This week at Strasbourg is packed with plenary sessions and voting for the parliamentary mid-terms elections.
The plenary session will be opened at 18:00 on Monday by ad-interim president Roberta Metsola (MT, EPP) starting with a tribute ceremony with contributions from former Italian PM Enrico Letta, European Council President Charles Michel, French President Emmanuel Macron and the leaders of Parliament’s political groups.
Among national heads of government present are Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel , Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece and Italy’s Mario Draghi.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who was also scheduled to speak had to cancel at the last minute when her driver tested positive for Covic-19.
On Tuesday, the new EP president will be elected for the next two and a half years. Candidates can be put forward by a political group or a group of members representing a 20th of MEPs (36).
A brief presentation by each candidate will be made on Tuesday morning. The candidates are Roberta Metsola, the Greens/EFA Group’s vice-chair Alice Bah Kuhnke (SE), Kosma Złotowski (PL, ECR), and Sira Regó, vice-chair of the Left Group (ES).
The Renew Group will not put forward a candidate for president, their spokesperson said at the pre-session press briefing on Friday. As for the S&D and ID groups, negotiations on the matter are ongoing.
A candidate may still appear for S&D, but the Group aims to focus on “better representation of the S&D Group in Parliament’s administration,” according to their spokesperson, which was widely understood – but not explicitly confirmed – as concerning the post of Secretary General. This post is currently held by Klaus Welle, a German of EPP affiliation.
Candidates for the first round of elections must declare their intention to stand by 5pm on Monday. The vote is based on an absolute majority of votes, cast in secret and remotely. This means that half of MEPs plus one is needed to be elected. The final announcement of all candidates for the mid-term elections starting Tuesday will be made after the ceremony in honour of the late president.
Once elected, the new president will make a speech followed by the elections for the 14 vice-presidents and then the quaestors.
On Wednesday at 11.30, MEPs will discuss with President Macron the political strategy and aims of France’s six-month Presidency of the Council of the EU. Macron’s presentation will be followed by a debate led by the leaders of the political groups.
The French presidency wishes to complete negotiations on the Digital Markets and Services Acts (DMA, DSA), carbon border tax (CBAM) and a European minimum wage. The Conference on the Future of Europe should also be presenting its conclusions during the French presidency. Parliament will vote on its position on the DSA, which aims to create a safer digital space in which users’ rights are protected, including through rules to tackle illegal products, services or content online. The debate will take place on Wednesday, followed by a vote on Thursday.
On Wednesday afternoon, MEPs will discuss with European Council President Charles Michel and the Commission the outcome of the 16 December summit, which focussed on COVID-19, rising energy prices, security and defence issues and external relations.
In addition, a provisional agreement aims to increase the powers of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). This will be up for a vote on Wednesday. The objective is to ensure that the EU will be better equipped to manage future health crises by tackling shortages of medicines and medical devices more effectively.
Finally, the week also begins with an important discussion of the ongoing crisis in Eastern Ukraine and along the Russia-Ukraine border. The Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) and the Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE) will hear from EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrel who visited Ukraine last week on Monday, as the German and French ministers for foreign affairs, Annalena Baerbock and Jean-Yves Le Drian, are set to visit the demarcation line between Ukraine and its occupied Donbas region.