When Parliament’s spokesperson and Director General for Communication, Jaume Duch, presented the agenda of the first plenary after the summer break at the customary press briefing on Friday, he did so with reference to the latest Eurobarometer survey which had just been published.
The survey, conducted in June and July, found that optimism about the future of Europe had not been higher since 2009, and that trust in the EU institutions remained at its highest since 2008.
Given the various crises the Union is faced with, this must be good news, and Duch used it to call the centre piece of this week’s plenary session, the State of the Union Debate on Wednesday morning, “more important than ever.”
Apart from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen summing up her institution’s work of the last 12 months and presenting the programme for the next, all the current crises have found their place on the agenda in one way or another this week.
The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on EU health policy will take the lead with a joint debate on two reports on Monday evening on the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and on “serious cross-border threats to health”.
They are designed as parts of a ‘European Health Union’ aiming to improve cross-border cooperation in response to health crises, something that, as most observers agree, was sorely missing at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. They will be voted on at Wednesday’s lunchtime voting session, with the results being announced at 19:00.
"Apart from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen summing up her institution’s work of the last 12 months and presenting the programme for the next, all the current crises have found their place on the agenda in one way or another this week"
A debate on the report on ‘EU transparency in the development, purchase and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines’ on Thursday afternoon will round up the September plenary session, while social aspects of the pandemic are on the agenda Wednesday evening, when a report about “reversing the negative social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic” will be debated.
Climate change and the Union’s efforts to fight it take centre stage on Tuesday morning, when the Commission will present its Fit for 55 Climate package, followed by a joint debate on reports covering the natural disasters in Europe this summer, their impacts and their link to climate change.
Regarding the ongoing dispute between the EU institutions and some Member States about the rule of law and media freedom, the case of Poland will be debated Wednesday afternoon, with the vote on a resolution scheduled for the last voting session, Thursday lunchtime.
The situation in Afghanistan is first on the list of foreign affairs debates starting Tuesday afternoon in the presence of the EU High Representative Josep Borrell.
Also in that debate slot are two Own Initiative (INI) reports aiming at new strategies vis-a-vis two big and often troubling countries, Russia and China. The former, drafted by former Lithuanian prime minister, now EPP MEP, Andrius Kubilius, was highlighted by the group’s spokesperson Daniel Köster at Friday’s briefing as containing “very strong language” about deterring Russian threats, containing Russian interference and supporting the democratic opposition in Russia.
Important legislative reports on the agenda include the reform of the EU’s Blue Card scheme for highly-skilled migrants, discussed on Tuesday evening, with a vote held on the provisional inter-institutional agreement on Wednesday, and the Brexit Adjustment Reserve and the required amendment of the budget, debated jointly on Tuesday evening, and the latter being voted on Wednesday lunchtime.
The report on the ‘implementation of EU requirements for exchange of tax information’, an important piece of the EU’s efforts towards a fairer corporate taxation, will be debated on Wednesday afternoon and voted on at Thursday’s second voting session.
"It was a topic not even on the agenda for this plenary session which caused perhaps the biggest stir at Friday’s press briefing, when the EPP’s Daniel Köster brought up the issue of who is going to be the European Parliament’s President for the second half of the legislative period from January"
Also on Tuesday’s debate and Thursday’s voting agenda is a report jointly drafted by the FEMM and LIBE committees, ‘identifying gender-based violence as a new area of crime listed in Article 83(1) TFEU’, particularly highlighted by the Green/EFA and Left groups.
The S&D’s spokesperson Inga Czerny drew attention to the INI report calling for “fair working conditions, rights and social protection for platform workers - New forms of employment linked to digital development”, which is on the agenda Monday evening after the health policy debate and will see the votes on it taking place on Wednesday lunchtime for the amendments and on Wednesday evening for the final vote.
But it was a topic not even on the agenda for this plenary session which caused perhaps the biggest stir at Friday’s press briefing, when the EPP’s Daniel Köster brought up the issue of who is going to be the European Parliament’s President for the second half of the legislative period from January.
As he reminded the press and his colleagues, an agreement was signed between the three biggest groups, the EPP, S&D and Renew in 2019 that the first half would be presided by a S&D MEP and the second by a member from the EPP.
But now, he stated, the S&D sounded “at least ambiguous” about it. He clearly caught his colleagues unaware.
The S&D’s Czerny replied, somewhat flustered, that this was not yet the time to talk about it, and although Renew’s Hughes Beaudoin did state that ‘pacta sunt servanda’, he equally called the discussion untimely. And the ID’s Tobias Teuscher surprised everyone by supporting the current president, commenting that “David Sassoli is doing a great job. Why change a winning team?”
September’s plenary week in Strasbourg will be followed by the first of five 200-citizen-strong meetings of the European Citizens’ Panels over the weekend.