Members of the European Parliament (“MEPs”) returned from their summer recess this week.  Next week, they will have committee meetings.  Several interesting debates are scheduled to take place.

On Tuesday, the Committee on Budgets (“BUDG”) will debate on the status quo of the negotiations with the Council of the EU on the EU’s long-term budget for 2021-2027, the Multiannual Financial Framework (“MFF”).  On July 21, 2020, after marathon negotiations, the Member States agreed their position on the MFF and a Recovery Plan to mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, MEPs – that still need to consent to any MFF proposal – expressed their dissatisfaction with several cuts to the original budget proposal of the Commission, including cutbacks to funding for Horizon Europe, the EU’s research and innovation program.  The MEPs also demand a stronger rule of law conditionality for Member States receiving EU funds.  On August 26, 2020, the leaders of the main four political parties sent a letter to Chancellor Merkel and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, demanding a strong conditionality between the state of the rule of law in a Member State and the eligibility of that Member State for funding under the MFF and the Recovery Fund.  The Council of the EU and the European Parliament need to reach an agreement before the end of October, 2020, to leave enough time for the Parliament and national parliaments to adopt the budget.  The conclusions of the European Council’s extraordinary meeting of July 17-21, 2020, are available here, and the letter of the MEPs is available here.

On Wednesday, the Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (“ECDC”), Andrea Ammon, will brief the MEPs of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (“ENVI”) on situation in the EU regarding COVID-19.  Many Member States are seeing slight but significant increases in COVID-19 cases after a relatively stable period since June, prompting the fears for a second wave.  The EU will be desperate to avoid another outbreak that would lead to another lockdown or closure of the borders between Member States.

On Thursday, MEPs of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (“IMCO”) will discuss with Commission officials the progress on the three Communications on the Digital Strategy for Europe, AI, and Data.  While a legislative initiative on regulating AI has been postponed to Q1 2021, the Commission is still scheduled to introduce an enabling legislative framework for the governance of common European data spaces in Q3 2020.  This proposal must establish European data spaces in which data can be shared freely between governments and businesses across borders.  It may potentially include new obligations for businesses to release specific data.  The European Strategy for Data is available here.

For the complete agenda and overview of the meetings, please see here.