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 Full text 
Briefing item

Looking ahead - the coming months after the European elections

Institutions - 09-07-2009 - 11:07
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What will be on the legislative agenda of Members of the European Parliament in the coming months? Based on the current list of legislative proposals of the Commission, and the regular long-term calendar of European Union decisions, illustrated below are some of the topics the new elected MEPs will be faced with:

1. Economic and Monetary Affairs
Hedge Funds and private equity: Following adoption last term of an update of the legislation that fixes how much capital banks have to set aside to guarantee solvency, this term MEPs will have to consider whether and how to apply capital requirements to all types of financial institutions, including hedge funds and private equity vehicles.
Supervision of financial institutions: debate on whether to move towards a European supervisory body or leave control at national level. Proposals on cross border financial supervision have already been put forward in a report by Jacques de Larosière for the Commission. Legislative proposals expected in the autumn.
Remuneration in the financial services sector: discussions foreseen on remuneration policies, as the Commission has suggested remuneration should not encourage excessive risk taken and should be in line with long term interest of financial institutions. (EC recommendation)
Executive pay will be under scrutiny, in particular regarding disclosure of pay structure, including bonus, and clauses in case of failure, for directors of listed companies. (EC recommendation)
ECB control: the president of the European Central Bank will continue being questioned in public in the Economic and Monetary affairs committee. The president will come to plenary every year to report on monetary activities, the next occasion being in September 2009.
2. Climate change, environment, energy
The revision of the Emission Trading system and the effort sharing decision will be on the agenda, with new assignments of future CO2 targets per country and sector (co-decision), once a worldwide agreement on an international 2012 post-Kyoto climate regime is reached with higher reduction targets than nowadays. EP will also get involved in the negotiations towards such international agreement which should be reached before end 2009.
Industrial emissions: MEPs backed on March 2009 a proposal to strengthen rules on industrial emissions and minimum standards for inspections, and called for EU wide emission limits of pollutants such as nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide.  Political agreement has been reached in Council and a Council Common Position is expected in October.
Energy efficiency of buildings: Parliament will consider, in second-reading, measures to improve the energy efficiency of new and existing buildings. At first-reading, Parliament called for all new buildings constructed from 2019 onwards to produce as much energy as they consume on site.
Information on energy efficiency of consumer products: MEPs will debate, in second-reading, whether the "A-G" energy labelling should be extended to commercial and industrial appliances as well as to energy-saving goods. Parliament will also look at a proposed new label for tyres showing fuel-efficiency, safety and noise performance. 
Electrical waste: The Commission proposed to update the 2002 directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in the light of the experience of the first years of implementation and to update the directive restricting the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS Directive).
Illegal logging: MEPs backed in first-reading a Commission proposal on rules on timber sold in the EU with the aim of combating illegal logging - the main cause of deforestation. No agreement yet in Council, the topic will come back to Parliament this term.
Soil protection: MEPs dealt in first-reading with a proposal on a framework for soil protection. The proposed directive should end the fragmentation of EU soil policy with existing provisions currently divided between various pieces of legislation on waste, pesticides and nature protection. No agreement yet in Council, so the topic might come back to the European Parliament this term.
3. Transport
Passenger rights in bus, coach and maritime transport:  rules on compensation for delays and cancellations and assistance for disabled passengers will be up for second-reading, once Council adopts a position.
Urban mobility action plan: The EP has asked the Commission to come forward with proposals in this area, which has an impact on climate change. The Commission is expected to present recommendation in the autumn,
Eurovignette: following the EP first-reading vote allowing Member States to charge lorries for the environmental impact of road use as well as congestion, a decision of Council is pending, before the issue comes back to Parliament for 2nd reading.
Maritime space without barriers: the European Commission has put forward plans for a European maritime transport area with the aim to reduce the numerous administrative procedures applied to shipping of goods between European ports. A series of regulations and directives will be proposed.
Future of the transport policy: a perspective for 2050. Debates on the long term prospects of a sustainable transport policy are programmed.
Railway legislation: initiatives to improve the working of the international rail transport services, eliminating persisting barriers, will be put forward by the Commission in the autumn (codecision first-reading).  Rules for the management of "freight corridors" between member states will also be on the agenda for second-reading, following the first-reading vote on a regulation last term.
Intelligent Transport Systems: The directive on the application of information and communication technologies to make transport safer and cleaner and to reduce traffic congestion was voted last term in first-reading. Amendments aimed to take better account of cyclists and pedestrians and offer guarantees on data protection. The new Parliament will vote on second-reading.
Financing of air security: The Commission is expected to present proposals on the financing of security measures in planes and airports, following new regulations strengthening security obligations.
4. Consumer protection
Clearer food labelling: Discussions on how to modernise and improve food labelling will continue in this legislature. The Commission has proposed providing clearer information on contents of salt, sugar or fat and mandatory nutrition labelling. Food sold in restaurants and canteens should contain information on all allergic ingredients (as is already the case for pre-packed food). The proposal also includes provisions regarding labelling of the country of origin or place of provenance of food. The EP will vote its first-reading position. 
Consumer protection in contractual law: how much harmonisation? Debates already ongoing, with a lot of controversy as, for some the EC proposals, would lead to lowering consumer protection in some Member States. The EP is to vote its first-reading position.
5. Health
Patient mobility - healthcare without borders: A proposal to facilitate patients' access to healthcare anywhere in the EU will come back this term for second-reading if the Council reaches agreement. The aim is to clarify the conditions under which patients have the right to treatment in other Member States, and how the costs of such treatment should be met. No decision in Council yet. 
Organ transplants: A new directive proposed by the European Commission aims to ensure that human organs used for transplantation in the EU comply with the same quality and safety requirements and that their exchange between Member States will become easier.
Pharmaceuticals package: A major package of measures presented by the Commission to deal with counterfeiting and illegal distribution of medicines, information on prescription medicines and patient protection by strengthening the EU system for the safety monitoring of medicines ("pharmacovigilance").  The EP will vote its first-reading position this term.
6. Employment and social affairs
Maternity leave and balancing family and work: The so-called "family package" changes EU maternity leave legislation. The Commission proposed extending minimum leave from 14 to 18 weeks. A parliamentary committee favoured an extension to 20 weeks, and 2 weeks of compulsory paternity leave. However, no vote took place in the full Parliament, so this term MEPs will have to vote in first-reading. 
Working time: Following lack of agreement to change existing working time legislation, the Commission may consider presenting a new proposal dealing with the definition of on-call, as there are currently incompatibilities with Court of Justice rulings, which have led many countries to opt out of the legislative framework.
Supplementary pension rights: A proposed directive aimed at easing workers' mobility by laying down minimum standards for the acquisition of supplementary pension rights, so they would not be lost when workers move abroad, was supported by Parliament at first-reading in June 2007. Council has not yet agreed on a common position. The topic may be back on the agenda this term in second-reading.
Working time of drivers: This term, MEPs will have to decide whether the Commission should come forward with a new proposal concerning the self-employed drivers, which are not covered by existing European working time legislation. This line was supported by a parliamentary committee, but the Chamber still has to confirm this view.
7. Industry
Intellectual property rights:  The European Parliament will probably deal in second-reading with some important pieces of legislation concerning Intellectual Property Rights. One of the proposals aims for the introduction at EU level of criminal sanctions to enforce copyright, while another deals with the legal protection of industrial design, mainly automobiles' spare parts. The term of protection for recorded music will also be up for second-reading, after MEPs called for an extension of royalties from the current 50 years term up to 70. MEPs also asked for a revision of protection of audiovisual works. Neither of these proposals has been adopted yet in Council.
Telecommunications: The "telecoms package" will be subject to conciliation proceedings between Parliament and Council, after Parliament insisted on a prior court ruling for blocking any internet access. Investments in new communications infrastructure, the reform of radio spectrum use, the application of regulatory measures, consumer rights and privacy protection are some of the aspects of the package.
Animal testing: a proposal limiting the use of animals in scientific experiments was voted in first-reading in Parliament. Amendments in first-reading (May 2009) enhance animal welfare, but there is some flexibility so as not to hinder research in Europe into fighting diseases. It will be up to the newly-elected Parliament to vote in second-reading (codecision).
8. Immigration and asylum
New asylum norms: New proposals to regulate the right of asylum aim to address deficiencies in the current system and ensure a dignified standard of living for asylum-seekers throughout the EU. Conditions for detention, access to the labour market and the situation of children are some of the key issues. The issue will come back for 2nd reading. The EC will also propose to amend the directive on procedures for granting and withdrawing refugee status. 
Statute of seasonal workers: a proposal aims to establish common entry and residence conditions for seasonal workers from non-EU countries, thus ensuring them legal status and reinforced protection against exploitation.
Encourage brain circulation: a proposal will be tabled on admission of third country nationals for the purposes of studies, pupil exchange, training or voluntary service.
9. Civil liberties
Sanctions for sexual aggressions to minors: the European Commission proposes more harmonisation, including penalties to sexual offenders acting outside the European Union. Commission proposal: March 2009
Assistance to crime victims: a proposal aims to ensure that victims of crime receive the necessary assistance in all Member States of the EU.
Data protection against criminal attacks: a proposal will be published aiming to protect the EU against attacks against information systems, taking into account new criminal phenomena and technological developments.
Access to documents: the European Parliament will deal with a revision of the existing framework on access to documents of EU institutions.
Internet access: in the context of the telecommunications framework reform, Parliament blocked an agreement with Council by insisting that internet access was a fundamental right and any cut in access must only take place after a prior court ruling. The issue will most likely be discussed in conciliation, before a final vote in Parliament.
10. Fisheries and agriculture
Fisheries policy: some elements of the fisheries policy, to take into account evolution of stocks and fleets, need to be revised by 2012. The Commission has already launched consultations on this next phase (Green Paper of April 2009) and a vote in Parliament is expected for 2011.
Agriculture policy: preparations and decisions for the next CAP reform foreseen for 2013, will start soon in this term.
11. Financial decisions: how much money for the EU actions and programmes?
New financial framework for the EU after 2013: Parliament will get involved and decide together with Member States the future budgetary framework, fixing limits of EU expenditure for the 7 year period after 2013 and allocating money for different priorities. Decisions on the UK rebate will be on the agenda. How much money to agriculture, structural funding and diverse EU programmes, such as research, need to be decided.
Adoption each year of the EU budget and approval of EU institutions accounts.
Use of EU budget to counterbalance economic problems (funds to help people back to work, funds to areas in economic distress....)
12. External relations and enlargement
The expired Partnership and Co-operation Agreement with Russia will have to be replaced. Parliament will have to give its formal approval ("assent") before the agreement can enter into force.
"Economic Partnership Agreements" (EPAs): MEPs will also give their "assent" to the new trade deals with 76 Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
On Israel's participation in Community programmes, the EP Foreign Affairs Committee has delayed its assent for increased participation by Israel as part of the European Neighbourhood Policy.
Croatia, Turkey, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are official candidates. Debates about whether they are ready to join, and possible dates for joining, will be on Parliament's agenda in the coming years. Any further enlargement needs the approval of the European Parliament.
The next big date in the EU enlargement diary will be October 2009, when the European Commission publishes its annual "progress" report on Croatia, Turkey, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and Kosovo.
Albania officially submitted its application for EU candidate status on 28 April 2009.
13. Institutional affairs
Approval of the new European Commission:  Parliament must vote on the approval on the Commission President-designate.  According to the Nice Treaty, a simple majority in the European Parliament is needed, under the Lisbon Treaty; an absolute majority of MEPs is required to approve the Commission President-designate, (i.e. 369 votes). Parliament will also vote to approve the College of Commissioners (by simple majority under both Treaties)
Dates of votes on the full Commission depend of the results of the Irish referendum and the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in all Member States, as procedures and number of Commissioners changes.  The mandate of current Commission expires in principle at the end of October 2009.
Nomination of members of different bodies and institutions (consultation): for instance, new Members of the board of the ECB.  Parliament will elect the new European Ombudsman.
Opinions on new members of euro zone. Parliament must give its opinion before any enlargement of the zone. Though the vote is not binding, it has political significance.