• Reding - tipped as a candidate for the next commission President (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Agenda

Budget and gender law on EU agenda This WEEK

22.10.12 @ 09:47

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

BRUSSELS - The EU budget and a law on gender quotas in large companies are set to dominate activity in Strasbourg this week.

MEPs will in penary on Tuesday (23 October) debate how the EU should spend over €1 trillion between 2014 and 2020 and how to raise more money directly for the EU coffers. They will also vote the same day on EU spending proposals for 2013.

The long-term budget debate was pushed forward from the November mini-plenary in Brussels because a crack in the Brussels hemicycle has closed it down for at least six months.

It comes amid tense preparation for an EU budget summit in November.

The European Commission has said EU spending should go up to 1.1 percent of the Union's GDP in the coming years. Germany wants to cap the increase at 1 percent. But the UK has threatened to veto any spending hike, with a report in the Financial Times on Monday saying Merkel sees no point in holding the summit unless Britain backs down.

MEPs also want to spend more than member states have said they are willing to in 2013.

The 2013 budget debate has been tainted by a row over Schengen - the EU's passport-free zone. EU countries in June blocked parliament from decision-making in some Schengen areas, with deputies now threatening to freeze some Schengen spending next year in revenge.

The financial crisis is putting some of the most popular EU policies at risk.

The commission will on Tuesday put forward ideas on how to rescue the Erasmus student exchange programme from a shortfall of funds with an amending budget for 2012. It will outline on Wednesday how to keep channeling EU aid to Europe's 120-million-or-so poorest people by establishing a Fund for European Aid worth up to €2.5 billion in 2014 to 2020.

The crisis is also putting extra scrutiny on how EU money is spent.

MEPs will on Tuesday file reports on spending at the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen and the European Food Safety Authority in Parma following minor scandals about misuse of EU funds and lobbying.

EU home affairs ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday will look at legal proposals for imposing criminal penalties on people who harm the financial interests of the Union and will debate the state of play on corruption and passport-free travel in Bulgaria and Romania.

Gender

The commission on Tuesday is planning to publish a legal proposal on gender quotas.

The brainchild of EU justice commissioner Vivianne Reding, the bill is to call for having at least 40 percent women on the boards of publicly-listed EU firms.

Gender quotas are already in place in some countries such as Norway. But opposition in the college of 27 commissioners could see the law derailed - the Financial Times says just eight top EU officials back the idea and that commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso plans to hold a simple majority vote.

The parliament earlier this month made a stand on gender at the European Central Bank.

But MEPs in the budget committee on Monday are likely to back the appointment of Yves Mersch, the 23rd man on the bank's 23-seat board, in return for a pledge on gender balance in future.

The commission will this week also put forward a plan for future regulation of online gambling and outline its legislative work programme for next year.

On the foreign policy front, parliament chiefs will on Friday announce the 2012 winner of its equivalent of the Nobel peace prize - the Sakharov prize.

A leading candidate is Russian punk band Pussy Riot in what would amount to a finger in the eye for Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

A second poke in the eye could come in an MEPs' vote on Tuesday to urge EU countries to impose travel bans on Russian officials implicated in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian whistleblower on tax fraud.

A delegation of 15 MEPs will on Thursday go to Ukraine to observe upcoming parliamentary elections marked by the jailing of top opposition candidate Yulia Tymoshenko.

Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will travel to Israel, Jordan and Lebanon - a few days after the Israeli foreign minister and Prime Minister told her to pipe down on settlement building.

In terms of kitchen sink business, EU administrative affairs commisisoner Maros Sefcovic will on Tuesday in Brussels cut the ribbon on a new building for the European School.

The European Schools educate EU officials' children and attract high-earning EU staff to live close by. But the new block has been built in Laeken, a less well-off part of Brussels, in a bid to spread EU wealth around the city.

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