Unsurprisingly, the situation in Afghanistan and the inter-institutional dispute about the application of the new rule of law mechanism, the Conditionality Regulation are the only items on the agenda of an extraordinary meeting of the Conference of Presidents starting off parliamentary business on Monday.
On the Afghanistan issue, European Parliament President David Sassoli and MEP group leaders will be joined by the EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell.
Only the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) sent out a preview of the week to the press. It featured a comment by leading MEP Birgit Sippel on the rule of law row, with the German deputy stating, “The Parliament received a scandalous letter from the Commission as a reply to our 24 August deadline on the rule of law mechanism”.
“Clearly, the Commission is trying to buy time and pass on the hot potato to the Parliament by asking us to detail again why the conditions for using the rule of law mechanism under Article 265 are met.”
“Pretending that the conditions are not fulfilled is pathetic and only plays into the hands of Orbán, PiS & co.”
Giving a taste of what kind of discussion could lie ahead on the issue, Sippel concludes, “In contrast to the Commission, we are not afraid to call a spade a spade: the conditions for applying the rule of law mechanism are more than met. We expect the Commission to act. It is long overdue.”
The S&D preview also informed journalists that “on Afghanistan, the special focus of our group leader, Iratxe García, will be on how best to protect the rights of women and girls”. A priority shared by the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson who told the German news magazine Der Spiegel in an interview on Friday that women and girls were most at risk from the Taliban and that it was “particularly important that they are protected”.
"Unsurprisingly, the situation in Afghanistan and the inter-institutional dispute about the application of the new rule of law mechanism, the Conditionality Regulation are the only items on the agenda of an extraordinary meeting of the Conference of Presidents starting off parliamentary business on Monday"
Probed on how this could be achieved, she rejected direct negotiations with the Taliban and pinned her hopes on the UNHCR which is still operating in Afghanistan.
Both issues will then also feature in several public committee meetings which start on Tuesday.
The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) will first address the rule of law situation at their meeting on Wednesday morning, with debates scheduled with Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders on the Commission’s 2021 Rule of Law Report, and with the Slovenian Presidency’s Justice Minister Marjan Dikaučič who took office a mere fortnight before the start of the Presidency.
The leading representatives of the Council and the Commission will have to find answers to Parliament’s renewed call for action on Hungary and Poland. LIBE members will also question them on what is perceived by Parliament as a lack of progress in the ongoing Article 7 procedures concerning the two countries which were launched in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
The third and last LIBE debate of the day is dedicated to the situation in Afghanistan. But the committee will then have an opportunity to address its most urgent aspect of the crisis when it resumes its meeting on Thursday on the Union’s migration and asylum policy, or lack thereof.
The Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizen’s Rights and Constitutional Affairs will present a study on the Commission’s legislative proposals on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, while the Research Service will present its “European Added Value Assessment on Legal Migration Policy and Law”, a draft report on which will be considered by LIBE MEPs for the first time just before that presentation.
The session will close with an encounter with the Slovenian Presidency’s Minister of the Interior, Aleš Hojs.
Over the summer, Hojs shone a unfavourable light on his country’s own migration policy when he admitted that migrant pushbacks of a large scale were happening and that “people who are returned to Croatia end up in camps in Bosnia or Serbia”, where the situation is notoriously bad through overcrowding and alleged mistreatment.
"The Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) will debate the situation on the EU’s border with Belarus on Thursday, with many leading MEPs having accused the Belarusian regime of pushing migrants, flown into Minsk from Iraq, over the border to Poland, Lithuania and Latvia"
As the Parliament’s Left GUE/NGL group noted in a press release marking the beginning of the Slovenian Presidency, “Recently, an Italian court halted deportations to Slovenia on the grounds that there is a risk that asylum seekers will be subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment, as they are likely to be further expelled to Croatia and then to Bosnia or Serbia.
Courts have also found that systemic deficiencies in the Slovenian asylum system mean breaches of the provisions of Article 4 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights are probable.” The link between migration policies and the rule of law will unlikely go unnoticed in the LIBE debates.
The Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) will have its exchange of views on Afghanistan with representatives of the European External Action Service (EEAS) on Wednesday, and debate the situation on the EU’s border with Belarus on Thursday, with many leading MEPs having accused the Belarusian regime of pushing migrants, flown into Minsk from Iraq, over the border to Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
Beyond the two big current issues, highlights of the first committee week back include the Committee on Budgets (BUDG) voting on the Brexit Adjustment Reserve for the general budget 2021, and debating the Commission’s delay in presenting proposals for the Own Resources Roadmap with Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn on Tuesday.
In a joint session on Wednesday, BUDG and the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) will be hearing from the Commission’s Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis and from Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni on how the Recovery and Resilience Facility, meant to mitigate the impact of the COVID-10 pandemic is progressing.
The Committee on International Trade (INTA) will be discussing its position on the Union’s proposed international public procurement rules which aim to protect EU companies from unfair treatment in external public tenders on Wednesday.
The rules have just been updated following a Council mandate in July after nine years of inaction. The INTA report is authored by the leader of the German EPP (CDU) delegation, Daniel Caspary. On Thursday, INTA will discuss the Annual Report on Trade Defence Activities.