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

On Monday, during a meeting of the Committee on Environment, Health, and Food Safety (“ENVI”), Commission Deputy Director-General for Health Pierre Delsaux will present the new European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (“HERA”) Incubator, a public-private initiative of the Commission to anticipate and counter threats of COVID-19 variants.  Run by the Commission, HERA Incubator will facilitate the continuous exchange and operational cooperation among Member States, regulators and the industry.  It must deliver on several key measures, such as identifying promising candidates for the next generation vaccines and scaling up industrial production.  During the same meeting, MEPs will ask questions regarding the efficacy of vaccines against COVID-19 mutations to representatives of the European Medicines Agency, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control and the World Health Organization.  The Commission’s HERA communication is available here.

Later that afternoon, the MEPs of ENVI will have an exchange of views with Commission officials on controls on agri-food products between the EU and the UK.  On March 4, 2021, the European Commission said it was preparing an infringement procedure against the UK for unilaterally extending the grace period for customs checks on agri-food in Northern Ireland, the Scheme for Temporary Agri-food Movements to Northern Ireland (“STAMNI”).  In a statement, the Commission claims this amounts to a violation of the relevant substantive provisions of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.  This adds to the already tense relation which led Northern Ireland to cease the construction of permanent customs inspection facilities.  According to the latest figures of the new UK Office of National Statistics, EU food and live animals exports to the UK have fallen by 21% in January 2021, compared to January 2020.  The statement of the EU on the unilateral extension of STAMNI is available here.

Also on Monday, the Subcommittee on Security and Defense (“SEDE”) will have an exchange of views with NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.  The MEPs will likely discuss opportunities for closer cooperation between NATO and the EU regarding, e.g., military mobility and hybrid threats, such as tackling disinformation and cyberattacks.  However, with the EU’s ambition to pursue its open strategic autonomy, questions remain regarding the way forward related to the EU-NATO cooperation.  MEP David McAllister (DE, EPP), Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee (“AFET”), of which SEDE is a subcommittee, and other MEPs, such as Tonino Picula (HR, S&D), have stressed that the EU’s work in this area is complementary and not contradictory to NATO.  Yet, close EU-NATO relations may be difficult for certain Member States that are not NATO members, such as Austria, Finland, Ireland, and Sweden.

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