This week in the European Parliament

MEPs end the month with a busy committee week that includes focus on gender equality
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By Andreas Rogal

Andreas Rogal is a senior journalist at the Parliament Magazine

25 Oct 2021

Back from Strasbourg and their second plenary session, MEPs will end the month with a busy committee week.

But one issue will dominate the week as a whole, with most committees addressing it from their remit: gender equality.

It’s the European Parliament’s second annual Gender Equality Week, originally launched by the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM) in October 2020.

FEMM Chair Evelyn Regner (AT, S&D) said, "After the success of the first European Gender Equality Week in 2020, even more Committees and Delegations have joined for the second edition. This extremely positive development shows that achieving gender equality is a task we can only fulfil together”.

She added that the COVID-19 pandemic had given the issue heightened prominence, and that the EU’s recovery efforts would have to reflect the lessons learned from the crisis:

“We now need to fulfil our promises for better working conditions, higher salaries, combating gender-based violence and so much more!”

Together with the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET), the FEMM committee will start on Monday afternoon by talking about “Gender Equality in EU Foreign and Security Policy” with the European External Action Service’s (EEAS) Ambassador for Gender and Diversity, Dutch diplomat Stella Ronner-Grubačić.

On Tuesday afternoon, the socio-economic aspects will come into focus, when the Employment and Social Affairs Committee (EMPL) will discuss the impact of COVID-19 on gender equality, while the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON) will hold a public hearing on how the recovery can be designed to protect women and promote gender equality.

"After the success of the first European Gender Equality Week in 2020, even more Committees and Delegations have joined for the second edition. This extremely positive development shows that achieving gender equality is a task we can only fulfil together” FEMM Committee Chair Evelyn Regner

On Wednesday, the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) will hold an exchange of views on the Women on Boards Directive, a legislative file which has been stuck in the Council since 2013.

A recent attempt to unblock the legislation under the German Council presidency one year ago did not succeed.

The place where gender equality is arguably under the greatest strain at the moment, Afghanistan, will be the subject of a hearing jointly organised by Parliament’s delegation to the country and the FEMM committee on Thursday afternoon.

Afterwards, the committee will hear from the Director of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), Carlien Scheele, who will present the findings of the Gender Equality Index 2021.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Parliament will continue its legislative work in the efforts to address the EU’s lack of a common migration and asylum policy, when two reports authored by Swedish members will be debated and voted on by the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE).

Abir Al-Sahlani’s (Renew) deals with “legal migration policy and law”, and Tomas Tobé’s (EPP) report considers the updated draft Directive and proposed new Regulation providing the legal framework for the Union’s new migration policy.

In a statement, Tobé commented: "We need a stronger, more efficient migration policy, grounded in solidarity”.

Underlining the necessity of a strong external border, and better mechanisms to distinguish between refugees and economic migrants “with swift and fair procedures” he concluded: “It is high time that we get a more legally secure and well-functioning migration system in place".

"Rifts between the two biggest groups, the EPP and the S&D over some aspects of an equally urgent legislation are likely to come to the fore when the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) will consider compromise amendments to the twin reports on the Digital Markets and the Digital Services acts, DMA and DSA, on Wednesday afternoon"

While the S&D Group stressed its support for the labour market aspect of migration - “with shortages of all skill-levels set to rise across Europe according to demographic trends”, as their press release put it, the ECR Group, by contrast, stated its disagreement “with attempts to Europeanise labour market policies”.

Arguing that national labour markets across the EU are too diverse and “best left to the Member States”, the group’s press release quoted its shadow rapporteur Charlie Weimers, who “also opposes the idea that importing low wage labour helps increase productivity and wages for European workers”.

Rifts between the two biggest groups, the EPP and the S&D over some aspects of an equally urgent legislation are likely to come to the fore when the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) will consider compromise amendments to the twin reports on the Digital Markets and the Digital Services acts, DMA and DSA, on Wednesday afternoon.

On the DMA, the EPP and rapporteur Andreas Schwab want a limited number of companies to be included as “gatekeepers” of the DMA rules - only those with over €80bn market value and operating in at least two markets.

The S&D wants a wider approach, also including medium players, and big ones only active in one market, like Booking, AirBnB and Netflix.

“We will not be able to agree if big platforms are excluded which are active in one market only”, S&D shadow rapporteur and Schwab’s fellow countrywoman Evelyne Gebhardt told a German trade magazine on Monday. 

On the DSA, where Danish Social Democrat Christel Schaldemose is at the helm, the arguments seem less entrenched, but, as sources close to the groups warn, a scenario of ‘if you don’t vote for your report, I won’t vote for yours’ is the one to avoid.

The Committee on International Trade (INTA) will talk about last month’s inaugural meeting of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) with Commission Executive Vice-Presidents Margrethe Vestager and Valdis Dombrovskis, on Tuesday.

INTA committee chair Bernd Lange, who had met United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai last week, issued a detailed statement, suggesting work on two aspects “to keep the wheels turning” on transatlantic trade tech cooperation. 

Firstly, ensuring “clear democratic scrutiny” of the TTC, for which the meeting with Vestager and Dombrowskis was one opportunity, and a delegation visit of trade MEPs to Washington during the first week of November another.

Secondly, “we need a transparent process for stakeholders to provide input”, the German Social Democrat stated, citing as one example he recent launch of a TTC space on the Futurium platform. “That companies and civil society welcomed the launch shows that they see the TTC as a forum set up to produce concrete results”, Lange concluded.

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