This week in the European Parliament

The week before the last plenary session of the year will see the European Parliament’s political groups and several committees tackle a busy agenda

By Andreas Rogal

Andreas Rogal is a senior journalist at the Parliament Magazine

06 Dec 2021

The Parliament’s Budgetary Control (CONT) Committee continues its work on the 2020 budget discharge exercise this week, with two European Commissioners invited to discuss aspects in their remit on Monday afternoon.

Performance and compliance issues of the CAP financial management are going to be raised with Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski, and the financial management of the Commission’s DG BUDG, “in particular on the annual reports and the performance audits issued by the European Court of Auditors (ECA)”, are on the agenda when CONT members meets Budget and Administration Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

Members of the ECA itself will also be present during both sessions.

The pandemic and its effect on cities and towns across the Union, will be in the spotlight in the Regional Development (REGI) Committee on Monday afternoon, when members will hear first-hand from four mayors, and then vote on Katalin Czeh’s (HU, Renew) report “challenges for urban areas in the post-COVID-19 era”.

Presentations by the mayors of Vratsa in Bulgaria, L’Aquila in Italy, Słupsk in Poland and Saint Denis de la Réunion, France, will be followed by questions and comments by REGI members.

The rapporteur commented to the Parliament Magazine on Monday:

"Cities have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. But despite dwindling economic activity, high rates of infection and often inadequate resources, they’ve shown leadership in managing the crisis on the frontline. We urge the Council and Member States to allocate up to 15% of the funding embedded in national recovery and resilience plans for urban areas to address post-COVID-19 challenges."

The Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee will host United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Joyce Msuya on Monday afternoon, for an exchange of views on the global climate and environmental milestones in 2022.

"The pandemic and its effect on cities and towns across the Union, will be in the spotlight in the Regional Development (REGI) Committee on Monday afternoon, when members will hear first-hand from four mayors, and then vote on Katalin Czeh’s (HU, Renew) report 'Challenges for urban areas in the post-COVID-19 era'”

ENVI members will also hear from the Commission on its "EU Soil Strategy for 2030” as well as on “the state of play of marine protected areas on the High Seas”.

To wrap up the session, the ENVI committee will turn to an issue recently subject to an impact assessment by the Commission and is likely to ignite fierce controversy: new genomic techniques (NGTs) in agriculture.

While environmentalists have warned of NGTs as being just another form of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), others see it as a major instrument to mitigate the effects of climate change.

As Veronika Vrecionová (CZ), member of the ECR Group’s bureau and of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) wrote in the latest edition of the Parliament Magazine, NGTs “offer a good example of how innovation can help farmers to cope with more extreme environmental conditions (e.g., drought), while reducing chemical agricultural inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers”.

The European Central Bank’s (ECB) annual report, as well as two own-initiative reports on fiscal policy come to their final votes in the Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) Committee on Monday.

“What is the missing part to reduce the EU VAT gap?” is the lead question in Olivier Chastel’s (Renew, BE) report on the implementation of the sixth VAT Directive.

"The Culture and Education (CULT) Committee will cast its vote on the provisional interinstitutional agreement on the European Year of Youth 2022 in the afternoon, paving the way for adoption next week"

This ‘gap’, the overall difference between the expected VAT revenue and the amount actually collected, is significant: in its report published last week, the Commission concluded that in 2019, the most recent fully analysed year, the gap amounted to €134 billion, which represents a total revenue loss across the EU of 10.3 percent.

The Subcommittee on Tax Matters (FISC) vice-chair Markus Ferber’s (DE, EPP) report on the “impact of national tax reforms on the EU economy” is looking at fiscal policy in broader terms.

In a press statement on Monday, he argued that while tax policy is an EU Member State prerogative, “in an integrated internal market, not every member state can just do what it wants in terms of tax policy”, and that “a minimum of coordination and harmonisation is needed. If the Member States cannot or do not want to achieve this, the European Commission must step in”.

On Tuesday, the ECR Group is expected to officially nominate its candidate for EP president which is likely to be their co-treasurer Kosma Złotowski (PL).

Political group leaders will convene for their pre-plenary Conference of Presidents to agree on next week’s Strasbourg agenda on Wednesday, but there will also be a bit of diplomatic and literary glamour on that day, when the EU ambassadors will hold their conference in the afternoon followed by an ambassadors’ reception in the House of European History. And the Prix du Livre Européen will be awarded.

The Culture and Education (CULT) Committee will cast its vote on the provisional interinstitutional agreement on the European Year of Youth 2022 in the afternoon, paving the way for adoption next week.

"With interventions from representatives of the national assemblies of the outgoing and of the incoming Council presidencies, the LIBE committee will, once again, tackle the arguably most serious constitutional challenge to the Union to date, the situation of Rule of Law in the EU"

The other committees will be back in action on Thursday, with the Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) voting on its final report, drafted by Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (Renew, FR) in the morning. Writing in the Parliament Magazine, the rapporteur explained that Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan was “built around four main areas of action”: prevention, screening, fair access to health care, and “support for patients, survivors and carers”.

The results of the final vote will be announced in the afternoon, followed by a final exchange of views among BECA members.

Introduced by its chair, Juan Fernando López Aguilar (ES, S&D) and EP President David Sassoli (IT, S&D), the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee will host an interparliamentary meeting on Thursday morning.

With interventions from representatives of the national assemblies of the outgoing and of the incoming Council presidencies, the LIBE committee will, once again, tackle the arguably most serious constitutional challenge to the Union to date, “the situation of Rule of Law in the EU”.

While the Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) Committee will vote on its review of the Brexit process in the form of Danuta Hübner’s report “assessment of the implementation of Article 50 TEU”, and consider amendments to Paulo Rangel’s (EPP, PT) report on “Parliament’s right of initiative” - an idea not normally entertained by the other institutions but recently commented on favourably by French and incoming Council President Emmanuel Macron. 

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