10/01/2012 2012: the agenda of the European Parliament

Citizenship, security, environment, consumption… Toute l’Europe takes a look at what the European Parliament will be deliberating on in 2012

Reforming the Schengen Area and visas

Following the dispute between France and Italy over the management of Tunisian and Libyan migrants, Member States agreed in June 2011 that it was necessary to strengthen Schengen’s evaluation mechanism and to install a safeguard clause to deal with critical situations. In April, the European Parliament is due to give its opinion on the new measures that make provisions for supplementary support at Union and Member State level, for increasing the support provided by FRONTEX and for giving the Union the possibility to establish a mechanism to reintroduce “border control at internal borders where a Member State is persistently neglecting its obligation to control its section of the external border, and insofar as the circumstances would be such as to constitute a serious threat to public policy or to internal security at the Union or national level”.

Membership of Romania and Bulgaria to the free movement area is also on the agenda.


A new president

On January 17th, German MEP Martin Schulz (S&D) will take over chair of the European Parliament until the next elections in 2014. He succeeds Jerzy Buzek (EPP, PO) as part of a long-standing agreement between the two main groups in the Parliament.

On the same day, MEPs will vote on a change to the visa system including introduction of a safeguard clause as well as revision of both the reciprocity mechanism and the list of third countries whose citizens are subject to or exempt from visa obligations.

The financial transaction tax

The common system of taxing financial transactions is expected to be put to vote in May. The aims is to make the financial sector contribute to some of the costs of the crisis, to ensure that it is fairly taxed in line with other sectors, to discourage financial institutions from taking excessive risks and to create extra income to finance the European budget as well as to gradually replace national contributions to the EU budget thus removing this burden from the national budgets.

Mobile telephony: lowering roaming charges

One session less

Much to the annoyance of the French government, 2012 will have one less session in Strasbourg. MEPs have adopted an amendment removing one four-day session in October 2012 (as well as in October 2013). In order to adhere to the treaties which set the number of Strasbourg sessions at 12, two two-day sessions will take place the same week.

In order to continue lowering roaming charges when a user sends or receives calls in the Union, the Commission wants to enable other operators to enter the roaming markets, particularly operators who do not have their own network, by forcing operators from other Member States to open their networks to them at regulated wholesales rates. Each time a client crosses a border, they will switch to the chosen roaming services provider. These provisions will mean that competition can be increased on the roaming markets and it will therefore encourage operators to offer better prices and services to their customers.
The proposals, which MEPs will probably vote on in April, also makes provisions for gradual lowering of the current ceilings for the retail rates for voice call and SMS services and the introduction of a new ceiling for retail rates of data roaming services. By July 1st 2014, roaming customers will pay maximum 24 cents per minute to make a call, 10 cents per minute to receive a call, 10 cents to send an SMS and 50 cents per megabyte (MB) for downloading data or browsing the Internet during their trips abroad.

Single European patent

For a European patent to be valid within a Member State, national laws may require the patent holder to submit a translation of the patent in the official language of the Member State. In order to reduce the cost and complexity of the European patent system, 25 EU Member States (Italy and Spain abstained) have agreed to create a unified patent system. The European Parliament will vote on a proposal (expected date: February 14th) that would allow existing European patents to have unitary effect across Member States. This protection by unitary patent will be optional and will co-exist with national and European patents.

Recognition of marriage systems in several States

What the group leaders want…

For 2012, the presidents of the political groups in the European Parliament are all wishing for an end to the Euro crisis.

Find out more on the European Parliament site

On March 14th, the Parliament is expected to make its decision on two regulations regarding marriage systems. Transnational couples are very common within the European Union and are often faced with practical and legal difficulties such as managing their assets or how to organise their assets in case of separation or death. These difficulties are often related to the large discrepancies between the laws applicable across States. The aim here is therefore to establish a clear legal framework in the European Union that will determine the relevant jurisdiction, the relevant law with regard to inheritance by registered partnerships and will enable decisions and certificates to be circulated across Member States.

Taxing companies

Companies trying to grow their business across borders in the EU are confronted with 27 different tax systems. To deal with this problem, the European Commission has proposed establishing a common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB). It is not about harmonising the tax rate itself but rather setting common rules for calculating the taxable profit of companies based in the EU and subsidiaries of third country companies that are located in the EU. The Parliament is expected to make its decision on this regulation on March 28th.

Energy efficiency

The Union has set itself a goal of 20% primary energy savings by 2020. To reach this goal, a directive being put to parliamentary vote (expected date: April 17th) will set rules aimed at removing obstacles and overcoming market failures that have a detrimental effect on energy supply and energy use.

Using passenger data in the fight against terrorism

Passenger name records (PNR), stored mainly by airline companies, can be used by law enforcement agencies to prevent and detect terrorist activity and other serious crimes as well as for related investigations and court cases. On May 22nd, the parliament is expected to be voting on measures related to the collection, use and storage of these data aimed at making it systematic and harmonious across all Member States. There will have to be strict guarantees in place to protect these data.

2012 in video

Watch other videos on the major issues in the European Parliament such as reforming the Stability and Growth Pact, recycling electronic waste, reforming the CAP, Erasmus and lots more.



Find out more

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