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 can be a good opportunity, given that the workload in Brussels is considerably lower than usual. See an explanation of the Parliament’s calendar here.
This week saw Parliament reject the Council’s proposed cuts to the final EU budget for 2017. One of the major points of contention is over whether money allocated to development can be used to mitigate the current refugee crisis the EU faces. The Parliament voted to reverse all the Council’s proposed cuts in the draft EU budget for 2017, and, in a resolution adopted on Wednesday, October 26, MEPs “strongly questioned” whether the funds available for projects in third countries were sufficient in view of the current refugee crisis. MEPs suggested that an increase of almost half a billion euros to the EU’s external spending, which finances its development and migration programs, would be necessary. Ahead of the Parliament’s vote on the EU budget, the European Commission had presented an amending letter to the original draft budget, on October 17, attempting to head off opposition by suggesting an increase of one billion euros in commitments to EU external spending. However, the Council informed the Parliament that this amended proposal could not be accepted and triggered the three week conciliation period, during which the Council and Parliament will seek to negotiate a compromise, with the Commission acting as a facilitator. See a press report here, and the Parliament’s resolution here.
Also on October 26, MEPs voted in favor of a resolution concerning the EU’s multiannual financial framework (MFF), calling for an increase in resources. Whilst the annual EU budget establishes spending on specific programs for a given year, the MFF determines the ceiling of the EU’s total financial resources over a longer period of time (not less than five years), and allocates this across years and within spending categories. The current MFF was adopted in 2013, and will run until 2020. In September, responding to calls from the Parliament, the Commission proposed updates to the current MFF, allowing for greater flexibility and for the creation of an EU “crisis reserve.” In their resolution this week, MEPs noted satisfaction with the Commission’s proposal, but also disappointment that the proposed revision did not include an increase in resources to deal with the crises the EU is facing. In order for the Commission’s proposal to advance, the Council must respond to it and open negotiations with the Parliament. The Parliamentary resolution therefore included language urging the Council to begin this work and underlining the Parliament’s preparedness to reach an agreement before the end of 2016. See the Commission proposal here, and the Parliamentary resolution here.
Also on Wednesday, October 26, Parliament voted in favor of a report by the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety committee (“ENVI”) calling for legislation on a mandatory limit to industrially-produced trans fats in EU food. Specifically, the resolution calls for the Commission to propose legislation including an EU legal limit on the industrial TFA content of all foods, to be implemented as soon as possible, and preferably within two years. See the resolution’s text here.
Finally, Pierre Moscovici, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, participated in a debate with MEPs on Tuesday, October 25, in which he announced Commission plans for a new proposal on a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB). A CCCTB would create one single standard for businesses to report their taxable income across all EU Member States, reducing the current burden associated with adhering to different laws across each Member State. It would also increase transparency and reduce opportunities for businesses to “profit shift” between jurisdictions. MEPs broadly welcomed the proposals, although some noted their disappointment that the Commission did not propose any minimum rate of EU corporate income tax – though such a measure would be hard to pass through the Council. See the Commission’s proposal here, and the Parliament press release here.
Meetings and Agenda
November 1 to 4 is a constituency week for the Parliament and no official meetings are scheduled.