November’s Strasbourg plenary session, to be held once again in a hybrid format due to the worsening COVID situation, is promising a rich and equal mix of policies and politics.
Starting on the former, Monday will see no less than six debates, including on Europe’s critical raw materials and pharmaceutical strategies, and on the introduction of a European Social Security Number.
Access to critical raw materials is a prerequisite of the EU’s ambitious green and digital transformation, but, as Parliament’s rapporteur Hildegard Bentele (DE, EPP) pointed out at the Commission’s Raw Materials Week event last week, unlike its main competitors China and the US, so far, Europe is not investing heavily in a raw materials strategy.
Instead, “we continue to buy raw materials or processed raw materials at rising and volatile prices with no substantial change in sight. But we need a change”, the German Christian Democrat told an audience of stakeholders in Brussels last Thursday.
In an extensive interview with the Parliament Magazine, Bentele argued, “critical raw materials are so much more than batteries and semiconductors; they are to a certain extent the new ‘oil’ of the green industry.”
Meanwhile S&D Group Vice-Chair Mohammed Chahim, who is also the group’s shadow rapporteur, stated in a press release on Friday:
“It is our duty to make sure that EU industry is not left without critical raw materials”, said Chahim, adding that what is needed is a “comprehensive EU strategy for critical raw materials based on high environmental, social and human rights standards”.
"Monday will see no less than six debates, including on Europe’s critical raw materials and pharmaceutical strategies, and on the introduction of a European Social Security Number"
With the European Commission announcing a pilot project towards establishing a European Social Security Pass in their European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan earlier this year, Parliament now wants to see movement on this.
Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) Committee member Marianne Vind (DK S&D) called on the Commission “to accelerate this project and step up its ambitions” in a press release, not least as such a pass would, she believes, enable the EU to “fight fraud and social security abuse”.
After a debate on introducing a European Social Security pass and accompanying resolution vote on Wednesday, EMPL members led by Dutch Christian Democrat Jeroen Lenaers will start work on a report.
Also on Monday, the Internal Market (IMCO) Committee will take the final vote on the Digital Single Market Act. Rapporteur Andreas Schwab (DE, EPP) summed up IMCO’s intent in a press release on Friday:
“We want to set a new legal framework because the current competition rules cannot properly address the problems we are facing in the digital sector with the tech giants.
“Currently, they can use their dominance to force their rules on the markets” Schwab added, “but it’s the legislator who makes the rules, not private companies.”
The Digital Single Market Act is scheduled to reach plenary next month.
"Tuesday will be dominated by the latest reform of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP). All three of Parliament’s legislative reports by the Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) Committee will be discussed in the morning’s joint debate and voted on later in the day"
Tuesday will be dominated by the latest reform of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP). All three of Parliament’s legislative reports by the Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) Committee will be discussed in the morning’s joint debate and voted on later in the day.
AGRI chair Norbert Lins (DE, EPP) had expressed his satisfaction with the reform already after the committee stage before the summer break, saying, “All’s well that ends well. After more than 16 hours of negotiations,[we have] a new, ambitious and fairer agricultural reform with farmers at its heart”.
The S&D Group’s agriculture coordinator, Paolo de Castro (IT) agreed in a press release on Friday by stating that “the new CAP will allow the EU to meet the Green Deal’s goals”.
The ECR Group also expressed a favourable opinion, quoting one of their shadow rapporteurs and members of their bureau, Bert-Jan Ruissen (NL) saying that "the policy will ensure consumers good quality food, produced according to world-leading environmental and animal welfare standards”.
The Greens/EFA Group, on the other side, believes the reform to be a failure and has, on Sunday, started a social media campaign to vote against it.
The group’s press release stated that “this CAP falls far short of the promises of the European Green Deal to use fewer pesticides, protect the environment, climate and biodiversity, and to promote organic farming, and social ambitions in the package are weak”.
After what promises to be the liveliest policy debate, plenary will turn to politics by debating first the outcome of the October European Council summit, and then the situation at the EU’s borders with Belarus.
"After what promises to be the liveliest policy debate, plenary will turn to politics by debating first the outcome of the October European Council summit, and then the situation at the EU’s borders with Belarus"
On the latter, some MEPs are now calling for drastic action. EPP Group Vice-Chair Rasa Juknevičienė stated in a press release: “The EU’s decision to adopt new sanctions towards the regime in Belarus is tough and more effective but it can’t stop here”.
Because President Alexander Lukashenko is “breaching all possible international conventions, including the convention against torture” the former Lithuanian defence minister called for the “establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute Lukashenko for his crimes".
Belarus will then also feature prominently on the agenda on midday Wednesday, when exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya will address the plenary in a formal sitting.
On Wednesday afternoon, political controversy will likely come to the fore between the main political groups, when “fundamental rights and Rule of Law in Slovenia, in particular the delayed nomination of EPPO prosecutors” will be debated, in the presence of Prime Minister Janez Janša.
In recent days, the delegation report by the Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) on their visit to the country in October, has prompted a storm of condemnation and accusations of malpractice by Slovenian government-friendly media and by European Parliament members of the governing party, who sit in the EPP Group.
Finally, one policy and one political choice are not on the agenda, but will cast their shadow on this plenary:
The updated taxonomy list of green energy sources expected from the Commission in the coming weeks, and mid-term in-house elections of the presidency.
On the former, the Greens/EFA Group will hold a press conference on Wednesday which will include Luxembourg’s Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development Minister Carole Dieschbourg. It can be expected that they will press home their points against the inclusion of nuclear and gas, now seen by many, including outgoing German chancellor Angela Merkel as “inevitable”, as she said on German public television on Saturday.
On the latter, the EPP Group will decide on their candidate for Parliament President. Current First Vice-President Roberta Metsola (MT) and group Vice-Chair Esther de Lange (NL) have declared their candidacies.