Plenary highlights: Japan deal, Sakharov Prize, terrorism, budget 

 
 

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MEPs backed a trade deal with Japan, awarded the Sakharov Prize to Oleg Sentsov and paid tribute to the victims of Tuesday’s terror attack in Strasbourg during December’s plenary session.

Japan agreement


A new trade agreement between the EU and Japan covering 40% of global commerce was endorsed by MEPs Wednesday, making it easier for European companies to export goods to Japan.


Sakharov Prize


The 2018 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was awarded to Ukrainian filmmaker and political prisoner Oleg Sentsov during a ceremony at the Parliament in Strasbourg on 12 December. Sentsov couldn’t take part in the ceremony as he remains in prison in Siberia. His cousin Natalya Kaplan and lawyer Dmitriy Dinze represented him in Strasbourg.

Strasbourg shooting


On 12 December, MEPs paid tribute to the victims of Tuesday’s terror attack in the city of Strasbourg with a minute’s silence. “We must continue to work to demonstrate that the strength that we draw from freedom and democracy will always win over violence, crime and terror,” President Antonio Tajani said.


Combatting terrorism


On 12 December MEPs adopted recommendations for a new EU strategy to tackle radicalisation, improve data interoperability and support victims of terrorism. Parliament recommends reinforcing the role of e EU agencies such as Europol and the European Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT Systems (eu-LISA).


Budget


The EU’s budget for 2019 was approved on Wednesday with Parliament boosting funds to tackle migration and youth unemployment, climate protection, Erasmus+ and research programmes. Commitment appropriations for the year total €165.8 billion; payment appropriations total €148.2 billion. More in our interview with lead MEP Daniele Viotti.


Members proposed to substantially increase funding for research, environment and climate-related measures in the next long-term EU budget.


Other issues


MEPs updated rules to protect workers from exposure to carcinogenic and mutagenic substances, including diesel fumes, in a vote on Tuesday.

To allow asylum seekers to reach Europe without putting their lives at risk, Parliament called on the Commission Tuesday to table legislation allowing those seeking international protection to apply for a visa at an EU embassy or consulate.


Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades discussed the future of Europe with MEPs on Wednesday. In his speech to the plenary session, he referred to the importance of maintaining the “peace and security of the Union”. It is the 14th debate in the series.


Parliament voted for new rules that would allow EU states to tax large digital companies’ profits where they are generated, even if a company does not have a headquarters in the country.