01/06/2011 What does the plenary session of June have in store?
As happens every month, MEPs will meet in Strasbourg for one week from June 6th-9th for the European Parliament’s plenary session. Over the four days, MEPs are invited to debate and vote on a wide range of topics such as trade relations, EU-Canada relations, the Hungarian Constitution, the European arrest warrant and new economic indicators
Trade relations between the EU and Canada
On Monday, MEPs will ask the European Commission about the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU. Canada is one of the European Union’s oldest and closest partners. During the EU-Canada summit in Prague in May 2009, Canadian and European leaders announced the launch of negotiations on a general economic and trade agreement.
The aim is to conclude these negotiations by the end of 2011 with the liberalisation of trade in services but also the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers. MEPs however would like more information about how the negotiations are progressing, what the agreement will contain and what impact this future cooperation will have.
Revision of the Hungarian Constitution
On April 18th 2011, the Hungarian Parliament approved the text of a new Hungarian Constitution which will come into force on January 1st 2012. This very controversial text is a cause for concern among some in the European Parliament. Some MEPs believe that the content of the Constitution is a matter of Hungarian sovereignty while others question whether it is compatible with the fundamental rights that the EU so rigorously defends.
On Tuesday, MEPs will debate the recent outbreak of Escherichia coli in Germany.
The Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, stated that he would accept a European Commission-led enquiry.
In light of this, MEPs want some clarifications... Will the Commission undertake such an evaluation? When and how does it intend to do so and will it take into account the recommendations of the Venice Commission (the Council of Europe’s consultative body on constitutional issues)? Will it ensure that the Constitution does not infringe on the EU’s fundamental principles and values? If so, will it have recourse to the appropriate mechanisms provided for in the treaties for such a case?
Bulgaria and Romania in the Schengen Area
The Parliament is expected to give its approval on Tuesday June 7th for the full and complete participation of these two countries in the Schengen Area. According to different evaluation reports, Bulgaria and Romania fulfil the necessary conditions: they are implementing all the provisions of the Schengen Acquis in a satisfactory manner.
Also on Tuesday, MEPs will look into the European satellite navigation programmes. This is a mid-term review to evaluate implementation, future challenges and financial perspectives of Galileo and EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service).
However, the report being voted on also proposes an amendment regarding the Bulgaria-Turkey-Greece region. This region where illegal immigration is high would benefit from a specific policy. The parliamentary report therefore calls on Bulgaria to “take some additional measures, including a special action plan to be implemented when it joins Schengen and to work out a common approach with Greece and Turkey to cope with a possible surge in migration pressure.”
Following the vote in Parliament, the Justice and Internal Affairs Council will in turn debate the issue on June 9th and 10th.
European Arrest Warrant
MEPs will ask the Commission and the Council about possible abuses of the European arrest warrant. This “accelerated extradition procedure” is a legal decision taken by a Member State with a view to the arrest or surrender by another Member State of a requested person. Created in response to the 2001 acts of terrorism, the European arrest warrant has long been considered a success.
However, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner Thomas Hammarberg has recently criticised excessive use of the warrant. He says, “It is necessary to strengthen human rights in the procedures of the EAW. Organisations have criticised the imprisonment of innocent people, disproportionate arrests, violation of procedural rights and the impossibility in some countries for an innocent person to appeal against a decision to be surrendered to another State”. MEPs are now looking at the problem.
Questions asked on Wednesday will include:
- What measures does the Commission intend to take to guarantee the end of all disproportionate use of the European arrest warrant in practice?
- How do the Commission and the Council intend to ensure that the relevant legal standards in the EU are strengthened and conditions of detention improved?
- Does the Council believe that the Julian Assange affair points to possible abuse of the European arrest warrant for political ends?
Electoral reform of the European Parliament
Following on from proposals made by the Constitutional Affairs Committee, MEPs will decide on reform of the EU legislation concerning European Parliament elections, particularly the adoption of a transnational list of 25 MEPs.
Two years after the European Commission communication “GDP and beyond – Measuring progress in a changing world”, the Parliament is supporting the development of indicators, in addition to gross domestic product, that enable measurement of environmental progress and social integration.
The report being voted on invites the European Commission to present a general strategy to quickly put in place a new approach to day-to-day policy making.
European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction
The Parliament is expected to agree to the participation of Croatia in the activities of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Croatia is a significant transit zones for illegal drugs it is still one of the main points of passage for drugs entering the European Union. In 2005, it expressed a wish to participate in the activities of the Centre and this participation should now quickly become a reality.