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

On Monday, the Committee on International Trade (“INTA”) is the first Committee to debate on the merits of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (“TCA”), which was concluded on December 24, 2020.  The MEPs will exchange views on the free trade aspect of the TCA, which guarantees zero tariffs or quotas on all goods.  However, WTO rules regarding trade defense still apply and either party could impose “rebalancing tariffs” in event of a breach of the TCA.  While it is an ambitious free trade agreement, the TCA imposes many non-tariff barriers on EU-UK trade, and requires, for example, exporters to prove that their products comply with the product standards of the destination market.  To minimize this burden, for a limited number of products, the TCA aligns products standards with international standards to the greatest extent possible.  The TCA has been provisionally applicable since January 1, 2021.  For it to enter into force, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU still need to express their consent.  We expect MEPs will welcome the deal, but criticize the fact that it has been provisionally applied before the Parliament could scrutinize it.  In addition, the negotiators have previously ignored negotiation deadlines set by the European Parliament.  The text of the TCA is available here.

Also on Monday, the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (“IMCO”) will debate on the Digital Services Act (“DSA”) and the Digital Markets Act (“DMA”).  The European Commission published proposals for the DSA and DMA on December 15, 2020.  The DSA is a general revision of the e-Commerce Directive 2000/31/EC and is aimed at enhancing online consumer protection and establishing an accountability framework for online services.  For example, the proposal requires “online platforms” to allow user to challenge content removal decisions, but also suspend users that frequently post “manifestly illegal content.”  The DMA, on the other hand, would impose new obligations and restrictions on online service providers that act as “designated gatekeepers,” such as large online retail platforms.  For example, these should compete on equal footing with businesses on their platform, so must refrain from using non-public data generated by businesses and end-consumer on the platform when offering similar goods/services.  Covington has published a blog on the DSA (available here) and on the DMA (available here).

On Tuesday, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (“ENVI”) will grill Commission Director-General for Health and Food Safety Sandra Gallina.  The Director-General is in charge of negotiating COVID-19 vaccine contracts with the pharmaceutical industry.  We expect MEPs to focus on the stage of review of various vaccines and the delivery of the vaccines acquired by the European Commission.  On January 8, 2021, the European Commission secured an additional 300 million of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.  Moreover, The European Medical Agency approved Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine on January 6, 2021.

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