Giving EU firms a competitive edge and creating new jobs
Global competition and the financial crisis have shaken European businesses, leaving many to face bankruptcy or shed staff.
Parliament worked to support companies and their staff, using money from the EU budget and other measures aimed at giving European firms a leading edge in world markets and creating jobs, especially for young people.
It passed laws jointly with national governments to help inventors with patent protection; crack down on the late payment of bills by setting a general EU-wide 30-day deadline for payments; overhaul public procurement to make public spending greener, more social and innovative; and modernise rail and air services.
MEPs were instrumental in securing a €325 billion investment fund for regional development projects to ease Europe out of the crisis. These include training young people and redundant workers, supporting small firms looking for new business opportunities, boosting internet connections in remote regions and international research.
Parliament has played a key role over the past five years in guiding a number of laws designed to make life easier for businesses in Europe on to the statute books. As lawmakers, MEPs try to reduce bureaucracy and make sure that new EU laws do not create more red tape. This often means striking the right balance between more environmental or consumer protection on the one hand and less regulation on the other hand.
A new unitary EU patent, valid in 25 participating member states, was pushed through with the help of Parliament. The EU legislation was finally approved by Parliament in December 2012 after more than 30 years of discussion. When the new system is fully operational (member states still have to ratify the international treaty setting up the unified court, which is part of the reform) and up to speed, one single patent application will provide patent protection in 25 EU countries, which will make the EU patent 85% cheaper than before, when inventors had to apply to each country separately. Parliament ensured in its negotiations with governments that small firms would have their translation costs reimbursed and that the renewal fees would be lowered.
Another law adopted in this area protects small firms, in particular, from the late payment of bills, by setting a general EU-wide 30-day deadline for payments.
Parliament also helped speed up access to standard solutions to technical problems, enabling firms to place their new products on the market more quickly.
MEPs ensured that the overhaul of the public tendering system will make public spending more responsible and guarantee best value for money by broadening the selection criteria to allow public authorities to choose greener, social or innovative solutions.
They also worked to merge national online markets for music to boost business, while ensuring that musicians get fair payment and that music from local or regional repertoires does not disappear among the international hits.
MEPs adopted a series of laws to help create sound and modern infrastructures, smooth and affordable transport links and reliable telecommunications services. When fine-tuning these laws, MEPs focused on making life easier for passengers as well as for companies buying and selling goods and services across borders.
Parliament pressed for improvements to legislation opening up EU rail markets to competition in its negotiations with member states. Thanks to its efforts, all freight and international service operators will get fairer access to the rail networks as well as to services and infrastructure. It also called for improvements to passenger rail services, requiring providers to meet certain efficiency and service quality criteria and opening up access to more operators.
Equally importantly, the EP has sought to ensure that infrastructure investment part-financed by the EU and designed to complete the trans-European networks is efficient.
MEPs also helped to promote fair competition on the road transport market, worked to make sure that transport companies across Europe follow equal minimum standards for safety and rest and tightened rules on vehicle inspections to improve road safety.
Parliament called for "e-Call" devices to be fitted to cars to automatically alert the rescue services to a crash, even if the driver is unconscious. This system would also give the exact location of the vehicle, along with other vital information such as the number of fastened seatbelts. It would enable rescue services to decide immediately on the type of rescue operation needed and help them to arrive at the scene more quickly, to save lives and reduce the severity of injuries.
The EP has been active in the field of air passenger rights, calling for rules to make better use of take-off and landing slots at busy airports and to increase the number of companies providing services such as maintenance, refuelling or baggage handling at big airports, with the aim of providing better and faster services. It also adopted measures concerning air-traffic control services, aimed at[SJ2] reducing the environmental impact of air transport and improving its efficiency.
Parliament passed laws to make telecommunications more reliable, more secure and cheaper. For example, new rules will ensure that sufficient information is provided on the tariffs and conditions for telecoms services, that users can change their phone company more easily while keeping the same number and that measures are in place to prevent spam and cyber-attacks.
MEPs are also pushing for roaming charges for using mobile phones in another EU country to be abolished by the end of 2015, for rules to prevent internet providers from blocking rival services, and to facilitate trade with radio spectrums (used for wireless broadband internet, mobile telephony, satellite navigation systems etc.).