The latest Plenary of the European Parliament took place in Strasbourg from 3 - 7 April.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) overwhelmingly approved a resolution setting out Parliament's priorities and terms for the negotiations on UK's withdrawal from the EU. In addition to that, MEPs asked European authorities to establish more transparency to prevent car emissions fraud and also approved stricter rules to ensure the safety of medical devices as well as plans to enable more flexibility regarding the EU's long-term budget (Multiannual Financial Framework, MFF). Below an overview of the positions of our MEPs on the issues debated and voted.
The Greens/EFA signed the resolution alongside the EPP, S&D, ALDE, and GUE-NGL groups. We want the negotiations to be conducted in good faith, with no posturing and thinly veiled threats. Our absolute priority in the negotiations is the rights of citizens. The great number of citizens in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Gibraltar must not be forgotten, nor should the many young people who wish to stay in the EU. UK citizens living in the EU, and people from across Europe living in the UK, are also an urgent priority and should not treated as pawns to be traded.
The EU's long-term budget framework
MEPs approved Wednesday the Midterm revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 (MFF). Our group believes the revision is a poor deal for the parliament, which includes no additional funds despite previous commitments and on-going multiple crises. Nothing has changed in the EU budget to reflect the EU's Paris climate agreement commitments. In 2013, the MFF was cut for the first time. The midterm revision should have been an opportunity to at least partially reverse this mistake. Further, MEPs are being asked to give up some of the European Parliament’s budgetary powers to the Council. Our group lost the vote. The GUE and others joined us but S&D abstained. In doing so, the S&D gave a majority to the EPP-ALDE, de facto to giving up some of the European Parliaments’ prerogatives. Overall, this a bad deal for the people of Europe, and a self-defeating one for this parliament.
The MFF as such is not exactly the budget of the EU. It provides a framework for financial programming and budgetary discipline, ensuring that EU spending is predictable. It also allows the EU to carry out common policies over a period that is long enough to make them effective. The annual budget is adopted within this framework.
The MFF is divided into six categories of expenditure ('headings') corresponding to different areas of EU activities:
1. Smart and Inclusive Growth
1a. Competitiveness for growth and jobs: includes research and innovation; education and training; trans-European networks in energy, transport and telecommunications; social policy; development of enterprises etc.
1b. Economic, social and territorial cohesion: covers regional policy which aims at helping the least developed EU countries and regions to catch up, strengthening all regions' competitiveness and developing inter-regional cooperation.
2. Sustainable Growth: Natural Resources: includes the common agricultural policy, common fisheries policy, rural development and environmental measures.
3. Security and citizenship: includes justice and home affairs, border protection, immigration and asylum policy, public health, consumer protection, culture, youth, information and dialogue with citizens.
4. Global Europe: covers all external action ("foreign policy") by the EU such as development assistance or humanitarian aid. The European Development Fund also provides financial resources for the ‘EU as a global actor’. However, it is not part of the EU budget and therefore does not fall under the MFF.
5. Administration: covers the administrative expenditure of all the European institutions, pensions and European Schools.
6. Compensations: a temporary cash flow mechanism designed to ensure that Croatia, who joined the EU in July 2013, does not contribute more to the EU budget than it benefits from it in the first year following its accession.
Car emissions / Dieselgate
The European Parliament voted Tuesday on the findings and recommendations of its Dieselgate inquiry committee, with the aim to transform them into legislation. While MEPs voted in favour of introducing EU-level market surveillance for vehicles, they failed to secure an independent EU agency in charge of oversight, which our Group had been calling for. Such an agency is needed to create much greater transparency, bringing any wrongdoing on the part of car manufacturers out into the open. With the inquiry finding that both the European Commission and Member States should have acted on emission fraud sooner, there is a clear case for independent scrutiny. Unfortunately, the EP plenary, voting for the legislation on approval and market surveillance of motor vehicles (or “type approval”), disagreed. Despite the loss on the issue of EU Agency, the EP vote outcomes arestrong on the need for more EU oversight and better enforcement and implementation of Union law.
EU aid for the UK
On Wednesday MEPs approved €60 million in EU aid to help the UK fix the damage caused by flooding in 2016.
Palm oil and deforestation of rainforest
The European Parliament adopted Tuesday 4 April, by a large majority, a report on palm oil and deforestation of rainforests. For the first time, MEPs have called for stricter rules on the import of palm oil. Our group welcomes this report and voted in favour. It gives an insight into the problems related to unsustainable palm oil production and calls for action. These include minimum sustainability criteria for palm oil products entering the EU, and an EU action plan on deforestation and forest degradation. The widespread use of palm oil is a causes of widespread devastation, not least to rain forests. This has a significant knock-on effect for global climate change and also impacts local people, whose livelihoods are closely linked to the ecosystems being destroyed.
Money Market Funds
MEPs adopted Wednesday the draft European regulation on money market funds, as agreed in the inter-institutional negotiations. The Greens/EFA group voted against the proposal, citing inadequate supervision of these funds, which operate as shadow banks. This vote is a blow for efforts to improve the stability of the financial system and a gift to the financial lobby. Furthermore, it is at odds with international efforts to regulate the shadow banking sector. These funds function like savings banks they should clearly face the same level of rigorous regulation banks are subject to. The adoption of weak rules is part of a pattern of regulatory rollback that Greens have been drawing attention to for some time. The EU is once again failing to properly regulate the financial sector, leaving citizens at risk from a future financial crisis.
MEPs have approved Thursday the results of the trilogues on roaming. In negotiations, the parliament was able to secure low prices for consumers. Tariffs have been reduced so that small providers will now be able to compete with major telecoms groups. The ball is now in the court of telecom companies who must implement the roaming regulation in a user-friendly manner.
Agriculture: GMO objection
The European Parliament has voted Wednesday against the import of a range of up to 20 genetically modified maize varieties for use in feed and food. The Standing Committee on "Plants, Animals, Food and Feed" was unable to reach a decision in January, as did the appeal committee on 27 March. With a clear lack of support (15 Member States and the European Parliament opposed), our group calls on the European Commission to withdraw its proposal.
One-year anniversary of the Panama Papers
One year ago, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published the Panama Papers. The biggest leak in history made clear just how easy it has been to evade taxes or launder dirty money. The European Commission has already introduced tougher rules against money laundering and is preparing proposals to monitor tax advisers more closely. They are also considering much needed protections for whistleblowers. It is time for EU Member States to stop blocking progress on tackling tax evasion and money laundering. European governments are insisting on a more business as usual approach, refusing public transparency on who owns companies and trusts, delaying public tax transparency for companies and weakening the process to establish an EU blacklist of tax havens. The PANA inquiry committee mandate was recently extended by six month. It is expected to adopt its final report in November, after 18 months of investigations.
Privacy Shield, an EU-US agreement on data transfers for commercial purposes, should respect EU personal data protection laws and new data protection rules, MEPs said in a resolution approved on Thursday.
Hate speech and fake news
MEPS expressed their concern on Wednesday about the spread of hate speech and fake news, particularly on social media. They called on internet companies to step up efforts to remove false and offensive content quickly, however some MEPs warned it could amount to censorship.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier made a passionate plea in favour of the EU during a speech in plenary. “It’s up to us to ensure the European dream is passed on to the next generation,” he said.
Ukraine visa waiver
MEPs approved visa exemption for Ukrainians for short trips to all EU countries except Ireland and the UK on Thursday.
For further information on the text adopted and our MEPs activities please visit: