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11-09-2020

EP Plenary Newsletter 14-17 September 2020

What will our MEPs be working on in this week's plenary session in Brussels? Highlights include President Ursula von der Leyen's State of the European Union address; COVID-19 recovery plan and funding to support regions most affected by the energy transition.

 

State of the European Union: EC president von der Leyen to address the House

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, MEPs will take stock of the von der Leyen Commission’s achievements to date.

In her first State of the European Union debate, starting at 9.15 on Wednesday morning, Ursula von der Leyen is expected to outline the impact of the Commission’s work in mitigating the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, and to present her vision for economic recovery, the fight against climate change, and the situation in Europe’s neighbourhood.

Political group leaders will assess the Commission’s work and set out their views on the Commission’s 2021 priorities.

Webinars

An event featuring a two-hour live programme on the eve of the plenary debate will take place on Tuesday, 15 September from 16:00. Parliament vice-President Othmar Karas and several committee chairs will discuss the priorities for the EU and react to citizens and civil society questions and ideas. 

More than 150 events are also taking place in member states. More information is available on the  State of the European Union website.

To amrk the event in Ireland, the Liaison offic ein Dublin has planned the following.

Background

The State of the European Union debate is a key moment to demonstrate the European Commission’s accountability towards the EU’s democratically elected representatives. It focuses on important issues like social and economic recovery, climate change, youth unemployment and migration.

This annual event is significant to promote a more transparent and democratic Union. It is an opportunity to bring the European Union closer to its citizens, highlighting the year’s core action points and challenges. Citizens’ rights and the democratic process are at the heart of this unique plenary debate.

The first State of the European Union debate was held in Strasbourg on 7 September 2010, with then Commission President José Manuel  Barroso.

 

Media Advisory
The State of the European Union website: programme, events and streaming
About the State of the Union address
Video clip
Free photos, video and audio material
 

Vote on Own Resources: MEPs to clear way for COVID-19 recovery plan

MEPs are set to accelerate the procedure that will enable the EU to borrow €750 billion for the “Next Generation EU” recovery plan.

MEPs have fast-tracked and will vote already during the September plenary session on their legislative opinion on the Own Resources Decision (ORD). This will remove an important barrier and speed up the procedure to implement this key EU law, allowing the Commission to raise €750 billion on the markets for the recovery fund.

Wednesday´s vote will make it possible for the Council of the EU to swiftly adopt the ORD and start the ratification process in 27 EU countries - so that the recovery plan can be launched as soon as possible.

More information is available in the draft report by rapporteurs José Manuel Fernandes (EPP, PT) and Valérie Hayer (RENEW, FR).

Background

Parliament’s vote on the legislative opinion is a key step that will allow for the Own Resources Decision to be adopted by the Council and submitted for ratification by the 27 member states’parliaments. The ORD is the legal basis that provides for the  revenue sources of the EU budget

Moreover, the new ORD will constitute the legal basis authorising funds to be borrowed on the financial markets to finance the Next Generation EU Recovery Instrument (NGEU). The Council adopts the decision by unanimity after having consulted the European Parliament. Before entering into force, foreseen for January 2021 together with the new MFF, the ORD needs to be ratified by the parliaments of all member states.

Additional information

Debate:  Monday, 14 September

Vote:  Wednesday, 16 September

 

 

Draft report on the system of Own Resources of the European Union
Press release on committee vote (01.09.2020)
Procedure file
Future EU financing and recovery: Parliament’s role and next steps
Free photos, video and audio material
 

MEPs to vote on strengthening the EU Civil Protection’s capacity post-2020

MEPs are expected to call for the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism to be enhanced so that the EU can better respond to large-scale emergencies such as COVID-19.

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) has successfully supported member states to save lives, including during the COVID-19 crisis. However, the pandemic has also shown that, when many member states are hit simultaneously by the same emergency, the way the current crisis management is set up has its limits. MEPs are therefore expected to vote in favour of strengthening the role of the EU through the rescEU to ensure that member states are not left to rely on own assets and voluntary support when dealing with such emergencies. In ongoing EU budget and recovery fund negotiations Parliament has supported the significant increase of the allocated budget proposed by the Commission.

After the debate on Monday, the proposal will be put to the vote on Wednesday.

Background

The Civil Protection Mechanism, set up in 2013, initially aimed to strengthen cooperation with a view to improving prevention, preparedness and response to disasters. When the sheer scale of an emergency overwhelms a country’s ability to respond, it can request voluntary assistance from other countries via the Mechanism.

In 2019, rescEU was created to enable the EU to directly assist member states hit by disasters when national capacities are overstretched. Its fire-fighting aeroplanes and helicopters have supported member states to save lives in the midst of earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and forest fires and helped to evacuate EU nationals - including more than 75.000 EU citizens during the current COVID-19 crisis. Medical equipment such as ventilators, personal protective equipment, therapeutics and laboratory supplies have been provided through rescEU to support national health services during the pandemic.

Additional information

Debate: Monday, 14 September

Vote: Wednesday, 16 September

Procedure:  Ordinary legislative procedure

Draft Report on a Union Civil Protection Mechanism
Procedure file
European Commission’s amended proposal for a Union Civil Protection Mechanism (02.06.2020)
EP Press release: “EU long-term budget deal must be improved for Parliament to accept it” (23.07.2020)
 

EU funding to support regions most affected by the energy transition

MEPs will adopt Parliament’s position for negotiations with the Council on setting up the Just Transition Fund to mitigate the social impact of greening the economy.

Key issues outlined in the include the creation of a “Green Rewarding Mechanism” (AM 22), the proposal for a co-financing rate of up to 85% of costs for eligible projects across the EU, transferring resources from other cohesion funds on a voluntary basis, as well as broadening the scope of the fund.

In order to ensure that negotiations with the Council can start as soon as possible, the Regional Development Committee requested that both the draft report and the mandate for negotiations be put to the EP plenary vote directly. According to Rule 71, if Parliament as a whole were to reject a committee’s decision to enter into negotiations, the report could only be voted on during the following plenary session, thus delaying negotiations between Parliament, Council and the Commission.

Background

On 14 January 2020, the Commission published a legislative proposal on the Just Transition Fund (JTF), aimed at helping the most affected regions alleviate the socio-economic impact of the transition, a first legislative proposal implementing the priorities set out in the European Green Deal. At the end of May 2020, the Commission proposed a substantial increase in the Fund’s resources in an amended proposal.

Additional Information

Vote:  on amendments: Tuesday 15 September; final vote: Wednesday 16 September; announcement of final vote results: Thursday 17 September, 8:30

Procedure:  ordinary legislative procedure, first reading (mandate)

 

 

Draft report
Press release on committee vote (08.07.2020)
Procedure file
EP Research Service - Briefing on Just Transition Fund (03.07.2020)
Free photos, video and audio material
 

COVID-19: Harmonise testing procedures and risk classification in EU countries

MEPs will debate the lack of coordination on COVID-19 health assessments, classifying risk and its consequences for the Schengen area, with Council and Commission.

They are set to highlight that the current tendency in many member states to designate other EU countries as red zones and close borders needs to be replaced by a common EU approach.

MEPs might also address the lack of common standards for counting COVID-19 cases and call for harmonised testing procedures. Testing frequencies in EU member states currently range from 173 to 6.000 per 100.000 individuals per week.

The debate will take place on Tuesday from 14.30 to15.30. A resolution will be put to the vote on Thursday.

Additional information

Debate:  Tuesday 15 September

Vote:  Thursday 17 September

Procedure: non-legislative resolution.

Press Release on Committee debate (02.09.2020)
ECDC: Latest COVID-19 situation for the EU/EEA and the UK
Parliament website on COVID-19
Coronavirus: Commission proposes more clarity and predictability of any measures restricting free movement in the European Union (4.09.2020)
Free photos, video and audio material related to COVID-19
 

MEPs to call for recovery support for hard-hit European culture

In a resolution to be put to the vote on Thursday, MEPs want to call for dedicated EU funding to help rebuild the European cultural sector, severely hit by COVID-19.

A resolution, winding up the plenary debate of July 10, warns that no specific amount has been earmarked in the EU’s recovery plan to directly benefit those in the European creative and cultural sector and that the long-term budget (MFF) proposals for the 2021-27 Creative Europe programme are too low.

Background

More flexible state aid rules, adopted as part of the coronavirus response initiative, as well as the “Next Generation EU” recovery plan, have given member states more options to support their cultural enterprises and creators. However, no targeted EU funds have been earmarked for the sector.

In the latest Council long-term budget proposals, amounts for Creative Europe were cut back to € 1.64 billion, disappointing the sector and the European Parliament, which has been calling for an envelope of € 2.8 billion.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Debate:  10 July 2020

Vote:  Thursday, 17 September

Procedure:  Non-legislative resolution

 

Draft resolution
Plenary debate on cultural recovery of Europe
Procedure file
Free photos, video and audio material
 

MEPs to put forward ways to prevent future medicine shortages

Parliament is set to propose a series of measures, including an emergency European pharmacy, in a resolution to be put to the vote on Thursday.

MEPs is set to address the root cause of medicines shortages in the EU. The problem has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 health crisis across Europe with a direct negative impact on patients’ health, safety and the continuation of their treatment.

Currently 40% of medicines marketed in the EU originate in non-EU countries, while 60 - 80% of active pharmaceutical ingredients are produced in China and India, according to the draft resolution.

MEPs want the Commission to use the upcoming pharmaceutical strategy to address how safe medicines in Europe can be made available, accessible and affordable and to examine ways to restore pharmaceutical manufacturing in Europe.

They might also call on the Commission to create a European contingency reserve of medicines of strategic importance, along the lines of the RescEU mechanism. It should function as “an emergency European pharmacy” in case supplies are disrupted in member states.

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Vote: Thursday, 17 September

Procedure:  non-legislative resolution

Procedure file
Free photos, video and audio material
 

MEPs want emissions from cars to respect EU limits under real driving conditions

To ensure that cars respect EU limits on NOx emissions under real driving conditions as of September 2022, Parliament will vote on revised testing rules.

The Commission has proposed to re-introduce legal exemptions on nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from light passenger and commercial cars (Euro 5 and Euro 6) for vehicles tested under real driving conditions in order to comply with the EU General Court ruling of 13 December 2018.

Previously, data on car emissions such as NOx were obtained through laboratory tests. However, emissions from these vehicles in real-world driving conditions tend to be significantly higher.

Parliament wants to substantially reduce NOx emissions to address the serious problems caused by air pollution. MEPs are therefore likely to request that the proposed exemptions should be gradually reduced and cease to apply by 30 September 2022, after which only the raw data from tests carried out under real driving conditions would be used to determine compliance with EU emission limits.

Background

According to the 2019 Air Quality Report by the European Environment Agency, air pollution led to more than half a million premature deaths in 2016 and is the number one environmental cause of premature death in the EU. As passenger cars produce 40% of total EU NOx emissions, they are a significant source of air pollution, especially in urban areas.

Emission measurements in the automotive sector were the subject of an EP inquiry committee (EMIS), set up in 2016 after the ‘diesel scandal’. You can read its key recommendations here.

Additional information

Vote: Wednesday, 16 September

Procedure:  Ordinary legislative procedure

Draft report
Procedure file
Free photos, video and audio material
 

Parliament to vote on reducing carbon emissions produced by shipping industry

To decarbonise transport, Parliament is set to push for more ambitious action in the EU system for CO2 emissions from maritime transport.

MEPs largely agree that EU and International Maritime Organisation (IMO) reporting obligations should be aligned, as set out by the Commission in a proposal to revise the EU system for monitoring, reporting and verifying CO2 emissions from maritime transport (the “EU MRV Regulation”).

Noting, however, that the IMO has made insufficient progress in reaching an ambitious global agreement on GHG emissions, Parliament is expected to request that shipping companies should be required to reduce their annual average CO2 emissions per transport unit. MEPs propose that ships of 5000 gross tonnage and above should be included in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS).

Additional information

Debate: Monday, 14 September

Vote: Wednesday, 16 September

Procedure:  Ordinary legislative procedure

Draft report
 

Green Deal: MEPs propose measures to step up fight against global deforestation

MEPs outline how the EU can contribute to tackling worldwide deforestation and call for domestic policies to be revised to protect European forests.

In the non-binding resolution  to be adopted by the Plenary on Tuesday,  in response to a Commission communication, MEPs call for more support to protect, restore and sustainably manage forests, protect biodiversity and carbon sinks, as well as to recognise forests’ productivity and ecosystem services.

They call on the Commission to promote sustainable forestry in agriculture, and stress the importance of agroforestry systems and the positive contribution that forests make to health and quality of life.

MEPs want binding targets to protect and restore forest ecosystems, especially primary forests, consistent with the EU 2030 biodiversity strategy’s proposals. All future trade and investment agreements must contain binding provisions to prevent deforestation, says the draft resolution. In addition, MEPs want the European Green Deal’s external dimension to be strengthened through alliances and partnerships with third countries, to address climate change and biodiversity loss.

Background

Between 1990 and 2016, an area of 1.3 million square kilometres of the world’s forests was lost, with a destructive effect on biodiversity, climate, people, and the economy.

Additional information

Vote: Tuesday, 15 September

Procedure:  non-legislative resolution

Report on the EU’s role in protecting and restoring the world’s forests
Procedure file
 

Parliament to call for action to tackle pharmaceutical pollution

To prevent risks to the environment and public health, MEPs are to call for measures towards a more sensible use and disposal of pharmaceuticals.

Following a debate on Monday, Parliament will adopt a resolution on Thursday calling for new measures to tackle pharmaceutical pollution, which causes long-term damage to ecosystems, reduces drug efficiency and increases resistance to antibiotics. Measures could include promoting a more careful use of medicines, the development of greener manufacturing and better waste management.

MEPs are worried by the ever-growing overall drug consumption per capita in the EU and call for member states to share best practices in the preventive use of antibiotics and the disposal of unused medicines in order to prevent possible negative long-term effects on patient health.

They are also likely to underline the need for further development of “greener pharmaceuticals”, which are as effective for patients, but less harmful for the environment.

Background

In March 2019, the European Commission issued a communication on the EU’s Strategic Approach to Pharmaceuticals in the Environment outlining a set of possible actions.

Additional information

Debate: Monday, 14 September

Vote: Thursday, 17 September

Procedure:  non-legislative resolution

Procedure file
European Parliament press release: MEPs call for action to tackle pharmaceutical pollution (05.03.2020)
 

Moria refugee camp: MEPs to call for an urgent EU response

MEPs will urge the Council and the Commission to address the humanitarian crisis on the island of Lesbos, following the fire that razed the Moria refugee camp.

More than 12,000 people were living in the overcrowded camp, which has a capacity to house 2,000, when flames engulfed on Tuesday night.

The camp had been under quarantine for a few days after dozens of COVID-19 cases were detected and there had been clashes between the residents and police forces.

MEPs have demanded on several occasions that refugee camps on the Greek islands be evacuated, particularly since the outbreak of the pandemic. Thousands of asylum-seekers have been stranded on the islands for years, in dire conditions, waiting for their requests to be processed. Relocation to other EU member states has been slow and limited to small numbers, mostly of unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable people.

The debate will take place on Thursday morning.

Additional information

Debate: Thursday, 17 September

Procedure: Council and Commission statements, without resolution

Refugees in Greece: MEPs demand solidarity, warn about impact of health crisis (2.04.2020)
Free photos, video and audio material
 

Rule of law and fundamental rights in Poland: Parliament’s concern increases

MEPs are increasingly worried about democratic backsliding in Poland and call on Council and Commission to act to protect people’s fundamental rights in the country.

Following a debate on Monday, plenary will vote on a draft interim report on the ongoing Article 7 procedure regarding Poland. The draft text, prepared by the Civil Liberties Committee, points to “overwhelming evidence” of rule of law breaches, including risks for judicial independence, malfunctioning of the legislative and electoral systems and threats to fundamental rights.

The situation has deteriorated since Article 7(1) was initiated by the European Commission in December 2017, according to MEPs, who urge the Council to deal with the issue and “to finally act”.

Discrimination against LGBTI people

MEPs will also look into the situation of LGBTI persons in the country, who are subjected to increasing levels of scapegoating after several municipalities, regions and counties declared themselves “LGBTI-free zones”. They will ask the Commission whether these statements by public authorities may constitute discrimination in employment, in view of recent relevant case law.

According to the Fundamental Rights Agency, intolerance and violence towards LGBTI people are on the rise in Poland, where an overwhelming majority do not believe that the government is effectively protecting them by combating prejudice and intolerance against them.

Additional information

Debate: Monday, 14 September

Vote: Thursday, 17 September

Procedure: Non-legislative resolution (Poland); Oral question to the Commission, without resolution

Rule of law in Poland: “overwhelming evidence” of breaches (16.07.2020)
Rule of law concerns in member states: how the EU can act (infographic)
Free photos, video and audio material
 

MEPs to discuss tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean with VP/HR Borrell

MEPs are to assess the situation in Eastern Mediterranean where Turkish drilling for energy resources is straining relations with Athens and Nicosia.

As tension mounts between Greece and Turkey, MEPs will discuss the latest developments and the EU’s response on Tuesday in the run-up to the EU Council special meeting, where EU leaders will discuss the issue on 24 and 25 September.

Background

In the past few months, the situation has escalated over Turkey’s increased gas exploration activities in the area within the Greek and Cypriot exclusive economic zone. In the meantime, Greece and Turkey have put their militaries on high alert and have sent warships into the disputed area.

The EU has stated that it stands in solidarity with Greece and Cyprus, calling at the same time for dialogue with Turkey. Last Sunday, European Council President Charles Michel talked about the crisis on the phone with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

MEPs discussed Turkey’s problematic role in the region with Mr Borrell in Plenary in July. The vote on the resolution will take place on Thursday.

Additional information

Debate: Tuesday, 15 September

Vote: Thursday, 17 September

Procedure: High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Statement (with resolution)

EP Debate: Stability and Security in the Mediterranean and the negative role of Turkey, 09.07.2020
EP Think Tank: State of play of the maritime disputes in the eastern Mediterranean (04.09.2020)
Free photos, video and audio material
 

MEPs to take stock of the situation in Russia, Belarus and Lebanon

MEPs will debate several topical foreign policy issues with EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell in Brussels on Tuesday.

Up for discussion in the hemicycle will be:

  • the political developments and the popular uprising in Belarus following the disputed presidential elections of 9 August,
  • the situation in Russia and the poisoning of Russian opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, and
  • the recent crisis and unfolding events in Lebanon.

The foreign affairs debates will kick off on Tuesday morning as the second item on the plenary agenda, following the debate on the “Preparation of the Special European Council, focusing on the dangerous escalation in the Eastern-Mediterranean”.

Resolutions on the situations in Russia and Belarus will also be put to the vote on Thursday.

Additional information

Debates: Tuesday, 15 September 

Votes: Thursday, 17 September (Russia, Belarus)

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

Press release: “Belarus: prominent members of civil society urge the EU to show strong support for the protests” (07.09.2020)
Multimedia centre
 

EU arms export rules: MEPs to request greater transparency

MEPs will assess how member states implement and comply with the EU’s common rules on exports of military equipment, on Wednesday.

In light of growing arms production in the EU, MEPs are set to call for tighter controls and greater transparency, in a report examining whether member states are complying with common rules agreed in 2008 for exports of military technology and equipment. The debate will take place on Monday and members are likely to point to inconsistencies in current practice.

Background

The Common Position 2008/944/CFSP is a legally binding set of rules containing eight criteria that are to be taken into account when issuing export licenses. Among others, the criteria include the respect for human rights in the country of final destination and should take precedence over any national economic, social, commercial or industrial interests.

The EU 27 and the UK were collectively the second largest arms supplier in the world in 2015-2019, according to independent research reports.

Additional Informaton

Debate: Monday, 14 September

Vote: Wednesday, 16 September

Procedure: non-legislative resolution

Draft resolution on arms export
Press release: MEPs adopt a report on the implementation of EU arms export rules (14.07.2020)
Procedure file
Free photos, video and audio material
 

Parliament to assess the state of EU-Georgia relations

MEPs will discuss on Monday and vote on Wednesday on a report taking stock of the latest developments regarding the EU’s Association Agreement with Georgia.

In the draft resolution, MEPs commend the “internationally praised response of the Georgian people and public authorities to the COVID-19 outbreak”, as well as the effective work done by the country’s medical workers and authorities during the pandemic. This has helped to ease the burden on Georgia’s healthcare system and has mitigated the negative effects on the economy.

They also welcome that EU-Georgia relations continue to deepen and acknowledge the country’s recent progress in implementing comprehensive reforms, which has made Georgia one of the EU’s key partners in the region.

During Monday’s plenary debate on Georgia, MEPs will be joined in the hemicycle by representatives of the European Commission and the German Council Presidency.

Additional information

Debate: Monday, 14 September

Vote: Wednesday, 16 September

Procedure: non-legislative resolution

Press Release on Committee vote (14.07.2020)
Procedure file
EU-Georgia Association agreement
EP Multimedia Centre: free photos, video and audio material