This week at the European Parliament

In a guest post, my colleague Alasdair Rendall from BBC Democracy Live takes a look what's happening during this month's plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg...


MEPs return to Strasbourg from their summer break, with the plenary session starting at 4pm BST. The session begins with MEPs debating new laws to clarify property rights for international couples in the EU. Under the new rules, couples will be allowed to choose the law that applies to their joint property in the case of death of divorce, or termination of a registered civil partnership.

The session will then move onto a debate on changes to the fuel quality directive, to try and promote greater use of new sources of biofuels such as seaweed or waste products. This is to try and limit the amount of farmland set aside for growing "traditional" biofuels, which environmentalists argue is leading to a reduction in the area available for growing crops.

There will then be a question to the Commission on the EU's internal energy market and a question on equal pay. The day will conclude with the formal presentation of a series of non-legislative committee reports.


The day begins at 8am with MEPs debating the mortgage credit directive, which is designed to tighten the rules on mortgage lending. The directive is a response to the property boom in many EU countries - such as Ireland and Spain - that many people believe was responsible for causing the Eurozone debt crisis. New rules will mean that borrowers will be refused a mortgage if they fail a standard affordability assessment.

MEPs will then debate a new law on market manipulation, in the wake of the Libor scandal, with tougher penalties being introduced for people convicted of rate fixing.

The morning session will end with a statement by the Commission and the Council on the state of play of negotiations on creating a European Banking Union, which is designed to increase supervision of all banks in the eurozone.

After the daily voting session, the afternoon session begins at 2pm with the Council presenting its position on the 2014 EU budget. National ministers reached agreement at their council meeting in Brussels in July, calling for a €142.23bn in commitments, and €135.00bn in payments. This represents a 6.15% decrease on this year's budget for commitments, and a 1.35% increase in payments.

MEPs will then move on to a debate on EU youth policies, focusing on measures to reduce youth unemployment, which is over 50% in some EU countries such as Greece and Spain. This will be followed by a general debate on EU cybersecurity, with a statement by the Commission on ensuring that information security is a key element of the EU's digital single market.

There will then be a statement by the European Commission on the so-called "Miranda case", where the partner of a Guardian journalist who had written articles based on leaks by Edward Snowden had files seized by UK border officials.

The evening session will conclude at 11pm following debates on three reports - on safeguarding European eel stocks, developing an EU-wide Customs Code, and on the evaluation of the European internal market for services.


The highlight of the week will be from 8am until 11am on Wednesday morning, with the annual State of the Union address from Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso. This will be his final address before next year's European Parliament elections and nomination of a new Commission.

The afternoon session will start at 1.30pm - earlier than usual - to allow for a major, and heated, debate on Syria, introduced by a statement from the EU's Foreign Affairs chief, Baroness Ashton. She will then make a statement on the situation in Egypt.

This will be followed by the annual debate by MEPs to evaluate the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy. The EU is currently engaged in over 15 operations around the world, primarily in peace building and conflict resolution. These include EU missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Georgia, Somalia, South Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan.

MEPs will then debate a report on the EU's policies towards Belarus, which has been described by some international commentators as the "last dictatorship in Europe". This will be followed by a statement by the European Commission on the role of Russia in the EU's relations with neighbouring countries. The statement is expected to be critical of Russia, alleging that it has put pressure on certain countries - such as Armenia and Ukraine - not to develop closer relations with the EU.

Wednesday will finish with two questions to the Commission - one on the EU's internal security strategy, and one on a European strategy on health and safety at work.


The final morning of the plenary week starts with the annual report on the work of the European Ombudsman. Nikiforous Diamandouros was the post holder from 2003 until stepping down earlier this year, being replaced by Ireland's Emily O'Reilly. The office of the European Ombudsman was established in 1995, as set out in the Maastricht Treaty, and oversees allegations of maladministration against EU institutions.

MEPs will then debate a series of non-legislative reports by committees, with topics including cross-border collective bargaining, the situation of unaccompanied minors in the EU, and job creation in the European cultural and creative sectors.

The daily voting session will be followed by the traditional conclusion of the plenary week, the monthly human rights debate. This month this will focus on the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Guatemala.