Written by Clare Ferguson,
Now that Parliament has heard all candidate Commissioners and been assured of their suitability for their appointed portfolios, the November II plenary session agenda indicates that Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen is expected to present the full College of Commissioners and their programme on Wednesday morning. The confirmatory vote on the election of the Commission to replace the current caretaker arrangement then follows at lunchtime, after which the new Commissioners will be ready to begin work on their new portfolios under the President’s agenda for a ‘Union that strives for more’, including a new ‘Green Deal’ and a revitalised economy.
Launching such plans requires funding, of course, and on 18 November (the last day of the conciliation period), the current Finnish Presidency announced that Member States and the European Parliament had reached an agreement on the EU budget for 2020. As proposed by Parliament, the agreement reverses most of the Council’s cuts to the Commission’s draft budget, and increases funding for some of Parliament’s priority areas, leading to an overall increase of €400 million compared to the draft budget. Parliament will therefore consider the agreed joint text on Tuesday afternoon (with a possible vote scheduled on Wednesday). If both Parliament and the Council approve the joint text before 3 December, Parliament’s President can sign the definitive agreement. However, should Parliament reject the compromise, the Commission would then have to draw up a new draft. This seventh, and last, budget of 2014-2020 ends the current budgetary cycle and prepares the transition to the 2021-2027 framework.
With wildfires in the Amazon and Australia, Venice under water, and the EU Environment Agency warning that Italy and Hungary are at particular risk of flooding, the devastating effects of increasing numbers of climate change-related weather events have come to the top of the political agenda ahead of the COP25 Climate Change Conference in Madrid this year. Members will hold a joint debate on climate change on Monday evening, and hear Council and Commission statements on the climate emergency, as well as their responses to oral questions on the actions undertaken to pursue the Paris Agreement’s objectives. Parliament seeks to reinforce the EU’s ambition for net-zero global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, upgraded nationally determined contributions by 2020, and a higher 2030 emission reduction target of 55 %. Members will also hear Commission statements on the EU response to extreme meteorological events and their impact on urban areas and cultural heritage on Tuesday evening, and on the protection of forest and environmental defenders in the EU on Thursday morning.
Another subject hitting the headlines on a regular basis is that of society’s treatment of women and children. One in three women (33 %) in the EU has experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15; 75 % of female managers or professionals have experienced sexual harassment; and one in ten women have suffered sexual harassment or stalking made possible by new technologies. Members will mark the International Day for the elimination of violence against women on Monday evening, with Council and Commission statements on EU action to tackle this violation of human rights. The EU plans to accede to the Istanbul Convention, put in place by the Council of Europe, and Parliament has regularly reviewed progress towards accession, for which its consent is required. In the meantime, Parliament continues to seek to dispel any misconceptions that have prevented some EU Member States from ratifying the Convention. Members will vote on a motion for a resolution on EU accession to the Istanbul Convention and other measures to combat gender-based violence on Thursday afternoon.
Following the debate marking the 60th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly’s Declaration and the 30th anniversary of the ensuing Convention of the Rights of the Child on 13 November, Members will also vote on a resolution (debated during the November I Brussels plenary) on Tuesday lunchtime, underlining the European Parliament’s consistently strong commitment towards children’s rights. Parliament will reiterate its pledge to protect & promote children’s rights, including ensuring support for the fight against global poverty, which particularly affects children.
The battle to protect these and other human rights continues worldwide. Thirty years since Parliament first awarded its prize for champions of freedom of thought, Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, laureate of the 2018 Sakharov Prize, will address the plenary in a formal sitting on Tuesday lunchtime. Sentsov was unable to receive his award in person, due to his sentencing to 20 years in prison in Russia for his opposition to the annexation of Crimea. In response to such international pressure, Russia released Sentsov in September this year. Parliament will award the 2019 prize in December.
Similarly, Parliament awards its annual LUX prize for the best film dealing with issues at the heart of European public debate, such as ending poverty, combating violence against women, and integrating vulnerable communities. Parliament will announce this year’s winner on Wednesday lunchtime.