The European Parliament’s first plenary session after the summer recess (11-14 September) was packed with a wide range of topics for discussion or to be voted on.
On Wednesday, Commission President Juncker gave his annual State of the Union speech, which was encouraging for all those who support the great European unification project. Besides referring to the need for more European solidarity, democratic reforms such as the ‘Spitzenkandidaten’ and transnational lists were given a positive mention. The aim of the Commission’s proposal for political party reform is to ensure that Europeans are better informed about the link between national and European. The Commission's proposals will make a closer link between true representation and EU party funding by increasing the percentage of funding which is allocated according to the real vote share.
President Juncker’s ambition to enable the EU to deliver is a good sign, although some important changes in priorities and approach are still necessary to achieve this goal.
One of the hot topics during this plenary was the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) which caps the total amount of certain greenhouse gases that can be emitted by all participating installations . The Greens are fighting to get international aviation included in the ETS, following the Commission’s decision to exempt it indefinitely from the system. The EP plenary decided by a huge majority to set 2020 as the end date for this exemption.
High on the agenda was the Fipronil scandal on which the Council and the Commission gave their statements on Tuesday, following a request from the Greens/EFA group. The insecticide, used to control fleas, lice and ticks, is not authorised in the EU for use on animals destined for human consumption. Nevertheless, it was found to have contaminated eggs and egg products in 22 European countries. MEP Bart Staes (food safety spokesperson for the Greens/EFA group) expressed concern about the RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) which can only function if Member States act quickly and effectively.
‘Dieselgate’ was also part of the discussion in this plenary session. The Greens called on the Commission to draft a proposal for more effective surveillance and compliance checks.
On Thursday, Sven Giegold’s report was adopted, calling for more transparency in the EU institutions. The main aspects of this report were supported by a petition signed by 100,000 people, agreeing, for example, to a new lobbying register. This will ensure that all lobbyists register to enable them to meet with legislators, which is an important step forward.
Another important advance concerned the positive vote on the report from Greens/EFA rapporteur Bodil Valero which shows how EU arms exports contribute to human rights abuses, forced migration and terrorism. By voting through this report, the Parliament is asking EU Member States to stop selling weapons to those countries breaching humanitarian law.