Parliament to debate future of Europe with Jean- Claude Juncker
The White Paper on the future of Europe will be added as the first point on the official agenda at the opening of the sitting. Following a presentation by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, MEPs will debate the proposals.
Parliament set out its vision for the future of Europe in three resolutions voted in plenary session on 16 February 2017. MEPs suggested, inter alia:
- turning the Council of Ministers into a genuine second legislative chamber, and its configurations into preparatory bodies similar to Parliament’s committees,
- appointing an EU finance minister and giving the EU Commission the power to formulate and give effect to a common EU economic policy, backed up by a euro-area budget, and
- creating a fiscal capacity consisting of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and specific additional budgetary capacity for the euro area, funded by its members as a part of the EU
Procedure: Statement by the Commission followed by a debate Debate: Wednesday, 1 March
Press conference by EP President Antonio Tajani and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to follow the debate, at around 16.30.
MEPs to outline priorities for upcoming European Council
MEPs will start the plenary part-session on Wednesday by debating items on the 9- 10 March European Council agenda with representatives of the Council Presidency and the Commission. MEPs will lay out their priorities for key issues such as the economy, jobs, migration, defence and the future of Europe.
Procedure: Council and Commission statements followed by debate 2015/3019(RSP)
Debate: Wednesday, 1 March
EU citizens in the UK: MEPs to quiz Commission on breaches of free movement rule
MEPs are worried that the free movement rights of EU citizens residing in the UK are being breached. In a plenary debate on Wednesday, they will ask the Commission about recent numbers on residence applications, residence refusals and expulsions of EU nationals from the UK.
The freedom of movement, a cornerstone of EU citizenship, is regulated by a 2004 Directive but is not fully enforced in several member states, including the UK.
MEPs point to the growing number of reports that the Home Office is using a restrictive interpretation of the requirements that EU citizens should possess sufficient resources and health insurance cover in order to restrict their rights.
According to the Office of National Statistics, at the end of 2015, there were 3.1 million EU citizens living in the UK.
Procedure: Oral question to the Commission followed by debate B8-0214/2017
Debate: Wednesday, 1 March
Parliament to press the Commission to demand full visa reciprocity with the USA
The EU Commission is legally obliged to take measures temporarily reintroducing visa requirements for US citizens, given that Washington still does not grant visa- free access to nationals of five EU countries. In a draft resolution to be voted on Thursday, MEPs urge the Commission to adopt the necessary legal measures “within two months”.
Citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania still cannot enter US territory without a visa, while US citizens can travel to all EU countries visa free.
Under the visa reciprocity mechanism, if a third country does not lift its visa requirements within 24 months of being notified of non-reciprocity, the EU Commission must adopt a delegated act - to which both Parliament and the Council may object - suspending the visa waiver for its nationals for 12 months.
Following a notification of non-reciprocity on 12 April 2014, the Commission should have acted before 12 April 2016. Despite repeated calls from MEPs, it has yet to take any legal measure. Canada also imposes visa requirements on Bulgarian and Romanian citizens, but it has announced that they will be lifted on 1 December 2017.
MEPs held a plenary debate on the matter on 14 December 2016.
Parliament to propose ways to make medicines more affordable
New medicine prices in the EU have risen over the past few decades to the point of being unaffordable for many EU citizens and threatening the sustainability of national health care systems, note MEPs in a draft resolution to be voted on Thursday. To strike a better balance between EU countries’ public health interests and those of the pharmaceutical industry, it calls for measures to improve the traceability of R&D costs, public funding and marketing expenditure.
It also calls on the Council and the Commission to strengthen the negotiating capacities of member states and step up EU-wide cooperation and pooling in order to ensure affordable access to medicines across the EU.
Note to editors
According to the World Health Organisation, access to essential medicines is part of the right to health. However, MEPs note that recent findings show striking differences between EU countries in the sales and availability of innovative medicines. This may be the result of several factors, including pricing and reimbursement systems, logistical supply and storage problems, low drug quality, inadequate production and inappropriate use, as well as – often overly rigid - patenting rules, they say.
MEPs also stress that the gap between growing resistance to antimicrobial agents and the development of new drugs is widening. New drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths annually worldwide up to 2050, they say.
Procedure: Non-legislative resolution 2016/2057(INI)
Debate: Wednesday, 1 March Vote: Thursday, 2 March
Press conference: Thursday, 2 March at 13.30
MEPs to call for digital tools to boost democracy
New information and communication technologies (ICTs) have great potential to help more people get involved in democratic processes, say MEPs in a draft resolution on e-democracy to be voted on Thursday.
The draft resolution stresses that ICTs improve the quality and legitimacy of democracies, and highlights the importance of e-participation (e-consultations, e-initiatives, e-petitions) and online voting as systems able to widen citizens’ inclusion in society
It calls on the EU and its member states to provide more educational and technical means to improve ICT skills across the Union, as well as better digital access to ICTs (e- inclusion), for all EU citizens.
Note to editors
Besides e-democracy, the two key concepts in this area are:
- e-government, which refers to the use of ICT in the work of the public sector, particularly to provide individuals with information and services from public authorities and
- e-governance, which refers to the use of ICT to establish communication channels for anyone with something to say about the policy-making process (for example, electronic public consultations).
Procedure: Non-legislative resolution 2016/2008(INI)
Debate: Wednesday Vote: Thursday
#eDemocracy, #eGovernment #eGovernance #eVote
Final vote on prior notice of member states’ energy deals with third countries
Draft rules requiring EU member states to inform the EU Commission of their plans to negotiate energy supply deals with third countries before opening negotiations will be discussed on Wednesday evening at around 21.00 with Commissioner Arias Cañete, and put to a vote on Thursday.
An informal deal struck by Parliament and the Council in December 2016 stipulates that a member state entering into negotiations with a third country in order to amend or to conclude an intergovernmental agreement on energy must inform the EU Commission in writing before the start of the negotiations.
At present, member states are required to submit such agreements to the Commission only after signature.
This will be the first item of Energy Union legislation to be completed.
Procedure: Ordinary Legislative Procedure (first reading agreement) 2016/0031(COD)
Debate: Wednesday, 1 March Vote: Thursday, 2 March
Refugee children missing in Europe
MEPs will debate how to tackle the disappearance of migrant children in Europe with Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos on Wednesday afternoon. Around 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children have gone missing after arriving in Europe, Europol estimated in 2016.
It is feared that some of these children are being sexually exploited by criminal gangs or forced to beg or commit crimes. Others may have disappeared while searching for their families in other EU countries or out of desperation over cumbersome asylum procedures or detention in reception centres.
The issue was discussed in the Civil Liberties Committee in April last year. MEPs stressed the need to step up protection of unaccompanied minors and improve cross-border cooperation in cases where a child has gone missing and might have travelled on to another country.
Procedure: Commission statement 2017/2566(RSP)
Debate: Wednesday, 1 March
Women’s day: stepping up the fight for equal pay for men and women in the EU
Despite the 2006 EU directive promoting gender equality in the labour market, differences in pay for men and women persist and exceed 40% when it comes to pensions. In Wednesday’s debate, MEPs will ask the EU Commission and the Council what steps they plan to take to close the gender pay gap.
Although women on average now attain a higher level of education than men, the average gender pay gap in the EU remains 16.1%* (2014 figures), although there are significant differences between countries.
The average gender pension gap is even greater, due to lifelong inequalities in the labour market and to higher proportions of women working part-time, on lower hourly pay or taking parental or care leave. In 2014, it was 40.2%, according to the Gender Equality Index issued by the European Institute for Gender Equality.
Given the lack of progress, MEPs are likely to reiterate their call for fresh legislation.
In separate debates on Wednesday evening, MEPs will address the recent partial decriminalisation of domestic violence in Russia and question the Council and Commission on the gender imbalance of judges at the EU Court of Justice.
- According to the Gender Equality Index 2015 (EIGE) and Parliament’s report on equality between women and men in the EU in 2014-2015, the gender pay gap is 1%, but Eurostat data say 16.7%.
Procedure: Council and Commission statements Debate: Wednesday, 1 March
Using EU trade tools to combat wildlife trafficking
Recommendations on how to make better use the EU’s trade tools to fight an unprecedented surge in wildlife trafficking will be put to a vote on Thursday.
MEPs point out that an ecological crisis is being fuelled by the illegal trade in plants and animals and that the EU and the US remain a key market and transit route. Their recommendations include a full ban on trade in elephant ivory, more help for third country customs authorities, sufficient resources for combatting such crimes in the EU, private sector involvement in preventing trafficking and including anti-corruption provisions in future trade agreements.
Wildlife trafficking is the second most serious threat to global flora and fauna following the destruction of habitats. It is the fourth most profitable area of criminal activity, with an estimated annual turnover of €20 billion, which also helps fuel conflicts and finance terrorist networks. Online wildlife crime poses a growing threat to elephants, rhinos, amphibians, reptiles and birds. Parliament is considering the Commission’s “EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking” and its new comprehensive trade strategy.
Procedure: Non-legislative procedure Procedure Code: 2016/2054(INI) 2016/2054(INI)
Debate/vote: Thursday, 2 March
Other topics on the agenda
Other topics for debate and votes include the following:
- Creative Europe programme implementation (INI), Silvia Costa (S&D, IT) -
- Europe for Citizens’ programme implementation, María Teresa Giménez Barbat (ALDE, ES) - debate Thursday