Citizens have always been at the heart of the European project and in 2013 they get their own year dedicated to them. The 2013 Year of the Citizens will be an opportunity for people to discover what rights they enjoy under EU legislation. We spoke to EP vice president Georgios Papastamkos, a Christian Democrat MEP from Greece, about what can be done to help citizens and give them a voice.
From rejecting the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) to approving plans for a single EU patent after 30 years of negotiation, it has proved to be a momentous year for Parliament. Find out more about the issues tackled by MEPs this year and enjoy our slideshow of some of 2012's highlights.
"Truth and love must win over lies and hatred!" This was the motto of Václav Havel, the dissident turned Czechoslovak and then Czech President. To commemorate his contribution to freedom on the first anniversary of his death, a neon heart was lit above the entrance of the main EP building in Brussels on 17 December. EP vice-president Oldřich Vlasák, who hosted the ceremony, described Havel as "symbol of the struggle for freedom and democracy".
It's been a good week: that is how European Council president Herman Van Rompuy summarised today the deal on the banking union made by member states last week. However, most of the Parliament's political leaders felt that they did not go far enough as became evident in a discussion on last week's European summit.
Another packed agenda for the European Parliament this week: MEPs will look into the results of the latest EU summit, vital infrastructure for a better connected Europe, new asylum rules as well as a wider use of asylum seekers' fingerprints and measures to facilitate e-commerce. Read on to find out more details.
The EU's Nobel Peace Prize was symbolically handed over to the people during a ceremony on Wednesday. Shortly after, EP president Martin Schulz presented this year's Sakharov Prize to representatives of the two Iranian winners. In other business, the EU budget for 2013 and additional funds for 2012 were formally adopted, while MEPs approved a proposal for an EU-wide unitary patent, which will reduce the cost of innovation.
EP president Martin Schulz pleaded for member states to drop their "quick-fix" method in favour of "tangible, practical measures" during the inaugural session of the European summit in Brussels on 13 December. He said action was needed now. "We must not allow endless debates about the revision of the Treaties to distract us from the task of addressing the real problems facing us. You now have an opportunity to sort out this institutional mess at long last and strengthen European democracy."
MEPs criticised the way in which EU leaders are attempting to build an economic and monetary union, saying that it was leading nowhere and was far removed from the spirit and ambition which won the EU the Nobel Peace Prize. The comments were made on Wednesday morning during a debate with Commission president José Manuel Barroso and Cyprus's European affairs minister Andreas Mavroyiannis ahead of the European Council which starts on 13 December.
A peace prize made possible by the people has now been passed on to the people. The EU won the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, but the European Parliament believes this honour belongs to everyone. During a special ceremony in Strasbourg, the prize was symbolically handed over to 20 citizens of different ages and nationalities to represent the people of Europe. "The reason we have peace is because of the EU," EP president Martin Schulz said, reminding that we should not take peace in Europe for granted.
Congratulations! This morning you woke up a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. The 2012 prize was presented to the EU in Oslo on Monday. The European Parliament believes the honour belongs to everyone, so on Wednesday morning it is holding a special ceremony in Strasbourg to symbolically hand over the prize to the people of Europe. EP president Martin Schulz said the EU came about thanks to its citizens: "You can't achieve something in a society when the people do not stand behind the project."