Home affairs and economic issues loom large over next week’s plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. MEPs will also vote on environmental issues and on the European Union’s annual and multi-annual budgets.
MEPs on the civil-liberties committee are scheduled on Monday evening (21 October) to vote on their version of new European Union data-protection regulation. Perhaps the most ambitious piece of legislation currently before the Parliament, the regulation is supposed to bring the Union’s current data-protection regime, which dates from the mid-1990s, into the digital era.
The initial reform proposal, made in January 2012 by Viviane Reding, the European commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, has prompted more than 4,000 requests for changes from MEPs. The draft regulation is currently pencilled in for a plenary vote in March 2014, dangerously close to the end of the current legislative term in April. MEPs are divided: one group believes the Commission’s proposal would be harmful to business and another believes it is insufficiently tough on companies handling personal data.
Bank transfer data
Allegations of widespread US spying on Europeans have prompted some MEPs – primarily from the Liberals and the Greens – to push for the suspension of bilateral agreements with the US on data matters, most notably the Swift agreement, which gives US counter- terrorism officials access to global bank transfer data. But MEPs are expected to turn down that request in a plenary vote on Wednesday (23 October).
On Tuesday afternoon, the plenary will discuss the final report, after 18 months of work, of the Special Committee on Organised Crime, Corruption and Money-laundering. The report, which was adopted by the committee in September, calls on the next European Commission to put forward new legislation to tighten definitions of organised crime and to set standards for member states in dealing with it.
For example, the committee recommends that anyone convicted of organised crime, corruption or money-laundering should be excluded from bidding for public contracts and from standing for public office anywhere in the EU. The committee, chaired by Salvatore Iacolino, a centre-right Italian MEP, held numerous hearings to establish the scope of the problem and to propose remedies.
The plenary will discuss next week’s European Council and the European semester of economic policymaking on Wednesday morning.
MEPs will also vote on a proposal to reform the EU system of oversight for medical devices that go inside the human body. The proposal was put forward following last year’s PIP breast implant scandal.
Under current rules, dating from 1990, medical devices such as implants and pacemakers are given pre-market authorisation by accredited independent assessment bodies. The Commission’s proposal would increase co-operation and oversight of these bodies. But last month, the Parliament’s health committee voted to give the EU the ability to overrule the bodies that handle the most complicated devices.?
Eucomed, which represents the medical devices industry, has criticized this approach, saying it would create too much red tape and delay the arrival of life-saving technologies on the market.