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Week Ahead 26 February - 1 March 2024

Yulia Navalnaya addresses the European Parliament - Debate on repressed civil society in Russia; European Central Bank Annual Report 2023 - debate about inflation and interest rates; Nature Restoration Law; Establishing the Ukraine Facility; Establishing the Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform; Supporting Ukraine two years after Russia’s war of aggression; Protecting journalists from SLAPPs; Driving Change to reduce the EU’s professional driver shortage; Geographical indications; Debate on Gaza; Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027; Enlargement is no excuse for treaty changes!; Privacy concerns over European Digital Identity framework; Modernising EU-Chile trade relations; Less waste exports, stronger circular economy.

Yulia Navalnaya addresses the European Parliament - Debate on repressed civil society in Russia

On Wednesday at noon, Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny who died in Russian custody on 16 February in unexplained circumstances, will address MEPs to commemorate the life and activities of her husband. Alexei Navalny won the 2021 Sakharov Prize and was one of the fiercest critics of Russian ruler Vladimir Putin. In the early afternoon, MEPs will debate with representatives of the Commission on the need for EU support for political prisoners and oppressed civil society in Russia and will adopt a resolution on Thursday. The ECR Group pays tribute to Alexei Navalny and all the victims of the Kremlin regime. ECR Foreign Affairs Coordinator Anna Fotyga said: “Navalny’s death is a very bitter moment for me, who has been warning for decades about the nature of the Kremlin regime, especially Putin and his entourage. We must be concerned about the fate of all political prisoners of the Kremlin, including Mikheil Saakashvili in Georgia, who I also regard as a prisoner of Putin. The European Union should demand the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners and impose even tougher sanctions on Russia. But real change in Russia is likely to come only after Russia’s defeat in the war against Ukraine. And this is what we must be working for.”

Address: Wednesday @ 11:30

Debate: Wednesday @ 13:00

Vote: Thursday @ 12:00



European Central Bank Annual Report 2023 - debate about inflation and interest rates

The first debate of the plenary session will be on the European Central Bank’s (ECB) annual report for 2023 in which MEPs will discuss inflation and possible interest rate cuts with ECB President Christine Lagarde. Under the rapporteurship of ECR member Johan Van Overtveldt, the ECR has managed to deliver a well-targeted and more streamlined report compared to those of previous years. Particular attention has rightly been paid to the importance of price stability and fighting inflation to create a welcoming investment environment in Europe. Meanwhile, issues of competitiveness and regulatory burdens, particularly on SMEs are addressed and criticism of the introduction of a digital euro are also highlighted. Segments relating to climate and gender, which for the ECR Group fall outside the ECB’s remit, have also been substantially limited. The vote will take place on Tuesday.

Debate: Monday @ 17:00

Vote: Tuesday @ 12:00


Nature Restoration Law

On Tuesday, the European Parliament will vote on the outcome of the trilogue on the controversial Nature Restoration Law, which is part of the Green Deal and one of key elements of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030. Even after the inter-institutional negotiations, the text is not acceptable to the ECR Group. The Conservatives see drastic consequences for rural areas and high economic risks and administrative burden for agriculture. According to the ECR, the top-down approach from Brussels leaves those affected out while only minor corrections to the text in favour of farmers are not enough. The compromise foresees the restoration recovery of biodiverse across of at least 20 per cent of Member state’s land areas and at least 20 per cent of marine areas by 2030 and the restoration of “all degraded ecosystems” by 2050. According to the ECR Group, this will lead to a further limitation in the amount of land use availability not only for agriculture sector, but with serious consequences for other sectors, in particular forestry and housing. The ECR also sees a need to halt the rule of no net loss of urban green spaces and urban tree canopies. At a time of housing shortages and high property prices in many European centres where densification should take place, this is a fatal idea that will exacerbate housing accessibility and affordability, particularly social housing and flats for young people and families. The Conservatives also believe that the goal of creating 25,000 kilometres of free-flowing rivers is unrealistic at a time when hydropower is increasingly in demand to secure Europe’s energy supply. The ECR group believes that Brussels’ overall targets are excessive and ill-conceived, as they could limit economic growth in some member states and lead to a shortage of available housing and potential problems with food safety and farmers’ incomes. Last but not least, refurbishment is very expensive, and in times of tight budgets, the question is whether priorities have been set correctly.

Vote: Tuesday @ 12:00



Establishing the Ukraine Facility

On Tuesday, MEPs are set to discuss the establishment of the Ukraine Facility (UF), which aims to provide consistent funding for Ukraine’s reconstruction and modernisation from 2024 to 2027. With a total budget of 50 billion euro, composed of a combination of loans and grants, the UF is designed to replace existing EU assistance for Ukraine. However, it does not cover humanitarian, defence, or refugee aid, as these aspects are financed through other mechanisms. The UF comprises three pillars: grants and loans, whose disbursement will depend on the implementation of the Ukraine Plan; investment framework, which aims to attract both private and public investments to support Ukraine’s reconstruction efforts; and technical assistance and other support instruments. Amidst Ukraine’s ongoing struggle against Russia’s unlawful invasion, the ECR Group supports the provision of this direct aid as soon as possible. The ECR Group sees the UF as a significant mechanism to support Ukraine’s modernisation process in the context of granting the country EU candidacy status. The vote will take place on Tuesday afternoon.

Debate: Tuesday @ 9:00

Vote: Tuesday @ 12:00



Establishing the Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform

On Tuesday, MEPs will debate and vote on a trilogue agreement that establishes a new platform for strategic technologies for Europe (STEP). STEP aims to support key projects focused on developing or manufacturing digital technologies, clean technologies, and biotechnologies. The goal is to strengthen the EU’s value chains, address challenges related to the green and digital transitions, and reduce strategic dependencies. STEP would rely on reallocating funds under existing EU instruments, plus additional funding from the multiannual financial framework. In the current global landscape, where there is intense competition for technological dominance, particularly in areas like artificial intelligence, 5G, and semiconductors, it is necessary for Europe to adopt a more proactive industrial policy. The ECR Group emphasises the need for European industries to enhance their global competitiveness, especially considering China’s rapid advancements in technological innovation.

Debate: Tuesday @ 9:00

Vote: Tuesday @ 12:00



Supporting Ukraine two years after Russia’s war of aggression

On Thursday, MEPs are set to cast their votes on a resolution debated during the February I Strasbourg session on the need for unwavering EU support for Ukraine after two years of Russia’s war of aggression. The resolution underscores the call for heightened and expedited financial and military support to Ukraine, urging the Western nations to provide immediate deployment of modern equipment and essential ammunition. Additionally, it appeals for renewed collaboration with NATO and other like-minded nations to assist Ukraine comprehensively in its pursuit for victory in the conflict. The ECR Group stands firmly behind Ukraine, offering steadfast support, and urges the EU to exert every effort to ensure that Ukraine emerges as the winner in this conflict.

Vote: Thursday @ 12:00



Protecting journalists from SLAPPs

On Tuesday, MEPs will vote on the provisional political agreement reached between the Parliament and the Council regarding new EU regulations aimed at safeguarding individuals targeted by Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), such as journalists, rights defenders or civil society organisations. The proposed rules encompass the application of the law in cross-border cases, the prompt dismissal of clearly baseless claims, and provisions for addressing abusive court proceedings, including penalties imposed by the court. The ECR Group supports the rights of journalists to carry out their work in an environment free from undue harassment and intimidation through SLAPPs.

Vote: Tuesday @ 12:00



Driving Change to reduce the EU’s professional driver shortage

On Tuesday morning, lawmakers will debate revising the EU’s rules on driving licences. This proposal lowers the age limit to 18 years of age for certain heavy categories of licences, including buses and trucks, if the driver has a certificate of professional competence. Recognising the pressing issue of a significant shortage of professional drivers across Europe, the ECR Group views this proposal as a positive step forward in dismantling key barriers that have traditionally discouraged individuals from considering a career in bus and truck driving.

Debate: Tuesday @ 10:00

Vote: Wednesday @ 12:00


Geographical indications

On Tuesday afternoon, a debate on the trilogue outcome on amending certain regulations regarding Geographical Indications (GI) for drinks, such as wine and spirits, and agricultural products, will take place. The reform of the EU GI system aims to make the EU agriculture and agri-food sectors more competitive, sustainable, and cohesive. For the ECR Group, implementation of the text’s provisions would: make GI fraud more preventable by obligating domain names using GIs illegally to remove them or disabling their access to them. It would also boost the role of producer groups by allowing them to counter market practices that damage the image and value of their products; simplify and clarify the EU Intellectual Property Office’s role, thus reducing administrative burdens; offer greater transparency for consumers; and guarantee adequate incomes for producers whose actions help develop rural areas. A vote on the outcome will take place on Wednesday.

Debate: Tuesday @ 13:00

Vote: Wednesday @ 12:00


Debate on Gaza

On Tuesday afternoon, the European Parliament will debate the situation in Gaza, including the latest developments in relation to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Despite recent calls by some EU Member States for a ceasefire, the ECR Group continues to stand by Israel. A long-term ceasefire can only be achieved if and when all Israeli hostages are returned and Hamas is eliminated. Anything less would be a victory for Hamas and a sign that terror ultimately pays. We also totally reject the unfounded allegations made by South Africa at the International Court of Justice and condemn the country’s close ties with Hamas. Finally, we strongly condemn the recent revelations that at least 12 United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) employees were involved in and supported the 7 October massacre against Israel, including the abduction of the body of an Israeli civilian who had just been executed by Hamas terrorists. We are also deeply concerned by reports that more than 30 UNRWA teachers called for the execution of Israelis and shared instructions on how to support Hamas’ efforts. We believe that a thorough review of UNRWA is needed. For many years, the ECR has spoken out against the worrying trends in Palestinian society towards support for terrorism and incitement against Israel.

Debate: Tuesday @ 15:00



Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027

On Tuesday morning, MEPs will debate the recent changes proposed for the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), which will affect the remainder of the current financial period from 2024 to 2027. The main element of the revision is the decision to establish predictable and stable financial support for Ukraine through the Ukraine Facility, totalling 50 billion euro with 33 billion euro in loans and 17 billion euro in grants. In addition, the EU budget is also provided with an extra 14.6 billion euro to cope with migration needs, support key technologies and enhance the EU budget’s flexibility. For the ECR Group, providing extra support to Ukraine is of critical importance and therefore the Group’s position is to give consent to the changes. The consent vote will take place on Tuesday.

Debate: Tuesday @ 9:00

Vote: Tuesday @ 12:00



Enlargement is no excuse for treaty changes!

On Tuesday afternoon, the Parliament will debate an own-initiative report on deepening EU integration in view of further enlargement. The text rightly affirms the role of enlargement as an important foreign policy tool, along with the importance of granting candidate status to Ukraine, Moldova and – under certain conditions – Georgia, and the role of the Western Balkans. However, the central notion of this report that EU enlargement necessitates a deepening of the Union is factually wrong and politically biased. The text violates a number of the ECR Group’s red lines. In particular, by moving away from unanimity voting in foreign affairs, especially on decisions as important as enlargement. Unanimity voting has not hampered the EU’s ability to take decisions swiftly and it also guarantees that all parties are on board during key decisions. The ECR Group recalls that previous enlargements had no negative effect on the decision-making capacity of the EU. On the contrary, the speed of decision-making has actually increased. Moreover, various studies demonstrate that after each enlargement decision-making was faster than during the time when fewer member states were engaged in Council negotiations. Additionally, according to some experts, with a view to enlargement the EU should decentralise, as opposed to further centralisation. Therefore, using enlargement as an excuse to try to introduce treaty changes is unacceptable for the ECR Group. MEPs will vote on the text during Thursday’s voting session.

Debate: Wednesday @ 17:00

Vote: Thursday @ 12:00



Privacy concerns over European Digital Identity framework

On Wednesday, MEPs will debate the report establishing a framework for a European Digital Identity. Among the framework’s provisions is the introduction of digital wallets that link national digital identities with other personal attributes, like driving licenses, diplomas, and bank accounts. The system aims to allow citizens to easily prove their identity, share electronic documents, and access online services, among other things. While at first glance such a system seems beneficial, the ECR holds many reservations. ECR shadow rapporteur Rob Roos MEP has identified a number of downsides relating to privacy and the future implications of using such a system, such as opening the door to mass surveillance of EU citizens, also by foreign entities. The ECR stresses the importance of addressing these issues to ensure that any digital identity tool safeguards the privacy and security of EU citizens. The vote will take place on Thursday.

Debate: Wednesday @ 20:00

Vote: Thursday @ 12:00



Modernising EU-Chile trade relations

On Thursday, MEPs will debate and then vote on giving their consent to the EU-Chile Advanced Framework Agreement (AFA). In 2017, the EU and Chile agreed to modernise the 2002 Association Agreement and replace it with the AFA that reinforces and deepens their bilateral relationship. The new-generation AFA brings many advantages for the EU, 99.9 per cent of EU exports will enter Chile without duties. EU investors in Chile will be treated the same way as Chilean investors and vice versa. Streamlining trade processes, a dedicated SME chapter will ease operations for smaller European businesses, reducing bureaucratic hurdles. This modernised agreement not only facilitates the diversification of EU supply chains but also guarantees access to critical raw materials, such as lithium and copper and clean fuel such as hydrogen. With free trade at the heart of the ECR’s values, the Group welcomes the agreement.

Debate: Thursday @ 9:00

Vote: Thursday @ 12:00



Less waste exports, stronger circular economy

On Tuesday, the European Parliament will confirm a trilogue result that aims to reduce shipments of waste to countries outside the EU. The EU also promotes the use of waste as a resource in a circular economy within the EU and aims to ensure that exports of plastic waste to OECD countries do not have a significant impact on the environment or human health there. The ECR Group supports this and believes that it is important to create a European environment that favours the circular economy as a strategic element to strengthen the competitiveness and autonomy of European industry.

Vote: Tuesday @ 12:00

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