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24th Jul 2021

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Parliament and Juncker plan to take centre stage this WEEK

  • The European Parliament and Jean Claude Juncker's €300 billion investment plan will dominate next week. (Photo: European Parliament)

The European Parliament will take centre stage next week as MEPs gather in Strasbourg on Monday (12 January) for their first plenary session of 2015.

The assembly’s agenda is light on legislation but heavy on speeches by EU leaders.

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It will be a case of ‘goodbye’ from Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi and ‘hello’ from Latvian premier Laimdota Straujuma, as the Baltic country starts its six month EU presidency. Both leaders will address the Parliament on Tuesday and Wednesday morning respectively.

On Tuesday, deputies will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi death-camp Auschwitz, one of the defining symbols of the Second World War and the Holocaust, where over 1 million Jews were murdered.

Donald Tusk, the newly installed President of the European Council, will debate the outcome of his first EU summit in December - notable for being short- with MEPs later that day.

The European Commission will also be in Strasbourg next week and plans to unveil draft legislation aimed at putting President Juncker’s flagship €315 billion investment plan into action on Tuesday.

The EU executive wants the European Parliament and government ministers to "fast-track" the laws so the fund, which relies on €21 billion of guarantees from the EU budget and the European Investment Bank being leveraged fifteen-fold and attracting private and public investments, can be set up by June.

The Commission will also publish its findings from a public consultation held in early 2014 on whether investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions should remain part of ongoing trade talks with the United States.

The clauses, which critics argue could prevent governments from passing legislation in fields such as health and safety and environmental and social protection, have become one of the main items of controversy in the talks which began in summer 2013.

The German and French governments have indicated that ISDS is unnecessary because investor rights are already safeguarded by national laws, while the European Parliament’s left and Green political groups have vowed to oppose any EU-US trade deal which includes the provisions.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday the European Court of Justice will release its preliminary opinion on the case brought by Peter Gauweiler - a German conservative MP from the Christian Social Union, a junior member of chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition - against the bond-buying programme at the heart of ECB chief Mario Draghi's promise to do "whatever it takes" to protect the eurozone.

The Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) programme announced in September 2012 at the height of the eurozone crisis allows the European Central Bank to buy potentially unlimited amounts of government bonds, effectively making it a bank of last resort.

However, despite being credited as the most important step in quelling market panic about the debt sustainability of the eurozone’s periphery countries - particularly Spain and Italy - the ECB has not bought a single bond under the programme.

However, the ECB insists that eligibility for the programme depends on countries making structural reforms to their economies.

Nonetheless, Gauweiler and the other plaintiffs, which include several academics and the opposition Die Linke party, argue that the programme exceeds the ECB’s mandate is undemocratic.

They had originally brought the case before the German constitutional court which referred it to the EU’s top court.

Opinions by the court’s advocate generals are not legally binding but, in practice, usually form the basis of the final verdict.

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EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will continue to travel to member states to "personally hand over the assessment" of the EU executive on national Covid-19 recovery plans.

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Aside from the green package, Poland will also be the centre of attention. Two decisions by the controversial Constitutional Tribunal could affect the country's EU future. Belarus' border with Lithuania will also be in the spotlight.

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