Turkey, refugee crisis and women’s issues among EP plenary agenda in Strasbourg

Turkey, refugee crisis and women’s issues among EP plenary agenda in Strasbourg

EU-Turkey Summit, European agenda on migration and refugees, as well as issues relating to women and the protection of refugee women, on the occasion of International Women`s Day, will be among the isues discussed during the spring session of the European Parliament plenary, which starts on Monday, and wraps up on Thursday in Strasbourg.

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, representing the Dutch Council Presidency and European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis will discuss the outcome of today`s EU-Turkey summit on the refugees` crisis with MEPs on Wednesday morning. MEPs will also voice their expectations for the upcoming Spring Council meeting of 17-18 March.

On Tuesday afternoon, the European Commission will update MEPs on the state of play on implementing the European agenda on migration and progress in relocating refugees.

A reform of EU migration and asylum policies and procedures needs to include gender-sensitive measures to ensure the safety of women seeking asylum and often travelling with young children and other dependants, say MEPs in a draft resolution to be voted on Tuesday. Just before the vote, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi will address the plenary session.

When assessing asylum claims, individual and gender-based forms of violence, such as rape, sexual violence, female genital mutilation, forced marriage or domestic violence should be recognized as valid reasons for seeking asylum in the EU, says the draft text. According to UNHCR, since the start of 2016, women and children have accounted for 55% of people reaching Greece to seek asylum in the EU, up from 27% in June 2015. During the joint debate on Tuesday morning, the Commission will update MEPs on the social situation of women in Europe.

Sweden`s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven will join MEPs for a Wednesday afternoon debate on the current situation in the EU. Löfven, a Social Democrat, has led Sweden`s first-ever S&D-Green coalition government since October 2014. Since the 2014 EU elections, EU heads of state or government have taken part in plenary debates, in addition to the traditional incoming/outgoing Council Presidency, such are Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on the EU and Euro summits and the situation in Greece, last July, French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and last January, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło on the situation in Poland.

MEPs will debate today and vote tomorrow a new draft law, provisionally agreed with EU ministers, which underlines that children across the EU should get the benefit of better-funded school milk, fruit and vegetable schemes, along with better lessons on healthy eating. If approved, today`s separate EU school milk and fruit schemes will merge and the annual budget of the new schemes will increase by €20 million to €250 million. Almost 10 million children across the EU benefited from the EU school fruit scheme and some 19 million benefited from the milk one in 2013/2014.

Measures to prevent and halt outbreaks of animal diseases such as avian flu or foot and mouth disease will be debated today and put to a vote tomorrow. The draft EU law, on diseases that are transmissible among animals, and potentially to humans too, puts fresh emphasis on prevention and should help professionals to keep pace with scientific progress. The new Animal Health Law, which merges and updates almost 40 scattered items of old legislation, is the first-ever EU legislation to establish a clear link between animal health and welfare and public health.

MEPs want to curb use of antibiotics in farming. In Thursday’s vote on proposed updates to an EU law on veterinary medicines, they are likely to advocate banning collective and preventive antibiotic treatment of animals, and to back measures to stimulate research into new medicines.

MEPs will give a verdict on EU anti-smuggling deals with tobacco firms. A draft resolution will be voted on Wednesday indicating that MEPs are not fully satisfied with the EU Commission`s recent assessment of the deal with Philip Morris International (PMI), which expires in July 2016. The Commission will decide whether or not to renew it after Wednesday`s vote. But any negotiations with PMI must be transparent, say MEPs.

On Wednesday MEPs will put the question of “How to protect whistleblowers?” to Commission and Council raising the case of the whistleblower and WikiLeaks website founder Julian Assange. On 11 February 38 MEPs wrote to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to protest about Mr Assange’s treatment and stress the need to respect the opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), which concluded on 4 December 2015 that Mr Assange had been arbitrarily detained by the Swedish and British governments and should be released and receive compensation.

Other issues will be discussed at the plenary are the revised rules for workers who are employed in one member state and temporarily sent to another by their employer, draft rules designed to boost the efficiency and cut the cost of services supplied at EU maritime ports, such as mooring, bunkering and towage, a law setting EU minimum standards to protect the right of children (under 18 years old) to a fair trial, progresss reports of 2-15 for Montenegro and FYROM. There will be also a debate on Zika virus outbreak, the crisis on pork meat price etc