25th Oct 2021


First return to Strasbourg for EU Parliament This WEEK

  • The European Parliament's Strasbourg building will not yet be too busy (Photo: European Parliament)

After more than a year's absence from the French city due to Covid-19 - and months of pressure from France - the traveling European Parliament will return to Strasbourg this week for a hybrid plenary session.

However, there will be still a very limited number of people travelling to Strasbourg. Many think it is an early return: those travelling will have to respect the French curfew and will need to quarantine upon their return to Belgium.

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One-third of the usual parliament administration staff will be present at the Strasbourg seat. MEPs will be able to take the floor in the plenary physically and online as well. Votes will be still cast and counted online.

Party groups will also have a very limited presence: an estimated 10-15 percent of staff from the centre-right European People's Party and Socialists & Democrats groups will be in Strasbourg at the maximum, but some groups will restrict their attendance even further. The Greens will not send staff for instance.

Usually around 2,500 people make their way to the French city for the plenary, a travelling delegation that even the parliament itself has voted previously to scrap. However, it required under the EU treaty, at the insistence of France.

This will be the parliament's first session in Strasbourg since February 2020. Under EU law, parliament is required to hold 12 sessions per year in the French city.

Certificate and rule of law

Once in Strasbourg, MEPs are set to give their final approval on Tuesday (7 June) for the Covid-19 vaccine travel certificates aimed at easing travel, from 1 July within the EU, ahead of summer holidays.

The certificate will prove that its holder has been vaccinated, recovered recently from the virus, or had a negative test. MEPs will also push for affordable and accessible tests for citizens, which are currently expensive.

It remains to be seen if the system will be up and running from 1 July, most member states are testing the scheme with the commission but not all will be ready for next month.

MEPs will also vote on Wednesday (9 June) on what position the EU should take during the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations on temporarily waiving the intellectual rights on Covid-19 vaccines, following a debate in May.

EU officials have been lukewarm on the push, which the US has supported, arguing that the lack of vaccines has more to do with low production capacities in low-income countries.

MEPs will debate with EU foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, on Tuesday the EU's response to the unprecedented Belarusian action forcing a Raynair flight to land in Minsk and arrest opposition blogger Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega.

European lawmakers will also call on the EU Commission to make use of the new tool of linking EU funds to the respect for the rule of law.

MEPs have given until 1 June for the commission to act. However, the commission is still working on guidelines on how to use the legislation, which has been in force since January. There is also a pending court case at the European Court of Justice on the new mechanism.

MEPs will debate the issue on Wednesday and vote on Thursday.

MEPs will also vote on a resolution on the conflict of interest of Czech prime minister Andzej Babis, after a debate last month.

Migration talk

Justice and home affairs ministers will meet on Monday and Tuesday, and will look at how the negotiations are going on the new migration and asylum pact. They will also discuss the Schengen strategy, which was presented by the commission last week.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday will discuss with MEPs how the parliament will be involved in assessing the member states' recovery plans.

MEPs will discuss on Wednesday on their expectations for the G7 and EU-US summits later this month.

On Friday (11 June), von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel will travel to Cornwall in the UK for the G7 meeting.

MEPs will also debate on Monday and vote on Tuesday on the new 2030 EU Biodiversity Strategy, and are set to call for 30 percent of the EU's land and sea to be protected areas, for binding targets on urban biodiversity such as green roofs on new buildings.

On Wednesday, president president David Sassoli will reveal the winner of the LUX European Audience Film Award 2021. Representatives of the three films shortlisted for the LUX Award will be present in Strasbourg.

MEPs fearful of 'red zone' Strasbourg plenary

Parliament president David Sassoli is to make the final decision on travelling to Strasbourg ahead of the leadership and parliamentary group chairs meeting on Thursday.

MEPs call for action in Czech PM conflict-of-interest case

Last month, the commission published an audit into subsidies granted to the Agrofert business empire, founded by Czech PM Andrej Babiš, and still controlled by him, despite having put his assets into trust funds when he became PM.

Internal paper lays out EU splits on 'returning' migrants

An internal document from January outlines the divisions among EU states when it comes the European Commission's proposal on "return sponsorships". Although positions may have since shifted, the document provides a glimpse into the Council's thinking.

Energy and gender in EU focus This WEEK

In the European Parliament, the home affairs committee will start to work on new migration laws: providing the legal framework for the new migration policy in the EU.

EU leaders meet This WEEK amid EU-Poland clash

Vaccine roll-outs, energy prices, migration and an upcoming climate summit will top the agenda at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, while MEPs in Strasbourg tackle rule of law.

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