Whilst most of the attention will be on whether or not the Euro can survive, or whether another country will need to be bailed out, there will be much else besides going on. So, for your delectation and delight, here are some of the highlights;
The first half of 2013 will see the Irish hold the rotating Presidency and, at the end of their watch, the Europe of 27 will become the Europe of 28, as Croatia become members of the European Union on 1 July, just as the Lithuanians take over the Presidency. Europeans Liberals will be marking the event, with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) holding their Spring Council meeting in Pula. Liberal Democrat Voice will be covering the event, naturally.
The most high profile task for the parliament will be to agree a budget for 2014-2020. With the British in a minority in terms of their view, and the Conservatives relatively irrelevant in terms of the debate in Brussels, expect much high-profile brinkmanship as David Cameron seeks to reduce leakage of support to UKIP. MEPs have already committed themselves to protecting the budgets for research and development and for transport infrastructure projects, but once the global budget is agreed, funding for the Common Agricultural Policy, and regional solidarity funds will be the cause of much horse-trading.
On the economy, negotiations with the Council of Ministers over the question of a banking union, and questions over the governance of the Eurozone will be considered. Meantime, there will be continuing reform of the financial sector, with credit rating agencies and banker bonuses just two of the issues likely to receive attention.
There will also be new carbon dioxide limits for car exhaust emissions, reform of the rail sector to encourage greater competition and, it is expected, a revisit of passenger rights – expect the likes of Michael O’Leary to be incandescent with rage.
And finally, there will be discussion of the Commission’s proposal on improving the number of women on company boards, already considered by the House of Lords (and not favourably). of new rules to restrict marketing of tobacco products (plain packaging, for example), on privacy and data protection, and on a common European asylum policy. In short, something to annoy virtually everybody.
So, nothing controversial there then. And if it doesn’t go to plan, we can have every confidence in the next Presidency. After all, with Greece holding the Presidency, what could possibly go wrong?
* Mark Valladares is the Friday day editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and a member of the ALDE Council.