Parliaments

Week ahead in the European Parliament

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It's back to Strasbourg this week for MEPs as they return to France for their first plenary sitting since the summer recess.

Jean-Claude Juncker will take centre-stage with his third "state of the union" speech as European Commission President on Wednesday.

He will no doubt be hoping the stalls are busier than during his last appearance - when a poor turnout led him to brand MEPs "ridiculous".

As ever, the event will be a mixture of rhetoric and policy, offering him a chance to set out his stall for the year ahead.

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

Monday

The sitting kicks off with a debate on EU accession to the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty that aims to reduce violence against women.

Signatories commit to providing help lines, certain police powers and setting up an adequate number of shelters and refuges.

All member states have signed the Convention, and 14 out of 28 have ratified it.

Supporters say getting the EU itself to accede as well will improve the support available to victims and the effectiveness of data collection schemes.

In a report to be voted on during Tuesday, MEPs say the process for ratifying the EU's accession should be sped up.

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After this, they will debate a planned extension to a measure exempting flights from the EU's emissions trading system (ETS).

The ETS scheme works by making emitters buy "allowances" authorising them to emit greenhouse gases, within an overall agreed limit.

Flights to and from the European Economic Area (EEA) have been temporarily excluded whilst international regulators draw up new emissions rules.

Environment committee MEPs have recommended that the extension should not run beyond January 2021, when the new rules are due to take effect.

In the evening, they will also debate plans to include forestry in the EU's greenhouse gas emission targets.

Short debates on four advisory motions from the committees will finish the evening - the most eye-catching is one calling for transparency requirements for lobbying in the EU institutions, including in the Parliament itself.

Tuesday

The first debate of the morning is about a proposal to spend €120m in EU grants to help promote free WiFi hotspots in public places.

The EU Commission says the cash will be disbursed in a "geographically balanced manner" - expect MEPs to raise a sceptical brow.

After this comes a debate on an update to the EU's rules for safeguarding gas supplies during emergencies and energy crises.

A new "solidarity mechanism" will allow countries to supply emergency gas to their neighbours even if this temporarily lowers their own supply standard.

Under revisions negotiated by MEPs and national ministers, sharing gas in an emergency will require compensation to be provided to the supply country.

Before the voting session, they will also discuss the fallout from the summer's contaminated eggs scandal involving the insecticide fipronil.

Among the votes at lunchtime, MEPs may approve a motion calling on EEA member Norway to give up whaling off its coast.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) agreed a moratorium on commercial whaling from 1986 - but is rejected by the country.

The afternoon will see MEPs discuss a report from the foreign affairs committee on the EU's arms export control rules.

As well as reiterating Parliament's call for an EU arms embargo on Saudi Arabia, it recommends setting up a EU-directed arms control supervisory body.

The rest of the afternoon will be taken up with external affairs debates on North Korea, migration, Turkey and Venezuela.

The one on Turkey should be an interesting watch after Angela Merkel's recent call for the EU to suspend Turkish accession talks.

In the evening they will debate advisory reports on relations with Latin America and India, and tackling corruption internationally.

Wednesday

Jean-Claude Juncker's speech and the resulting debate will take up the full three hours of the morning session.

Among the high-flown language, watch out for big policy announcements.

Mr Juncker used his first speech in 2015 to announce plans to redistribute 120,000 asylum seekers using binding quotas.

Announcements last year included plans for an EU headquarters for co-ordinating military co-operation, and doubling the size of the EU's investment plan.

He also used the speech to insist the EU was "not at risk" from Brexit - will he decide to say more on this subject?

At the voting session, MEPs will decide whether to sign off on €1.2bn in EU aid to help repair damage caused by earthquakes in central Italy.

The massive payout is the biggest ever under the EU's solidarity fund since it was set up in 2002.

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After lunch, they will debate new car emissions testing regimes in Germany and Austria introduced after the "dieselgate" scandal.

MEPs' own inquiry into the scandal concluded that national and EU regulators had known about problems with emissions testing but failed to intervene.

A tougher EU-wide framework for emissions testing came into effect earlier this month.

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, a debate has also been added on the fire safety of buildings in the EU.

After this, they will discuss new rules that would create minimum accessibility requirements for disabled people for a range of products and services.

The proposed European Accessibility Act would update requirements for ATMs, ticketing machines, mobile phones, TVs and banking services, among others.

MEPs will take an initial position on the legislation on Thursday, ahead of negotiations with national ministers.

Among the debates in the evening, they will discuss EU help to areas affected by Hurricane Irma.

They will also discuss new multiannual fish quotas for certain species in the North Sea, and future funding for the Erasmus+ student exchange programme.

Ahead of a ratification vote on Thursday, they will also debate a bilateral recognition agreement in trade in organic products between the EU and Chile.

Thursday

The final day will begin with debate on a report by the education and culture committee on the EU's plans for a new scheme to promote skills.

After this they will debate the latest developments in plans to extend the Nord Stream gas pipeline which runs from Russia to Germany.

Some central and eastern European states are concerned that the pipeline might undermine EU plans to diversify its energy supply away from Russia.

The Danish government is trying to get a law through parliament which would allow it to block construction of the pipeline on foreign policy and security grounds.

In June, the EU Commission took the unusual step of asking member states for a new legal basis to negotiate with Russia.

The body said the offshore sections of the pipeline fall outside the EU's jurisdiction, putting them in a "specific situation" from a legal point of view.

However, some have interpreted the move as an attempt to throw the difficult political matter back to the national governments.

This will be followed by debates on human rights motions relating to Cambodia, Gabon, Laos and the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

All four motions will be put to the vote during the voting session at lunchtime.

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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