The European Parliament has annulled a decision to vote on the energy and climate change package before heads of state and government are expected to clinch a deal at their meeting on 11-12 December.
The decision to advance the vote was initially taken in an effort to ensure that EU leaders considered the Parliament's views during negotiations over the package (EurActiv 27/10/08). Now MEPs are worried that their opinion will not be taken into account, as a fragile consensus could unravel myriad amendments.
Parliament will still hold a long debate on the four Commission proposals included in the package during the session, set for 4 December. But MEPs now think that "not enough progress" has been made to agree on a common position before the heads of state and government meet, institutional sources told EurActiv.
Parliamentarians feel that they are "not ready" to decide on the complex directives in question. Moving the vote to a later date will allow them to have more up-to-date information instead of simply agreeing on Commission texts dating from several months ago, a Parliament spokesperson said.
Italy and many new Eastern member states have raised opposition to the plans, arguing that they will place too heavy a burden on their coal-dependent industries.
As a result, summit decisions are expected to be taken in a last-minute deal, with significant disagreements over such issues as the allocation of emissions permits under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and financing for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) demonstrations. The French Presidency recently tabled a compromise deal, which differs significantly from the original proposal (EurActiv 21/11/08).
MEPs want to "vote on the whole package," said Parliament sources, attempting to justify the delay. "They hope to get 90% agreed" at the trialogue negotiations scheduled for the beginning of this week (24-26 November), and "the most controversial points will be left to the European Council".
Claude Turmes, vice chairman of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, was optimistic that a deal would be reached. "We are making good progress" in the trialogue on renewables, he said. "We are now on the road to a good comprehensive agreement on December 11."
Another trialogue between the Parliament, French Presidency and Commission will take place on the 15 December to "check if the Parliament can agree to what was decided at the European Council," the Parliament says. The vote will then take place on the 17th, after a full plenary debate the day before.