Week ahead

What's on in the week ahead in the March plenary session of the European Parliament.

Monday 11 March

The session starts at 4pm with a debate on three reports by the Women's Rights Committee to mark International Women's Day. The reports highlight the impact of the economic crisis of women, and include a call to do more to tackle gender stereotypes.

After debating two technical pieces of legislation on the development of European energy networks and renewable energy, MEPs will then hold a debate on nuclear safety with the Energy Commissioner, G√ľnther Oettinger. The debate will take place two years to the day since the Fukushima nuclear disaster that followed the Japanese tsunami. The commissioner will be asked to provide an update on the implementation of safety measures that followed "stress tests" of all nuclear power plants in the EU to check on their ability to withstand major natural disasters. The tests found that nearly every nuclear plant in the EU needed improvements.

MEPs will then go on to debate new laws on the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions, to take into account the impact on climate change of farming. This will be followed by the traditional one minute speeches, which give MEPs the chance to raise any issue they want. The plenary session is due to finish for the day at around 11pm.

Tuesday 12 March

The day begins at 7.30am with a brief statement by the Commission on the latest developments in the horsemeat scandal. This follows a session of the Public Health Committee last month, where MEPs were highly critical of the Commission's attitude to the scandal, amid accusations that cuts to food inspectors had exacerbated the crisis.

The morning's main debate is on the establishment of EU-wide Alternative Dispute Resolutions. These are designed to give consumers who want to raise complaints about goods or services the option of mediation services without having the need to go to court. The EU wants these schemes to be at best free, or at worst only to charge a "nominal fee".

This debate will be followed by a statement by the Commission and Council on anti-discrimination in the EU, following concerns by MEPs that a draft directive on the issue has been sitting with the Council for five years without agreement. MEPs say the rise of extremist parties in a number of EU countries shows the need for a rapid agreement on anti-discrimination legislation.

Tuesday's daily voting session will be interrupted at 11am for an address to the parliament by the Israeli president, Shimon Peres.

The afternoon's session begins with what is expected to be a long and controversial debate on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. A number of issues are subject to intense debate between the political groups, such as on the transparency of direct payments to farmers, and the issue of "double payments" where farmers receive payments from two different EU funds for carrying out environmental improvement measures. This is the latest in a lengthy CAP reform negotiation period, with more talks with national governments expected to take place before the reformed CAP comes into force in 2015.

MEPs will then move onto setting out their initial thoughts for the EU's 2014 budget, the first to take place under the new long-term budget, or Multi-Annual Financial Framework, before moving onto debating laws designed to force national and regional governments to provide better disclosure of public accounts. This is designed to prevent a repeat of the scandal in Greece, where statistical cover-ups were blamed for hiding the real levels of the country's deficit.

Debate will then focus on more internal matters, with a debate on how to cut the number of MEPs to comply with the Lisbon Treaty. The parliament currently has 754 MEPs, which will rise to 766 when Croatia joins the EU later this year. The treaty says the number should be capped at 751 MEPs, and so the Constitutional Affairs Committee has proposed what it describes as a "practical solution" to cut the number of MEPs from 12 countries by one, and to cut the number of German MEPs by three. This may seem less than practical for MEPs who may be affected by the changes.

The day concludes with a question to the European Commission on the impact of austerity measures on disabled people, and on two non-legislative reports by parliamentary committees. The first, by the Public Health Committee calls for tougher laws on so-called "endocrine disruptors", which are found in some plastics and are blamed for causing infertility and early-onset puberty. The second, by the Employment Committee, calls for better integration of migrant workers, such as better teaching of "European democracy and values".

Wednesday 13 March

The key debate of the week takes place at 8am, when MEPs will set out their stall on the agreement by EU government on the long-term budget, known as the Multi-Annual Financial Framework. The seven year budget, which covers 2014-2020, requires assent by the Parliament. A number of political groups have indicated they may oppose the MFF deal, which saw a cut in the EU's budget, unless a mid-term review of the MFF is guaranteed, allowing the newly elected parliament and Commission to influence the annual budgets that will be inherited from the current mandate. The vote will take place immediately after the debate, at around 11am.

In addition to the vote on the MFF, votes will also take place on the various reports and legislation that were debated on Tuesday afternoon. There will also be a vote on plans for an EU definition of the drink absinthe. The Public Health Committee recommends that MEPs reject the Commission's proposal that would require minimum levels of specific substances in order to label a drink "absinthe", arguing that this would undermine traditional methods of production. There will also be votes on resolutions on nuclear safety and on tackling racism and xenophobia.

The afternoon's session is primarily dominated by foreign affairs issues, with the parliament expected to be addressed by EU High Representative Baroness Ashton on Egypt, Syria, North Korea, Mali and Ukraine. This will be followed by a debate by the International Trade Committee on relations between the EU and China.

The day concludes at around 10pm with a statement by the Commission on the so-called Co-operation and Verification Mechanism, which oversees the application by new EU countries of justice and internal market policies. The debate is expected to focus in Bulgaria and Romania and their accession to the free movement Schengen area.

Thursday 14 March

The final day of the plenary session starts with a debate on a report by the Legal Affairs Committee on the creation of a European statute for mutual societies. This is followed by a Commission statement on match-fixing in sport. This follows on from the EU's police agency, Europol, finding evidence of match-fixing of some top international football games. These included qualification matches for the World Cup and the European Championships, plus two Uefa Champions League matches. The morning's session will conclude with a brief statement by the Commission on the value of cotton, ahead of a major summit later this month on cotton amid uncertainty over the future price of the key commodity.

The day's voting session features votes on a number of resolutions, setting out the EU's position on the current situation in Egypt and North Korea, as well as on match-fixing.

Thursday, and indeed the plenary session, concludes with the monthly human rights debate. This month starts with a debate on Bangladesh, where a number of attacks on minority Hindu and Buddhist communities have been carried out. The debate will then move onto highlighting the situation of the minority Turkmen community in Iraq, before concluding with a debate on the situation of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

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