Written by Clare Ferguson,
The recent speech by French President Emmanuel Macron, proposing greater European integration on issues where EU Member States agree to move forward, echo the proposals made by Jean-Claude Juncker in his address on State of the European Union. One example of such ‘two-speed’ European cooperation on Parliament’s agenda this week is the agreement between 20 EU Member States to establish a European Public Prosecutor’s office, which will take over the criminal investigation and prosecution of those who commit fraud against the EU budget; a task for Member State governments up to now. Defrauding EU funds is a crime against all EU citizens, and Parliament is keen to support the fight against such theft. This is particularly important in the case of cross-border crime such as VAT fraud, where protection of EU finances suffers from uneven levels of protection. A decentralised structure is proposed for the body, with an independent European Public Prosecutor supervising European Delegated Prosecutors in the Member States. Parliament will decide whether to give consent to the proposed arrangements on Wednesday afternoon.
Listen to podcast ‘Establishing the European Public Prosecutor‘
Still looking to the future of the EU, on Tuesday morning Parliament will adopt a resolution on the state of play of the Brexit negotiations to date. European Parliament consent is required to conclude an eventual agreement with the United Kingdom on the conditions for the country’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union. Parliament’s priority concerns are that citizens’ rights are protected, that all EU-28 financial commitments are met by all 28 Member States in full, and that the issues around the border between the UK and Ireland are satisfactorily settled. While recent negotiations have shown some signs of progress, it remains to be seen whether the Parliament will interpret this progress as sufficient to recommend that talks on a future EU-UK relationship begin.
With much change in the international environment and the current drift towards protectionist moves, Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety is calling for European leadership in defence of the Paris Agreement, following the USA’s announced intention to withdraw. A debate will take place on Tuesday afternoon, in response to oral questions put to the Parliament regarding the forthcoming COP 23 climate change conference, to be held in Bonn, Germany (6-17 November). Members have tabled questions on the measures the Council and Commission plan to take to ensure that climate-related measures are sufficiently financed, that EU industry is protected against third countries with less ambition, and to prepare a zero-emissions strategy for the EU.
In fisheries conservation, the European Union has exclusive competence in EU external fisheries management (barring a couple of exceptions), and is thus a party to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). As such, the Commission proposes to incorporate ICCAT’s binding recommendations fully into EU law. These include 28 recommendations for conservation, management and control of fisheries, to protect species such as tropical tunas, swordfish, marlins, and sharks, while limiting incidental catches of seabirds and turtles. Parliament wants the rules to level the playing field between EU and third-country fleets, and will debate proposals as to how to ensure transparency in quota-setting, and encourage traditional fisheries and fishing practices with a low environmental impact, on Monday evening.
Finally, Parliament continues with the maritime theme in a joint debate scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, which will discuss the issue of safety in passenger ships. Although travel in European waters is the safest in the world, the EU intends to strengthen EU legislation, particularly in respect of fire safety standards. Clarifying and harmonising EU rules, and extending them to cover aluminium vessels, will make the rules easier to manage and enforce. Proposals also include new rules on registering the number of people present on board passenger ships – information that is vital to emergency services in the case of an accident. Parliament is keen to ensure that the passenger data recorded gives enough detail to be able to help victims of accidents at sea, and of course that this personal data is treated in accordance with data protection standards. Parliament’s Committee on Transport is also concerned that passenger shipping that operates almost continually, such as ro-ro (roll-on-roll-off) ferries and other high-speed passenger vessels, require frequent safety inspections due to their intensive use. The proposals for debate seek to harmonise the rules, making four to eight-monthly inspections a priority, and with a view to ensuring a decent working environment for ferry crews.
Listen to podcast ‘Safety rules and standards for passenger ships‘