European Parliament Liaison Office in Ireland – EP Plenary Newsletter 29-30 January 2020

What will our MEPs be working on in this week’s plenary session in Brussels? Highlights include the the final Brexit vote; common chargers and e-waste; and EU gender equality strategy

Final Brexit vote in Parliament

MEPs are set to approve the Withdrawal Agreement, in a vote at 18.00 on Wednesday.

Parliament will vote on the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement at its plenary sitting in Brussels. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission VP Maroš Šefčovič and the EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier are expected to participate in the debate with political group leaders that will precede the vote, starting at approximately 16.15.

The vote in Parliament’s plenary session at 18.00 comes after the completion of the ratification process in the UK and the positive recommendation adopted by the Constitutional Affairs Committee last week. To enter into force, the Withdrawal Agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom needs to be approved by the European Parliament by a simple majority of votes cast (Article 50 (2) of the Treaty on European Union) before being subject to a final vote (by qualified majority) in the Council.

After the vote, President Sassoli will make a statement to the plenary, following which UK MEPs and group leaders will be invited to mark this moment in a short ceremony in the Yehudi Menuhin area at around 18.15.

Parliament to commemorate 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz

A ceremony, including speeches by EP President Sassoli and survivor Liliana Segre, will be held at the opening of the plenary session.

MEPs will hold a minute of silence to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 75 years after the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp was liberated on 27 January 1945.

In the presence of Ms Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, world famous cellist and surviving member of the Women’s Orchestra in Auschwitz, Mischa and Maxim Maisky will perform “From Jewish Life: Prayer” by Ernest Bloch on cello and piano.

At around 15:20, Liliana Segre, Italian senator for life and Auschwitz survivor, will address MEPs, followed by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission and Charles Michel, President of the European Council (tbc),

The Karski Quartet and Naomi Couquet (Mezzo-Soprano) will perform “Kaddish” by Maurice Ravel to end the ceremony at 15:45.

MEPs want beefed-up rules for common chargers and e-waste

Parliament will vote on a resolution on Thursday calling for measures to make common chargers for mobile devices a reality for consumers and reduce e-waste.

When what is good for the consumer coincides with what is good for the environment, we need to seize that opportunity, MEPs said in a plenary debate on 13 January.

Members expect concrete actions from the Commission, for instance, a standard for a common charger and measures for treating e-waste. Some also call for new phones and chargers to be sold separately.

Background

However, some progress has been made, said the Commission: in 2009, there were more than 30 charging solutions, while today there are mainly three types of chargers.

According to estimates, around 50 million metric tons of e-waste is generated globally per year, with an average of more than 6 kg per person. The total e-waste generation in Europe in 2016 was 12.3 million metric tons, corresponding to 16.6 kg on average per inhabitant.

MEPs to assess the humanitarian situation on the Greek islands

The dire situation of asylum-seekers stranded on the Greek islands will be up for a plenary debate on Wednesday, with a particular focus on children.

For the fifth consecutive winter, thousands of persons await in overcrowded and inadequate facilities for their asylum requests to be processed and for transfer to the mainland. MEPs are particularly worried about the fate of the most vulnerable, children in particular.

During the last legislature, Parliament reiterated, on several occasions, its calls for EU member states to relocate refugees from Greece. According to UNHCR, there are currently more than 40.000 people on the islands. The Greek authorities are hoping to lower these figures by deporting those with no right to stay to their country of origin or a non-EU transit country, after new national asylum legislation entered into force at the beginning of 2020.

MEPs to call for measures to close the gender pay gap in the EU

The EP is set to urge the Commission to come forward with an ambitious EU Gender Equality Strategy including binding measures to reduce the gender pay gap.

Following the debate held in plenary on 13 January, MEPs will vote on Thursday on a resolution calling for both the Commission and members states to definitively close the gender pay gap, strictly enforce the equal pay principle and put forward legislation increasing pay transparency.

Although the principle of equal pay for equal work is enshrined in the EU Treaty, the overall gender pay gap within the EU remains at 16%, with huge differences between member states. The situation gets even worse when women retire: their pension is about 37% lower than that of men.

In her political guidelines for 2019-2024, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen committed to closing the gender pay gap within the framework of the upcoming Gender Equality Strategy. Furthermore, the new Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, announced actions to introduce legally binding pay transparency measures during the first 100 days of this Commission.

MEPs to call for measures to close the gender pay gap in the EU

The EP is set to urge the Commission to come forward with an ambitious EU Gender Equality Strategy including binding measures to reduce the gender pay gap.

Following the debate held in plenary on 13 January, MEPs will vote on Thursday on a resolution calling for both the Commission and members states to definitively close the gender pay gap, strictly enforce the equal pay principle and put forward legislation increasing pay transparency.

Although the principle of equal pay for equal work is enshrined in the EU Treaty, the overall gender pay gap within the EU remains at 16%, with huge differences between member states. The situation gets even worse when women retire: their pension is about 37% lower than that of men.

In her political guidelines for 2019-2024, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen committed to closing the gender pay gap within the framework of the upcoming Gender Equality Strategy. Furthermore, the new Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, announced actions to introduce legally binding pay transparency measures during the first 100 days of this Commission.

MEPs to debate new measures to green the transport sector

In a debate on the future of the transport sector on Wednesday, MEPs will discuss new measures needed by 2030 and beyond.

MEPs are likely to ask the Commission representatives what concrete measures the Commission aims to table to reach the EU’s emissions reduction targets and what kind of funding will be made available for the carbon-neutral transformation of the transport sector.

Protecting the rights of indigenous peoples

In a debate on Wednesday, the Parliament is expected to denounce the continuing criminalisation of those defending the rights of indigenous peoples.

Parliament will call for an end to land grabbing and environmental destruction and highlight the need to include indigenous peoples in decision-making on climate change strategies.

In July 2018, the European Parliament voted on its first report on the rights of indigenous peoples in the world, calling for their rights to be fully protected, including their land, territories and resources.

The total population of indigenous peoples is estimated to be over 370 million people living in over 70 countries worldwide, representing around 5 % of the total world population.

Commission Work Programme 2020

MEPs will discuss the Commission’s annual work programme with European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič on Thursday at 9.00.

This will be the first work programme to be presented by the new Commission.

MEPs will set out their legislative and policy priorities in reference to the Commission’s six legislative priorities. These include the European Green Deal, social fairness and prosperity, digitalization and artificial intelligence, protecting European core values such as the rule of law and fundamental rights but also security and migration policies, enhancing Europe’s geopolitical role in the world, and strengthening democracy in the EU as well as the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe.

Parliament set to denounce India’s new controversial citizenship law

A resolution expressing serious concerns about India’s new Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) will be put to a vote on Thursday.

The law, which was adopted by Indian lawmakers in December last year, offers amnesty to non-Muslim irregular immigrants from three countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – and amends the country’s previous 64-year-old citizenship law, which prohibited irregular migrants from becoming Indian citizens.

The Indian government argues that the law will provide sanctuary to people fleeing religious persecution, while critics say it will marginalise India’s large Muslim minority and undermine the country’s secular constitution.

Combined with a yet-to-be implemented nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC), part of the Indian government’s plan to cement a new citizenship verification process, the law could potentially strip Indian Muslims of their citizenship and would leave them facing an uncertain future.

The new law has prompted widespread protests across India, with many protesters wounded or killed.