EP plenary to discuss in Strasbourg the Future of Europe with the Prime Minister of Italy

The European Parliament (EP) plenary, that convenes in Strasbourg on February 11-14 will exchange views about the future of Europe with Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.The debate will take place on Tuesday, February 12, at 1700 local time. This will be the seventeenth in a series of debates between MEPs and EU heads of state or government.An upgrade of the EU’s civil defence mechanism, tested to its limits in 2017 and 2018 by forest fires, storms and floods, will be put to a vote on Tuesday.The new legislation, informally agreed with Council in December, will help member states to respond faster and more effectively to natural and man-made disasters, by sharing civil protection assets more efficiently.The draft law will also set up, upon Parliament’s request, a RescEU reserve of resources, such as forest fire-fighting planes, high-capacity pumps, field hospitals and emergency medical teams, for use in all kinds of emergencies. RescEU will step in when member states do not have enough resources to respond to a disaster.The MEPs will also, among others, vote on EU 2021-2027 funding rules and are set to oppose cuts to finances dedicated to regions.Draft rules with new goals to support innovation, digitisation, energy transition, education and access to healthcare in all parts of Europe will be discussed on Wednesday morning and voted on at noon. These would allow for simplified procedures to boost locally driven projects and encourage smaller businesses to apply for funding.

The EP is also set to vote on Thursday on setting up the first EU-level tool to screen foreign direct investment on grounds of security to protect strategic sectors.While the EU remains open for investment, inward foreign direct investment (FDI) needs to be vetted to check whether it might endanger the EU’s strategic interests. The proposal protects crucial industries, such as water, transport, or communications, and technologies, including semiconductors, artificial intelligence, and robotics.Furthermore, in a vote on Thursday, MEPs are set to put an end to the discrimination that payment service users in the EU outside the Eurozone face. Whereas consumers in the Eurozone benefit from the single euro payments area (SEPA), those living outside continue to pay high costs for their cross-border payments in euro.The new measures, already informally agreed with the Council, will also protect consumers from being charged excessively and arbitrarily for currency conversions and ensure that they are informed about the amount to be paid in the local currency and the currency of their account.The EP will decide on Wednesday whether to approve the free trade and investment protection agreements between the EU and Singapore.Serving as a blueprint for future trade deals between the EU and Southeast Asia, the free trade agreement will remove virtually all tariffs between the two parties within five years. It will allow for free trade in services, protect unique European products, and open up the Singaporean procurement market to EU companies.

The agreement includes strengthened labour rights and environmental protection.MEPs are expected to underline the great potential that artificial intelligence and robotics have in manufacturing, health, energy and transport, while recalling that artificial intelligence needs to be guided by a code of ethics.By voting on a resolution on Tuesday drafted by the Industry Committee, MEPs want to give a clear political mandate to the European Commission to develop an action plan on artificial intelligence and robotics for the next legislature.Plans to counter water scarcity by facilitating the reuse of treated wastewater for agricultural irrigation will be put to a vote on Tuesday.The legislation defines minimum quality standards for reclaimed water to be used for agricultural irrigation. It also sets out obligations for production, distribution and storage operators, as well as risk management measures.

Source: Cyprus News Agency