With full tanks, all systems checked and automatic launch sequence ignited, the European Parliament is ready for lift-off. MEPs achieved much in the first part of 2012 that will make a noticeable difference to the everyday life of ordinary citizens, such as lower roaming charges and killing off the controversial anti-counterfeiting agreement. However, there is much to be done in the months to come.
Although work continued behind the scenes, there were no plenary or committee meetings in August, but MEPs will hit the ground running when they resume their activities in September.
Resolving the crisis remains, of course, a top priority. On 3 September the economic and monetary affairs committee will hold a debate on the way towards a genuine economic and monetary union with Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, in camera; as well as with Oli Rehn, commissioner for economic and monetary affairs and the euro; and Michel Barnier, commissioner for the internal market and services. On 12 September MEPs will also debate with Commission president José Manuel Barroso what the priorities should be for the immediate future.
But kick-starting Europe's economy is far from the only issue that will need to be tackled in the coming months. The Parliament and Council still have to decide on the EU's budget for next year. Parliament is committed to safeguarding funding aimed at stimulating growth and jobs as well as for small and medium-sized companies and support for poorer regions.
If that is not tricky enough, the EU institutions also have to agree how much money the EU will be allowed to spend between 2014-2020. Parliament is pushing for new sources of finance for the budget. Contributions by member states could be reduced by for example introducing alternative sources of income such as a financial transaction tax.
The reform of the common agricultural policy will provide plenty of food for thought. There are plans to reform the system of direct payments to farmers and to simplify checks on how they spend the money.
The Parliament has traditionally called attention to human rights issues and this is not about to change. On 3 September the foreign affairs committee and human rights subcommittee will meet Stavros Lambrinidis, a former MEP and the newly appointed EU special representative for human rights. In December Parliament will also award its annual Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to recognise the efforts and sacrifices of those striving for liberty and freedom.
MEPs will also be doing their bit for culture. In November they will pick the winner of this year's LUX cinema Prize Before that the three shortlisted films will be shown in all member states in October and November.
From crisis busting to film promotion, it promises to be an interesting couple of months for the Parliament. Be sure to check back here regularly for the latest update.
Photo credit: Thilo Kranz/DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
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