EP Plenary Newsletter 17-20 January 2022
For the first plenary session of the year, MEPs will pay tribute to President Sassoli. They will discuss and vote on live animal export.
Parliament will pay tribute to President Sassoli on Monday
MEPs will honour President David Sassoli in a ceremony at the start of Monday’s plenary session at 18.00 in Strasbourg.
European Council President Charles Michel, French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, former Italian Prime Minister and former MEP Enrico Letta, a close friend of President Sassoli, as well as political group leaders will speak during the ceremony. There will be a short musical interlude.
President David Sassoli passed away on 11 January, following his hospitalisation on 26 December. A Member of the European Parliament since 2009, David Sassoli was elected President in July 2019 for the first half of Parliament’s current legislature.
Election of the new President of the European Parliament
On Tuesday, Parliament will choose its President for the second half of the legislative term.
The election of the new EP President will be presided over by a Vice-President, determined in accordance with the order of precedence.
Candidates for the post of President can be put forward either by a political group or by a group of MEPs reaching the so-called low threshold, i.e. 1/20th of MEPs, or 36 out of 705 Members when all seats are filled. The President is elected by an absolute majority of valid votes, cast by secret vote, i.e. 50% plus one. Due to the pandemic, the vote will be held remotely.
So far, four MEPs have announced their candidacy: Roberta Metsola (EPP, MT), Alice Bah Kuhnke (Greens/EFA, SE), Kosma Zlotowski (ECR, PL) and Sira Rego (The Left, ES). The deadline to nominate candidates for the first ballot is on Monday at 17.00. Candidates can be proposed, or withdrawn, ahead of each voting round.
The candidates will make a short presentation on Tuesday morning, at 9.00, immediately before the first voting round, which will take place between 9.30 and 10.15, with the result announced at 11.00.
If the first round does not deliver a winner, the same or other candidates can be nominated for a second and a third round, under the same conditions. If no one is elected at the third round, the two candidates with the most votes in this round proceed to a fourth and final vote, in which the candidate receiving the most votes wins.
The newly-elected President may then deliver an opening address before presiding over the election of the remaining members of Parliament’s Bureau (Tuesday and Wednesday). Appointments to parliamentary committees for the rest of this legislative term will also be confirmed during the upcoming plenary session, possibly on Wednesday.
All elected offices in the Parliament (the President, Vice-Presidents, Quaestors, Committee and Delegation Chairs and Vice-Chairs) are renewed every two and half years - at the start of the five-year term and half-way through.
The President enjoys a broad range of executive and representative powers set out in Rule 22. Other than the duties expressly set out there, the President’s authority extends to “all powers that are necessary to preside over the proceedings of Parliament and to ensure that they are properly conducted”. The process for the election of the EP President is set out in Rules 14 to 16 of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure.
Vote: Tuesday, 18 January
Procedure: Election of the EP President
The new Parliament Bureau: electing Vice-Presidents and Quaestors
The European Parliament is set to elect its 14 Vice-Presidents and five Quaestors on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Following the election and installation of Parliament’s new President, MEPs will elect the 14 Vice-Presidents and five Quaestors who, together with the President, comprise Parliament’s Bureau. These votes will determine the composition of the Bureau for the next two-and-a-half years - i.e. the remainder of the 9th legislative term to 2024.
The Bureau lays down rules for Parliament’s smooth functioning. Among its other duties, it draws up Parliament’s preliminary draft budget and decides on administrative, staff and organisational matters. In addition to their roles in the Bureau, Vice-Presidents can replace the President including in chairing plenary debates and in representing the Parliament at specific ceremonies or acts, when necessary. Quaestors deal with administrative matters directly affecting MEPs themselves, and they are members of the Bureau in an advisory capacity.
In electing the members of the Bureau, political groups aim to ensure that the Vice-Presidents and Quaestors broadly reflect the numerical strength of the groups and take into account the voting results of the President's election.
How are they elected?
Under Rule 15, candidates for the Vice-President positions are nominated on the same basis as for the President - i.e. either by a political group or by a group of MEPs reaching the low threshold (1/20th of MEPs).
The 14 Vice-Presidents are elected by a single ballot, with an absolute majority of votes cast. If the number of successful candidates is lower than 14, a second ballot is held for the remaining seats, under the same conditions. If a third vote is necessary to complete the process, a simple majority is sufficient (Rule 17). Quaestors are elected in the same way (Rule 18).
Debate: Tuesday 18 and Wednesday 19 January
Procedure: Election of EP Bureau
President Macron to present the priorities of France’s EU Presidency
On Wednesday, MEPs will discuss with French President Emmanuel Macron the political strategy and aims of France’s six-month helm of the EU.
President Macron will address plenary at 11.30, followed by interventions by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the leaders of the Parliament’s political groups. The motto of the French Presidency is “Recovery, Strength and a Sense of Belonging”, to underline that, in order to fight the health crisis, the rise of aggressive foreign powers and climate disruption, the best response is a European response.
In terms of EU legislation, France plans to give priority to negotiations on the new Digital Services and Markets Acts, the establishment of an adjustment system for carbon pricing at the EU’s borders, and on common minimum wages rules. The Conference on the Future of Europe is expected to deliver its proposals in the course of the French Presidency semester in the first half of 2022.
Debate: Wednesday, 19 January
Procedure: Council and Commission statements, no resolution
Digital Services Act: regulating platforms to ensure a safer online space
Parliament will vote on its position on the Digital Services Act, which sets out rules to tackle illegal content online and make platforms accountable for their algorithms.
The Digital Services Act (DSA) proposal, to be debated on Wednesday and put to a vote on Thursday, aims to create a safer digital space in which users’ rights are protected, including through rules to tackle illegal products, services or content online, enhance the accountability and transparency of algorithms, and deal with content moderation.
The draft law defines clear responsibilities and accountability for providers of intermediary services, and in particular online platforms, such as social media and marketplaces. It establishes a “notice and action” mechanism, as well as safeguards, for the removal of illegal content.
Very large online platforms (VLOPs) will be subject to specific obligations, as the risks they pose regarding the dissemination of both illegal and harmful content, including disinformation, are greater.
More information in this press release.
The text approved in plenary will become Parliament’s mandate for negotiations with the French presidency of the Council in the first semester of 2022.
Debate: Wednesday 19 January
Vote: Thursday 20 January
Procedure: ordinary legislative procedure
Health Union: a stronger role for the EU’s medicines regulator
On Wednesday, Parliament is expected to endorse the provisional agreement on increasing the powers of the European Medicines Agency.
The deal with the Council, reached at the end of October 2021, aims to ensure that the EU will be better equipped to manage future health crises by tackling shortages of medicines and medical devices more effectively, involving all actors in the supply chain more closely and increasing transparency on clinical trials and marketing authorisations for pharmaceutical products.
Following the final vote in plenary, the text will be published in the EU Official Journal shortly after. The regulation will apply as of 1 March 2022.
As part of building a European Health Union, the Commission proposed on 11 November 2020 a new health security framework fit for future health challenges, based on lessons learnt from combatting COVID-19, which includes a proposal to increase the powers of the European Medicines Agency.
Vote results: Wednesday, 19 January 2022 (or, possibly, Thursday 20 January)
Procedure: ordinary legislative procedure
MEPs want governments to protect animals better during transport
On Thursday, MEPs will debate and vote on how to improve animal welfare during transport, control live animal exports more effectively and limit the transport of young animals.
In December, Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry on the Protection of Animals during Transport (ANIT) wrapped up its work of 18 months, concluding that EU animal welfare rules are not always complied with in member states and do not fully take into account animals’ different transport needs. The most obvious violations include a lack of headroom, water or food supply for transported animals, the shipping of animals unfit for transport and overcrowding. Vehicles that are inappropriate for transporting animals are being used, and transport sometimes take place under extreme temperatures and extended journey times.
To remedy the situation, the draft recommendations call on the EU Commission to update the current EU rules, to establish limits on journey time for all animal species and ages, ban the transport of very young animals below the age of 35 days and bolster controls on live animal export. MEPs also advocate a transition to a more efficient and ethical system, that favours the transport of semen and embryos over breeding stock, and carcasses and meat over animals being moved for slaughter.
The debate and vote will take place on Thursday.
Debate and vote: Thursday 20 January
Procedure: non-legislative resolution
MEPs to debate results of EU December summit with Charles Michel
On Wednesday afternoon, MEPs will discuss with European Council President Charles Michel and the Commission the outcome of the 16 December summit.
The evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and the EU’s response to both the public health and economic crisis, as well as rising energy prices, security and defence issues and external relations were the main topics discussed by heads of state or government during their meeting.
During the plenary debate on 15 December preceding the summit, MEPs stressed that the most effective response to the resurgence of COVID-19 is vaccination. They urged leaders to take a strong stance towards Russia and its threats on Ukraine’s sovereignty. They also pointed to the need for an agreement to reform the EU’s migration policy and discussed ways to tackle increasing energy prices.
Debate: Wednesday, 19 January
Court of Auditors: Parliament to vote on four candidates
MEPs will vote on whether to extend the mandates of Czech, Latvian and Polish members of the European Court of Auditors and whether to endorse the new Slovenian candidate.
After hearing the candidates on 10 January 2022, the Budgetary Control Committee recommended that Parliament extend the mandates of Czech member Jan Gregor and Latvian member Mihails Kozlovs and recommended backing the Slovenian nominee Jorg Kristijan Petrovič.
However, the committee recommended that the mandate of Polish member Marek Opioła should not be extended.
The votes will take place on Wednesday.
The candidates for the European Court of Auditors (one per member state) are put forward by member states and approved by the Council, after consulting Parliament. MEPs can either back a candidate or ask for the nomination to be withdrawn.
Vote: Wednesday, 19 January
Empowering European youth for their post-pandemic recovery
MEPs will debate with the Commission and Council ways to address the devastating effect of the COVID-19 crisis on young Europeans’ employment and education.
In a debate on Thursday, MEPs are set to urge that strong and immediate measures are needed to secure post-pandemic employment, and to support the social and mental health recovery of young people in the EU.
Members will discuss what strategies should be used to help young people, especially the most vulnerable NEETs (not in employment, education or training) to gain quality and fair remuneration for work, traineeship and apprenticeship experience while ensuring they have access to social entitlements through programmes such as the reinforced Youth Guarantee and ALMA (Aim, Learn, Master, Achieve). Young people must play a vital role in shaping employment and social policies in Europe, MEPs are set to stress, in order to avoid a lost generation.
A resolution will be put to the vote during the February part-session.
Debate: Thursday, 20 January
Vote on resolution: February 2022
Procedure: Question for oral answer to Commission and Council (rule 136)
Resolutions on human rights and democracy
Parliament will hold urgent debates on the following human rights, democracy and rule of law topics on Wednesday evening , followed by votes later the same day.
- Violations of fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong;
- Situation in Kazakhstan;
- Political crisis in Sudan.
Debate: Wednesday, 19 January
Vote: Wednesday, 19 January January
Procedure: urgency resolutions