Auteur: Andrew Rettman
BRUSSELS - European Parliament elections will feature on the agenda this week after a poll to choose 12 new MEPs in Croatia on Sunday (14 April).
The new deputies will not be joining their colleagues in Strasbourg just yet.
When they do start work, they will act as observers with no voting powers until Croatia joins the EU in July. They will then lose their posts about a year later, with a new set of Croatian MEPs to be chosen as part of the general EU election in mid-2014.
Looking forward to the 2014 vote, the constitutional affairs committee will on Monday decide on a law to alter the legal status of EU-level political parties.
The parties currently have NGO-type status and can only raise money via grants, which tie their hands on how it is spent. But the new-model entities will be able to get up to €25,000 a year from individuals and companies in direct donations and to campaign more freely in national-level debates.
The committee will the same day vote on moving the date of the 2014 poll from June to May in a bid to boost turnout by avoiding the summer vacation season.
In what may be a pitch for one of the EU top jobs in next year's reshuffle, Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen will on Tuesday chair a debate with MEPs on the future of Europe.
Plenary voting on Tuesday will be dominated by the discharge of EU institutions' spending in 2011, amid multiplying questions on use of taxpayers' money in the EU's satellite "agencies" and in the External Action Service.
MEPs will on Tuesday also vote whether to cap bankers' bonuses, on freeing up jobs in airport ground crews to workers from other EU states and on letting airlines temporarily avoid paying an EU emissions tax on long-haul flights.
With the crisis never far away from EU debate, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi will face questions in plenary on Tuesday, while EU economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn will take the hotseat on Wednesday.
The assembly's attention will also turn to Hungary on Wednesday in a debate on what to do about what many see as Prime Minister Viktor Orban's swerve toward authoritarian rule.
For its part, the European Commission will on Tuesday file a report on whether Serbia deserves to get a date this year for starting EU entry talks.
It is unlikely to give the green light after Serb leaders rejected an EU-brokered deal on how to normalise relations with Kosovo.
In what amounts to a relatively quiet week for EU officials, home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom will on Monday also urge national governments to implement an EU anti-human-trafficking directive.
A commission spokeswoman noted on Friday that the deadline for transposing it into national law elapsed on 6 April, but "only a few member states" complied.
EU trade ministers will hold informal talks in Dublin on Wednesday amid momentum toward an EU-US free trade deal that could help revive moribund European economies.
The EU court in Luxembourg will on Tuesday rule whether 25 EU countries acted within the law by creating, last December, a single patent court without the participation of Italy and Spain, which stayed out because the new institution will only use the English, French and German languages.