MEPs elected Martin Schulz as their new president in the first plenary of 2012, discussed the Danish presidency programme for the next six months, set out their demands about the new deal on closer economic union and had a lively debate with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán about recent developments in Hungary. They voted to improve e–waste collection and make pest control products safer.
Martin Schulz was elected president with 387 votes out of 670 valid votes cast. He spoke about recent "turbulent times" in his acceptance speech and said the EU is the answer to the crisis. "Either we all lose – or we all win."
MEPs also chose 14 vice-presidents and 5 quaestors. Vice-presidents preside over the plenary when the president is not there. Quaestors deal with administrative and financial matters that directly affect MEPs.
Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt said key priorities for the Danish Presidency of the Council include budget discipline, economic growth, a renewed focus on green policies and ensuring the safety of the European citizens.
Passions ran high in the chamber on Wednesday as several political group leaders raised concerns not only over specific legal and constitutional provisions in Hungary, but also what they saw as a wider undermining of democratic values. Others vigorously opposed this view, warning that such an approach went too far.
In a resolution on the draft intergovernmental agreement on closer economic union, MEPs doubted the need for such an agreement outside the EU system and stressed the need for improved democratic accountability. The deal should aim to boost growth, not just enforce austerity, they said.
Europe is throwing away ever more fridges, phones and gadgets and often fails to recover valuable raw materials. On Thursday, MEPs voted to improve the collection and recycling of electric and electrical waste, while cutting red tape for producers.
They also approved tougher safety checks for biocides, ranging from rat poison to disinfectant, to better protect human health and the environment.
Up to 50% of food is wasted each year in the EU, half of which is avoidable. On Thursday MEPs called for urgent measures to tackle food wastage.
MEPs also debated measures to reduce input costs for farmers to help them to compete better.