November 2014 EP plenary Newsletter: Motion of Censure, EU-Canada PNR deal, Digital Single Market, and more

In this edition:

1. Juncker Commission easily survives its first big test in the EP
2. The EU-Canada PNR agreement sent to ECJ by the left, ALDE, eurosceptics
3. Large EP majority pushed through a stronger stance on the post-2015 development agenda
4. EPP, S&D, ECR requested Commission’s diligence in settling search engines market
5. EPP, ALDE, Greens/EFA voted to strengthen ECB’s authority to impose sanctions

 

1. Juncker Commission easily survives its first big test in the EP

The Motion of Censure on the EU Commission, tabled by 76 EFDD and non-attached MEPs, was rejected by 101 votes in favour, 461 against and 88 abstentions. The number of MEPs voting against the motion, and thus in favour of the Commission, was higher than the number of MEPs who have voted in favour of the appointment of Juncker’s Commission in October 2014.

Click here to see how each MEP voted on the resolution.

Motion of Censure

(The see how the MEPs voted on the appointment of Juncker’s Commission in October 2014 click here.)

The motion of censure was based on the so-called Luxleaks affair and the state aid investigation that the European Commission is conducting into the tax arrangements applied to companies in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Some MEPs claimed that Mr Juncker is in a controversial position, since during these alleged corporate tax avoidance schemes he was prime minister of Luxembourg.

One of the main roles of the EU Parliament is to scrutinise other EU institutions, particularly the Commission, to make sure they are working democratically. As part of the parliamentary control process, the EP can call on the Commission to resign during its period in office through the motion of censure.

It is not the first time that a Commission is threatened by a motion of censure: eight such votes have taken place in the history of the European Parliament. The latest to date was the one on the Barroso’s Commission in 2005 which had also been tabled by the Eurosceptic MEPs. At that time, the motion had been easily defeated by the biggest EU groups.

Perhaps the most known case is, however, that of the Santer Commission, which eventually had to resign in 1999 even before a vote in the EP, after a corruption scandal was linked to one of its Commissioners.

To be adopted, the motion needs to reach two-thirds of the votes cast and a majority of all MEPs. This has never happened so far.

 

2. The EU-Canada PNR agreement sent to ECJ by the left, ALDE, eurosceptics

The European Parliament approved a resolution tabled by the ALDE group asking for the EU-Canada agreement on the transfer of Passenger Name Records (PNR) to be referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for an opinion on whether it is compatible with the EU treaties and Charter of Fundamental Rights before voting on the new agreement. The PNR agreement was signed by the EU Council of Ministers and Canada on 25 June 2014, but in order to enter into force it needs the consent of the Parliament.

The resolution passed by 383 votes in favour, 271 against and 47 abstentions. The left-leaning groups (S&D, Greens/EFA, GUE/NGL) and the right wing eurosceptics supported the proposal (the EFDD group was split). The conservative EPP and ECR groups decided to vote against the resolution, as they considered that the PNR agreement should be enforced at the soonest, to fight against terrorism and international crime.

Graph PNR EU-Canada

PNR data is information provided by passengers during the booking of tickets and when checking in on flights. The data is stored in the airlines’ reservation and departure control databases and use it for commercial purposes. PNR data include information, ranging from names and addresses to meal preference and medical needs. Moreover, many states access PNR data for the purpose of fighting serious crime and terrorism.

The EU has so far signed bilateral PNR Agreements with the United States, Canada and Australia.

The aim of the resolution is that legal certainty for EU citizens should become a benchmark for future agreement with other countries that involve the collection and transfer of personal data. The text was tabled after a critical opinion by the EU Data Protection Supervisor on the proportionality of PNR schemes and the choice of legal basis for the agreement.

Now, Parliament’s final vote will be suspended until the Court has delivered its opinion.

Click here to see how each MEP voted on the report.

 

3. Large EP majority pushed through a stronger stance on the post-2015 development agenda.

The vast majority of the MEPs voted in favour of a tougher position on the post-2015 global development framework. The report was adopted by 541 votes in favour, 96 against and 29 abstentions. Only the members of the ECR and EFDD group did not approve the text. However, the extreme right group was divided, with the Italian delegation of the Movement 5 Stars voting in favour.

This non-legislative resolution will contribute to the definition of a coherent EU position in the forthcoming negotiations on new global development goals after 2015.

The report claims that poverty eradication and sustainable development together with conflict prevention, climate change and food security, are among the key priority areas that the EU should address in the post-2015 global development framework.

The final negotiations on new sustainable development goals will start in January 2015 and finish in September.

The EU Council of Ministers is expected to decide its position on 14 December 2014.

Click here to see how each MEP voted on the report.

 

4. EPP, S&D, ECR request Commission’s diligence in settling search engines market

Through this non-legislative resolution, the EP called on EU member states and the European Commission to address all the existing barriers to the development of the EU’s digital single market.

A majority formed by the two main EP political groups plus the ECR backed the text, adopted by 348 votes in favour, 174 against and 56 abstentions. The ALDE group opposed it because its Members believed it was anti-free market and focused on one company.

Digital

The text was controversial because it was seen as an “anti-Google resolution” emphasising the need of proper enforcement of EU competition rules by the Commission to prevent the excessive market concentration and abuse of dominant position. Moreover, it calls on the Commission to draft proposal aimed at “unbundling search engines from other commercial services”. Finally, the resolution welcomes the announcement of further investigations by the Commission into search engine practices.

Click here to see how each MEP voted on the report.

 

5.  EPP, ALDE, Greens/EFA voted to strengthen ECB’s authority to impose sanctions

The Centre-right EU group EPP, the ALDE and the Greens/EFA groups voted in favour of a legislative report giving the European Central Bank more power to impose sanctions on financial actors not complying with EU rules. The report was adopted by 361 votes in favour, 118 against and 223 abstentions. The abstentions came primarily from the S&D group. The ECR group was split, with the British delegation voting in favour.

The report states that the financial crisis emphasised the need for better regulation and supervision of the financial sector in the EU. The Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) entered into force in November 2014. This mechanism confers new supervision powers on the ECB. The resolution states that in order to build the SSM’s credibility, financial markets need to be confident that, in the future, the supervisor can impose sanctions on banks that are not complying with the rules. This means that the ECB needs clearer and unequivocal authority to impose sanctions.

Click here to see how each MEP voted on the report.

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