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NewsPlenary highlights: Sakharov Prize, digital policy, gender equality

Plenary highlights: Sakharov Prize, digital policy, gender equality

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Alexei Navalny was awarded the 2021 Sakharov Prize, MEPs voted on laws shaping the digital world, and pushed for gender equality in the last plenary of 2021.

Sakharov Prize 2021

Alexei Navalny was awarded the European Parliament’s 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in a ceremony on Wednesday. Currently serving a prison sentence in a forced labour colony in Russia, Alexei Navalny has been the country’s leading opposition figure for more than a decade, known for his fight against corruption and the Kremlin’s abuses of human rights. The prize was received by his daughter, Daria Navalnaya.

Russia threat to Ukraine

In a resolution adopted on Thursday, Parliament condemned the large Russian military build-up on the Ukrainian border. MEPs demanded the government in Moscow to immediately withdraw its forces and to stop threatening its neighbouring country.

Regulating the digital world

The EU moved closer towards major changes to its online landscape this week, as Parliament continued work on two important legislative files – the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which aims to curb unfair practices of big online platforms, and the Digital Services Act (DSA), which focuses on creating a safer digital space for users by protecting fundamental rights online.

MEPs approved their position on the DMA on 15 December, which allows for the start of negotiations with the EU governments in the first half of 2022. A day earlier, Parliament’s internal market committee approved its position on the DSA, which will be considered and voted on by the whole Parliament in January.

Punishing gender based cyber-violence

Member states should have a common EU definition of gender-based cyberviolence and harmonised minimum and maximum penalties, MEPs said in a resolution. Actions that should be punished include cyber harassment and stalking; recording and sharing images of sexual assault; remote control or surveillance (including spy apps); sexist hate speech; and unlawful access to messages or social media accounts.

Achieving gender equality

MEPs said that the gender pay (14.1%) and pension (29.5%) gaps in the EU have to be closed. On Wednesday, Parliament called on member states and the EU to remove existing inequalities between men and women, make sure women are treated equally and uphold women’s rights.

Protecting EU businesses

Parliament adopted its position on the international procurement instrument, which limits non-EU companies’ access to open EU public procurement tenders if they come from countries that do not offer similar access to EU enterprises.

Modernising economies after the pandemic

On Wednesday, MEPs debated the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), the Union’s largest ever package of economic support, with the Commission. Members said that the RRF must make the EU more resilient, more competitive, and more just. The funds should be used to modernise member state economies, that they are spent on sustainable projects, and that they alleviate the impact on citizens of the pandemic-induced economic crisis.

Rule of law and fundamental rights in Slovenia and Poland

Parliament voted on a resolution on fundamental rights and rule of law in Slovenia on Thursday, expressing concerns over media freedom, the process of appointing prosecutors to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, and the deep polarisation in the country.

On Wednesday, MEPs also discussed recent threats to fundamental rights in Poland, including the 24 November ruling by the Polish constitutional tribunal that declared parts of the European Convention on Human Rights incompatible with the Polish constitution and a government proposal to oblige doctors to report all pregnancies and miscarriages in a centralised register.

Towards a world free of nuclear weapons

In a report adopted on Monday, MEPs called for policies to move forward the reduction and elimination of all nuclear arsenals and create conditions to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. Parliament stressed the need to ensure that the EU plays a strong role in non-proliferation efforts and preventing the use of any chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.

European Year of Youth 2022 begins soon

On Tuesday, Parliament confirmed the decision to organise youth-focused and youth-centric activities and initiatives across all member states in 2022. In the budget negotiations for next year, MEPs ensured top-ups for Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps to finance accompanying initiatives.

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