As in recent months, the next plenary session of the European Parliament – from January 18 to 21 – will not take place in Strasbourg but once again in Brussels, as announced last Wednesday by President David Sassoli, who ventured that the return to the capital Alsaciana will not be before March, at least, due to the ravages of the pandemic. It should not be forgotten that the coronavirus crisis has reignited the old debate on the double seat of the European Parliament.
Sassoli also reported that the French authorities have asked to postpone until April -initially scheduled for early February- the commemoration scheduled in honor of former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who died last December at the age of 94.
Be that as it may, the agenda is loaded with issues, ranging from the European vaccination strategy; the beginning of the rotating presidency of Portugal with the «premier» Antonio Costa; Joe Biden’s debate on the assault on the capitol and new relations with the US; the annual review of diplomacy with the High Representative Josep Borrell; and the legislative initiative for the right to disconnect from work, among other issues.
On Tuesday morning, MEPs will ask the Commission for greater clarity and transparency regarding contracts, authorization, availability and the European vaccination campaign against covid-19. The opacity, several lawmakers argue, has led to the spread of conspiracy theories. The president of the European Commission, Ursula Von den Leyen, has advocated this week for a passport for those vaccinated by Covid.
EU – United States relations
Next Wednesday, the plenary session will coincide with the inauguration of Democrat Joe Biden as president of the United States.After four intense years of Donald Trump, which culminated with the assault of his faithful on the capitol, MEPs will debate on the legacy of Republican government and how the arrival of (conciliator) Biden will affect European interests.
Portuguese Presidency of the Council
On Wednesday morning, MEPs will debate with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa about his program for the next six months of presidency of the EU Council. The Portuguese presidency will focus on addressing the social dimension of the pandemic as well as the Green Pact and the digital transition, among other issues.
Debate with the High Representative, Josep Borrell
Throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, MEPs will take stock of the last year of European diplomacy under the command of Spanish Josep Borrell. In his latest report, the High Representative for Foreign Policy insists that the pandemic has served as a wake-up call to the EU to reinforce its strategic autonomy and the vulnerability of member states to the influence of third powers (“infoxication”, dependence on the supply of medical supplies, etc).
The right to disconnection from work
Whatsapps from the boss, emails from clients after hours … In the times of covid and teleworking, European workers have even more difficult to separate work and personal life. Since the right to disconnect is currently not enshrined in EU law, Parliament will ask the Commission to start the process for a European law on the matter which will be debated on Wednesday and put to a vote on Thursday.
Social and jobs crisis
On Wednesday, MEPs will question the Council and the Commission on the measures that the EU is taking to face the social and labor effects of the COVID-19 crisis within the framework of the next Multiannual Financial Framework.
Next Thursday there will be a debate and vote on the measures that MEPs will propose to improve gender equality and better protect the rights of women.