Brussels (Brussels Morning) This week, the European Parliament convenes its first 2022 plenary session in Strasbourg with a ceremony to honour the memory of David Sassoli, the EP’s late President. MEPs are poised to pick a new President and Bureau through remote voting. The EP will debate the ongoing crisis on the Russian-Ukrainian border, France’s just initiated Presidency of the EU plus a wrap-up of the EU December summit. MEPs will vote on the Digital Services Act and on how animals should be protected when in transport. They are likely to endorse measures designed to strengthen the European Medicines Agency.
Memorial ceremony for David Sassoli
On Monday, a ceremony takes place to honour the memory of the late Parliament’s of the EP, David Sassoli, who died on 11 January. Former MEP and Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, France’s President Emmanuel Macron, and a number of political group leaders will address the ceremony.
The Foreign Affairs Committee and the Subcommittee on Security and Defence hold discussions on Monday with EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell about the continuing crisis in Eastern Ukraine and along the Russian-Ukrainian border. EU leaders remain wary of Moscow’s attempts to redefine Europe’s security architecture whereas Russia is calling for an end to what it terms NATO’s eastern expansion.
Election of EP President and Bureau
Tuesday and Wednesday, MEPs choose the Parliament’s next President in a secret ballot using remote voting. An absolute majority of votes is required in order for a winning candidate to be elected. MEPs will then elect the 14 Vice-Presidents and five Quaestors who, together with the President, make up the Parliament’s Bureau. Parliamentary committee appointmentss for the rest of the current legislative term will be confirmed during these session as well.
French EU Presidency
Wednesday morning MEPs will discuss the political strategy and aims of France’s six-month Presidency of the Council of the EU with President Emmanuelle Macron. While the French Presidency’s motto is “Recovery, Strength and a Sense of Belonging”, the fact that 2022 is also a presidential election year in France, means Macron is expected to have to thread carefully both domestically and on the European stage. France’s priorities include reform of the border-free Schengen zone, the establishment of a European defence system and the creation of a “new European model for growth and investment”.
EU December summit
On Wednesday afternoon, MEPs will discuss with Council President Charles Michel and the Commission the outcome of the 16 December summit, which dealt with COVID-19, rising energy prices, security and defence issues, and external relations.
Digital Services Act
Wednesday will also see Parliament vote on its position regarding the Digital Services Act, which seeks to create a safer digital space in which users’ rights are protected. This would include rules to tackle illegal products, services or content online. The Act would strengthen the accountability and transparency of algorithms, and also address content moderation.
European Medicines Agency
Still on Wednesday, MEPs are expected to endorse measures provisionally agreed to increase the powers of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The objective is to ensure that the EU will be better equipped to manage future health crises by tackling shortages of medicines and medical devices more effectively. In particular, EMA will set up two “shortages steering groups”, one for medicines, the other for medical devices.
Protecting animals better during transport
On Thursday, MEPs will debate and vote on how to improve animal welfare during transport, and how to control live animal exports more effectively and limit the transport of young animals.