Europe's week: what big issues are MEPs focussing on in September?
MEPs at the European Parliament have now generally headed off for the summer — they’ve seen a tumultuous ride since they took their seats.
British MEPs leaving with Brexit in January and then the coronavirus pandemic with lockdowns across Europe and the world.
Dailyrater spoke to a number of the members in Brussels asking them what their plans are for the summer recess.
Packed agenda in September
There might be a bit of an opportunity for a break, but when the MEPs return and indeed the rest of the Brussels institutions, the legislative plate is jam-packed.
Each of the MEPs has their own set of priorities.
“In September, October, what we’re going to experience is that everyone will be very excited about the budget and then, at a certain point, everyone will panic about the Brexit deadline and I’m wondering what they’re going to focus on, but I intend to focus on both,” Assita Kanko (MEP, Belgium, ECR) told Dailyrater.
For Saskia Bricmont, (MEP, Belgium, Greens/EFA) September and October “will be two months of campaigning against the Mercosur agreement because, as such, we cannot agree with a free trade agreement.”
“We have to make sure that indeed our climate efforts, and by that I mean the Climate Law and revising our 2030 targets upwards, are not falling by the wayside,” says Philippe Lamberts, (Belgian MEP, Greens/EFA).
“We need to hasten our transition and indeed the recovery plan must be a way to do that. So that will be the key priority,” he added.
For Nicola Beer, (MEP, Germany, Renew) the main focus will be that “we come out stronger from the pandemic than we went in.”
When asked about whether travel to the European Parliament’s second seat in the French city of Strasbourg will resume in September, Lamberts was sceptical, saying: “I don’t know. I wouldn’t bet too much money on it.”
Another big issue on the autumn agenda will be the long-delayed migration pact.
“I’m curious about what will happen with Europol, what will happen with Frontex,” says Kanko.
The budget, the recovery fund and Brexit are all going to be top priorities when we return from the summer, but the new European Commission is also going to have its first stab at one of the EU’s thorniest issues when it releases its new migration pact.
It’s not the crisis it was in the summer of 2015 when over a million people entered Europe, but smuggler boats carrying desperate people in search of a better life within the EU continue to arrive at its shorelines.
Rescuing people remains controversial and schemes to get EU countries to share the burden of arrivals have struggled to work.
It’s for this reason the EU Commission is bringing forward a new proposal.
“The new pact on migration and asylum will be presented in September as the president has also announced and it will be a comprehensive policy on migration and asylum covering all the different aspects of this question,” explained Adalbert Jahnz, EU Commission spokesperson.
All eyes will be on whether this pact provides for some kind of external processing centres on the EU’s outer borders.
There are still camps in countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina where people are stuck, unable to cross over into Croatia.
Entry point countries like Greece and Italy still have camps for people who they’ve been unable to process.
The European Commission’s plans to redistribute people across the 27 member states never properly worked, with countries like Hungary refusing to participate.
NGOs says there are so many things the new pact needs to take into account.
“There should be guidelines and the Commission will hopefully be developing these, and launch them either with the pact itself or after the pact, to ensure that people who are providing humanitarian assistance to migrants are not penalised.
“That they’re not harassed. That they’re not criminalised,” says Michele LeVoy, Director of Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants.
The plan will come out in September around the time European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen delivers her first annual State of the Union speech.
And finally… from Hollywood to the Hellenic Republic
American movie stars Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have officially become Greek citizens.
They posed with their new passports alongside the Greek prime minister earlier this week.
The couple were rewarded honorary Greek citizenship last year, after bringing attention to the deadly wildfires that struck the seaside town of Mati last year.
Hanks became Greek Orthodox after marrying Wilson, who is of Greek heritage. Their bond with Greece extends onto the silver screen, having produced the films My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Mamma Mia.
Perhaps we will see more evidence of their love for all things Greek in future film projects?