The European Parliament got off to an early start this week when a joint delegation from the Foreign Affairs (AFET) Committee and its Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE) left for an ad hoc mission to Ukraine on Sunday.
First stop was the south-eastern port city of Mariupol, which sits about 25 kilometres from the separatist frontline. The delegation’s two chairs, David McAllister (DE, EPP) and Nathalie Loiseau (FR, Renew) were shown around the city by EU ambassador to Ukraine Matti Maasikas.
Parliament condemned the large-scale Russian military build-up along the Ukrainian border, demanding an immediate withdrawal in a resolution in December. The delegation is to leave Ukraine on Tuesday and will share its impressions with the AFET committee on Thursday morning.
AFET chair McAllister summed up the mission's main thrust at a press conference in Mariupol on Monday lunchtime:
The Security and Defence (SEDE) Committee, meanwhile, will hold a joint meeting with the Special Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the European Union including Disinformation (INGE) on Tuesday.
MEPs will hear from and exchange views with six experts from the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence on several aspects of threats emanating from the digital domain, including "Russia’s Strategy in Cyberspace".
Before the SEDE committee joins in, the INGE committee will meet Nobel Peace Prize 2021 laureate Maria Ressa. Ressa, who is co-founder and CEO of the Philippine online news site Rappler, is a leading expert on fake news and disinformation, as well as a member of the independent watchdog group Real Facebook Oversight Board.
On 1-2 February, Parliament will host Afghan Women Days, kicking things off with a high-level conference on Tuesday followed by workshops on Wednesday. The aim is to address the concerning situation for women in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover last year.
The event will bring together the Afghan women finalists from the Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2021, Commission and United Nations representatives as well as representatives of other prominent international organisations and local Afghan foundations.
After a meeting with Afghan activists and social media influencers, Parliament President Roberta Metsola will provide opening remarks for a high-level conference on Tuesday afternoon. Metsola’s remarks will be accompanied by a recorded message from Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
The humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan, especially for women, call for international attention. The UN Secretary General António Guterres recently expressed this concern:
European Parliament Vice President Heidi Hautala will open the programme on Tuesday by welcoming the Afghan women.
After a meeting with Afghan activists and social media influencers, Parliament President Roberta Metsola will provide opening remarks for a high-level conference on Tuesday afternoon. Metsola’s remarks will be accompanied by a recorded message from Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
The afternoon will continue with a focus on issues including selling underage girls, food security, internal displacement, access to healthcare, and humanitarian aid. The conference will feature Sakharov Prize finalists, World Food Programme and Afghan foundations representatives as well as a conclusion from Tomas Tobé (SE, EPP), Chair of the Committee on Development.
From 17:30 onwards, media events will take place with testimonies from Kabul, plus a screening of a film by Afghan filmmaker Sahraa Karimi and a corresponding debate.
Wednesday morning opens with a youth seminar followed by workshops throughout the day on solidarity with Afghan women parliamentarians and on connecting Afghan women activists in exile.
The programme concludes with a session on future perspectives for women in Afghanistan, with a focus on education and participation in public life.
Back to legislative business, on Tuesday the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) will hear about the state of play in the trilogue negotiations about adequate minimum wages in the European Union from its rapporteurs Dennis Radtke (DE, EPP) and Agnes Jongerius (NL, S&D).
Another new flagship EU programme will be on the agenda of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) on Thursday morning, when the Commission will present its New EU Soil Strategy
Today, new EMPL chair Dragoș Pîslaru (RO, Renew) acknowledged his new role in the interinstitutional negotiations in a tweet.
On Wednesday, the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) will host Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson for an exchange of views on energy prices and to hear about the new EU framework to decarbonise gas markets. They will also discuss revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which is part of the ‘Fit for 55’ package.
Another new flagship EU programme will be on the agenda of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) on Thursday morning, when the Commission will present its New EU Soil Strategy.