The Covid-19 pandemic has forced Parliament to limit physical meetings and function remotely, but MEPs are still able to approve urgent EU measures to fight the pandemic.
Parliament maintains its core functions – passing laws, approving the EU budget, overseeing the European Commission – also in times of Covid-19. Both committees and plenary sessions are focussing on measures needed for the EU to respond to the crisis. Find out how by watching ther video at the top of the article.
Like millions of other Europeans, MEPs and Parliament staff are working from home due to the quarantine and social distancing that are in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Thanks to technology and fast-tracking of legislation, MEPs can deliver the measures that Europe needs to fight the pandemic and its aftermath.
“We had to slow down, of course. But we have not stopped, because democracy cannot be suspended in the midst of such a dramatic crisis… As legislators, we have the means, the possibility, and the duty to help,” said Parliament President David Sassoli ahead of the first-ever plenary to use remote voting.
For its plenary on 26 March, Parliament put in place a procedure to vote from a distance for the first time evef. Voting previously required a physical presence. According to the rules, the right to vote is a personal one and MEPs cast their votes individually and in person. Therefore, Parliament opted for a remote vote by email. Members received ballot forms electronically, then completed and returned them via email. Amendments were voted in a single ballot. This remote voting system is temporary and valid until 31 July, unless extended by a decision by the Parliament’s bureau, which consists of the Parliament President, the 14 Vice-Presidents and the five Quaestors.
In the remote vote on 26 March, MEPs almost unanimously adopted three urgent proposals to help people and businesses tackle the crisis.
Exceptionally, plenary sessions are not currently taking place in Parliament’s seat in Strasbourg. This temporary and extraordinary measure will be lifted as soon as conditions allow, probably after the summer.
Work in committees has also adapted, with meetings taking place via video-conference. That has not stopped MEPs from discussing urgent topics with commissioners and national authorities, such as the Covid-19 situation in Greek refugee camps. Interpretation and voting in committee has also been maintained under the current remote meetings system.
According to the new calendar of Parliament activities agreed by the Conference of Presidents on 2 April, committee meetings can now take place in yellow weeks, with the focus on measures to fight the coronavirus crisis.
Political groups and governing bodies