This week in the European Parliament

MEPs are back in Brussels for a busy week - or at least most of them, while some deputies will be busy in Glasgow, representing the European Parliament at the crucial second week of the COP26 climate conference
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By Andreas Rogal

Andreas Rogal is a senior journalist at the Parliament Magazine

08 Nov 2021

Wednesday and Thursday meanwhile will see a mini-plenary with debates and final votes on several important legislative reports.

But the week starts with a much-anticipated hearing in the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) when members, also from four other committees who cooperated in setting up the event, will have the opportunity to meet and question Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen on Monday late afternoon.

Her testimony will be of particular interest to legislators currently working on the EU’s digital domain reforms, the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (DSA).

DMA rapporteur Andreas Schwab (EPP) said in a press release on Monday: “The largest digital companies keep getting bigger, but not necessarily better. The new rules for the digital space, such as the obligation to exchange data, must place reasonable limits on the harmful behaviour of large platforms”.

He envisaged that “Ms Haugen's remarks will probably show even more clearly the problematic role that platforms like Facebook play in modern society”.

The German Christian Democrat concluded that “we need laws for online political advertising, just as we have laws for offline political content, made by elected politicians, not private companies”.

"The week starts with a much-anticipated hearing in the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) when members, also from four other committees who cooperated in setting up the event, will have the opportunity to meet and question Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen on Monday late afternoon"

DSA rapporteur Christel Schaldemose (S&D) told Danish daily Avisen on Saturday: “I can easily live without Facebook, but they cannot live without us. I'm not saying we should go back to the world before, but we need to regulate them so that they do not dictate the development of society… That is our responsibility as politicians.”

Parliament’s official delegation to COP26 arrived in Glasgow on Monday, ready for the second week of the conference, and for what Greens/EFA Group member Bas Eickhout - in a webinar for journalists on Monday morning - predicted would be “a bit more complicated than the first week.”

While the Dutch delegate acknowledged that, “more momentum than expected was generated last week”, he also warned that, “the success of Glasgow will not be measured just by the pledges given”.

The challenge of the negotiating week Eickhout argued, was “making sure that those pledges will also be put into practice”.

Delegation leader and chair of Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee), Pascal Canfin (FR, Renew) stated in an ENVI press release:

“We cannot leave this COP with a 2.7 degrees Celsius trajectory, which is currently the case. Europe must lead by example and use the climate tools at our disposal, like the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), to reshape globalisation in a climate-consistent way.”

After an address by Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for refugees, followed by members’ reactions in the form of one round of political group speakers, the mid-week mini-plenary turns to debate Roberta Metsola’s (MT, EPP) and Tiemo Wölken’s (DE, S&D) report on “strengthening democracy, media freedom and pluralism in the EU” which aims to deal with the increasing menace of what is known as ‘strategic lawsuits against public participation’ or SLAPPs.

Metsola in a press release on Friday said: “Our Europe must be able to provide cover for those in the crossfire, many who have nowhere else to turn. Europe must stand with the truth-seekers and our values must be protected by our laws."

"The mid-week mini-plenary turns to debate Roberta Metsola’s (MT, EPP) and Tiemo Wölken’s (DE, S&D) report on “strengthening democracy, media freedom and pluralism in the EU” which aims to deal with the increasing menace of what is known as ‘strategic lawsuits against public participation’ or SLAPPs"

The Own-Initiative report which is supposed to feed into the Commission’s current drafting of the new European Media Freedom Act is expected to gather support across the political spectrum when it is voted on the next day.

Equally uncontroversial should be the subject of plenary’s next debate on Wednesday, Evelyn Regner’s (AT, S&D) and Ibán García del Blanco’s (ES, S&D) report on “disclosure of income tax information by certain undertakings and branches”, which will the see its final vote on Thursday.

As a cornerstone of the EU’s corporate taxation reforms, the legislation aims for more tax transparency by obliging multinationals to declare what taxes they pay in each EU country for the benefit of the public and tax authorities, a.k.a. public country-by-country reporting (pCBCR).

Regner commenting in an article for the ‘Social Europe’ website, said, “particularly at a time when many companies are in receipt of public money, we all have an even greater right to know where - even if -they are paying their taxes”.

The Austrian Socialist deputy concluded: “It is the responsibility of companies to make their contribution to society and it is only fair that if economic aid is disbursed taxes are paid in return”.

Thursday will also see the final vote for what is considered a crucial instrument for Europe’s new Migration Pact which is currently being drafted, the creation of a new European Asylum Agency.

EPP shadow rapporteur Tomas Tobé called the establishment of a new Agency “a major step in creating a more sustainable, harmonised asylum system in the EU”.

Arguing that the Agency will provide much improved operational and technical assistance to EU countries “under disproportionate pressure”, the Swedish centre-right MEP and rapporteur on the broader of the first two legislative reports called for “Member States to step up negotiations in an equally constructive way on the Migration Pact for a stronger, more efficient EU migration policy.”

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