October’s European Parliament plenary sessions saw the adoption of new rules on a number of important issues of common interest, amongst which the banning of 10 single-use plastic items, the improvement of drinking water quality, stricter limits to the use of antibiotics on farm animals, and changes on road use charges.
This week’s plenary agenda is looking equally as interesting. The MEPs will be debating and voting on key issues, including the EU’s energy efficiency, new rules on telecommunications, rail passenger rights, and the introduction of an EU humanitarian visa for asylum seekers.
Let’s have a quick overview of those topics:
EU Energy Efficiency:
With the current framework coming to a close, the EU has set new targets to improve energy efficiency and the use of renewables by 2030. According to the new rules, at least 32% of EU’s energy consumption must come from renewable sources by 2030, while the same is expected for at least 14% of transport fuels. The overall target for the EU’s energy efficiency has been set to 32.5% by 2030. The EU’s aim is to have a carbon-free economy by 2050, in accordance with the Paris climate agreement.
The MEPs will vote on this issue on 13thNovember. Following the vote, the proposed legislation will be forwarded to the Council for approval.
On 14thNovember, the European Parliament will vote on new rules in telecommunications, opting for improved, cheaper and faster services across EU countries. The so-called “telecom package” aims to cap calls between EU countries at 19 cents per minute and text messages at 6 cents per minute as of 15thMay 2019. It also aims to increase network connectivity to 5G speeds across European cities by 2020.
Finally, the telecom package includes an obligatory 112 alert system for imminent major emergencies and disasters. The users will receive the alerts via text message.
Rail passenger rights:
MEPs will vote to modernise rail passenger rights on 15thNovember, aiming to close the existing gap between the rules covering air travel and those that cover journeys by train. The proposed legislation covers various aspects. In the first instance, the new legislation will guarantee better rights and free assistance to people with disabilities or reduced mobility, including compensation for lost or damaged equipment and lost or injured trained animals.
In terms of compensation for delays, the proposed legislation wants to increase the amount of the compensation depending on the length of the delay. More precisely, the passengers will be entitled to a 50% compensation on ticket price for delays between 60 and 90 minutes, a 75% compensation for delays between 90 and 120 minutes, and compensation on the entire ticket price for delays of over 2 hours. Rail companies will have to provide more information on passenger rights and be more transparent about deadlines and procedures for complaints.
An important note is that the new regulation will put an end to all exemptions, obliging all member states to uniformly apply the new rules at the latest one year after they enter into force.
Finally, amongst the updates is a requirement for new trains with dedicated bike storage areas to encourage their use.
One of the innovative proposals of this week’s plenary is the call for a resolution on the establishment of a European humanitarian visa for asylum seekers. The idea behind the proposal is to reduce the number of asylum seekers who illicitly arrive to the EU, by allowing them to refer to a European embassy or consulate, or a European delegation abroad, and obtain a territorially limited permit to enter a certain EU member state to ask for asylum. The visas would be handled based on the applicant’s situation.
Even if approved by the Parliament on Wednesday, the proposal would not constitute a binding law. The Commission is the one which would have to submit legislation to deal with this matter. It is, however, an attempt to establish a common European asylum system and relieve those countries in the Mediterranean facing an unfair allocation of responsibilities due to the flux of immigrants and refugees that arrive to their borders.
Last but not least, the Parliament will adopt its position on the agreement of the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027 during the voting session this Wednesday.
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