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EP Plenary Session Newsletter 15-18 January 2018

What will MEPs be working on in next week's plenary session in Strasbourg? Among the items on the agenda will be a debate on the future of Europe with Taoiseach Varadkar, clean energy, combatting terrorist funding, and much more.  


Irish Taoiseach Varadkar to debate future of Europe with MEPs

The Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland Leo Varadkar will be the first EU leader to debate the future of Europe with MEPs on Wednesday morning.

At the invitation of Parliament's President Antonio Tajani and Conference of Presidents, Mr Varadkar will address the plenary session and then debate the future of the European Union with political group representatives and MEPs.

This is to be the first of a series of debates between EU heads of state or government and MEPs on the future of the European Union.


Debate: Wednesday, 17 January

Press point: Protocol entrance area (-1) at 11.30, Antonio TAJANI - President of the European Parliament and Leo VARADKAR, Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland

#FutureofEU #Varadkar

Free photos, video and audio material

Irish MEPs following this issue: Matt Carthy, Brian Hayes, Seàn Kelly, Mairead McGuinness, Nessa Childers, Deirdre Clune.


MEPs to debate EU summit and Brexit

MEPs will debate the outcome of the 14-15 December meeting of EU leaders in Brussels with European Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday morning. . The summit focused on the Brexit negotiations, migration, defence cooperation and eurozone reform.

EU leaders agreed on 15 December that "sufficient progress" has been made in the Brexit negotiations to move on to phase two, which includes talks on the future relations between the EU and the United Kingdom.

They also welcomed the launch of permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) on defence, and debated how to ensure that the EU has the means to cope with potential economic shocks.


Debate: Tuesday, 16 January

Procedure: Debate with European Council, without a resolution

#Brexit #EUCO @EU2018BG #MigrationEU #EUdefence, #eurozone

European Council conclusions 14-15 December 2017Free photos, video and audio material (Brexit)Audiovisual material: EU summitFree photos, video and audio material (other topics)

Bulgaria’s EU Council Presidency MEPs hear from PM Boyko Borissov

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borissov will present the incoming EU Council Presidency priorities to MEPs on Wednesday.

The priorities of the Bulgarian presidency are:

  • the Future of Europe and young people;
  • a European perspective and the connectivity of the Western Balkans;
  • security and stability in a strong and united Europe;
  • the digital economy and skills for the future.

This is the first time Bulgaria has held the presidency of the Council of the EU.

The day before, on Tuesday morning, MEPs will assess the progress made by the outgoing Estonian presidency in the past six months.


Debate: Tuesday and Wednesday

Procedure: Council and Commission statements

@EU2018BG #EU2018BG @EU2017EE #EU2017EE

Audiovisual material - Bulgarian presidencyAudiovisual material - Estonian presidencyBulgarian presidency websiteEstonian presidency website

Clean Energy Package: vote on talks with ministers

Energy consumption would have to be cut by 40% from 2005 levels by 2030, and the share from renewable sources boosted from 27% to 35%, under draft laws to be debated on Monday.

The debate on Monday at 17.00 will be followed by a vote on Wednesday on a mandate for MEPs to negotiate the final form of the legislation with ministers.

Industry, Research and Energy Committee MEPs call for a binding EU energy reduction target of 40% by 2030 (i.e. a 34% cut in primary energy consumption from 2005 levels). They would also raise the target share of renewables in all EU energy consumption from 27% to 35%.For the transport sector, at least 12% of the energy consumed in each EU member state would have to be produced from renewables, such as the sun or wind.

If Parliament does approve its negotiating mandate, talks with the Council can start immediately, as the Council has already approved its general approaches on energy efficiency, on 26 June, and on renewables and the governance of the Energy Union on 18 December.

These three files are part of the Clean Energy Package, launched by the European Commission in November 2016, which is crucial for completing the Energy Union.


Debate: Monday, January 15

Vote: Wednesday, January 17

Procedure: Ordinarly legislative procedure

Press conference with rapporteurs: Wednesday 17 January at 13:30


Press release on committee vote (28.11.2017)Press release on committee vote (07.12.2017) Draft reports, amendments and voting listsCouncil - general approach renewablesCouncil - general approach energy efficiencyCouncil - general approach governance of the energy unionClean Energy PackageEnergy UnionProcedure file - Promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources. Recast 2016/0382(COD) Procedure file - Governance of the energy union 2016/0375(COD) Procedure file - Energy efficiency 2016/0376(COD) Free photos, video and audio material

Irish MEPs following this issue: Seàn Kelly, Nessa Childers.


Russia’s propaganda in the EU

The influence of Russian propaganda on EU countries and its alleged attempts to influence elections in some EU countries through misinformation will be debated by MEPs in a topical debate on Wednesday afternoon.

MEPs were already warning in 2016 that the Kremlin had stepped up its propaganda against the EU since annexing Crimea and waging hybrid war in the Donbass. They noted, in a resolution, that ”the Russian government is employing a wide range of tools and instruments, such as think tanks [...], multilingual TV stations (e.g. Russia Today), pseudo-news agencies and multimedia services (e.g. Sputnik) [...], social media and internet trolls, to challenge democratic values, divide Europe, gather domestic support and create the perception of failed states in the EU’s eastern neighbourhood”.

To counteract propaganda, MEPs suggested strengthening the EU’s tiny “strategic communication” task force and investing more in awareness-raising, investigative journalism and information literacy.


Debate: Wednesday, 17 January

Procedure: Topical debate

EU strategic communication to counteract propaganda against it by third parties (23.11.2016)EP Research note on Russia’s information war (October 2016)Audiovisual material for professionals

Preventing authoritarian regimes from spying on their own citizens

EU export controls is to be extended to cyber-surveillance tools, which might be used for human rights violations, according to a bill to be debated on Tuesday and voted on Wednesday.

The EU is currently updating its rules on the export control of dual-use items to keep up with new technologies and to prevent authoritarian regimes from spying on their own citizens with the help of European products.

The new rules would add certain cyber-surveillance tools to the list of items that need to be approved by national authorities before being exported. These would include devices to intercept mobile phones, hack into computers, circumvent passwords or identify internet users. As such, dual-use items are widely used to supress civilians, political opposition and activists around the world.

MEPs are set to strengthen the protection of human rights and create a “future-proof” system that can rapidly deal with new technologies.

Next steps

MEPs will set the Parliament’s negotiating mandate in Strasbourg next week. Talks can start as soon as EU member states have agreed their own negotiating position.

Quick facts

Goods and technologies that can be used in peaceful civilian circumstances can also be used to build weapons of mass destruction, for terrorist attacks or to facilitate human rights violations. These include a broad spectrum of products, ranging from chemicals, toxins, electronic equipment, lasers, navigation technology, to nuclear power technology, robotics and software. The current system dates back to 2009, and exports are inspected and authorised by national authorities. During the “Arab Spring”, there was evidence that European technology was used by authoritarian regimes to oppress activists.

Debate: Tuesday, 16 January 2017
Vote: Wednesday, 17 January 2017
Procedure: Co-decision

#dualuse #HumanRights

Press release on the committee vote (23.11.2017)EP Briefing: Review of dual-use export controls (July, 2017)Dual-use control in a nutshell (by the European Commission)Procedure file:

Cutting off funds for terrorism and confiscating criminal assets: draft laws

Talks with ministers on laws to fight funding for terrorism and ease cross-border confiscation of criminal assets can start as soon as Parliament gives its go-ahead, expected by midnight on Tuesday.

These laws would make it harder to fund terrorism and other organised crime, by curbing money laundering and easing cross-border freezing and confiscation of the proceeds of crime.

The anti-money laundering law would ease enforcement by laying down EU-wide definitions of crimes and minimum penalties, and the cross-border confiscation one would tighten up deadlines for acting on member states’ requests to freeze or confiscate assets, so as to leave criminals less time to move them.

If there are no objections by midnight on Tuesday, Parliament’s mandate for MEPs to start talks with ministers will be deemed approved and the talks can begin. Ministers have already agreed their general approach on both drafts.

Quick facts

Both files - Countering money laundering by criminal law and the Mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders - are part of the Commission’s Action Plan against terrorist financing, proposed in December 2016.


Procedure: Confirmation of negotiating mandate, co-decision


Press release on committee vote - money laundering (12.12.2017)Profile of rapporteur Ignazio Corrao (EFDD, IT)Profile of rapporteur Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE, FR)Procedure file - money launderingProcedure file - freezing and confiscationFree photos, video and audio material

New EU strategy to reduce the environmental impact of plastics: debate

The EU’s new strategy to reduce the environmental impact of plastics will be unveiled by the EU Commission on Tuesday and debated by MEPs on Wednesday. ,

The Commission is expected to address three interrelated issues: dependence on virgin fossil feedstocks, rates of plastic recycling and reuse, and leakage of plastics into the environment.

Quick facts

Plastics are used in packaging, buildings, cars, electronics, agriculture and other sectors. Plastics production today is 20 times higher than in the 1960s, and is forecast to almost quadruple by 2050.

Although there are thousands of types of plastics, 90% of them are derived from virgin fossil fuels. About 6% of global oil consumption is used to produce plastics; by 2050, this share could reach 20%.

In Europe, about 40% of post-consumer plastic waste is incinerated with energy recovery, and the rest is either landfilled or recycled. About half of the plastic waste collected and recycled is processed in the EU; the other half is exported, mainly to China.


Debate: Wednesday 17 January 2018

Vote: none

Procedure: Commission statement with debate

hashtags #PlasticsStrategy

Legislative train schedule: Strategy on plastics in the circular economyPlastic Waste - Strategy and backgroundFree photos, video and audio material

Irish MEPs following this issue: Seàn Kelly.


Combining flexibility for fishermen with better protection of fish stocks

Common EU rules on how, where and when one can fish in the EU, including prohibitions on certain fishing methods and species, and resitrictions on fishing gear, will be put to the vote on Tuesday.

The draft regulation would provide for common measures on fishing gear and methods and allowed species for all EU waters. It also allows tailored regional measures to limit unwanted catches, especially of juvenile fish.

Innovative fishing methods

Fisheries Committee MEPs propose adding some bite to Commission proposals for allowing innovative methods such as electric trawl pulse fishing (used to drive fish up out of the seabed and into the net) to be used EU-wide.

EU member states would have to assess the likely impact of such gear on sensitive species and habitats.

MEPs say innovative methods should be trialled for at least four years, and d “trial use would be restricted to no more than 5% of existing vessels in that métier” (i.e. a fishing with a single type of gear for a group of target species in a given area).

These assessments would be then evaluated by the STECF (Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries).

Parliament may also authorise Fisheries Committee MEPs to start talks with the Council on the final wording of the legislation.


Debate: Monday 15 January

Vote: Tuesday 16 January

Procedure: ordinary legislative procedure (vote on the mandate)

Press conference (if applicable: date)


Profile of rapporteur Gabriel Mato (EPP, ES)Procedure fileEP briefing on overhauling fisheries technical measures

Irish MEPs following this issue: Seàn Kelly.


MEPs eager to protect children in cross-border family disputes

New rules to protect children better in cross-border family disputes related to divorce, custody and child abduction will be debated on Wednesday and put to the vote on Thursday.

With European citizens becoming more mobile, cross-border disputes on family matters in the EU are rising. There are around 1800 cases of parents abducting their children within the EU every year.

The new rules aim to simplify dispute proceedings and make them more efficient. The updated regulation will make deadlines by which cross-border parental child abduction cases must be settled stricter. Children must also be given an opportunity to express their views in all proceedings concerning them and all decisions will become automatically enforceable in other EU countries.

The Parliament has a consultative role in the updating of the rules.


Debate: Wednesday, 17 January

Vote: Thursday, 18 January

Procedure: Consultation

Draft report on jurisdiction, the recognition and enforcement of decisions in matrimonial matters and matters of parental responsibility, and on international child abductionProfile of rapporteur: Tadeusz Zwiefka (EPP, PL)Procedure fileProcedure file:EP Study: Cross-border parental child abduction in the European Union (January 2015)Free photos, video and audio material

Youth Employment Initiative: MEPs to call for improvements

The Youth Employment Initiative has contributed to tackling youth unemployment in the EU, but it could be implemented more thoroughly, Parliament is set to say in a resolution to be debated on Wednesday and put to a vote on Thursday.

MEPs are likely to demand that member states improve monitoring and reporting, as insufficient data make it difficult to properly assess to what extent the Youth Employment Initiative and the Youth Guarantee have helped young people to find a stable job.

Other proposed measures include a tailored approach to reach inactive and vulnerable young people, offering better quality employment, education or traineeships and making businesses more aware of the youth employment programmes on offer.

Quick facts

The Youth Employment Initiative is the main EU funding programme for the Youth

Guarantee schemes, set up in 2013 to help young people aged 15-25 in EU regions with high youth unemployment rates.

The initial budget for 2014-2020 was €6,4 billion. Given the persistently high levels of youth unemployment, it was topped up with additional €2,4 billion for the period 2017-2020.


Debate: Wednesday, 17 January

Vote: Thursday, 18 January

Procedure: own-initiative report

#youth #employment

Draft report on the on the implementation of the Youth Employment Initiative in the member statesProfile of the rapporteur: Romana Tomc (EPP, SI)EP Research Service: How the EU budget is spent: Youth Employment InitiativeEP study: Youth Employment Initiative - European implementation assessmentYouth employment: the EU measures to make it workEuroparl video: Youth employment in the EU: MEPs push for innovative approachesAudiovisual material for professionals

Irish MEPs following this issue: Mairead McGuinness, Seàn Kelly, Brian Hayes.


Trafficking of women and girls

MEPs will quiz the Commission on the measures it is taking to fight human trafficking, sexual abuse and labour exploitation in a debate on Wednesday evening.

In its 2016 Report on the progress made in the fight against trafficking in human beings (THB) in the EU, the Commission found that 76% of victims were women and at least 15% were children. Sexual exploitation (67% of victims) and labour exploitation (21%) are the two main forms of THB, the latter being on the rise, according to several member states.

MEPs will ask the Commission how member states implement EU law on preventing and combatting trafficking and protecting victims. They will also ask what specific measures are being taken to protect women and girls, and what resources have been allocated to these measures.

Quick facts

According to the 2016 report, most of the registered victims were EU citizens, with 65% of them from Romania, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Hungary and Poland. The five countries from which most non-EU victims originated were Albania, China, Morocco, Nigeria and Vietnam.

The EU adopted measures on preventing human trafficking, on protecting and supporting victims, and on prosecuting the traffickers. Member states must also abide by EU law on victims’ rights and on seasonal workers. Article 5 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits slavery and forced labour, while Article 31 stipulates that all workers have the right to ‘fair and just’ working conditions.


Debate: Wednesday, 17 January

Procedure: Question for oral answer to the Commission, without resolution


Question for oral answer to the CommissionProcedure fileFree photos, video and audio material

EU should go on supporting the Colombian peace process

MEPs are likely to urge the EU and Member States to continue supporting the Colombian peace process politically and financially, in a debate with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Tuesday.

Peacebuilding has been the backbone of the European Union's cooperation with Colombia since 2002. MEPs are likely to call on the EU and its Member States to continue to support the Colombian peace process through:

Last September, the European Parliament reiterated its support for the peace process in Colombia and welcomed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s (FARC) complete handover of individual weapons, as well as the bilateral ceasefire deal between the National Liberation Army and the Government of Colombia.

Background information

The EU has supported peace in Colombia for over two decades and together with its Member States, has financed over €1.5 billion’s worth of peacebuilding activities in Colombia. In recognition of the importance of Colombia's efforts to build peace, High Representative Mogherini appointed the former Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore as her Special Envoy for the peace process in Colombia in November 2015.

In 2016, when the peace agreement between the Colombian authorities and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was signed, the EU reiterated its support for peace building, through the overall support package of almost €600 million for short- and long-term measures. An EU Trust Fund for Colombia of €95 million was set up, focussing specifically on economic development and agricultural productivity. So far, 19 EU Member States have contributed to the fund.


Debate: Tuesday, 16 January

Vote: Wednesday, 17 January

Procedure: Statement by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy


European Parliament resolution of 13 September 2017 on EU political relations with Latin AmericaEuropean Parliament resolution of 20 January 2016 in support of the peace process in ColombiaEPRS Study: The Colombian people say no to the peace agreement - But hopes for a solution remain (October 2016)Audiovisual material for professionals

MEPs to discuss recent violent protests in Iran

MEPs will debate Iran's most significant civilian protests in almost a decade, with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, on Tuesday afternoon.

Demonstrations spread across several dozen Iranian cities over about a week, starting on 28 December 2017. Hundreds of Iranians gathered, in a largely peaceful manner, in Mashhad, the country’s second-largest city, chanting slogans against economic hardship. The protest movement resulted in 21 deaths and thousands of arrests.

In December 2017, MEPs discussed US President Trump’s decision not to certify the Iran nuclear deal. They underlined that the EU and the rest of the international community intend to honour the multilateral agreement and to pursue the "twin-track" approach of sanctions coupled with diplomatic negotiation.


Debate: Tuesday, 16 January

Procedure: Statement by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

EPRS Study: US decertification of the Iran nuclear deal (October 2017)Audiovisual material for professionals

Kenya should reform its electoral process, MEPs are set to urge

MEPs will discuss the persistent instability in Kenya after the disputed 2017 presidential election and urge for reforms, on the basis of the EU electoral observation mission’s report.

The EU electoral observation mission (EOM) to Kenya published yesterday its final report following the 2017 elections and issued 29 recommendations for reform including:

  • making independent institutions more resilient,
  • making legal reform more inclusive,
  • improving ICT arrangements and independent electoral commission oversight,
  • legally requiring a comprehensive results framework, and
  • reviewing the electoral system to promote the participation of women and inclusivity.

As previously agreed with the Kenyan authorities, the EU EOM has published its final report within three months of the 26 October election. EU EOM Chief Observer, Marietje Schaake (ALDE, NL) presented it in Brussels, after the Kenyan government stated it was not prepared to receive the Chief Observer in Nairobi at this time.

Quick facts

The result of the Kenyan presidential election, first held in August 2017 and declaring outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta the winner, was overturned by the Supreme Court due to illegal and irregular conduct . With the poll being declared void, the opponent Raila Odinga's demand for reform of the electoral commission was substantiated.

When the election was repeated two months later, Raila Odinga withdrew from the rerun and called for it to be boycotted, arguing that the electoral commission had not been sufficiently reformed to guarantee a credible result. This led to the re-election of Uhuru Kenyatta, and prolonged uncertainty over the stability of the country.


Debate: Tuesday, 16 January

Procedure: Statement by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (without resolution)

EU EOM Kenya 2017 Final Report (10.01.2018)Press conference by EU EOM Chief Observer Marietje Schaaeke (ALDE, NL) presenting the final report (10.01.2018)Audiovisual material for professionals

Appointment of two new members of the Court of Auditors

MEPs are set to vote on the Irish and Swedish candidates nominated to be members of the Court of Auditors (ECA), the Luxembourg-based EU financial watchdog.

Both Tony Murphy (Ireland) and Eva Lindström (Sweden) are seeking their first ECA mandate.

The European Court of Auditors has 28 members, one from each EU member state. They are appointed for a renewable term of six years. The Council, after consulting the European Parliament, decides on the candidate presented by each country.

If the full house adopts an unfavourable opinion on any of the candidates, the Council will be asked to withdraw the nomination and to submit a new candidate to Parliament.


Vote: Wednesday, 17 January

Procedure: Consultation


Profile of rapporteur Indrek Tarand (EST, Greens/EFA)Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament, rule 121: Appointment of the Members of the Court of AuditorsProcedure file: appointment of an Irish member (Tony Murphy)Procedure file: appointment of a Swedish member (Eva Lindström)Free photos, video and audio material

Irish MEPs following this issue: Seàn Kelly.

Human rights and democracy resolutions

Parliament will hold urgent debates on the following human rights, democracy and rule of law topics on Thursday 18 January, at around 10.00, with the votes following at 12.00.

  • Nigeria
  • The cases of human rights activists Wu Gan, Xie Yang, Lee Ming-cheh, Tashi Wangchuk and the Tibetan monk Choekyi
  • Democratic Republic of Congo


Procedure: non-legislative resolutions

Debates/votes: Thursday, 18 January

#humanrights #democracy


Other issues being followed by Irish MEPs:

Trade and Sustainable Development Chapters in EU Agreements: Nessa Childers, Mairead McGuinness, Seàn Kelly.

Women, Gender Equality and Climate Justice: Matt Carthy, Seàn Kelly.

Composition of the European Parliament: Brian Hayes, Seàn Kelly.

Energy Efficiency:
Seàn Kelly.

Governance of the Energy Union:
Seàn Kelly.

Implementation of EU Macro-Regional Strategies:
Seàn Kelly.

International Ocean Governance:
Seàn Kelly.

Composition of the European Parliament:
Seàn Kelly.

Implementation of the Professional Qualifications Directive and the Need for Reform in Professional Services:
Seàn Kelly, Matt Carthy.

European Council and Commission Statements: Matty Carthy.

JURI Marrakesh Treaty: Matt Carthy.