European Parliament plenary: Looking ahead
Next week’s European Parliament plenary could be overshadowed by a bitter labour dispute with the assembly’s interpreters.
European Parliament Strasbourg | Photo credit: Press Association
A showpiece speech by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte could be just one of a whole series of events that stand to be disrupted by strikes by interpreters who are protesting what they describe as a “unilateral” decision to change their working hours.
The interpreters give live translation of parliamentary proceedings into the 24 official languages of the EU and their work is vital to the smooth running of parliamentary business.
However, they have threatened to stop providing interpretation to meetings held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the three main days of the plenary.
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The staff union said this in protest at decisions made in 2017 - which were allegedly made without consultation - by Parliament’s Secretary-General Klaus Welle.
This, it is claimed, will increase the time the hundreds of interpretation staff must spend in interpreting booths.
A parliamentary spokesperson, Neil Corlett, referred to the dispute at a briefing for reporters on Friday.
He said, “There is a labour dispute between the Parliament’s administration but I am happy to say that, today, they have made an exception for this news conference.”
Next week’s agenda will be more political than legislative with the highlight being a debate with Rutte, the seventh in a series of such exchanges between MEPs and leaders from across the Union debating the future of Europe.
The plenary comes in advance of a crunch EU summit at end of the month and gives members a chance to debate some of the issues expected to be on the summit agenda, including Brexit, the eurozone and migration.
At a meeting of the Conference of Presidents on Thursday, it was agreed to add the ongoing controversy about judicial independence and rights abuses in Poland to the plenary agenda. The Greens had pushed for the issue to be included on the programme.
Parliament voted in March to back implementation of the so-called Article 7 against Poland on the grounds that there is “clear evidence and a clear risk of a breach of EU values.”
MEPs will debate the situation in Poland next week with Commission First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans.
The Polish Prime Minister is due to visit Parliament in July to take part in an EU leaders’ debate with members.
At the plenary, MEPs will also discuss the upcoming distribution of parliamentary seats.
The number will shrink from 751 seats to 705 at next elections in 2019 following the UK’s departure from the EU. A total of 46 seats will be left empty for any future enlargement of the EU while others will be redistributed among members who are currently underrepresented in the chamber.
MEPs will also discuss the growing use of drones as part of a debate on civil aviation safety due to be held on Monday. The aim of new EU legislation is to ensure safety and personal privacy. New rules state that operators of drones must ensure they are used without putting people at risk.
In a debate with EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini Tuesday, members will discuss the Iran nuclear agreement which has been put into question after the US withdrew its support.
Cyber defence, hybrid threats to Europe and the setting up a cyber rapid response team will also be debated.
Ten years after the Russian invasion of Georgia, members will also debate current frozen conflicts and also the recently announced €1bn in EU financial aid for Ukraine.
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