Brussels (Brussels Morning) The European Parliament convenes for a plenary session mainly online, from Wednesday. The session kicks off with a debate on the US presidential elections and its consequences for future transatlantic relations. On Wednesday afternoon, the House will debate how to fight terrorism, safeguarding freedom of expression and how to stop impunity for crimes committed against journalists.
On Thursday, Parliament will review the EU4Health Programme 2021-2027, a proposal aimed at protecting people from serious cross-border health threats, ensure medicines and medical devices are available and affordable, and to strengthen health systems in the face of future health scares.
There’s support or the health programme in the Parliament, but caution as to whether it moves the EU beyond its rather limited competence on public health, which is mostly reserved for the EU countries themselves.. MEPs will also hold a debate with the Commission on the need for transparency in securing COVID-19 vaccines.
In a separate debate, MEPs will scrutinise the impact of the handling of the pandemic on fundamental rights, the rule of law and democracy. The state of the EU’s democratic governance will also be discussed Tuesday with Commissioner Reynders and the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency participating. On Wednesday, Parliament will adopt its stance on the Sustainable European Investment Plan aiming at carbon-neutrality by 2050.
Intense debate on the EU budget
Talks on the next EU budget, starting from next year, are at a crucial phase. In addition, plans for the recovery fund worth 672.5 billion euro in grants and loans will be voted on by the Parliament’s committees this week, in an attempt to mitigate the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the debate on the EU budget heats up, French Socialist MEP Pierre Larrouturou has declared he is on a hunger strike to protest the EU budget scaling down on funds for health, research and climate change. Larrouturou wants the EU to introduce a tax on financial markets, hence his opposition to budget plans that seek to downgrade programmes on health, research and climate change. There are calls for a new system by introducing a digital or a carbon tax to increase recovery funds as a means of helping EU countries to gear up economically again.
Parliament will vote on an agreement with China to ensure protection for European products on the Chinese market. Products originating from or historically linked to specific European regions should have exclusive rights to use that connection or name in their branding. Similar products lacking that association should not be allowed mislead consumers.
The latest agreement covers 100 EU agricultural or food products, including Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, Languedoc wine, Polska Wódka and Elia Kalamatas, all of which should now be protected on the Chinese market. Likewise, a hundred Chinese products will receive similar protection in EU markets, to ensure that both agricultural traditions are similarly respected.