17/02/2012 What the February plenary session has in store

From the 13th until the 16th February 751 European deputies will meet in Strasbourg for the second plenary session of February (the first took place on the 1st -2nd February in Brussels). On the menu for debate and voting on: aid programmes for the vulnerable, an EU-Morocco agreement, recent events in Hungary, the annual examination of growth, the situation of Syria and in Russia...just a look at the main subjects on the agenda.

Decisive vote on an EU-Morocco agreement

On Tuesday there will be an important vote on an agreement between the European Union and Morocco in agriculture. It would be an agreement made possible by the Barcelona of 1995. The long term objective of this process was to create a free trade zone for EU countries and countries of the south and the Mediterranean.

These free trade agreements deal with, among other things, agricultural products and fishing. Negotiations started with Morocco in 2005, in conformity with the Rabat road map.

The agreement between the EU and Morocco came into force in 2000, and in December 2010 the Council of the European Union signed a document that would allow for the implementation, once ratified by the Parliament, of a second phase of the liberalisation of trade of agricultural and fishing products between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco. The European Parliament will or will not validate the implementation of this agreement on Wednesday 16 February during a vote in plenary session.

However the European deputy in charge of this issue, José Bové (Greens) is openly opposed to the ratification of the document. He has deems the outcome of such an agreement disastrous for European producers. The Spanish are particularly cautious, as they are concerned that their market will be flooded by Moroccan products. With regards to this issue, the Spanish People’s party and the socialist party have in fact planned to unite to oppose this agreement.

Rabat, for its part, thinks that a negative vote from the European Parliament ‘would affect the interests of both parties’, that is the European Union and Morocco.

Euro deputies are already preparing for the next European Council

On Wednesday morning the Euro deputies will get back to the main debate on the euro crisis, and particularly in preparing the European Union heads of state and government summit that will take place on the 1st and 2nd of March next.

In particular they will vote on a draft resolution on Euro bonds as tools for stability in the Euro zone. Put forward by the French deputy Sylvie Goulard (ADLE) on 25 January last, she particularly highlights that if ‘the idea of stabilisation bonds can create stability in the Euro zone in the mid term--- the Commission should still put forward its suggestions to radically resolve the current sovereign debt crisis, as the European pact on paying back debt put forward by the German council of economic experts and/or the finalisation and ratification of the ESM treaty (European Stability Mechanism), and/or euro bills, as well as a collective management of the issuing of sovereign debt.’

On the same day the economy of one of the Euro zone countries will be under the microscope with the president of the Italian council, Mario Monti’s visit to the Parliament, and he will be asked questions about the situation in his country by the president of the Parliament, Martin Schulz. They will then give a joint press conference after their interview.

Then, still on Wednesday the Annual examination of growth 2012, presented by the European Commission will be debated, and three reports will be presented: that of the Dutch deputy Marije Cornelissen (Greens/ALE) on employment and the social aspects of the annual growth report 2012; that of the French deputy Pervenche Berès (S&D) on the guidelines for the employment policies of member states, and that of another French deputy Jean-Paul Gauzès on the Parliament’s contribution to the Annual examination of growth in 2012, our report of the month.

With the big freeze, the Parliament highlights the importance of helping the most vulnerable

The European programme of helping the vulnerable has, since 1987, allowed member states to give charity organisations agricultural production surplus. But these days there is less surplus, and the Union has decided to replace these donations by subsidies in cash, as part of the Common Agricultural Policy budget. A situation that is not favoured by certain member states, especially Germany and Sweden, as they do not believe that agriculture should fund European social policy.

No European country has escaped the wave of cold that has come from Siberia, and Euro deputies will take advantage of this plenary session to remind everyone at the European Commission that they must remain committed to their strategy for the homeless.

On Tuesday and Wednesday they debate and vote on the financing of the food aid programme for the most vulnerable. Euro deputies have to basically validate the compromise found at the Council, especially with Germany, that will maintain the programme to 2013 with a maximum annual contribution of 500 million Euros.

The questions of the future of this initiative after 2013 has been raised, and member states do not want the CAP to continue to finance it. In 2011 it brought food aid to over 13 million people in 19 of 27 member states, especially France, Poland and Italy.

Finally a single European patent?

After more than ten years of negotiations, the implementation of a single European patent could be soon achieved. The issue will be discussed in plenary, around three reports, one on the implementation of strengthened cooperation in the areas, a second on issues relative to translation, and a third on the legal system to deal with any possible lawsuits.

It was mostly a language issue that blocked the dossier over the last few years, pushing the Commission to privilege reinforced cooperation, that would allow nine member states to go further on this issue, as no agreement at a European level seemed possible in the mid term.

Find the history and the issues surrounding the single European patents in our dossier of the month.

The Parliament guarantees human rights, in and outside of the Union

The European Parliament likes to remind us that it is the democratic organ of the European Union. When it is not giving out the Sakharov prize, it ensure human rights on a daily basis and ensures that liberties are respected, firstly in the European Union, but also outside of it.
During this session, deputies will discuss recent events in Hungary. After a stormy debate in the Strasbourg hemicycle on the 18 January last with prime minister Viktor Orban on the Hungarian constitution, Euro deputies will vote on the 15 February on a resolution to ask for a modification of same.

In 2011 Hungary was already in the news with a new media law, which had to be changed to be in conformity with European legislation. But in a March resolution the European Parliament also asked for other modifications.
On the constitution, Mr Orban’s discussion at the end of January in Brussels with José Manuel Barroso did not convince the latter, who declared that Hungary have to fully respect the letter and the spirit of European legislation like any other member state. He explained that the Hungarian government had to respond to the concerns expressed, as confidence of citizens and the markets are especially important in the context of an economic and financial crisis.

Thursday 16 February Euro deputies will deal with the situation in Russia and will vote on a resolution relating to the legislative Russian election of December 2011 and possible irregularities, protests that followed it and the upcoming presidential elections in the country.

Finally on 15 February the deputies will debate the deteriorating security conditions and human rights conditions in Syria with Villy Søvnda, Danish minister of Foreign Affairs. A resolution will be voted on the following day. The French minister for foreign affairs, Alain Juppé, will go to Strasbourg on Wednesday to debate the Syrian situation with the European deputies.

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