Last week, Green Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) met in Strasbourg for the European Parliament’s October plenary, with an agenda full of burning issues along with many positive outcomes.
Naturally, first on the list was Catalonia. The European Parliament held a plenary on the topic, after the Greens/EFA group called for a debate on the situation following the violence by the Spanish police in Catalonia on 1 October. Greens/EFA co-president Ska Keller strongly condemned the use of police force and urged the European Commission to mediate in the conflict. Likewise, co-president Philippe Lamberts stressed that the crisis deeply concerns the European Union, which can no longer remain silent. Unilateral action on either side would be inappropriate and would only worsen the situation. Political dialogue is the way forward to solve political crisis.
Brexit was the other hot topic on the table. Sufficient progress has yet to be made on citizens' rights, Ireland and Northern Ireland, and the settlement concerning the UK's financial obligations. The Greens proposed that, unless there is a major breakthrough in all three areas, the Council should postpone its assessment on whether sufficient progress has been made.
As Ryanair Holdings plc’s flight-cancellation crisis entered its fourth week with no sign of abating, the European Parliament heard statements from the European Council and European Commission on the issue. Chair of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, Green MEP Karima Delli, called on the European Commission to remind Ryanair of its responsibility to play by the rules of the European air-passenger rights law and declared that sanctions should also be considered.
Another very practical issue addressed by the assembly was Value Added Tax (VAT), with important progress being made. The European Commission estimates that the European Union (EU) loses up to 50 billion euros each year to VAT fraud. That money could be invested in public services, environmental protection, energy transition and vital infrastructure. The European Parliament voted with a large majority in favour of establishing a European Public Prosecutor’s Office. The new EU public prosecutor will be an independent body with the power to investigate and prosecute fraud in the EU, particularly VAT fraud.
But that was not the only good news! In fact, the European Parliament voted by a large majority to adopt objections to placing on the market products containing, consisting of or produced from genetically modified soybeans. This was a slap in the face for the big multinationals, to the benefit of citizens’ health. However, that was not the only one: another slap for multinationals came from the discussion on endocrine disrupters. The European Parliament voted in favour of an objection to the European Commission's criteria seeking to introduce a derogation from an existing ban on certain hormone-disrupting chemicals (endocrine disrupters). In its proposal, the European Commission was going well beyond its mandate by not only setting out criteria, but also by attempting to halt a ban on endocrine disrupters in the environmental sector. The Commission must now revise its proposal.
As to the 2017 UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn (COP23), the European Parliament issued its position via a resolution. The draft resolution adopted by the Environment Committee recognises that global carbon emissions need to be phased out by 2050 which means that most sectors in the EU must achieve zero emissions considerably earlier.