Next week, Members of the European Parliament (“MEPs”) will gather in Brussels for committee meetings.  Several interesting debates are scheduled to take place.

On Monday, MEPs of the Foreign Affairs Committee (“AFET”) will have an exchange of views with China’s Ambassador to the EU, Ming Zhang.  It is likely that MEPs will discuss the outcomes of the EU-China summit of September 14, 2020, and pose critical questions regarding, for example, the ongoing negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty (“BIT”) between the EU and China.  At the press conference after the summit, Commission President Von der Leyen mentioned that the EU and China had reached agreement on several chapters of the BIT, such as disciplinary rules for state-owned enterprises, forced technology transfer, and transparency rules for subsidies.  However, important differences persisted concerning market access and China’s industrial overcapacity.  President of the European Council Charles Michel also stated that the EU reiterated its concerns over China’s action in Xinjiang and Tibet and that the parties agreed to discuss these issues in detail during the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue in Beijing later this year.  Both the EU and China hope to conclude negotiations on the BIT before the end of the year, but they will need to make substantial progress to be able to convince MEPs of the merits of the BIT.  Traditionally, the Parliament has been a strong advocate for human rights and is, for example, pushing for mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence for companies with global supply chains.  Commission President Von der Leyen’s remarks are available here and European Council President Charles Michel’s remarks are available here.

On Tuesday, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (“ENVI”) and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (“ITRE”) will hold a joint public hearing on the access to future COVID-19 vaccines.  It is expected that MEPs will ask a panel of researchers and representatives of the pharmaceutical industry about the status quo of the development of the numerous vaccines, their clinical trials, and challenges to the production and distribution of prospective vaccines.  So far, the European Commission has signed two contracts with pharmaceutical companies and continues discussions with four others.

On Wednesday, several new Special Committees will have their constitutive meetings and elect their chairs and vice-chairs.  There will be five new Special Committees, among which, a Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence and the Digital Transformation.  The Special Committee has been established to draft a roadmap with specific objectives in the medium- and long-term for the EU in the field of AI.  MEPs from multiple regular Committees will take place in the Special Committee to ensure a coordinated approach to the upcoming EU legislative proposal, which is due to be introduced by the European Commission in Q1 2021.  More information on the Special Committee on AI can be found here.

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