21/03/2012 March plenary session: take a look at the programme

MEPs from the 27 Member States are meeting this week in Strasbourg for the March plenary session. Fukushima, gender equality, common trade policy, the cocoa trade, climate change, the elections in Russia to name but a few of the items on the very busy agenda for this session.

One year later… taking a look at the fallout from the Fukushima catastrophe

Just one year ago, explosions in several reactors of the Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan caused environmental disaster on a large scale. This brought back memories of the Chernobyl disaster and reopened the debate on nuclear energy.

In France – one of the European countries with the most nuclear powers stations – a “human chain to end nuclear” was held between Lyon and Avignon on Monday March 12th. Simultaneously the European Parliament, at the opening session of the plenary session, was holding a debate on the lessons to be learnt from last year’s accident. The discussion is expected to be on nuclear safety (the Commission has decided that stations will have to undergo stress tests to avoid any accidents on European territory) but also on the place of nuclear in the European energy mix.

Are men and women equal in Europe?

Following a debate on Monday March 12th, MEPs will vote on two reports on Tuesday 13th – Sophia in ‘t Veld’s report on equality between men and women in the European Union and Sirpa Pietikainen’s report on female participation in political decision making.

Although International Women’s Day was widely celebrated on March 8th last, the battle for gender equality is far from over in the EU.
Take a look at our dossier


The Parliament reviews the recent European Council

After each European Council, its president, Herman Van Rompuy, as well as the European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, present the conclusions of the summit to MEPs.

The meeting between heads of state and government that took place on March 1st and 2nd is no exception so on Tuesday March 13th, MEPs will question the two presidents on the advances made. This recent Council meeting focused on the new fiscal compact among other issues. For the first time since the beginning of the crisis, this meeting was also about the signs of recovery in Europe. It is by no means certain however that these efforts will be viewed as sufficient in the eyes of the Parliament – Europe’s democratic institution.

Focus on cocoa…

… or rather on the cocoa trade. MEPs will be looking at two reports – one on the 2010 international cocoa agreement and the other on child labour in the cocoa sector.

The European Union is in fact the world’s biggest consumer of cocoa. The Parliament feels that for this reason, we should work to ensure that children are not exploited as forced labour for harvesting cocoa beans. A draft resolution to this effect will be voted on Wednesday March 14th.
This is also when MEPs will decide whether or not to give the green light to the new international agreement on cocoa which stipulates that signatories must work to improve working conditions in the cocoa sector.

Towards an economy that is more respectful of the environment

On Thursday March 15th, Chris Davies’ (ALDE UK) report will be discussed and voted on. The subject is the ‘Roadmap towards a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050’ that was presented by the European Commission last March.

This report is our report of the month. Click here to find out more.

Developed as part of the flagship initiative on effective use of resources, this roadmap should enable the European Union to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% to 95% by 2050 relative to levels recorded in 1990. The roadmap was discussed by the Council but was also the subject of a draft report by the ENVI committee (environment, public health and food safety).

Analysis of the Russian elections

On Wednesday March 14th, MEPs will discuss in plenary the results of the Russian presidential elections that resulted in a win – for the third time – for Vladimir Putin. The election was reported to be riddled with irregularities according to the Russian opposition who had already called fraud on the December 2011 legislative elections.

German MEP Knut Fleckenstein (Socialists & Democrats), chair of the delegation to the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, views the resulting protests as a positive sign that Russian society is developing. He is expecting Mr. Putin to “make Russia play a greater, more constructive and more responsible role on the international scene”. He went on to say (in a European Parliament website interview) that “we need better cooperation with Russia, for example to resolve the problems in Syria and to find solutions to the nuclear threat from Iran”.

And not forgetting…

The agenda for the March plenary session is yet again very busy including items such as enabling cross-border inheritance, reviewing enlargement, banning discriminatory websites, reforming the European Fisheries Fund and doing more to prevent diabetes in Europe. All these and more will be discussed by MEPs over the four days of the session.

Finally, following the recent statements made by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the future of the Schengen Area may well come up in the debates.

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