on the left-hand side and choose the debate.  You can also scroll through the speakers and just listen to a speaker of your choice.

To access raw audio of interviews with the Irish MEPs recorded during the Plenary Session, please visit www.radioep.ie.