Plenary highlights: Covid-19 certificate, EU-UK, investment  


MEPs agreed their position on a Covid-19 travel certificate and approved the EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement as well as major investment programmes.

On Thursday, Parliament set out its position on a certificate for easier safe traveling during the pandemic, which would show whether a person has been vaccinated, had a recent negative test result or recovered from Covid. MEPs want no additional restrictions such as quarantine or testing for travellers holding the EU Covid-19 certificate. They also called for access to “universal, accessible, timely and free of charge testing”. The aim is to reach an agreement in time for the summer.

Parliament approved the EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement by a large majority, setting the rules for the future partnership. During the debate on Tuesday, MEPs argued the deal was the best option to minimise the worst effects of the UK having withdrawn from the EU. They also stressed that Parliament must play an important role in monitoring how the agreement is applied.

MEPs also approved major programmes within the EU's long-term budget: Horizon Europe (€95 billion), which funds science, research and innovation; the LIFE programme (€5.4 billion), supporting climate action, biodiversity and clean energy; and the space programme (€14.8 billion) including satellite services such as Galileo and Copernicus.

MEPs approved updated rail passenger rights on Thursday, which increase support in case of delays and assistance for people living with disabilities.

On Wednesday, Parliament approved new rules forcing internet companies such as Facebook or YouTube to remove content promoting terrorism within an hour of being notified. This refers to pictures, audio or videos inciting people to commit terrorist acts, but not journalistic or educational content, nor polemic or controversial views on sensitive issues.

On Thursday, MEPs deplored the military build-up of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border, the attack in the Czech Republic and the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. If Russia invades Ukraine, the EU must make clear the consequences would be severe, including an immediate halt to EU imports of oil and gas from this country, they said. In a separate debate, they called for increased political engagement to improve EU-India relations. Their recommendations come ahead of an EU-India summit on 8 May.

MEPs also endorsed Digital Europe, the first EU financial instrument for digital infrastructure and technologies, which will invest €7.6 billion in five areas: supercomputing, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, advanced digital skills, and ensuring a wide use of digital technologies across the economy and society.

On Tuesday, MEPs adopted proposals to   strengthen  the European Civil Protection Mechanism so that the EU can respond faster and more effectively to large-scale emergencies such as pandemics or earthquakes. The mechanism has a budget of €3.3 billion budget for 2021-2027, about five times as much as in the previous seven years. On the same day, the Parliament renewed the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund to allow more Europeans to access financial support if they lose their jobs due to globalisation or other societal challenges.

MEPs also approved 2021-2027 funding for the European Defence Fund and the Single Market programme.

Also on Tuesday, Parliament voted in favour of cleaner maritime transport as part of efforts towards a climate-neutral Europe. Besides a 40% emissions cut by 2030 and the integration of the shipping industry in the EU's emissions trading system, MEPs advocate alternative fuels as substitutes for heavy oils and other greening measures for European ports and ships.

Lobbyists will have to sign up to the EU Transparency Register and disclose information in order to lobby the Parliament, Council and the Commission. A new agreement between the three institutions got MEPs’ approval on Tuesday.

Parliament also adopted a resolution calling for a global minimum corporate tax rate. MEPs stressed that current international tax rules are outdated. If an agreement on new tax rules at OECD level better reflecting changes that economies have undergone due to globalisation and digitalisation fails, the EU should go it alone, they said.