German chancellor Angela Merkel will appear before MEPs in Strasbourg next week for the latest in a series of debates on the “Future of Europe.”
The debate on Tuesday will be followed by interventions by MEPs.
Merkel, who recently announced she will not seek re-election, is expected to face tough questioning on a number of issues, ranging from the migrant crisis to Brexit.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will also take part in the debate and Parliament President Antonio Tajani will have a bilateral meeting with Chancellor Merkel later in the day.
It is the twelfth in a series of “Future of Europe” debates between EU heads of state or governments and MEPs.
BUDGET IN FOCUS
The EU long-term budget, known as MMF, which will run from 2021-27, will also be voted on next week.
Speaking at a news briefing on Friday, parliament spokesman Neil Corlett said the budget, which is worth €1 trillion, will “ideally be agreed before the elections.”
Corlett told the briefing, “This is an investment budget and the monies are not going, for example, on social security as in member states’ national budgets.”
“Some 94 percent of the budget goes to help businesses, citizens, infrastructure, and to protect the environment.”
“It is important that the public know what the budget is about and what the money is spent on,” he added.
MEPs will lay down their funding priorities for the EU’s post-2020 long-term budget, including a breakdown of the amounts foreseen for each EU programme.
They are likely to push for more funding for youth, research, growth and jobs and tackling climate change. New challenges like migration, defence and security should receive adequate resources.
An EPP group spokesman said it wants to see the MFF placed at the top of the Council’s political agenda so that a good agreement is reached, “ensuring the necessary funding for key EU policies, and in a timely manner - before the 2019 European elections - so that all programmes and funds are up and running by January 2021.”
“We want to increase the budget for research and innovation, increase the level of funding for transport infrastructure programmes, double funding for SMEs, triple the current budget for the Erasmus+ Programme and maintain the financing of the Common Agricultural Policy. The next long-term EU budget must guarantee the Union’s ability to meet our citizens’ needs.”
EU CALLS CAP
Parliament will also vote in the plenary session on a new telecom law capping intra-EU phone calls at 19 cents per minute for calls and 6 cents for text messages (SMS) from 15 May 2019.
The law also lays down that the rollout of 5G networks should be speeded up and that an SMS alert system for emergencies should be created in all member states.
An EPP spokesman told this website: “The new rules for telecommunications (European Electronic Communications Code, or EECC) will eliminate excessive fees for consumers, give us faster internet and provide 5G mobile networks for people and businesses - all clear EPP Group priorities. We have ensured a new model of investment - for co-investment, which will encourage the private sector to invest more in fibre networks while safeguarding competition to the benefit of consumers.”
“Another clear priority for the EPP has been the deployment of a 'reverse 112' emergency warning system whereby all people - locals and visitors alike - within a certain range of an incident receive a warning message, making sure people are better informed in case of an emergency,” he added.
MEPs will also vote on rail passenger rights and a proposal to update rules about their rights in the event of delays along with complaints handling procedures. The updated rules on European rail passenger rights will be put to a vote on Thursday.
Those include more compensation for travellers in case of delays, better information given to passengers about their rights, better assistance to people with reduced mobility, better access to cyclists and clearer complaint-handling procedures.
Next week will also see EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini addressing MEPs on range of foreign policy issues, including the so-called caravan of migrants heading to the US, Iran sanctions, and arms exports.
On Wednesday, there will be a debate on the case of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman recently acquitted of blasphemy after spending eight years on death row. Antonio Tajani is due to hold a press conference in Strasbourg with Saif-ul-Malook, Asia Bibi's lawyer, and MEP Peter Van Dalen.
To fight climate change, new ambitious binding 2030 targets for renewables (32%) and energy efficiency (32.5%) will be put to the vote on Tuesday.
The new law also stipulates that some types of food-crop biofuels will be phased out, in a move towards second-generation biofuels.
Separately, MEPs will vote on a resolution on rule of law in Romania on Tuesday, and there will also be a debate on the possible influence of “foreign actors” on the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Wednesday will also see parliament voting on a proposal for a new EU humanitarian visa system, which would allow asylum-seekers to reach Europe without putting their lives at risk.
They would be able to request a visa at EU embassies or consulates abroad, giving them access to European territory for the sole purpose of submitting an asylum application.