Parliaments

Week ahead in the European Parliament

Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome Image copyright AFP

The European Parliament meets for a plenary sitting this week ahead of the EU's birthday bash later this month.

EU leaders will meet in Rome in a fortnight to mark 60 years since the signing of the EEC's founding treaty.

However as Brexit-bound Britain sets one foot out the door, the atmosphere could be less than celebratory.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni will join MEPs on Wednesday to debate which path the bloc should take in the future.

But as well as broader ruminating on the EU's future, there's a relatively busy week of legislating on the menu as well.

New EU rules for shareholder rights to vote on director pay, monitoring of "conflict minerals" and tighter regulation of gun ownership are all up for final votes.

And MEPs will also take an initial position on new EU-wide recycling rules.

Here are the main events coming up this week...

Monday

The day begins with a debate on legislation to align EU rules on the use of mercury with the UN's Minamata Convention.

The changes, to be put to a vote on Tuesday, include stricter criteria for banning mercury exports and its use in manufacturing.

The use of mercury in products such as batteries and thermometers is being phased out, but it is still used as a catalyst in certain industries.

MEPs back the changes, and want to push for greater action to reduce the use of mercury in dental fillings.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The use of mercury in new thermometers is banned in the EU

After this they will debate new EU rules to give shareholders at listed companies the right to a greater say on director pay.

Under the proposals, shareholders would be guaranteed a vote on director pay at least once every four years.

Individual countries will be able to determine whether the vote should be binding or advisory.

The measure was launched three years ago in a bid to discourage "harmful short-term tendencies" with management pay.

The evening sees debate on three motions related to last week's International Women's Day.

There are also three "own initiative" reports from the committees - including one urging EU-wide animal welfare guidelines for farm rabbits.

Tuesday

In the morning, MEPs will debate new EU gun control regulations announced after the 2015 Paris attacks.

The changes include greater restrictions on so-called "blank-firing" weapons such as signal guns and replicas.

However plans from the EU Commission for a complete ban on private citizens owning the most dangerous semi-automatic weapons have been watered down.

After this, they will debate new legally-binding EU recycling targets for municipal and packaging waste.

Image copyright Science Photo Library

The Commission wants at least 65% of municipal waste to be recycled or reused by 2030, with only 10% allowed to be landfilled.

At lunchtime MEPs will vote on amendments proposed by the environment committee to up the headline target to 70%.

However the targets will only be agreed when both parties can find agreement with the EU's national governments.

After lunch they are due to debate President Trump's executive order banning federal money going to international groups which perform or provide information on abortions.

This co-called "Mexico City policy" is regularly supported by Republican but rescinded by Democrat presidents - as it had been under Barack Obama.

In the evening MEPs will debate new EU rules for food safety inspections, which will be voted on during Wednesday's sitting.

They will also discuss what action has been taken on recommendations made last year by the Parliament's special tax investigation committee.

The committee was initially set up after the 2014 Luxleaks revelations about favourable corporate tax deals in Luxembourg.

They will also debate a report from the Parliament's budgets committee setting out its recommendations for next year's EU budget negotiations.

The draft text says that Brexit should be used as an opportunity to address "long-standing issues" with the way the EU raises money.

Wednesday

The entire morning session will be taken up with debates on the forthcoming Rome summit, and last week's meeting of EU leaders in Brussels.

As well as Italian PM Paolo Gentiloni, Commission and European Council chiefs Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk will speak in the debate.

Mr Juncker has already laid out his five options for the EU's future, ranging from preserving the status quo to much deeper political integration.

He has said EU leaders must decide which path to take - but noted gnomically this month that he is against "reducing" the EU to the concept of a free trade zone.

At lunchtime, they are due to vote on a draft motion claiming that a planned toll scheme on German roads could still contravene EU laws.

The Commission originally argued that the new road charge discriminates against foreign drivers - but planned court proceedings have been put on hold after Germany came to an agreement on the scheme with the EU executive last year.

Image copyright EPA

In the afternoon the main debate will be on new EU rules requiring all but the smallest companies to carry out due diligence for imports of "conflict minerals".

Forcing firms to adhere to international monitoring standards aims to prevent money from the sale of the minerals falling into the hands of armed groups.

The checks will need to be undertaken by importers of tin, tungsten, gold and tantalum - a metal often used in mobile phones.

A deal reached on the rules towards the end of last year will only see exemptions granted for small importers like dentists and jewellers.

It marks a significant victory for MEPs, who pushed to strengthen the original plans tabled by the Commission for largely voluntary monitoring.

This will be followed by a debate on Parliament's rules for granting funding to political groups.

Some MEPs are pushing for a change to the procedure after an alliance of far-right parties received €600,000 in EU grants last year.

In the evening they will debate what the EU's strategy should be towards the Arctic region, and progress on Montenegro's EU accession talks.

Thursday

A relatively quiet day kicks off with a debate on new measures for collecting and managing data on fisheries stocks.

The changes are meant to simplify the system as part of a wider overhaul of the EU's common fisheries policy proposed in 2013.

As per tradition, before the day's voting session they will debate three topical human rights motions.

This month's motions focus on the trials of four Christians in Sudan, prisoners in Ukraine and a senator arrested in the Philippines.

The motions will be put to a vote after 11.00 BST, along with the new reporting regulations for conflict minerals.

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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