Next week is constituency week in the European Parliament, one of the four weeks a year when MEPs return to their Member States to focus exclusively on constituency work, or go abroad on interparliamentary delegations. For those looking to interact with Parliamentary staff, constituency weeks are a good opportunity given that the workload in Brussels is considerably lower than usual. See here for an explanation of the Parliament’s calendar.
This week saw the European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, deliver his State of the Union address to the Parliament on Wednesday, September 14, in Strasbourg. Mr. Juncker began in relatively bleak terms, telling MEPs that “our European Union is, at least in part, in an existential crisis.” He used the speech to propose various initiatives which he believes would win back support for the EU amongst increasingly eurosceptic Europeans, and tackle aspects of the migration and economic crises the EU faces. He committed the Commission to publishing a white paper on the future of the bloc by March 2017, in time for the 60th anniversary of the founding Treaty of Rome. Meanwhile, the Commission is to release funding intended to provide free wireless internet access in every European city and village by 2020; double a jobs-focused investment fund, launched last year, to €630 billion by 2022; and create a separate investment fund for Africa and the European Neighbourhood, potentially worth up to €88 billion. See the full text of the speech here.
Sir Julian King, the new UK Commissioner for Security, was formally endorsed by the European Parliament on Thursday, September 15, at a vote in plenary. This followed his hearing before the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee (LIBE) on Monday, September 12 – a performance that was largely deemed impressive. Sir Julian’s appointment was recommended by 394 votes to 161, with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, the Parliament’s fourth largest party, abstaining. This was, they said, due to the political context of Brexit. See press coverage on the vote here, and the Parliament’s official press statement here.
The Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry into Emission Measurements in the Automotive Sector (EMIS) reported to Parliament on its progress so far through the publication of an interim report on Tuesday, September 13. The Committee has met twelve times and heard from 37 experts during 50 hours of hearings, and has received some 400 written answers to questions. The report led to a resolution, approved by the Parliament, calling for the Commission to speed up its disclosure of documents. The Committee also told Parliament that, in the second half of its mandate, it intends to speak more to Member States, to understand better how discrepancies between performance on-road and in test-centre conditions were not identified earlier. See an interview with the co-rapporteurs here, and the interim report here.
Finally, in foreign policy, the Parliament ratified a trade deal allowing duty-free exports to the EU for 5 economies in southern Africa, and improved market access for South Africa. See the Parliament’s press release here. The deal took 6 years to achieve, in part because of rigorous human rights clauses demanded by the EU. On constitutional issues, on Wednesday, September 14 the Parliament adopted a resolution supporting the Commission in its stance on Poland’s constitutional crisis and calling for a swift resolution. See the press release concerning the Poland vote here.
Meetings and Agenda
September 19 to 25 is a constituency week for the Parliament and there will be no official meetings.