Tag Archives: Plenary

Future of Europe concludes cycle

The Conference Plenary concluded its work, with MEPs expressing their approval of the outcome and announcing that Parliament intends to kick-start EU reforms.

At its final meeting, that took place on Friday and Saturday at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the Conference Plenary reached a consensus on its final draft proposals. It has now adopted 325 proposals to achieve 49 objectives identified across 9 themes, based on 178 recommendations from the European Citizens’ Panels, input from the National Panels and events, and 43 734 contributions on 16 274 ideas recorded on the multilingual digital platform.

On Friday, Parliament’s delegation decided to support the Plenary’s draft proposals. MEPs highlighted the important role that Parliament played in the run-up to this moment, for example by guaranteeing that citizens’ input would remain at the centre of the deliberations throughout the process.

Speakers from five political groups representing a broad majority (EPP, S&D, Renew, Greens/EFA, and The Left) agreed that the draft proposals are a major political achievement. They also pointed to Parliament’s concrete achievements in ensuring an effective and democratic process – for example through the establishment of the Working Groups, which delivered the draft Plenary proposals. MEPs representing the ID and ECR groups argued that the proposals do not reflect public opinion in the EU, and stated that their groups would not support them.

The session on Friday started with the proposals being presented by the Chairs of the Working Groups and the citizen Spokespersons, during which virtually all speakers agreed that the proposals comprise important reforms based on citizens’ recommendations.

Following the presentations, representatives of the four institutional components of the Conference (Parliament, Council, Commission, and national parliaments) approved the proposals by consensus. During his speech on behalf of Parliament’s delegation, the Co-Chair of the Conference Guy Verhofstadt confirmed that the political groups will table a resolution during Parliament’s 2-5 May plenary session to call for a revision of the Treaties. Commenting that this Conference has made him realise the importance of participatory mechanisms complementary to representative democracy, he stated that MEPs must fight hard to ensure that the Conference’s proposals will be turned into the reforms that the EU needs.

Catch up with Guy Verhofstadt’s speech on behalf of the Parliament’s delegation or watch a recording of MEPs’ speeches in Plenary.

On Saturday morning, citizens took the floor to comment on the final proposals and the process that led to them, strongly approving of both. They highlighted that they are now expecting the EU institutions and member states to ensure the appropriate follow-up, and the importance of not letting citizens down in the aftermath of this historic moment. They also commented on how their ideas evolved through the Conference’s debates and the impact that Russia’s war in Ukraine had on them, as well as on how they realised the importance of standing up for their ideas while preparing the proposals.

On Europe Day (9 May), the three Co-Chairs of the Executive Board will present the final report of the Conference to the Presidents of the EU institutions at a ceremony in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Borrell: EU “steadfast by Ukraine”

Strasbourg 15.12.2021 “We changed the geographical situation. We changed the latitude and the longitude of the coordinates, but the problem is also very worrying. Now we talk about the situation in the Ukrainian border and in the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said, while addressing the Members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on December 14.(Image above: illustration).

“I have been talking a lot about it during this weekend in Liverpool, together with my fellow colleagues of the G7, the biggest democracies in the world. I have been talking a lot with Secretary of State [of the United States, Antony] Blinken and we will talk a lot about it in the next European Union Council. We talked yesterday also about it with my fellow Ministers of Foreign Affairs.

“I think I have all the information I may have in order to come here to discuss with you about the Russian military build-up around Ukraine.

“First, facts.

“Since November, Russia has been massing troops and weapons in an unusual manner around Ukraine’s borders. Ukraine is our direct neighbour and border. It is also a close and strategic partner. So it is normal that we are worried about this movements of Russian troops.

“I had the opportunity also to talk about this with the Russian Foreign Affairs Minister, Sergei Lavrov, during the OSCE Meeting in Stockholm and with the Foreign Affairs Minister of Ukraine [Dmytro Kuleba]. In the OSCE meeting in Stockholm, we witnessed a lively exchange of views between Minister Lavrov and Secretary of State Blinken about this issue.

“We at the European Union maintain regular contacts with President [of Ukraine, Vladimir] Zelensky, Prime Minister [Denys] Shmyhal, and Foreign Minister Kuleba. We express at all levels our political support to Ukraine. We publicly recall our unwavering support to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.

“According to the Russian sources, nothing happened. They are only moving their troops inside their territory; they are not violating any international law, nor any constitutional internal rule. Certainly, they are moving troops inside their borders but, with the precedent, with what has happened between Ukraine and Russia, it is quite justified that the Ukrainians are worried and that we have to express our political support.

“But today we are on prevention mode. Today we are trying to avoid further escalation. And to work on all avenues that we can, in order to deter further Russian effort. Today we are in a deterring-mode, prevention-mode, dissuasion-mode. In order to avoid the crisis to escalate, and to reach a level of a military conflict. We are doing what we can for that.

“Yesterday at the Foreign Affairs Council, our members reiterated our support to Ukraine. And also, we have recently adopted a set of assistance measures under the European Peace Facility, a new financial tool which is under my political implementation authority, in supporting Ukrainian armed forces in areas including the provision of military, medical, engineering equipment, mobility, logistics and cyber-defence support. Not providing lethal arms, but on all the fields that an army requires in order to be operational. This is a tangible way of showing our support to strengthening Ukrainian resilience and also, our support to the Ukrainian reform agenda since 2014. Because the reforms inside Ukraine are an important component of Ukrainians overall resilience to external challenges. The better the Ukrainian democracy works, the higher quality they have on fighting internal problems, the stronger they will be in facing external challenges.

“We have today to talk about an attempt to undermine further Ukrainian territorial integrity, which was jeopardised when Russia took over Crimea. And this would come, if it happens again, in severe political consequences and with a high political and economic cost for Russia, if this was the case.

“We have to act in unity, we are coordinating closely with our transatlantic and like-minded partners. We did that on Sunday. Our G7 statement was clear in this position: we called on Russia to de-escalate, to pursue diplomatic channels, and abide by its international commitments of transparency of military activities as President [of the United Sates, Joe] Biden also did in his call with President [of Russia, Vladimir] Putin on 7 December.

“In the meantime, we are in deterring, dissuasion, prevention-mode, we continue to do a full diplomatic outreach. We reconfirm our support to France and Germany in the Normandy Format to achieve full implementation of the Minsk Agreements in order to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine. We are studying the different scenarios that one could imagine could happen in the following days or weeks. We recall [that] Russia’s responsibility in implementing the Minsk Agreements remains a key issue”.

COVID19: EP Plenary moves to Brussels

“At 18.00 today, I have received an updated report from the European Parliament’s Medical Service on the evolution of COVID-19 which states that the health risks are considered to be significantly higher if Parliament’s plenary session next weektakes place in Strasbourg” reads the statement of the European Parliament president David Sassoli.

“On the basis of this evaluation, due to force majeure, I decided that the necessary security conditions are not in place for the usual transfer of the European Parliament to Strasbourg for the plenary session next week.

“I have informed the French authorities and have thanked them for their collaboration in the past days.

“The plenary session will exceptionally be held in Brussels. Parliament undertakes to reschedule a plenary session in Strasbourg in accordance with the Treaties.”

Sassoli removes national flags

To indignation of some Members of the European Parliament, the January Plenary session in Strasbourg started with removal of national flags from the desks in the Chamber.
The European Union is slipping further. The autocratic socialist Sassoli, who was appointed President of the European Parliament, has ordered to bailiffs to seize all national flags on the banks of parliamentarians. Continuation follows!”wrote Gerolf Annemans, MEP from Vlaams Belang party.

Nigel Farage leading the UK Brexit party expressed his content to leave the bloc.

Verhofstad calls for Brexit talks start

“Let’s start Brexit negotiations, to end uncertainty and low economic growth”, Guy Verhofstadt

During today’s plenary debate, ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt called on the UK to finally agree on a joint position to start the negotiations with the EU.

“It’s time now to start negotiations. And therefore, we need an answer from the British on a number of pressing questions”, – said Verhofstadt, representing the European Parliament in Brexit negociations

“First, will the British position be the same as in the letter of March 29; the hard Brexit, or will the UK government take the outcome of national elections into account?

Second: will the British negotiating position represent the position of the Tories or will it be the position of the whole nation? Party interest or national interest? Because this is not about the Tories leaving the EU, but about the U.K. leaving the EU.

Third question: how will the U.K. protect the Good Friday agreement, how will they prevent the imposition of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic?

Fourth: will the U.K. guarantee the current rights of EU citizens as we, from our side, are prepared to fully guarantee the rights of UK citizens’ rights?

Fifth question: will the UK government confirm its existing position on the single market and the customs union?  Is the populist illusion of restricting free movement of people more important than the fortune of the British workers, British industry and the British economy?

We need answers to these questions urgently.

The uncertainty created by Brexit is already affecting the UK dramatically. Today, the U.K. has the lowest growth rate in years. The UK economy is experiencing  nearly zero growth, only 0.2 per cent in the first quarter, more than three times less than the previous quarter last year.”

He also elaborated on President Macron’s remark that the door to the European Union remains open:

Macron spoke about an open door if Britain changes its mind. I agree. But like in Alice in wonderland, not all the doors are the same. It will be a brand new door, to a new Europe without complexity, with real powers, and with unity.”

Finally, he called on Commission President Juncker to come forward with legislative proposals to reform Europe:

“Reform of the European Union should not be bogged down in the current Brexit talks, which look like the procession of Echternach: two steps forward, one step backwards.”

“I’m very grateful to the Commission for the reflection papers (on the EMU, on defense). But the Commission is more than a think tank. We need legislative proposals now. We need action. Don’t leave, Jean-Claude, the options open for the Council, to fill in the blanks. It’s the Commission that must occupy the terrain, it’s the Commission that must steer the Union.”

“After the German elections, we need to shift into a higher gear. The election of a new French President and a new German government is the ideal moment to start the process to reform.”

Tusk draws Brexit 'red lines'

MEPs welcomed the unity of the 27 Member States and the EU institutions with regard to Brexit and also called for a reform of the EU to benefit all its citizens.

The President of the European Council Donald Tusk (pictured) presented to MEPs the Guidelines for Brexit negotiations agreed by the Member States at the summit on 29 April. He welcomed the alignment with the ‘red lines’ set by the European Parliament. The detailed negotiating mandate will be presented for adoption at a European Council summit on 22nd May, pointed out the President of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.

In line with negotiator Michel Barnier, most MEPs emphasised the unity between the EU institutions and the 27 Member States, who are determined to act together to reach a balanced agreement with the United Kingdom.

The debated focussed on the basis for future negotiations, as recalled by Michel Barnier:

  • no negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom can take place before “tangible progress” is made,
  • guaranteeing the rights of European citizens affected by the UK’s decision to leave the EU,
  • the Northern Ireland peace process must be upheld (including the absence of physical border between Ireland and Northern Ireland),
  • the United Kingdom must respect all the financial commitments made as a Member State.

Michel Barnier stressed the need for transparent negotiations, which will begin after the UK national election on 8 June.

MEPs underlined the importance of unity and trust so that, in parallel to negotiations being carried out for an ‘orderly withdrawal’ of the UK, the reform of the Union can take place to rapidly respond to citizens’ concerns and make the benefits of European integration much more visible.

The vote in the UK for Brexit and the rise in populism in some countries, in particular in France and the Netherlands, should be a lesson to European leaders, said many MEPs. Whilst the victories of pro-European parties was welcomed, several MEPs urged not to pat ourselves too much on the back; “populism and nationalism are not dead”. More than ever, it is vital to listen to citizens and respond to their expectations in defining the future of the EU: social and environmental norms in a globalised world, organisation of the job market in the face of technological challenges, taxation and the security of European citizens must all be taken into account, said MEPs.

Henry Borzi