Plenary Session of the European Parliament on 16-19 October 2023
War in Israel
This debate, in which both the Council and the Commission will participate, will take place on Wednesday, October 18.
Furthermore, a resolution related to this matter is set to be voted on during the subsequent day, Thursday, October 19.
The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, led a ceremony on October 11 to honor the victims of the terrorist attacks in Israel. In her address, she conveyed Europe's readiness to assist in finding resolutions to the conflict while strongly condemning terrorism. Metsola unequivocally labeled Hamas as a terrorist organization that does not represent the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people and provides no solutions, only violence. She emphasized that there is no justification for terrorism and that Europe stands in solidarity with Israel.
In response to the terrorist attack, prominent MEPs released a statement in which they condemned the assault by Hamas and affirmed Israel's right to self-defense. They expressed their unwavering support for Israel during this challenging period.
The debate is scheduled to commence at 9:00 AM on Wednesday, with the resolution vote set for Thursday, October 19.
EU funding to Ukraine
The European Parliament is set to discuss on Monday, October 16 and vote on Tuesday, October 17 on a €50 billion facility aimed at supporting Ukraine's recovery, reconstruction, and modernization from 2024 to 2027. MEPs ask to garantee transparency and democratic accountability andthe use of Russian assets to fund Ukraine's reconstruction. They also propose integrating this package into next year's annual budget negotiations scheduled for November 2023.
After the plenary vote on Tuesday, negotiations with member states can commence once the Council reaches a common position. This process follows the ordinary legislative procedure and is currently in its first reading phase.
Parliament's priorities for the next European Council
In preparation for the EU summit scheduled for October 26-27, MEPs will engage in a debate with the Council and Commission on Wednesday, October 18. During this discussion, they will articulate their demands and expectations for the summit.
The EU summit, will include the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the EU's support for Ukraine, the revision of the EU's long-term budget for 2024-2027, and the economic situation within the EU. Additionally, discussions will revolve around the topic of migration, with a particular focus on negotiations between the Council and Parliament concerning the reform of the asylum and migration system.
The debate will not result in a resolution.
EU funding to Ukraine
The European Parliament is set to evaluate the effectiveness of EU sanctions imposed on Russia and how to prevent their circumvention as Moscow has managed to bypass these measures through trade restrictions and the involvement of third-country intermediaries.
The debate will take place on Tuesday, October 17 and the vote on resolutions drafted by political groups by 6 November is scheduled for the plenary session on November 8-9. The discussion involves Council and Commission statements.
Effectiveness of EU sanctions on Russia
MEPs are set to engage in a discussion with Commission and Council, on Tuesday, October 17, representatives regarding the effectiveness of EU sanctions against Russia and how to prevent Moscow from circumventing them. The sanctions were swiftly imposed by the European Union in response to Russia's unlawful invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. These measures, comprising 11 sanctions packages, target key sectors of the Russian economy and its political elites. Despite these sanctions, Moscow has discovered means to bypass them, such as exploiting trade restrictions and utilizing third-country intermediaries.
Commission’s work plan until June 2024 elections
On Tuesday October, 17 afternoon, the Plenary will engage in a discussion regarding the European Commission's work program for 2024. This program is notably shaped by the upcoming European elections scheduled for June 6-9.
Following the State of the European Union debate held on September 13, the Commission will present its political strategy leading up to the elections. This strategy encompasses continued support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, endeavors to decarbonize Europe's industry while maintaining competitiveness, and efforts to bolster economic recovery post-pandemic. Other pivotal priorities include ensuring fairness in the green and digital transitions, the development of artificial intelligence with a human-centric approach, and the guarantee of equality, democracy, and the protection of fundamental rights across Europe.
Commission President von der Leyen, in her letter of intent to Parliament's President Metsola, specified the main areas for which the Commission intends to propose legislative measures in the coming months. It was emphasized that there will be a "limited number of new initiatives" to prioritize ongoing legislative work.
Illegal content and disinformation online
Applying EU law to fight the spread of illegal content and disinformation onlineOn Wednesday, MEPs will discuss with Council and Commission on Wednesday 18 October how to respond to the increase in violent, terrorist and false content circulating on social media.
Parliament wants to take stock of the implementation of the Digital Services Act, after the first 19 platforms and search engines that have to comply with its obligations since 25 August were named. Platforms including X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, Tiktok and Instagram are now required to take concrete measures to assess and mitigate systemic risks related to the spread of disinformation or harmful content on their services. They need to act expeditiously to remove illegal content.
In the wake of the Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel on 7 October, Commissioner Thierry Breton urged X chief Elon Musk to take “proportionate and effective mitigation measures to tackle the risks to public security and civic discourse stemming from disinformation” and to “be in contact with the relevant law enforcement authorities and Europol”. X withdrew from the EU’s voluntary code of practice on disinformation earlier this year. Commissioner Breton gave Meta’s chief Mark Zuckerberg 24 hours to detail the measures the platform is taking to tackle illegal and fake content related to the Hamas terrorist attacks. Meta must also address deepfakes designed to influence voting results, in the context of upcoming EU member state elections and the 2024 European Parliament elections.
Companies that fail to comply with the DSA rules could face fines of up to 6% of their global turnover and could have their services suspended in the EU as a last resort.
STEP Programme supporting EU competitiveness
On Monday, October 16, MEPs are engaging in discussions about a Proposal for a Regulation on "Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform" (STEP), a programme designed to advance digital, net-zero, and biotechnologies, address labor and skill shortages, and support innovation. STEP aims to integrate various EU programs and funds to facilitate investments of up to EUR 160 billion, in addition to cohesion policy incentives and the Recovery and Resilience Facility. The platform's primary goal is to promote the growth of critical technological value chains in areas such as digital, net-zero, and biotechnology, while also addressing labor and skill shortages and supporting innovation to facilitate the dual transitions toward a digital and net-zero economy.
In their draft position for negotiations with the Council, MEPs propose an additional EUR 3 billion, increasing the STEP budget to 13 billion euros in new funding. MEPs will also urge the Commission to conduct an interim evaluation by 2025, which may result in a proposal for an amended STEP or a new proposal for a fully-fledged European Sovereignty Fund.
The first reading vote will take place on Tuesday.
The European Parliament is preparing its negotiation position for the 2024 EU budget
The European Parliament is preparing to vote on the 2024 EU budget,(Amending letter no 1) focusing on its ability to address the consequences of the war in Ukraine and provide support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), youth initiatives, and research.
The EP draft budget position, debated on Tuesday and voted on Wednesday, aims to reinstate appropriations that were cut by the Council, aligns with Parliament's stance on the mid-term revision of the EU's long-term budget, and calls for increased funding for:
- Horizon Europe
- climate action
- transport infrastructure
- EU neighborhood
- humanitarian aid
Check the exact figures for these programs in the draft resolution.
After the plenary vote, three weeks of "conciliation" talks with the Council will commence with the goal of reaching an agreement for the budget to be voted on by Parliament and signed by its President before the end of 2023.
Spyware and EU response
In a debate with Council and Commission, scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, Members of the EP are expected to call for decisive EU action in response to the growing proliferation of spyware. These calls come in the wake of Recommendations based on the findings of a year-long Committee of Inquiry, which investigated the use of Pegasus and similar surveillance spyware in June 2023. MEPs underscore the need for the EU to address the increasingly intrusive use of spyware in Europe.
Recent reports by the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) network have revealed that MEPs and other high-level policymakers have once again become targets of Predator spyware attacks. During Tuesday's plenary debate, MEPs will draw attention to the perceived lack of meaningful follow-up to the committee's work and urge the Commission and EU governments to take action against inappropriate and disproportionate use of spyware.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to address MEPs
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is scheduled to address the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday at 11:30.
His visit comes in the aftermath of Azerbaijan's military attack and recapture of the breakaway enclave Nagorno-Karabakh on September 19, leading to the displacement of over 100,000 ethnic Armenians from the region.
In an October 5 resolution, MEPs strongly condemned the "unjustified military offensive" and characterized the Armenian exodus as "ethnic cleansing". They also called for a comprehensive reevaluation of the EU's relations with Azerbaijan, including the suspension of the current Memorandum of Understanding on a Strategic Partnership in the Field of Energy between the EU and the Baku government. Nikol Pashinyan has held the position of Prime Minister in Armenia since May 2018.
Human trafficking: revision of EU rules
In an effort to enhance the fight against human trafficking and provide improved protection for its victims, MEPs are set to consider new proposals for reviewing the EU rules. These proposals aim to expand the scope of current laws to encompass forced marriage, illegal adoption, surrogacy for reproductive exploitation, and the exploitation of children in residential institutions. Additionally, the proposals address the online dimension of trafficking, including technology-assisted crimes like exploitation and advertising via social media.
MEPs want a number of changes to the Commission proposal to ensure the more effective protection of victims:
- make sure that victims of trafficking who are also in need of international protection receive appropriate support and protection, and that their right to asylum is respected ;
- criminalise the use of services provided by a victim of an offence concerning trafficking in human beings;
- introduce penalties for companies convicted of trafficking, including excluding them from tendering processes and from reimbursement for public aid or subsidies;
- ensure that victims are not prosecuted for criminal acts they were coerced into committing, and that they receive support regardless of whether they cooperate in investigations or not ;
- ensure support to victims using a gender-, disability- and child-sensitive approach and based on an intersectional approach;
- guarantee the rights of persons with disabilities and appropriate support to unaccompanied children;
- include anti-trafficking measures in emergency response plans when natural disasters, health emergencies or migratory crises occur
The procedure begins with EP President Metsola announcing the decision to initiate negotiations with the Council. MEPs will then have the opportunity to raise objections to the negotiation mandate within a specific timeframe. If one-tenth of them object, a vote will be held during the same plenary session on Thursday.
Serbia and Kosovo
On Thursday, MEPs will vote on a resolution on the situation in northern Kosovo, following the deadly events of 24 September.
In a plenary debate on Serbia-Kosovo relations and the situation in north Kosovo on 3 October, MEPs strongly condemned the latest violence and urged the two sides to return to the EU facilitated dialogue for the normalisation of relations. MEPs expect the perpetrators of the latest attacks to be brought to justice and for Serbia to cooperate in the investigation into the incident and to remove its troops from the Kosovo border.
On 24 September, one police officer and three attackers died in an attack by an armed gang against Kosovo police officers in the north of the country.
On Tuesday afternoon, MEPs will discuss water scarcity and structural investments for the access to water in the EU with the Council and Commission.
According to the Commission, in 2019 29% of EU territory and 38% of people in the EU were affected by water scarcity. The yearly cost of drought each year is estimated to be between €2bn-€9bn in the EU.
This summer’s droughts and floods across several regions in Europe have shown that Europe is facing increasing water-related challenges requiring coordinated action given the serious implications for European agriculture, energy, and water management.
The EU Water Framework Directive, adopted in 2000, is the EU’s framework for water scarcity and drought. To help combat water shortages in the EU, on 5 October 2023 Parliament called for better reuse and treatment of urban wastewater in its position on the revision of the urban wastewater treatment directive. In 2020, Parliament also adopted the Water Reuse Regulation.