Parliaments

Week ahead in the European Parliament

MEPs meet this week for their first plenary sitting since the brutal terror attacks that claimed 130 lives in Paris earlier this month.

It comes as the Parliament's main home city of Brussels remains on the highest level of terror alert, with universities, schools and the metro system remaining closed.

As a series of anti-terror raids continues across the Belgian capital, MEPs will debate the political fallout from Europe's deadliest terror attack since the Madrid bombing of 2004.

Additional security measures and the future of the passport-free Schengen area will doubtless feature heavily during a debate over the EU's response on Wednesday morning.

MEPs will debate ways to tackle religious radicalisation of EU citizens during Tuesday afternoon.

The sitting will also see MEPs vote on an investigatory report into tax avoidance, and decide whether to sign off a deal on EU spending for next year they recently reached with national ministers.

Here's what's on this week…

Monday

The first day of the session will mostly be given over to a number of debates relating to EU trade policy.

First, MEPs will discuss the continuing trade negotiations between members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ahead of next month's ministerial conference in Kenya.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Trade between Vietnam and the EU is worth about €28bn per year

This will be followed by a debate on levels of human rights protection in the EU's recently-agreed trade deal with Vietnam.

The agreement, which still needs to be ratified by member states and the European Parliament, is expected to take effect in late 2017 or early 2018.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom has said the deal contains clauses to protect Vietnamese workers' rights and ensure the sustainable management of natural resources.

However, the Commission's decision not to conduct an "impact assessment" into the deal's possible human rights ramifications has led to criticism from human rights campaigners.

MEPs will then discuss negotiations towards completing an EU trade deal with Ecuador.

After a debate on the future of the EU's animal protection strategy, the sitting will end with presentations of three "own initiative" resolutions on aid to reduce child poverty, EU cohesion spending and the EU's role at the United Nations.

Tuesday

MEPs will start the day by debating last week's report into how well EU states are implementing the Commission's plans for an EU-wide "energy union".

The scheme, announced in March, aims to further integrate EU energy markets to reduce the dependency of eastern European countries on imported energy from Russia.

It aims to boost renewable energy generation, increase the interconnection of national energy grids and give the EU "one voice" in signing energy contracts with countries outside the bloc.

However, some MEPs have expressed concern the plan could be undermined by plans to double the capacity of the Nord Stream gas pipeline running from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea.

At the lunchtime voting session, MEPs will decide whether or not to back their June deal with member states on new EU rules increasing the amount of information insurance companies have to give to consumers.

The afternoon sitting begins with a debate on a report on tax avoidance in the EU by the special investigatory committee set up by the Parliament after last year's Luxleaks scandal.

The headline recommendation in the draft text is that multinationals should have to report where they make their profits on a country-by-country basis to increase transparency.

The report will be put to a final vote on Wednesday.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The steelworks in Redcar is one of many plants in Europe to have seen job losses in recent years as a result of declining steel prices

The debate on the EU's 2016 budget comes next, with MEPs also set to vote on Wednesday on whether or not to sign off the compromise they struck with EU states just over a week ago.

As ever, this year's negotiations saw MEPs arguing for higher levels of spending than the national governments were happy to accept.

This year's deal has however been reached according to the intended timeline, unlike last year when negotiations spilled over into December.

The evening's business will see a debate on tackling religious radicalisation within the EU, and a debate with the Commission on the ongoing crisis in Europe's steel industry.

It comes hot on the heels of last weekend's demonstrations in Sheffield following job losses in the UK industry in Teesside, Scunthorpe and Lanarkshire.

Critics have accused the EU institutions, as well as national governments, of not doing enough to prevent the "dumping" of cheap Chinese steel imports on the EU market.

Wednesday

The debate on the EU's security response to the Paris attacks will take up the entire morning session, before MEPs are due to hear a scheduled speech from Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

Discussion is likely to focus on the long-term future of the Schengen area, the passport-free zone including 22 EU countries that has already come under intense scrutiny as a result of the migration crisis.

MEPs will also no doubt debate whether to revise their position on controversial legislation forcing airline companies in the EU to routinely hand over passenger data to national security agencies.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Brussels remains on a high state of alert following the attacks in Paris earlier this month

As after this January's Charlie Hebdo attacks, the Parliament is under renewed pressure to agree to the scheme, which has been blocked for years by the left-leaning groups on civil liberties grounds.

The centre-right EPP group has also been turning the rhetorical screw, last week issuing a press release accusing objecting MEPs of "basically inviting" terrorists to perpetrate further attacks by exploiting "loopholes" in EU security legislation.

Some MEPs maintain, however, that collecting data on all passengers could violate previous judgements of the European Court of Justice, or lead to passenger profiling.

Following January's attacks in Paris, MEPs pledged to "finalise" a deal on the legislation before the end of this year, but majority support remains conditional on accelerating talks to strengthen EU data protection legislation.

Following the voting session at lunchtime, the afternoon sitting will open with a debate on what efforts the EU can make to combat violence against women and girls.

This will be followed by discussion of the results of this month's Valetta summit on tackling the migration crisis.

After this, a series of external relations debates will begin with a Commission statement on the situation in Burundi, where continuing violence has prompted Belgium to advise its 500 or so nationals to leave.

This will be followed by debates on the results of the recent elections in Myanmar, and the political situation in Georgia.

Thursday

The short final day of the plenary will begin with a debate on the annual report of the European Court of Auditors (ECA) on spending of EU funds during 2014.

The report found that 4.4% of EU funds were mis-spent, slightly down on the level for 2013, but once again higher than the ECA's 2% threshold below which errors are considered to be "tolerable".

As in previous years, the most error-prone spending was in agriculture and rural development (€57.5bn) and investment schemes for poorer regions, known as "cohesion" funding (€55.7bn).

The European Commission says most "errors" take place at national level, where 80% of EU funds are managed.

After this, MEPs will debate their traditional Thursday morning plenary resolutions on topical human rights cases.

This month's discussions will focus on Afghanistan, Cambodia and Bangladesh.

Please note: This agenda is subject to modification at the opening of the session on Monday afternoon.

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