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EP Plenary Newsletter 11-13 November 2020

Luke Ming Flanagan addresses Parliament remotelyLuke Ming Flanagan became the first Irish MEP to address Parliament remotely
Luke Ming Flanagan addresses Parliament remotely

Once again, due to the ongoing pandemic and the European Parliament's commitment to stopping COVID-19, this week's plenary session will be held remotely from all 27 member states. Highlights will include MEPs commenting on the recent US election; COVID-19 (pan-European health strategy and vaccine distribution) and the European Parliament's position on the long-term EU budget. 

Plenary at a glance

MEPs to comment on the outcome of the US elections

Political group leaders will discuss the potential impact of the US elections on future EU-US relations and on global politics, on Wednesday.

MEPs are expected to focus on the potential implications for trade, climate, defence, sanctions and cooperation within multilateral institutions. Many are likely to express their hopes that the transatlantic partnership will be reinvigorated in order to fight more effectively against the COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic consequences.

The EU champions multilateral solutions, working with international organisations, notably the UN and its agencies, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and international and regional organisations, such as NATO.

Additional Information

Debate: Wednesday, 11 November
Procedure: Council and Commission statements

Press release by EP President Sassoli: “Congratulations to Joe Biden on his victory. A world with less inequality is in our all interest.” (07.11.2020)
Free photos, video and audio material

EU4Health: Parliament set to strengthen new EU health programme

To fill gaps exposed by COVID-19 and ensure health systems can cope with threats to public health, MEPs are expected to call for a more ambitious EU health programme.

The EU’s future priorities and action in the health sector, to be implemented through the so-called “EU4Health Programme”, will be debated on Thursday. A resolution on the Commission proposal will be put to the vote on Friday.

In the debate with Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, MEPs are expected to criticise member states for reducing the new programme’s budget to €1.7 billion as opposed to €9.4 billion, the amount originally proposed by the Commission and welcomed by MEPs.

Lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic

On 28 May 2020, the European Commission put forward a new stand-alone EU4Health Programme for 2021-2027 as part of the Recovery Plan to build resilient health systems in the EU. The programme aims to tackle cross-border health threats, making medicines available and affordable, and strengthening health systems. In the initial EU long-term budget proposal, the Health Programme was included as one element of the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+).

Additional Information

Debate: Thursday, 12 November 2020
Final vote: Friday, 13 November 2020
Procedure: Ordinary legislative procedure

Procedure file
Draft report

MEPs to call for incentives for sustainable investments in the green transition

MEPs are set to vote on ways to finance the Green Deal and a shift towards sustainable economic activities on Friday. The debate takes place on Wednesday.

In a non-binding draft resolution on the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan (SEIP) for financing the Green Deal, MEPs stressed that the SEIP should ensure a shift from unsustainable to sustainable economic activities. Investments should aim to reduce economic and ecological disparities between member states and boost competitiveness, creating new types of sustainable, high-quality jobs.

MEPs want investments also to respect the ‘do no significant harm’ principle, including both social and environmental objectives. Only national and regional programmes with the highest potential to achieve these objectives should receive investment. Therefore, in the draft text they insist on harmonised sustainability indicators and a methodology for measuring impact.

Additional Information

Debate: Wednesday, 11 November
Vote: Friday, 13 November
Procedure: Non-legislative resolution

Procedure file
EP research brief: Sustainable Europe Investment Plan

COVID-19 vaccines: Parliament wants full transparency on EU purchase deals

Criteria and conditions for the EU purchase as well as ensuring fair access to COVID-19 vaccines will be debated on Thursday with Commissioner Kyriakides.

The Commission has entered into advance purchase agreements with several pharmaceutical laboratories in order to create a portfolio of potential vaccines against COVID-19.

On Thursday, MEPs will question Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, on the transparency of these agreements as well as on how to ensure equal access to safe, effective, and affordable COVID-19 vaccines everywhere, for anyone who needs them.

MEPs are expected to call for the advance purchase agreements to be more transparent in order to foster trust in future COVID-19 vaccines. They are also expected to raise the issue of liability for medical companies producing the vaccines and demand that there should be no exceptions to current rules.


Developing and deploying an effective and safe vaccine against the virus is likely to be the most permanent way to stop the pandemic. To this end, the Commission has proposed an EU vaccines strategy for COVID-19. Any vaccine will need to be authorised by the European Medicines Agency in accordance with safety and efficacy standards.

On 22 September, Parliament organised a public hearing on “How to secure access to COVID-19 vaccines for EU citizens: clinical trials, production and distribution challenges”.

Additional Information

Debate: Thursday, 12 November 2020
Procedure: Resolutions on topical subjects

Procedure file
Parliament website on COVID-19
Free photos, video and audio material related to COVID-19

COVID-19 and European values: democratic principles “must prevail”

On Thursday, MEPs will quiz the Commission on the impact of national measures on EU values, and adopt a resolution on Friday assessing the “first wave”.

MEPs will hear the Commission’s views on the state of European values in the context of national measures taken to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also expected to comment on recent developments in some member states and at EU level, such as the provisional agreement with Council on a conditionality mechanism linking EU funding to the respect of rule of law. On Friday, MEPs will vote on a draft resolution tabled by the Civil Liberties Committee.

The text highlights that national emergency measures pose a “risk of abuse of power” and stresses that any restriction affecting democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental rights must be necessary, proportional and time-limited. They also call for appropriate parliamentary and judicial checks and balances.

MEPs ask the Commission to assess the “first wave” measures, in addition to the initial comments included in its first annual rule of law report, to help safeguard freedom of movement and assembly, defend media freedom while tackling disinformation, and protect vulnerable groups, as well as the right to education.

Additional Information

Debate: Thursday, 12 November
Vote: Friday, 13 November
Procedure: Commission statement followed by debate (with resolution)

The draft resolution is available here
Rule of law concerns in member states: how the EU can act (infographic)
Free photos, video and audio material

New First Vice-President of the European Parliament

Following the departure from the EP of MEP Mairead McGuinness to take up the post of European Commissioner, plenary will elect a new Vice-President on Thursday.

Ms McGuinness (EPP, IE) stepped down as an MEP in October, leaving her post as First Vice-President of the European Parliament vacant. On Thursday, MEPs will vote to elect her successor from candidates who had until Monday to express their interest in the position.

Additional Information

Vote: Thursday, 12 November
Procedure: Secret vote

Procedure file
Free photos, video and audio material

Protection for EU agri-food local products in China

A deal between the EU and China to protect 200 European and Chinese food specialities from counterfeiting will be put to the vote on Friday.

The agreement would ensure that one hundred European products bearing Geographical Indications (GIs) – such as Cava, Feta, Münchener Bier, Polska Wódka, Prosciutto di Parma and Queso Manchego – will be protected in China against imitations and misuse of a product’s name. In exchange, one hundred Chinese products will enjoy the same type of protection in the EU.

Trade MEPs primarily consider the agreement to be a confidence-booster for EU-China relations. In a draft resolution related to the consent proposal, MEPs express their hope that the cooperation will continue on more contentious issues, such as industrial subsidies and forced technology transfer.


In 2019, China was the second largest destination for EU exports of GI products, including wines, spirit drinks, and agri-food products. In 2018 and 2019 however, 80% of European seizures of counterfeit and pirated goods originated in China, causing losses of €60 billion to EU suppliers, says the draft resolution.

Additional Information

Debate: Thursday, 12 November
Vote: Friday, 13 November
Procedure: consent (with resolution)

Draft recommendation on consent to the on the EU-China agreement to protect georgraphical indications
Procedure file
Free photos, video and audio material

MEPs to debate fight against terrorism, freedom of expression and education

In the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks that took place in France and Austria, MEPs will assess current measures and the way forward.

MEPs will discuss with the German Council Presidency representative and Commissioner Ylva Johansson the state of play as well as future steps regarding the various measures at the EU’s disposal to counter terrorism and radicalisation, and related issues including integration, freedom of expression and education. Political groups will convey their concerns to EU Home Affairs ministers, who are set to meet in a videoconference on this very issue on Friday, 13 November.

The European parliament is currently preparing a resolution in response to the recently published EU Security Union Strategy by the Commission, to be put to the vote at a future plenary session.

Additional Information

Council and Commission statements (followed by one round of political group speakers)
Debate: Wednesday, 11 November

How to stop terrorism - EU measures explained

Crimes against journalists must not go unpunished: debate with Josep Borrell

MEPs are set to reaffirm their commitment to defend the right to freedom of expression and guarantees to protect journalists, on Wednesday.

“When journalists cannot do their jobs in safety, we lose an important defence against the pandemic of misinformation and disinformation that has spread online”, warned the UN Secretary-General in his message on this year’s International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists on 2 November.

Following the shocking murder of journalists around the world, and notably within the EU in recent years, MEPs have called for mechanisms to protect journalists and whistle-blowers, and for independent and international investigations into the crimes committed against them. They also want concentration of media ownership to be monitored more rigorously and have repeatedly underlined the importance of defending a free press.

On 16 October, the European Parliament inaugurated a journalism prize in tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Maltese investigative journalist murdered in 2017.

Additional Information

Debate : Wednesday, 11 November

Procedure: Statement by VP/HR

Press Release: MEPs demand end to EU arms exports to Saudi Arabia (25.10.2018)
Press Release: Murder of Ján Kuciak: MEPs urge action to protect journalists across the EU (19.04.2018)
European Parliament resolution on the rule of law in Malta (15.11.2017)
Free photos, video and audio material

EP to set out its position on the 2021 annual budget

Above all, the 2021 budget should be used to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and support recovery, building on the Green Deal and digital transformation, MEPs say.

Next year’s budget - the first of the 2021-2027 financing period - should “promote fair, inclusive and sustainable growth, high-quality job-creation and its long-term goal of socioeconomic convergence”, MEPs state in their draft resolution.

Parliament’s position on the 2021 annual budget will be debated and put to a vote on Wednesday.

MEPs want to set the overall level of the 2021 EU budget at just under €182 billion in commitment appropriations, representing an increase of €15 billion compared to the Commission’s proposal. Most of these increases would benefit the EU’s 15 flagship programmes, boosting many programmes and projects that will support young people, researchers, health workers, entrepreneurs, and many other citizens.

Details about the different headings, programmes and projects can be found in the draft resolution by the General Rapporteur for the Commission’s budget, Pierre Larrouturou (S&D, FR), and the rapporteur for the other institutions’ administrative budget, Olivier Chastel (RENEW, BE).

Next steps

The vote in plenary will kick off three weeks of “conciliation” talks with the Council, with the aim of reaching a deal between the two institutions in time for next year’s budget, to be voted on by Parliament and signed by its President in December.

The first conciliation meeting between the Council and the Parliament is scheduled for 19 November.


The calendar for this year’s annual budgetary procedure is here.

About 93% of the EU budget funds real activities in EU countries and beyond. It goes to citizens, regions, cities, farmers, researchers, students, NGOs, and businesses.

The EU budget is unique. Unlike national budgets, which are largely used to provide public services and fund social security systems, the EU budget is primarily an investment budget and, unlike national budgets, it cannot run a deficit.

Additional Information

Debate: Wednesday, 11 November
Vote: Wednesday, 11 November
Procedure: budgetary

Draft resolution
Procedure file
Free photos, video and audio material