European Parliament: Essential updates from the March 2019 plenary sessions

, by Aline Thobie, Translated by Juuso Järviniemi

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European Parliament: Essential updates from the March 2019 plenary sessions

Plenary sessions follow one another rapidly for the MEPs at the end of their term: in addition to two meetings in Strasbourg in March, a “mini-plenary” also took place in Brussels at the start of April. With the end of the term approaching and time pressure piling up, the number of legislative dossiers to finish is high.

Digital copyright directive adopted

After two and a half years of intense debates in the hemicycle, the proposal made by the Commission in September 2016 was voted through. In the negotiations, the MEPs experienced considerable pressure, and European citizens mobilised through demonstrations and petitions.

The political groupings in the European Parliament were internally divided. The reason? Articles 11 and 13 (which became articles 15 and 17), whose removal many had demanded to avoid the creation of a filtering system.

Julia Reda, the German Pirate politician sitting in the Greens/EFA group, said that ‘there has never been such broad protest against an EU directive’, and that the European Parliament has never ignored protests this thoroughly. On the other hand, the rapporteur on the directive, Axel Voss (from the German Christian Democrats and the EPP group) said that the text struck a balance between the preservation of free expression and the protection of our intellectual property.

So, is it a “bold and balanced” directive, as described by European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, or an “illiberal text”, as described by the British Eurosceptic MEP Jonathan Arnott from the EFDD group? What we know is that the text was accepted by the Parliament on Tuesday 26 March with 348 votes against 247. The text still needs to be voted by the Council of the EU. Afterwards, the Member States will transpose it to their national statute books within two years, using their preferred means to satisfy the objectives of the directive. Should we expect differentiated application of the directive?

The Parliament takes its position on several major dossiers concerning the next EU budget

It won’t be this European Parliament that finishes the negotiations with the Member States on the next EU multiannual financial framework (MFF) for the years 2021–2027. Instead, it will be the arduous but decisive task of the next MEPs to continue these negotiations. But the current MEPs have already adopted their position on many programmes, like the European Social Fund and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

The MEPs also approved the legislative project that aims to allow the suspension of European funds in countries where general deficiencies on the rule of law are observed. This text, proposed by the Commission, will obviously be subject to lively negotiations between the national governments. The MEPs, for their part, are ready to negotiate: they strengthened the role of the Parliament in this procedure, enlarged the text’s field of application to fraud and fiscal evasion, and reminded about taking into account the impact that a suspension of funds could have for the final beneficiaries, namely the citizens.

Support for Laura Codruța Kövesi’s candidacy for the post of EU chief prosecutor

MEPs reiterated their support for the candidacy of Laura Codruța Kövesi to the European public prosecutor’s office. The Romanian prosecutor is targeted by attacks by the Romanian government, and was charged with corruption on 28 March. (Translator’s note: The BBC writes that Romania’s governing Social Democratic party’s disgruntlement with Kövesi originates from her term as the head of Romania’s Anti-Corruption Directorate, as she put dozens of politicians and high-ranking officials on trial, from across the political spectrum.)

Parliament takes its negotiating position on the Representative Action Directive

On 26 March in Strasbourg, MEPs adopted their negotiating position on a text on the Representative Action directive, with 579 votes for, 33 against and 43 abstentions. The Parliament is favourable to the directive. The text is meant to “allow groupings of consumers harmed by illegal practices to launch collective actions” against enterprises in courts. We await the member states’ position on this especially sensible proposal.

Donald Tusk can’t help dreaming up Article 50 revocation

At a debate with the MEPs on the conclusions of the European Council, the body’s President Donald Tusk couldn’t help bringing up, yet again, the revocation of Article 50. The Pole, forever a Remainer, is sensitive to the popular mobilisation of Brits in the past weeks: “You cannot betray the 6 million people who signed the petition to revoke Article 50, the 1 million who marched for a people’s vote or the increasing majority of people who want to remain in the European Union.”

But Brexit doesn’t get cancelled at the snap of a finger. [1] Brexit is a topic to follow again this week, with the extraordinary summit taking place in Brussels on Wednesday night.

On 15 April, MEPs will gather in Strasbourg one last time during the 2014–2019 legislative term for the last plenary session of their mandate.


[1Translator’s note: Although, given that the UK has the right to unilaterally revoke Article 50, at least in theory it is possible that Brexit is cancelled quicker than one might expect.

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