Parliaments

Week ahead in the European Parliament

Mossack Fonseca sign Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The huge leak from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca is the biggest in history

MEPs are back in Strasbourg this week for a plenary session set to be dominated by taxation, terrorism and the latest twists in the migration crisis.

The EU's controversial migration deal with Turkey will be debated extensively on Wednesday morning, the day after MEPs will set out how they think the crisis should be tackled in a wide-ranging (but non-binding) motion.

Tuesday will also see a first plenary debate in the Parliament following last month's terror attacks in Brussels which killed 32 people.

It follows the news last week that one of the men suspected of carrying out the attacks once worked as a cleaner at the European Parliament itself.

MEPs will also get their first chance to react to the explosive revelations in the Panama Papers leaks, and discuss the Commission's latest plans to boost transparency in the tax affairs of multinationals.

The session should also see a final vote on a contentious EU-wide system to share airline passenger data, after years of opposition.

It comes after a deal which should also allow a vote on long-promised changes to EU data protection law.

Here's what's coming up this week...

Monday

The day's short sitting will begin with a debate to mark International Roma Day, which took place on Friday last week.

Following this, there will be debate on a motion drawn up by British Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim which proposes giving national parliaments a bigger role in scrutinising EU law.

The non-binding text says that the existing but little-used "yellow card" procedure - which allows parliaments to accuse the Commission of overstepping its remit - should be made easier to use.

A proposal to replace the measure with a beefed-up "red card" mechanism is included in the UK's EU renegotiation deal.

After this, the rest of the day will be taken up with short presentations of a number of "own initiative" motions from the Parliament's committees that will be put to the vote on Tuesday.

As is common, some of the motions - which are not binding on the Commission and effectively serve as policy ideas - have a distinctly integrationist flavour.

Among the motions which could raise the hackles (and maybe heckles) of Eurosceptic MEPs are proposals to boost the teaching of "EU values" in schools, and to "streamline" the bloc's representation on international bodies.

The EU Commission has already proposed that the eurozone countries should have a single seat at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - a move which has faced some criticism.

Tuesday

The day kicks off with a debate on the latest attempts at an EU level to ease Europe's migration crisis.

At lunchtime, MEPs will vote on a motion which again calls for EU states to set up a permanent and binding system for distributing asylum seekers - a policy MEPs have advocated since 2009.

More controversially, the draft text suggests that "one option" for replacing the current Dublin asylum rules could be to set up a centralised EU system to which migrants arriving in Europe could make a claim.

The motion is not binding on governments or the Commission, but even raising the possibility of trying to implement such a system will ensure plenty of debate.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A deal to return failed asylum seekers to Turkey came into effect last month

After the lunchtime voting session, the afternoon sitting will begin with the debate on last month's terror attacks in Brussels.

Belgian security services have come under the spotlight in the aftermath of the attacks, and questions have again been raised about how effectively national security agencies co-operate with each other.

As after the November Paris attacks, the link between security and freedom of movement within the Schengen zone is also bound to get an airing.

After this, MEPs will discuss the political fallout from the Panama Papers leaks, which have implicated a number of EU and international politicians.

MEPs will then debate the Commission's latest proposals to increase the transparency of the tax affairs of multinationals, to be unveiled earlier in the day.

It has been reported that the proposals will include plans to force big multinationals to publicly report their profits and tax bills on a country-by-country basis.

The plans would likely get the support of MEPs, who backed the creation of a "more extensive country-by-country reporting system" in a motion last November.

Supporters argue that greater public scrutiny could discourage firms from striking legal (but controversial) sweetheart tax deals with national governments.

However, the fact that the new rules in the leaked draft would be limited to activities within the EU has left some disappointed.

In the evening, MEPs will debate the future of the EU's common foreign policy, and the recent resumption of violence in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

They will also debate the EU's political and cooperation agreement with Cuba, which was signed in Havana last month.

Wednesday

The debate on the EU's migration deal with Turkey will take up the entire morning session, before a speech from new Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa at 11.00 GMT.

The deal will see recent migrants who have arrived illegally in Greece sent back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or if their claim is rejected.

For each Syrian migrant returned to Turkey, the EU is due to take in another Syrian who has made a legitimate request.

Pledges to "re-energise" Turkey's stalled bid for EU membership have proved controversial among some MEPs, who have been critical of increasing government control over the media in the country.

At the lunchtime voting session, MEPs are likely to give their approval to plans to provide an extra €100m from the EU budget to provide humanitarian support to migrants and refugees within the bloc.

The funding comes in the form of an "amending budget" for this financial year, which will also see €2m given to police agency Europol to hire staff at a new counter-terrorism centre.

Image copyright PA
Image caption An EU-wide scheme to share airline passenger data has been under discussion for years

In the afternoon, MEPs are due to debate proposals to revise the EU's rules on data protection.

A provisional deal on the plans agreed with member states is due to be put to a final vote on Thursday, after a vote in the Civil Liberties Committee on Tuesday.

The legislation is aiming to give clarity and legal certainty for businesses, as well as giving people more control over how their internet data is used.

Agreement on rules relating to how data is used by security and police forces will give the go-ahead to a final vote (also on Thursday) on an EU-wide system to share airline passenger data, similar to the one already operated by the UK.

The new law would force airlines to hand over data such as passengers' names, flight details and credit card details to security authorities for the purposes of tracking potential terrorists.

Centre-left and liberal MEPs had delayed a vote on the passenger data plans until agreement on the new data protection deal had been reached.

In the evening, MEPs will debate progress made towards EU membership by Albania, Bosnia and - more topically - by Turkey.

They will also discuss new EU legislation aimed at strengthening the protection of companies' trade secrets.

The measure was announced in 2013, with the Commission arguing that cross-border business research was being hampered by differences in national laws.

The new law is likely to be approved at a vote on Thursday, despite a row over whether provisions to protect whistleblowers and journalists are strong enough.

Thursday

The morning session kicks off with a debate on how EU countries can help fight poverty and instances of rising household bills.

At lunchtime, MEPs will vote on a non-binding motion calling on member states to impose a ban on heating disconnections during winter months.

The draft also calls on the EU Commission to examine whether minimum income policies in the EU enable households to meet basic needs.

This will be followed by short debates on this month's three topical human rights cases.

This month, the motions will focus on Nigeria, Honduras and last month's bomb attack in Lahore.

Following a bout of lunchtime voting, the afternoon will see a debate on what impact the migration crisis is having on the EU's transport sector.

MEPs will also quiz the Commission on what legal work it is undertaking to prepare for the eventual arrival of driverless cars.

Please note: This agenda is subject to modification at the opening of the session on Monday afternoon.

A guide to how the European Parliament's plenary sessions can be found here.

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