The Greek presidency of the EU Council was welcomed by the Parliament in 2014's first plenary. MEPs approved new rules to make vans emit less CO2 by 2020, make public procurement more efficient and give the self-employed better social protection. Meanwhile, the economic committee continued the inquiry on the role of the Troika during the crisis by holding high-level hearings throughout the week.
Growth and jobs, the EU's banking union and an immigration policy based on solidarity are the top priorities for the Greek EU presidency for the first six months of 2014, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told MEPs on Wednesday morning. Meanwhile Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė reviewed her country's outgoing presidency in a speech on Tuesday. She cited the agreements on the EU's budget for this year and for the next seven years and progress on the banking union as the main achievements.
On Tuesday MEPs approved rules for lower CO2 emissions for new vans. Emissions should be reduced from 203 grams of CO2 per km today to 147 g/km by 2020. Members also called for Carbon Capture and Storage technology to be boosted as it has the potential to play a major role in slowing down global warming.
The EP adopted on Wednesday rules on public procurement and concession contracts that will ensure better and more efficient use of taxpayers' money. Among other things the new legislation encourages dividing contracts into lots to make it easier for smaller companies to bid and also includes rules on subcontracting.
In the light of Malta's controversial citizenship scheme, MEPs held a debate on Wednesday afternoon, saying that citizenships should never be up for sale.
In two resolutions calling for improved social protection, MEPs asked for more resources for labour inspections and better protection for self-employed workers.
On Tuesday the EP also voted to ban the most hazardous plastics and to phase out single-use plastic bags by 2020 wherever possible.
MEPs discussed the progress made by Serbia towards EU membership and by Kosovo towards closer links with the EU on Wednesday afternoon and also debated Iceland's possible future in the EU in the wake of its government signalling its reluctance to pursue membership any longer.
In a debate on Wednesday MEPs asked the Commission to suspend the Safe Harbour agreement on Europeans' data handling by US companies following revelations about the NSA.
Only wine with fruit produced in Spain and Portugal can be sold under the name of sangria under new rules for aromatised wines approved on Tuesday.
On Thursday the EP rejected a proposal to allow the genetically modified maize Pioneer 1507 to be used in Europe. Its insect-resistant pollen might harm non-targeted butterflies and moths.
Throughout the week the economic committee continued the inquiry on the role of the Troika in bail-out countries. Hearings were held with Olli Rehn, economic and monetary affairs commissioner; Jean-Claude Trichet, former president of the European Central Bank; and Klaus Regling, director of the European Stability Mechanism. They discussed democratic accountability and details of the bail outs.