The Covid-19 pandemic has forced Parliament to limit physical meetings and function remotely, but MEPs continue to approve urgent measures and work on long-term priorities.
Parliament has continued its core functions — passing laws, approving the EU budget and overseeing the European Commission — in times of Covid-19. Both at committee level and during plenary sessions, MEPs are debating and approving measures needed for the EU to respond to Covid-19 and deliver on long-term priorities such as the Green Deal, digital services, EU farm policy, the long-term budget and Brexit.
Democracy cannot be suspended
Just like tens of millions of other Europeans, MEPs and Parliament staff have been working from home due to the lockdowns and social distancing that have been put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus. “Democracy cannot be suspended in the midst of such a dramatic crisis. As legislators, we have the means, the possibility and the duty to help,” said President David Sassoli in March as he opened the first ever sitting of Parliament to use remote voting.
Voting previously required a physical presence in Parliament’s chamber. According to the rules, the right to vote is a personal one and MEPs cast their votes individually and in person.
Parliament has developed a remote system that is both safe, with built-in verification mechanisms, and efficient. At the plenary session in late March, there was one debate, three voting sessions and 11 votes. In contrast, the plenary sitting of 19-23 October featured 18 debates, 13 voting sessions and more than 1,500 votes. MEPs are now able to participate in plenary debates from Parliament’s liaison offices across the Union.
While the serious health situation means that plenary sessions continue to take place remotely, President Sassoli has stated that Parliament will return to its Strasbourg seat as soon as conditions allow.
Work in committees has also adapted, with meetings taking place via videoconference or in hybrid format. Interpretation and voting in committees continue.