April plenary: Ukraine, energy, rule of law, budget

During the plenary session of the fourth month of the calendar year, the deputies discussed the situation in Ukraine and the related energy security of the community. They called for an ambitious European budget for 2023 and defined priorities for the right of correction.

MEPs have called for more aid to Ukraine and the creation of safe humanitarian corridors for pre-war children. They demand new sanctions against Russia. More than four million people have been forced to flee their homes due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Those present (physically and online) suggested creating safe routes for children fleeing conflict and providing support for those who have been displaced or stranded.

The resolution, which contained various measures necessary to protect children and young people fleeing violence and to facilitate their integration into the societies of host countries, was adopted by 509 votes on Thursday (three against, 47 abstentions).

“Every child has the right to be protected from violence, exploitation and abuse,” MEPs said, calling on member states to protect children from the risks of human trafficking, illegal adoption and child abuse. other forms of abuse.

Parliament recommends that child protection officers be present at the borders, who would be able to quickly and accurately identify vulnerable children, register their identity and nationality, as well as their specific needs. Services such as psychosocial support, maternal health support, protection from gender-based violence, family tracing support and family reunification support should be provided in national protection systems so that children have full access to all basic services and adequate care. .

Unaccompanied children, separated children and children placed in institutions should be accompanied by a guardian. Child protection services in receiving countries should continuously monitor the living conditions of these children and their place of residence after their arrival in the EU, says the resolution.

MEPs also call on host countries to ensure that Ukrainian children have the same access to education and health services as other children. Parliament calls for relocation mechanisms which prioritize family reunification and the relocation of vulnerable children, such as the solidarity mechanism for the transport of children and young people within the EU who need immediate medical care to save their life.

In this context, MEPs urged Member States to make the best use of available EU funds to support the socio-economic integration of refugees and their protection against discrimination and social exclusion. Additional resources should be provided if needed. Ukrainians who have fled Russian aggression seek refuge mainly in neighboring EU countries, namely Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and the Republic of Moldova. According to UNICEF, nearly half of them are minors in need of increased protection, as they are at greater risk of being victims of trafficking and exploitation.

New rules for the co-financing of energy projects

Parliament on Tuesday approved new rules for selecting energy projects eligible for EU funding. The measures must be in line with the European Green Deal. The new legislation, adopted following a decision by the European Council in December, defines criteria and methodologies for certain projects of common interest, as well as for high-voltage transmission systems, pipelines, energy storage energy and raw materials and smart grids, which could benefit from priority administrative procedures and have become eligible for EU grants.

During plenary negotiations, MEPs agreed that those aimed at building hydrogen infrastructure and capturing and storing carbon dioxide would also be eligible for inclusion in EU Treasury funding schemes. Recognized projects must contribute to the integration of the entire European energy market and contribute to greater security of energy supply, a topical issue in the context of the crisis in Ukraine.

At the same time, the actions selected should contribute to moving Member States’ economies away from dependence on fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources. The possibility of obtaining EU funds is looming until December 31, 2027. Plans based on natural gas fall outside this scenario. At the same time, a derogation is temporarily granted for Cyprus and Malta, taking into account the overcoming of their energy isolation in the form of a contribution to their gas operations with the ambition to gradually introduce hydrogen, in one case for each country.

“The current tragic reality of war in Europe is the dramatically low level of energy security, which shows how the EU has in the past made serious mistakes in estimating its needs, including the need to work on trans-European energy infrastructure,” said Polish MEP and Vice-President Zdzisław Krasnodębski (ECR).

The amendment was adopted by 410 votes to 146, with 72 absent. It awaits formal approval by the Council of the EU and publication in the Official Journal of the EU.

On Thursday, the EP approved a request that gas reservoirs in the EU should be 80% full by November 2022 and increased to 90% in coming years. At the same time, he called for an accelerated replenishment of Europe’s strategic gas reserves so that businesses and households have sufficient supplies for the next heating season.

Further research on the rule of law in Poland and Hungary

On Wednesday MEPs assessed the EU’s response to the decline of democracy in Hungary and Poland. Due to the risk of violation of the rule of law and EU values, the two countries are subject to an Article 7 procedure.

Problems with the electoral system, the independence of the judiciary, respect for civil rights and the general functioning of institutions have caused MEPs to have long-standing concerns about the rule of law in Hungary. Therefore, in its vote on 12 September 2018, the plenary called on the Member States to decide, in accordance with Article 7 of the EU Treaty, whether there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the fundamental values ​​of the Union by Hungary. This was preceded by a debate during the September 11 plenary session, in which Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán also spoke.

In March of the same year, the plenary supported the initiative of the European Commission, which proposed to launch a preventive mechanism to protect EU values ​​in the case of Poland. Concerns relate to the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary and fundamental rights. In a resolution on the case, MEPs called on member states to quickly decide whether there was a risk of EU values ​​being breached in Poland. The Council then heard Poland’s position at its June session. The principles of the rule of law are fundamental to the democratic establishment and the values ​​on which the European Union is based. They are enshrined in Article 2 of the EU Treaty. The Union can react to violations of these values ​​by a Member State in accordance with the procedures described in Article 7 TEU. This mechanism was introduced by the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997. It has two stages: first, preventive if there is a manifest violation, and sanctioning if such a violation actually occurs.

It is not specified in the contracts what specific form the penalties should take. One of them is, for example, the suspension of voting rights for a given country in the Council of the EU or the European Council, another option is to reduce allocations from European funds. It is important to note that in both cases, it is ultimately up to the Member States, and therefore not to the “Brussels officials”.

Due to the fact that the two mechanisms have different weights, each of them is decided and voted on in a different way. A precautionary approach to breaches of EU values ​​requires a four-fifths majority of member states. The sanction procedure, if an infringement has already been established, requires unanimity.

The EP can trigger a preventive mechanism by encouraging Member States (the Council) to determine whether EU values ​​are violated. The resolution on the situation in Hungary is Parliament’s first such initiative. An absolute majority of deputies (376) and a two-thirds majority of the votes cast were required to vote.

Equal work, equal pay, right to compensation

On Tuesday, the European Parliament presented its position on pay transparency measures. These focus on reducing the gender pay gap. MEPs called on all EU companies with more than 50 employees to make it easier for employees to compare wages to identify any discrepancies. In the EU, women earn on average 13% less than men. All companies in the EU from 50 employees must be fully transparent, which should help close the pay gap. The current move passed 403 votes to 166, with 58 abstentions.

MEPs set out their priorities on the right to compensation on Thursday. The European Commission is expected to present a proposal for new rules at the beginning of the second half of 2022. According to the Parliament, repairs should be more attractive to consumers, equipment should be more durable and easier to repair, and should consist of easily accessible parts. replaceable or removable.

Data management, defence, budget 2023

On Wednesday, MEPs backed new EU data sharing legislation. The goal is to give small businesses and start-ups access to more data to develop new products and services.

On Tuesday, MEPs quizzed EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on the so-called strategic compass – the EU’s security and defense strategy for the next 10 years. On the same day, the EP adopted a resolution calling for a “budget that looks to the future and is in line with the political priorities of the Union”. EU budget for 2023 should focus on economic recovery, health, youth, climate action and the impact of the invasion on Ukraine. By an overwhelming majority of 463 votes in favor against 71 and 97 absent, MEPs called for the coherence of investments from the common treasury to be in line with the rule of law, EU values ​​and fundamental rights.

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