The EP’s President and political group leaders decided to hold an extraordinary plenary to continue with parliamentary work on the special measures to fight the pandemic.
Parliament’s President and political group leaders (Conference of Presidents) held a remote meeting on Thursday morning and agreed to convene an extraordinary plenary session on Thursday 16 and Friday 17 April in Brussels. (Image archive: Europarliament Brussels)
On the agenda will be a debate with Council and Commission and a vote on a resolution on EU coordinated action to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences. The EP is also ready to vote on any legislative or budgetary proposals prepared in time by the European Commission to further address the current situation.
The Conference of Presidents updated the EP’s calendar of activities to introduce additional dates for remote meetings for EP governing bodies, committees and political groups. You can find it here.
Group leaders also raised concerns about the emergency measures recently adopted in Hungary. A majority of the groups asked President Sassoli to relay their concerns in a letter to the Commission, asking them to evaluate the situation and consider activating the Article 7 procedure of the Treaty on European Union (TEU). This procedure would allow the EU to ensure that European core values are not at risk.
Remote voting system and health measures:
The current precautionary measures adopted by the European Parliament to contain the spread of COVID-19 do not affect work on legislative priorities. Core activities are reduced, but maintained to ensure the institution’s legislative, budgetary, scrutiny functions are maintained.
Parliament has agreed to introduce an alternative remote voting system. Based on public health grounds, it will enable votes to take place, with adequate safeguards to ensure that Members’ votes are individual, personal and free.
Flag raising ceremonies were held simultaneously at Allied Command Operations (SHAPE) in Mons (Belgium) and Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia (United States). North Macedonia became the 30th member of the Alliance on Friday (27 March 2020), when it deposited its instrument of accession to the North Atlantic Treaty with the US State Department in Washington DC.
Standing alongside the Chargé d’Affaires of the Delegation of North Macedonia to NATO, Mr. Zoran Todorov, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “This is a historic moment for North Macedonia. It comes after years of perseverance, determination, and commitment to reform. In the best spirit of the Alliance, and through political courage and vision, North Macedonia and Greece reached a historic compromise over the name issue. The Prespa agreement made NATO accession possible. It has also contributed to good neighborly relations and a brighter future for North Macedonia. Your hard work has made today possible.”
“Joining NATO is good for North Macedonia. It is good for the stability of the Western Balkans and it is good for international peace and security,” Mr. Stoltenberg added. “At times like these, friends and Allies are more important than ever and North Macedonia now has the best friends and Allies in the world. We are all safer and stronger together than alone. So, welcome to NATO,” he added.
North Macedonia became NATO’s newest member on March 27, upon depositing its instrument of accession to the North Atlantic Treaty with the US State Department in Washington DC. NATO Allies signed North Macedonia’s Accession Protocol in February 2019, after which all 29 national parliaments voted to ratify the country’s membership.
“North Macedonia is now part of the NATO family, a family of thirty nations and almost one billion people. A family based on the certainty that, no matter what challenges we face, we are all stronger and safer together“ said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in his welcome address from Brussels Headquarters.
North Macedonia is a long-standing contributor to our Euro-Atlantic security, including by participating in NATO-led missions in Afghanistan and in Kosovo.
A flag-raising ceremony for North Macedonia will take place at NATO Headquarters on 30 March 2020, in the presence of the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, and the Chargé d’Affaires of the Delegation of North Macedonia to NATO Mr. Zoran Todorov.
The flag of North Macedonia will be simultaneously raised at the Allied Command Operations in Mons (Belgium) and at the Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk (US).
Image: archive – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Zoran Zaev in Brussels NATO Headquarters,
President and political group leaders decided to hold an extraordinary plenary session next Thursday, 26 March to allow for implementation of special measures.
Parliament´s President and Group leaders – Conference of Presidents – held an informal exchange of views on March 19 morning. They approved in written procedure the proposal of EP President Sassoli to convene an extraordinary plenary session next Thursday, 26 March in Brussels to debate and vote on the first three legislative proposals of the European Commission to tackle the effects of the COVID19 pandemic in EU Member States. (Image: illustration)
“The European Parliament is doing its duty and will continue to do so. Parliament must remain open, because a virus cannot bring down democracy. We are the only European institution voted in by its citizens and we want to continue representing and defending them”, EP President David Sassoli said.
On the agenda:
The Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, which will make available €37 billion of the Cohesion funds to member states to address the consequences of the crisis,
a legislative proposal to extend the scope of the EU Solidarity Fund to cover public health emergencies
a Commission proposal to stop the so-called ghost flights caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
It is key that the European Parliament (pictured) adopts these three proposals swiftly, to provide concrete support to EU citizens and to the Member States in this unprecedented situation.
The Bureau of the European Parliament will adopt specific measures for this session to ensure the votes can be organised remotely.
This plenary will formally replace the session foreseen for 1-2 April.
The ordinary European Council scheduled for 26-27 March has been postponed to a later date. (Image: archive)
The members of the European Council agreed this during their video conference of 17 March 2020. EU leaders also agreed to hold another video conference next week on the situation regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.
The announcement followed the postponement of the Croatia presidency meeting scheduled on April 15.
“In order to limit the spread of COVID-19, the #EU2020HR has decided to postpone, until 15 April, all Croatian Presidency’s related informal meetings in Croatia, except informal Ministerial level meetings” the announcement of the Presidency reads.
Today Michel Barnier the EU top Brexit negociator announced he his diagnosed COVID19 positive, he left a message on his Twitter microblog in English, wishing well all who is struggling with novel virus.(Image: archive).
Barnier also made a video in his native French language, explainging that for the moment he feels fine, and follows all the medical insturctions.
The president of the EU Council Charles Michel among many others wished well to the negociator, expressing his friendship and promising to do his absolute best to defeat the spread of coronavirus panepidemic.
“We had tonight a meeting with President Erdoğan. A few days after my visit in Ankara, it was important to have this occasion to exchange our views on different topics related to the relationship between Turkey and the European Union. And of course, the first topic we discussed is the implementation of the deal between the European Union and Turkey on migration. We had the occasion to share our different opinions about the implementation of this deal a few years after this agreement” said the EU Council president Charles Michel.
“It is also very important to share with you that we will debrief the member states. We consulted a lot the member states the last days. It was, of course, necessary in order to inform them, in order to listen to the member states and to their concern regarding the different topics we have to discuss with Turkey. We will debrief the member states and it will also be the occasion later with the member states, after this process, this High-Level Political and technical process, between Turkey and the European Union through Josep Borrell and his counterpart in Turkey. It will also be the occasion to have, again, a political dialogue at the level of president Erdoğan in the next days and in the next weeks in order to continue this process of information and consultation of the different member states” Michel continued.
“We also had the opportunity to explain the difference for the European Union between the means which are paid and disbursed, because the procedures are accomplished and the projects carried out, and the means which are committed, ie reserved in the case of the six billion euro envelope that was mobilized in connection with this agreement. This is a first point. Second point: we also had the opportunity to discuss security issues in the region, especially in Syria, and to highlight our mobilization in support of any political solution to bring more stability, but above all to highlight the the great humanitarian concern we have in Idlib, as well as on the border between Turkey and Syria. And the possible mobilization of the European Union to try to provide support in this area” Michel underlined.
However President Erdogan did not participate int he final press-conference, and some commentators assessed the meeting did not pass as foreseen, ending by abrupt departure of Turkish delegation.
The experts pointed at the talks failure, indicating that the positions of the parties are too far away to reach any rapprochement, especially responding to President Erdogan’s request to open Greek borders to let the migrants to pass further to the other European countries. In 2016, the EU struck a a financial arrangement with Turkey that prevented displaced Syrians from entering the EU via Greece in exchange for six billion euro aid. The agreement, although criticised by many, for time being has helped to stop Europe’s biggest refugee influx since World War II. It is unclear if Erdogan has accepted the explanations of the EU side on delays of transfers of six billion migrant funds to Turkey. In line with his previous strategy Erdogan continued to request visa-free travel to Europe for Turkish citizens.