Rule of law, Russia-Ukraine crisis to dominate Euro Parliament Plenary

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The Russia-Ukraine crisis takes centre stage at this week’s European Parliament Plenary session, with High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell set to update MEPs on the diplomatic attempts to de-escalate tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine.

The plenary debate comes amid a surge in diplomatic activity to ease the threat of war in eastern Ukraine as Russia continues to ammass its troops on the frontier, despite the latter’s insistence that it had no plans to invade.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that responses from the European Union and NATO military alliance had not been satisfactory. The comments appeared to signal a reduced likelihood of imminent Russian military action after repeated warnings from the United States that Russia could attack Ukraine at any time.

The debate also follows a visit by a high-profile EP delegation to Kiev and other Ukrainian cities earlier this month, during which Parliament re-iterated its message that while the EU remains open to dialogue with Russia, it will remain firm on its principles and will not hold back in imposing unprecedented sanctions should Russia decide to intervene in Ukraine.

Yesterday, in an urgent vote, Parliament re-iterated its support to Ukraine, greenlighting a €1.2 billion macro-financial loan to help Ukraine cover its external financing needs in 2022. The loan serves as “swift support in a situation of acute crisis and to strengthen the resilience of the country”, according to the proposal tabled by the Commission. In parallel, MEPs will also discuss two reports on how to strengthen the EU as a global foreign policy and security actor.

Poland, Hungary in the dock

Also tomorrow, in another highlight of this week’s plenary, an important debate between MEPs and European Commission President von der Leyen will focus on a decision by the European Court of Justice which is expected in the next hours. The Court will express itself on the requests filed by Hungary and Poland to annul the regulation that links disbursement of EU funds with respect for the rule of law. The budget conditionality regulation aims to protect EU funds from being misused by national governments that breach the rule of law. It entered into force on 1 January 2021. On 11 March 2021, Poland and Hungary challenged the regulation in the EU Court of Justice.

As part of a political compromise agreed upon at the European Council meeting in December 2020, despite EP pressure, no action under the Regulation was to be introduced by the Commission until the ECJ had ruled on its legality, thereby delaying the implementation of the first measures under the Regulation by nearly a year.

On 2 December 2021, Advocate General Manuel Campos Sánchez-Bordona delivered his Opinions on the actions of annulment brought by Hungary and Poland, saying that the procedures by the two former Eastern bloc countries should be be dismissed by the Court.

Other agenda highlights

Beating cancer. Parliament will debate and vote on measures and actions to fight cancer in the EU. Key recommendations by the Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) include facilitating access to cross-border health care and clinical trials, managing shortages of cancer medicines more efficiently, and ensuring equal access to innovative drugs and treatments.

20 years of the Euro/Debate with ECB President Lagarde.The session will start with a ceremony to celebrate 20 years of the Euro, after which MEPs will debate with European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde the work of the ECB in 2021 and the state of the EU economy

COVID-19/Travel rules: MEPs and the Commission will debate the current situation on intra-EU travel rules, the need for a coordinated approach as well as the proposal to extend the use of the EU Digital COVID Certificate until 30 June 2023

Toy safety: To better protect children, MEPs are set to call for more stringent EU rules to ensure all toys sold on the EU market are safe, including those from non-EU countries and those sold online. (debate Tuesday, vote Wednesday)

Road charging: MEPs are set to approve new road charging rules for trucks, moving from a time-based model to a distance-based system. The new system will better reflect the “polluter-pays” and “user-pays” principles, and help reduce CO2 emissions.

President of Colombia: On Tuesday at noon, the President of Colombia Iván Duque Márquez will address MEPs in the Strasbourg hemicycle. Before his address, EP President Roberta Metsola and President Duque Márquez will have a bilateral meeting.

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