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05-02-2021

EP Plenary Newsletter 8-11 February 2021

EP Brussels Plenary Chamber 2021
EP Brussels Plenary Chamber 2021

The European Parliament will once again meet virtually for its February 2021 Plenary session, owing to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 
The Plenary Session will see MEPs discussing topics such as the circular economy, the EU's COVID-19 vaccination programme, media and freedom of speech. You will find further information relating to this Plenary Session's votes and debates below. 

 

COVID-19: MEPs to debate the state of play of the EU’s vaccination strategy

MEPs are expected to reiterate their support for a united EU approach to COVID-19 vaccines in a debate with Commission President von der Leyen, on Wednesday at 9.00.

At the same time, they are likely to raise concerns regarding delays in vaccine deliveries, contracts and data transparency, as well as the recently launched system to authorise exports of COVID-19 vaccines.

During the last plenary debate in January, MEPs expressed broad support for the common EU approach to fighting the pandemic and called for complete transparency regarding contracts and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines.

Background

On 12 January 2021, MEPs quizzed the Commission on the latest developments regarding COVID-19 vaccines. A debate in plenary followed on 19 January focusing on the global EU strategy for COVID-19, while the Commission published an updated action plan to step up the fight against the pandemic on the same day

For more information:

Debate: 10 February 2021

Procedure: Council and Commission statements

Irish MEPs following this topic are:

Sean Kelly MEP (Ireland South Constituency)

Chris MacManus MEP (Midlands-North-West Constituency)

Vaccines delivery and contracts transparency: statement by Pascal Canfin (RE, FR), ENVI Chair (27.01.2021)
EP press release (Plenary): COVID-19 vaccines: EU must respond with unity and solidarity (19.01.2021)
EP press release (ENVI): “COVID-19 vaccines: MEPs call for more clarity and transparency” (12.01.2021)
Free photos, video and audio material related to EU vaccines strategy
 

MEPs set to approve Recovery and Resilience Facility to curb effects of pandemic

On Tuesday, Parliament will discuss and vote on the Recovery and Resilience Facility, designed to help EU countries tackle the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With €672.5 billion in grants and loans available to finance national measures that mitigate the economic and social consequences of the pandemic, the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) is the biggest building block of the Next Generation EU recovery package. The text was provisionally agreed between Parliament and Council in December 2020.

To be eligible for financing, national recovery and resilience plans must focus on key EU policy areas - the green transition including biodiversity, digital transformation, economic cohesion and competitiveness, and social and territorial cohesion. Those that focus on institutional reaction to crisis and crisis preparedness, as well as policies for children and youth, including education and skills, are also eligible for financing.

Projects related to the economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 crisis that began on or after 1 February 2020 can be financed by the RRF.

For more information: 

Debate: Tuesday, 9 February 

Vote:  Tuesday, 9 February, results Wednesday 10 February

Procedure:  ordinary legislative procedure, first reading agreement

Irish MEPs following this topic are:

Frances Fitzgerald MEP (Dublin Constituency)

Chris MacManus MEP (Midlands-North-West Constituency)

Report on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a Recovery and Resilience Facility
Procedure file
Profile of the rapporteur: Siegfried MUREŞAN (EPP, RO)
Profile of the rapporteur: Eider GARDIAZABAL RUBIAL (S&D, ES),
Profile of the rapporteur: Dragoș PÎSLARU (Renew, RO)
Future financing of the Union: MFF, Own Resources and Next Generation EU
Next Generation EU table (page 5)
 

Balancing the democratic scrutiny of social media with fundamental rights

On Wednesday, MEPs will discuss the link between new media, politics and freedom of speech, following recent developments on both sides of the Atlantic.

In a debate with Council and Commission, MEPs are due to consider how to avoid the pitfalls created by the digitalisation of politics, namely the need to defend democracy from disinformation and efforts to subvert it or incite violence, without compromising freedom of speech or technological innovation in political discourse. In the aftermath of incidents in the USA, including the Capitol Hill riot and the permanent suspension of President Trump’s social media accounts, MEPs are expected to comment on the deterioration of fundamental rights, the state of media freedom in the EU, and the online disinformation campaigns by foreign and domestic actors.

Background

This debate will take place in the context of ongoing legislative and policy processes such as those included in the Democracy Action Plan, the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act. During the 2019 European Elections, an EU action plan and the European Commission’s code of practice for platforms helped guard against disinformation.

For more information: 

Debate: Wednesday, 10 February

Procedure: Council and Commission statements followed by debate

Irish MEPs following this topic are: 

Frances Fitzgerald MEP (Dublin Constituency)

Sean Kelly MEP (Ireland South Constituency)

Procedure file
EP Research Service - Trump's disinformation 'magaphone': Consequences, first lessons and outlook (2.2.2021)
EP Research Service - The impact of coronavirus on media freedom (8.5.2020)
Free photos, video and audio material
 

MEPs to debate the crackdown on the political opposition in Russia

EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell will discuss the political turmoil in Russia, including Alexei Navalny’s case and country-wide protests, with MEPs on Tuesday.

In recent weeks, thousands of Russians have taken part in protests to demand the release of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, as well as to criticise corruption and decreasing living standards, only to be met by mass arrests and a sweeping crackdown by the police.

Mr Navalny was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison by a Moscow court on Tuesday, 2 February. He is accused of violating the conditions of a suspended sentence for embezzlement charges, which the opposition leader has said are politically motivated.

The European Court of Human Rights has also concluded that these charges are arbitrary.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell is set to visit Russia on 4-6 February for meetings with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian interlocutors.

Following Mr Navalny’s arrest upon his recent return from Germany, where he had been recovering from an assassination attempt, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for his immediate release and significantly tighter EU sanctions against Russia.

For more information: 

Debate: Tuesday, 9 February 

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

European Parliament resolution of 21 January 2021 on the arrest of Alexei Navalny
European Parliament resolution of 17 September 2020 on the situation in Russia: the poisoning of Alexei Navalny
Video clip: Alexei Navalny arrest in Moscow: statements by David McAllister (EPP, DE), AFET Chair, and Andrius Kubilius (EPP, LT), rapporteur
Free photos, video and audio material
 

MEPs discuss the European Central Bank’s policy with Christine Lagarde

Mitigating the pandemic’s impact on the economy will dominate Monday’s debate as MEPs assess what the ECB can do within its mandate, including exploring novel tools.

Following the debate with ECB Chief Christine Lagarde, MEPs will vote on Tuesday on a resolution outlining their priorities on the ECB’s role in boosting the Eurozone economy. The results of the vote will be announced on Wednesday morning.

Background

The Annual Report on the activities of the ECB is the most notable opportunity that MEPs have to express their views on the ECB’s policies.

For more information:

Debate: Monday, 8 February 

Vote:  Tuesday, 9 February, result Wednesday 10 February

Procedure:  Own initiative resolution

Irish MEPs following this topic are:

Sean Kelly MEP (Ireland South Constituency)

Chris MacManus MEP (Midlands-North-West Constituency)

Draft report on the ECB Annual report 2020
Procedure file
Profile of the rapporteur: Sven Simon (EPP, DE)
Free photos, video and audio material
 

Human trafficking: stronger measures to protect women, children and migrants

MEPs call on the EU to do more to tackle human trafficking and push for the demand and use of victims’ sexual services to be criminalised.

The draft report, prepared jointly by the Civil Liberties and Gender Equality committees, will be debated on Monday and put to the vote on Tuesday, with results announced on Wednesday morning. It highlights the need to better protect women and children, as well as asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants.

In their assessment of the 2011 EU Anti-trafficking Directive, MEPs focus on sexual exploitation and demand that the Commission amends the directive so that member states explicitly criminalise the “knowing use of services” provided by victims of trafficking.

The draft text warns that since the outbreak of COVID-19, the situation for victims of  trafficking has greatly deteriorated. It also considers the role of the internet, social media and new technologies both in facilitating trafficking but also in helping to prevent it.

For more information: 

Debate: Monday, 8 February

Vote: Tuesday 9 February, result Wednesday 10 February

Procedure: own-initiative report

Irish MEPs following this topic are: 

Frances Fitzgerald MEP (Dublin Constituency)

Procedure File
Trafficking in human beings: protect women and children and focus on sexual exploitation, say MEPs (Press release, 27.01.2021)
EPRS Study on the Implementation of Directive 2011/36/EU: Migration and gender issues (September 2020)
Study on the economic, social and human costs of Trafficking in Human Beings in the EU (European Commission, October 2020)
Profile of rapporteur Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES)
Profile of rapporteur Maria Soraya Rodriguez Ramos (Renew, ES).
EP Multimedia Centre: free photos, video and audio material
 

Circular economy: MEPs to call for tighter EU consumption and recycling rules

Parliament will debate and vote on the principles and policy needed to achieve a carbon-neutral, sustainable, toxic-free and fully circular economy by 2050.

The debate will take place on Monday, and the vote on the report, adopted by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety on 27 January, is scheduled for Tuesday, with results announced on Wednesday morning. .

MEPs emphasise that the current linear “take-make-dispose” economy must be transformed into a truly circular economy. They call for binding 2030 targets to reduce the footprint created by the use and consumption of materials, covering the whole lifecycle of each product category placed on the EU market. They also call on the Commission to propose product-specific and/or sector-specific binding targets for recycled content. Other key proposals are detailed here.

Context

In March 2020, the Commission adopted a new “Circular Economy Action Plan for a Cleaner and More Competitive Europe”. A debate in the Environment Committee took place in October. 

Up to 80% of the environmental impact of products is determined when they are being designed. The global consumption of materials is expected to double in the next forty years, while the amount of waste generated every year is projected to increase by 70% by 2050. Half of total greenhouse gas emissions, and more than 90% of biodiversity loss and water stress, come from extracting and processing resources.

For more information: 

Debate: Monday, 8 February 2021 

Vote: Tuesday 9 February, result Wednesday 10 February

Procedure: own initiative report

Irish MEPs following this topic are:

Sean Kelly MEP (Ireland South)

ENVI report on the New Circular Economy Action Plan
Press release following the committee vote (27.01.2021)
Video statement by rapporteur Jan Huitema (Renew Europe, NL) (27.01.2021)
Procedure file
Free photos, video and audio material related to circular economy
 

A minimum wage would help reduce inequality, MEPs are set to announce

MEPs will debate and vote on measures to combat inequality and tackle the growing problem of in-work poverty.

The draft text states that the principle of ‘work as the best remedy of poverty’ does not always apply to low-wage sectors or those with precarious and atypical jobs. An EU directive on minimum wages, guaranteeing statutory minimum wages above the poverty threshold, could help reduce the growing inequality both within and between member states.

MEPs stress the importance of protecting workers in the new digital economy who often do not have the same labour and social rights as other workers. They therefore call on the Commission to propose legislation to ensure that these so-called ‘platform workers’ are given social protection and can organise themselves in labour unions. MEPs also stress the need to enforce the EU’s legislative framework on minimum working conditions for all workers, especially for atypical workers and those working in precarious conditions.

The debate will take place on Monday with the result of the vote to be announced on Wednesday morning.

For more information: 

Debate:  Monday 8 February

Vote:  Tuesday 9 February, result Wednesday 10 February

Procedure:  Own initiative report

Draft report on reducing inequalities with a special focus on in-work poverty
Press release on committee vote (15.01.2021):
Profile of rapporteur Ӧzlem Demirel (GUE/NGL, DE):
Procedure
Eurostat Quality of Life indicators - material living indicators:
Eurofound page on Working poor:
Free photos, video and audio material
 

Skills to fit the digital age and boost the COVID-19 recovery

The COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated the digital skills gap and the need to increase digital education, MEPs are set to stress in a debate on Monday. 

MEPs will quiz the European Commission on Monday on the European Skills Agenda, and on how it intends to help member states to use the EU’s main policy and financial instruments to meet their goals in this field. The skills agenda consists of twelve actions that need to be implemented over the coming five years in fields such as lifelong learning and vocational training.

The COVID-19 crisis has aggravated pre-existing education inequalities and the number of students dropping out of education has increased. MEPs will emphasise the need to bring them back into the system, and to deliver high-quality digital education for vulnerable groups and people in remote areas. They will also ask the Commission how it envisages encouraging companies to finance and provide training to workers and apprentices.

The vote will take place on Wednesday, with results announced on Thursday morning.

For more information:

Debate:  Monday 8 February

Vote:  Wednesday 10 February, result Thursday 11 February

Procedure: Oral question to the European Commission, with resolution

Irish MEPs following this topic are: 

Sean Kelly MEP (Ireland South Constituency)

Procedure file:
European Skills Agenda
EP briefing: Skills and jobs for future labour markets:
Free photos, video and audio material
 

MEPs to extend COVID-19 relief measures in transport sector

To support the transport sector, Parliament is set to extend some exemptions for air slot distribution and certificate expiry dates, including for driving licences.

 To stop airlines from operating empty flights during the pandemic (ghost flights), Parliament temporarily suspended the 'use it or lose it' rule in March 2020. That prevented airlines from using their planned take-off and landing slots only to keep them in the next season. This exemption ends on 27 March 2021.

MEPs will now vote on a plan on how to return to a normal application of the ‘use it or lose it’ rule. They secured an informal agreement with EU governments allowing airlines to use at least 50% of their planned take-off and landing slots for the 2021 summer and winter seasons (instead of the 80% required before the pandemic) so that they can keep them in the following seasons.

Parliament will also vote on a proposal to prolong, once again, the validity of certain certificates and licences as well as to postpone certain periodic checks and training that are normally required in the transport sector.

For more information:

Vote: Wednesday 10 February, result Thursday, 11 February

Procedure: ordinary legislative procedure, 1st reading

 

Procedure file on air slots
Procedure file on validity of certificates
 

MEPs to discuss the latest developments in Yemen and Myanmar

The humanitarian situation in Yemen, and the military coup in Myanmar will be up for a debate on Tuesday. Resolutions will be put to the vote on Thursday 

On Tuesday afternoon, MEPs will discuss the deteriorating situation in Yemen where the conflict, which started six years ago, is evolving into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with an imminent risk of widespread famine. They will also examine potential prospects of and obstacles to a Yemeni-led inclusive political settlement of the conflict.

Parliament will also debate the latest developments in Myanmar, after Sunday’s military coup. In a joint statement, leading MEPs called for democracy in the country to be restored and demanded the unconditional release of all those arrested.

Resolutions will be put to the vote on Thursday.

For more information:

Debate: Tuesday, 9 February

Result of the final vote: Thursday, 10 February

Procedure: Statement by the HR/VP

EP Press release: Coup in Myanmar: Leading MEPs call for democracy to be unconditionally restored, 01.02.2021
European Commission: Yemen: Statement by the Spokesperson on US designation of Ansar Allah as Terrorist Organisation, 12.01.2021
Free photos, video and audio material
 

COVID-19 recovery: Protecting investors while cutting red tape for firms

Parliament will discuss and vote on provisions that help EU companies to access a diverse range of funding and support the post-COVID-19 recovery.

MEPs will hold final votes on targeted adjustments to the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MIFID II) and Prospectus Regulation, which should facilitate economic recovery by removing red tape for companies while at the same time protecting investors. Both sets of rules belong to the Capital Markets Recovery Package, which is part of the EU’s overall COVID-19 recovery strategy.

The agreement reached with Council on the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MIFID II) in December removes unnecessary administrative burdens while striking a balance between protecting investors and keeping compliance costs low for firms. The changes apply mostly to professional clients and eligible counterparties such as insurers, pension funds, or public institutions.

The deal reached with Council on the Prospectus Regulation creates a temporary, short-form “EU recovery prospectus” (until 31 December 2022). This simplified document presents information about a company and the securities that it offers to the public. It should help companies to raise the capital they need to rebuild their business quickly in the wake of the pandemic.

The debates will take place on Wednesday, and the result of the votes will be announced on Thursday.

For more information:

Debate: Wednesday, 10 February 

Vote: Wednesday 10 February, result Thursday, 11 February

Procedure: ordinary legislative procedure, first reading agreement

Irish MEPs following this topic are: 

Frances Fitzgerald MEP (Dublin Constituency)

Procedure file: MIFID II
Procedure file: Prospectus
Profile of the rapporteur, MIFID II: Markus FERBER (EPP, DE)
Profile of the rapporteur, Prospectus: Ondřej KOVAŘÍK (Renew, CZ)
 

Women’s rights: Still a long way to go to achieve gender equality

As the pandemic exacerbates gender inequalities, MEPs will evaluate the progress made in women’s rights over the past 25 years and the challenges ahead.

More than twenty-five years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted, MEPs will assess the progress that has been made and, above all, what remains to be done to further women’s rights and gender equality.

They are likely to point out that women in Europe and around the world still face violence, economic inequality, a lack of representation in decision-making bodies and attacks on their fundamental rights – notably in some EU countries. They are also likely to highlight that the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating gender inequalities and to call on the EU to take concrete and urgent measures.

The debate will be held on Wednesday afternoon and will conclude with a resolution to be put to the vote on Thursday.

Background

The Beijing Declaration was adopted by the UN at the end of the 4th World Conference on Women on 15 September 1995 to promulgate a set of principles on the equality of men and women. The Platform for Action called for strategic actions in a variety of areas (economy, education, health, violence, decision-making, etc.).

For more information: 

Debate: Wednesday, 10 February

Vote and result: Thursday, 11 February

Procedure: Council and Commission statements, with resolution

Irish MEPs following this topic are:

Frances Fitzgerald MEP (Dublin Constituency)

Procedure file
EP Research Service - Topical digest: Gender equality: a review in progress (October 2020)
EP Research Service - Achieving gender equality in the face of the pandemic and existing challenges (January 2021)
EP Study - The gendered impact of the COVID-19 crisis and post-crisis period (September 2020)
EIGE - COVID-19 and gender equality
Free photos, video and audio material - Gender balance
 

MEPs: step up fight against corruption and dismantle oligarchies in Ukraine

Parliament will assess the state of play of the EU Association Agreement with Ukraine, in a debate on Wednesday and a vote on Thursday. 

In the draft report tabled for plenary, MEPs in the Foreign Affairs Committee praise Ukraine for advancing in implementing its commitments under the Association Agreement with the European Union, particularly in the fields of agriculture, energy, banking, decentralisation, digital economy, environment and electoral procedures.

Further reforms are needed in order to avoid any backsliding, they say, singling out the judiciary as one of the least-trusted institutions in Ukraine. MEPs also criticise the Ukrainian authorities for attempting to exert political pressure on independent economic institutions and enforcement authorities, and express their disappointment that the country has not progressed in dismantling oligarchies.

The full report will be debated on Wednesday and the final vote results will be announced on Thursday. 

For more information: 

Debate: Wednesday, 10 February

Vote:  Wednesday 10 February, result, Thursday, 11 February

Procedure: non-legislative resolution

Committee on Foreign Affairs
Procedure file
Profile of rapporteur Michael Gahler (EPP, DE)
EPRS: Association agreement between the EU and Ukraine, 07.07.2020
EP Multimedia Centre: free photos, video and audio material
 

MEPs to request that the launch of Belarus nuclear plant be suspended

In a debate and vote on Thursday, MEPs are set to voice serious concerns over the safety of the Ostrovets nuclear plant in Belarus.

The draft resolution highlights many concerns about the Ostrovets nuclear plant being hastily commissioned, and the persistent lack of transparency and official information regarding the frequent emergency shutdowns of the reactor and equipment failure.

Despite outstanding safety concerns, the plant started to generate electricity on 3 November 2020 without fully implementing recommendations made in the 2018 EU peer review and by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), MEPs say.

Background

The Ostrovets nuclear plant, built by Russian group Rosatom, is located 50 km from Vilnius (Lithuania) and at close proximity to other EU countries such as Poland, Latvia and Estonia.

Electricity stopped being traded between Belarus and the EU on 3 November when the Ostrovets plant was connected to the electricity grid. This followed the August 2020 joint decision of the Baltic States to cease commercial exchanges of electricity with Belarus once the Ostrovets plant started operating.

For more information:

Debate:  Thursday 11 February

Vote:  Thursday 11 February

Procedure:  Oral question to the Commission

Draft resolution on the safety of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets (Belarus)
Oral question to the Commission on European Parliament resolution on the safety of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets (Belarus)
Procedure file
EP Research: Safety of nuclear installations in Belarus
Free photos, video and audio material
 

Damage to youth and sports caused by COVID-19 must be prevented

MEPs are set to call on the Commission and Council presidency to address the negative effects of the pandemic on youth and sports.

Given the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on young people and the sports sector, MEPs are likely to warn that EU jobs, equality and public health — both physical and mental — are at a risk of suffering from long-term consequences.

In a debate on Monday, MEPs are likely to call for additional support to help young people find or retain jobs and retrain as well as concrete measures to prevent the collapse of the sports sector. A resolution will be put to the vote on Tuesday, with results announced on Wednesday morning.         

For more information:

Debate: Monday 8 February

Vote: Tuesday 9 February, result Wednesday 10 February

Procedure: Oral question with a resolution

Press release on committee vote (27.01.2021)
Profile of rapporteur Sabine Verheyen (EPP,DE)
Oral question on the impact of COVID-19 on young people and on sport
Free photos, video and audio material
 

Parliament to discuss the de facto ban on abortion in Poland

In a debate on Tuesday morning, MEPs are likely to condemn the rollback on abortion rights in Poland following the entry into force of the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling.

MEPs are set to condemn the highly restrictive law, which effectively bans abortion in Poland, as an attack on fundamental rights, the rule of law and core EU values. A woman’s right to make decisions about her own pregnancy without being prosecuted should not be deemed unconstitutional in any EU country, MEPs are likely to add. They are also expected to express their support and solidarity with protesters who took to the streets to denounce these restrictions, and to condemn the disproportionate use of force against the peaceful demonstrators.

Background

In October 2020, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal outlawed abortion in cases of serious malformation of the foetus, deeming it "incompatible" with the Constitution. This ruling passed into law on 27 January, prohibiting all abortions in Poland except in cases of rape and incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger.

For more information:

Debate: Tuesday, 9 February

Procedure: Council and Commission statements, without resolution

Press Statement - ‘‘The abortion ban in Poland is an attack on women’s and fundamental rights’’ (28.01.2021)
Press Release - Polish de facto ban on abortion puts women’s lives at risk, says Parliament (26.11.2020)
Press Statement - ‘‘We are deeply concerned by the attacks on women’s rights in Poland’’, Gender Equality MEPs say (24.11.2020)
Press Statement - Poland: leading MEPs against the de facto ban on abortion (22.10.2020)
Free photos, video and audio material
 

Debates on the situation in Rwanda, Kazakhstan, Uganda and Ethiopia

On Thursday morning, Parliament will hold urgent debates on the following topics regarding human rights, democracy and rule of law; votes will follow later in the day.

  • Rwanda, the case of Paul Rusesabagina
  • The human rights situation in Kazakhstan
  • The political situation in Uganda

In addition to these urgency resolutions, MEPs will debate with the European Commission the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia, on Thursday afternoon.

For more information:

Debates: Thursday, 11 February 

Votes: Thursday, 11 February 

Procedure: Statement by the Commission (Ethiopia), non-legislative resolutions (Rwanda, Kazakhstan, Uganda)

EP Multimedia Centre: free photos, video and audio material