This week in the European Parliament

EU-US Relations, the growing spectre of ‘Big Brother’, European soaring Energy Prices, progress on the common asylum and migration policy, Taiwan, Belarus and a new delegation to the UK are among the issues being discussed and debated during this week’s Strasbourg Plenary session
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By Andreas Rogal

Andreas Rogal is a Brussels-based journalist and copy editor

01 Oct 2021

The first of the October plenary sessions in Strasbourg will see several of the big issues currently facing Europe being discussed, and several important votes being taken. It promises to be a lively one.

‘Big Brother’ and Artificial Intelligence

On Monday evening, the growing spectre of ‘Big Brother’ will be raised when the legislative report on “Artificial intelligence in criminal law and its use by the police and judicial authorities in criminal matters” comes up for debate.

Parliament’s rapporteur Petar Vitanov (S&D, BG) commented that, “The use of AI is growing exponentially, and things that we thought possible only in sci-fi books and movies - predictive policing, mass surveillance using biometric data - are a reality in some countries.”

He added: “We were very clear in our [LIBE] committee vote that these practices have no place in the EU and next week we hope a majority of MEPs stand by our commitment to full compliance with fundamental rights. Technical progress should never come at the expense of people’s fundamental rights”.

Vitanov’s sentiment was shared emphatically by the spokespeople of the Renew, Greens/EFA and The Left groups at the pre-session media briefing on Friday.

Focus on EU-US Relations

The first key debate of the plenary on Tuesday morning, will take place on “the future of EU-US relations” as presented in an own initiative (INI) report by Croatian Social Democrat Tonino Picula of the Committee on Foreign affairs (AFET), with the opinion provided by the Committee on International Trade (INTA) and its chair Bernd Lange (S&D, DE).

In the light of recent upsets in the transatlantic alliance, namely the lack of consultation on the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the creation of the AUKUS alliance for Pacific Asia, renewed calls for more European strategic autonomy can be expected, while at the same time, the “primary” nature, as the ECR Group’s spokesperson called it, of transatlantic ties for Europe is unlikely to be challenged by the main groups.

Given Washington’s recent cold shoulder shown to the UK on a Free Trade Agreement, as well as the “successfully concluded” - as the Commission’s Director General for Trade Sabine Weyand put it - inaugural meeting of the Transatlantic Trade and Technology Council (TTC) earlier this week, EU-US trade relations are even likely to see

"In the light of recent upsets in the transatlantic alliance, namely the lack of consultation on the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the creation of the AUKUS alliance for Pacific Asia, renewed calls for more European strategic autonomy can be expected, while at the same time, the “primary” nature, as the ECR Group’s spokesperson called it, of transatlantic ties for Europe is unlikely to be challenged by the main groups. fresh efforts for a revival"

Resolution on Texas Abortion Law

Hidden in the ‘human rights outside the EU’ debate slot on Thursday morning is an issue, however, that could add a new and critical dimension to EU-US relations. Parliament will debate, and later vote on a resolution on, “the state law relating to abortion in Texas, USA”.

Renew Group’s policy adviser Schams El Ghoneimi commented on Twitter: “EU Parliament @Europarl_EN will officially condemn #TexasAbortionLaw in a resolution, voted Oct 7. Unprecedented in EU-US relations #YourBodyYourChoice”. Several Renew MEPs retweeted it.

Taiwan and Belarus on foreign relations agenda

Foreign relations do not come much more hedged than those between the EU and Taiwan, existing under the shadow of the island nation’s giant and covetous neighbour. Charlie Weimer’s (ECR, SE) report on “political relations and cooperation” with Taiwan will be up for debate on Tuesday evening.

Just before the Taiwan debate, a thorny foreign relations issue that has also confronted the EU with an unprecedented challenge to its borders and its troubled asylum and migration policy will come into focus when the situation in Belarus is discussed.

Both the High Representative for Foreign Relations, Josep Borrell and the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, will be present. for what is likely to be a heated discussion.

The spokespeople for S&D and Renew called for the adoption of the fifth package of sanctions against the Belarus government on behalf of their groups. The package should also, according to the S&D, include the sanctioning of those responsible for pushing migrants across the border into Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

Asylum And Migration

Rare progress on the common asylum and migration policy will take centre stage first thing on Thursday with Elena Yoncheva’s (S&D, BG) legislative report “on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Union Agency for Asylum”.

In an interview with The Parliament Magazine, First Vice-President Roberta Metsola (EPP) called the establishment of the new agency which is based in her home country of Malta, a “very successful, good result”, giving a clear indication that there are “reasons to think that there is going to be some movement [on the common asylum and migration policy] that will also bring Member States to come together and agree on more.”

"Foreign relations do not come much more hedged than those between the EU and Taiwan, existing under the shadow of the island nation’s giant and covetous neighbour. Charlie Weimer’s (ECR, SE) report on “political relations and cooperation” with Taiwan will be up for debate on Tuesday evening"

Concerns over European Energy Prices

Something that is on pretty much every citizen’s mind in Europe at the moment will be the topic of the key debate on Wednesday: soaring energy prices.

They have risen by 170 percent since January, as the Greens/EFA spokesperson reminded attending journalists at the pre-session briefing.

About the reasons for this price increase and possible ways to tackle it and the looming energy poverty crisis, opinions are divided among the parliament’s political groups.

According to the ECR Group, the development shows that renewable energy sources haven been rushed into prematurely, and that gas, as a “bridging technology” and nuclear, as a “necessary long-term technology” were needed, as their spokesperson put it.

The ECR have tabled a resolution to amend the EU’s green energy taxonomy accordingly, but, to the regret of the group, it will not be debated, and voted on Tuesday evening, so before the energy price debate on Wednesday.

The S&D Group which asked for the debate was, for their part, disappointed that their suggestion of attaching a resolution on the issue did not find the necessary majority among Parliament’s political groups.

Recovery and Resilience Facility National Plans under scrutiny

A lively exchange of views can be expected on Wednesday afternoon when, on the initiative of the Renew Group, “the state of play on the submitted RRF recovery plans awaiting approval” will be debated.

"A lively exchange of views can be expected on Wednesday afternoon when, on the initiative of the Renew Group, “the state of play on the submitted RRF recovery plans awaiting approval” will be debated"

In the spotlight will be Hungary, as Dacian Cioloş, Group Chair and President of Renew Europe, explained in a press release, what he wants to know from the Commission: "Has Orbán fixed Hungary’s broken public procurements system? Will he be forced to pass on the names of final beneficiaries? Will prosecutors be forced to prosecute high level fraud finally? Will people with an OLAF record of irregularities and conflict of interest be disbarred from gobbling more EU funds?”

Cioloş concluded: “The Commission has formidable leverage to force Orbán to fix Hungary’s most egregious corruption problems. It should use it. Now"

The Eurozone will be coming into focus next on Tuesday, with a joint debate on “economic policies of the euro area 2021”, and on “employment and social policies of the euro area 2021”, as presented in INI reports by the EPP’s Sirpa Pietikäinen and the S&D’s Lina Gálvez Muñoz respectively.

Proposed new delegation to UK

Important final votes on Tuesday include Parliament’s part in implementing the Aarhus Regulation on transparency in environmental legislation, as well as Parliament’s recommendation and resolution the draft Council decision on a “Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement EU/Greenland and Denmark.” Parliament will also create a delegation to a new third country by agreeing on the “proposal on the setting-up of a delegation to the EU-UK Parliamentary Assembly and defining its numerical strength”.

Read the most recent articles written by Andreas Rogal - Polish court ruling deepens EU’s Rule of Law crisis

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