Briefing - 4-7 May 2009 - Strasbourg plenary session
30-04-2009 - 16:21
In the last plenary session before the European elections 4-7 June 2009, MEPs face another packed agenda.
- President Pöttering - plenary speech on two and half year presidency
- Latest on the flu outbreaks
- Preparation for the European Council 18-19 June
- No agreement on the Working Time Directive - UK to keep opt-out
- Working Time for road transport workers to be rejected?
- Strict conditions on the placing on the market of seal products
- Telecoms package: Internet access the key issue
- New rules to avoid the financial crisis on Capital Requirements Directive
- Laboratory research: limiting animal testing without hampering scientific progress
President Pöttering two and half year presidency of the European Parliament
Hans-Gert Pöttering will address the House at 12.30pm on Wednesday 6 May. The President will summarise the work and achievements of the European Parliament over his two and a half year term as President. The President will also focus on the forthcoming European elections (4-7 June). This will be followed by a round of statements from the political group leaders.
The Commission will make a statement on Monday evening on the current lethal flu outbreak hitting Mexico and other parts of the world. The UN's World Health Organization has raised the alert over swine flu to level five - indicating human-to-human transmission in at least two countries.
Preparation of the European Council 18-19 June
MEPs will debate the forthcoming European Council 18-19 June to be held in Brussels. Alexandra Vondra will represent the Czech Presidency in the debate. This will be the first European Council after the European elections 4-7 June and the last under the Czech Presidency. EP President Hans-Gert Pöttering will address the Heads of State and Government at the start of the European Council. A nominee for the presidency of the European Commission may be announced at the June European Council.
No agreement reached on the Working Time Directive - UK to keep its opt-out
Parliament and Council could not find a compromise on three crucial points: the opt-out, on-call time and multiple contracts. This is the first time that no agreement could be reached at the Conciliation stage since the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty which significantly extended the scope of the co-decision procedure. The UK will therefore keep its opt-out and current legislation will apply. MEPs will debate the topic, there will be no vote.
Working time for road transport workers to be rejected?
The Committee on Employment and Social Affairs recommends rejecting, at first reading, a proposal by the European Commission amending the existing Directive on "the organisation of working time of persons performing mobile road transport activities". The draft proposal does not take into account Parliament's demand of the full inclusion of self-employed drivers, MEPs say.
MEPs want to extend maternity leave to 20 weeks
MEPs want to extend the duration of maternity leave to at least 20 weeks. At present such leave varies in the EU between 14 and 28 weeks. In some cases it can be as much as 52 weeks, of which only part is paid. "The aim is to have a positive impact on the state of health of mothers, to enable them to recover more easily after giving birth and to establish a strong relationship with the child", explained rapporteur Edite Estrela (PES, PT).MEPs also say that a new EU directive on these matters should require 100% of salary to be paid for six weeks after birth, at least 85% of salary for the rest of the leave period and the introduction of paternity leave.
Boosting social protection of the self-employed and assisting spouses
The EP has called repeatedly on the European Commission for a revision of the existing EU directive, to improve the social security cover of assisting spouses and strengthen the maternity rights of self-employed women and assisting spouses, says the report by Astrid Lulling (EPP-ED, LU) adopted at first reading under the co-decision procedure by 23 votes to 0 with 2 abstentions. The EP Women's Rights Committee wants to make it compulsory for assisting spouses to have social security cover. MEPs are also keen to strengthen the maternity leave rights of self-employed women and assisting spouses.
Strict conditions on the placing on the market of seal products
MEPs will debate and vote on a report which has been agreed with the Council in first-reading, drawn up by Diana Wallis (ALDE, UK) on the rules concerning trade in seals products. The placing on the market of seal products should, as a general rule, not be allowed. It is permitted only where it is of an occasional nature and consists exclusively of goods for the personal use of the travellers or their families or products that result from by-products of hunting that is regulated under national law and conducted for the purpose of sustainable management of marine resources on a non-profit basis.
Telecom markets: Internet access the key issue
The agreement reached on the three telecoms reports covers the regulatory framework, including radio spectrum measures, users' rights, data privacy and the creation of a body to step up co-operation between national regulators to tackle telecoms regulation. The package aims to boost competition and consumer rights and should encourage investment in next generation fibre and wireless networks.
New rules to avoid future financial crisis
Parliament will debate and vote on the legislative report by Othmar Karas (EPP-ED, AT) which amends the "Capital Requirements" Directives to improve the transparency and the supervision of the financial system to ensure proper risk management in the banking sector.
Support programme for financial services, financial report and auditing
Friedrich Hoppenstedt (EPP-ED, DE), for the Economics Committee, will be putting forward a legislative report on the community programme to support financial services, financial report and auditing. The committee supports the general aim but amends the text to make sure good governance requirements are matched before providing the funds. Moreover, MEPs in the committee want to increase the budget proposed by the Commission.
Economic recovery plan: €3.98bn for energy infrastructure projects
The EU economic recovery plan will invest €3.98 billion in gas and electricity infrastructure, offshore wind parks and carbon capture and storage projects, according to a compromise reached between MEPs and the Czech Presidency, which will be put to a plenary vote. Unspent funds could be used for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, so say the legislative report by Eugenijus Maldeikis (UEN, LT) for the Industry Committee.
Better information on energy efficiency of products
Any advertisement promoting technical specifications of fridges, washing machines or ovens should indicate the product's energy consumption, says the Industry Committee as it amended the Energy Labelling Directive. Parliament will also vote on plans to change the existing 'A-G' energy label
European Globalisation Adjustment Fund
Gabriele Stauner (EPP-ED, DE) for the Employment and Social Affairs Committee will be putting forward a legislative report which amends certain existing provisions of the Regulation on the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) with a view to enhancing its performance in terms of re-integrating into employment workers who are made redundant as a consequence of globalisation.
Renewed Social Agenda
In response to the Renewed Social Agenda presented by the Commission on 2 July 2008, MEPs in the Employment and Social Affairs Committee are proposing a report by José Silva Peneda (EPP-ED, PT) reaffirming the "importance of a strong social Europe" and asking for "an ambitious agenda" at the EU level in the social and employment field and call on the Commission to develop an ambitious social policy agenda in the context of the current economic recession.
Active inclusion of people excluded from the labour market
The Employment and Social Affairs committee advocates access to a minimum income and to social services as preconditions for integration into the labour market. MEPs approved the active inclusion strategy based on three pillars: adequate income support, inclusive labour markets and access to quality services in the report by Jean Lambert (Greens/EFA, UK) on the active inclusion of people excluded from the labour market.
Asylum policy: EP Civil Liberties Committee recommends approving "asylum package"
A package of measures to improve the way the EU asylum system works and strengthening asylum seekers' rights is being put forward by the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee. MEPs propose amendments to enhance solidarity between Member States when managing asylum applications. The five co-decision reports that make up the package will be debated on Wednesday (6 May).
MEPs call on the Council to develop a European Criminal Justice Area
The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs is submitting a proposal to the Council for them to consider the development of a European Criminal Justice Area. Rapporteur, Maria Grazia Pagano (PES, IT) is calling for a number of measures, including the creation of legal instruments on procedural safeguards in criminal proceedings, evaluating the current levels of implementation, improving mutual recognition, and creating a centre for European judicial training.
MEPs support Commission's proposal to extend Member State powers to negotiate bilateral agreements in the area of family law
The Justice and Home Affairs Committee supports the Commission proposal to allow Member States to negotiate and conclude agreements with third countries in matters relating to parental responsibility, maintenance obligations and relevant laws. The procedure will be subject to Commission approval, and any agreement must not interfere with Community interests. This is a change from precedent, as currently, the power to negotiate bilateral agreements in this area is exclusively a Union competence.
MEPs call for changes to proposed regulation on bilateral agreements concerning sectoral matters
The Committee on Legal Affairs is putting forward a number of amendments to the Commission's proposed regulation on bilateral agreements with third party countries concerning sectoral matter, and applicable law in contractual and non-contractual obligations which would change the procedure for the authorisation of the conclusion of negotiations, and which ensures that the Parliament, Council and other Member States are kept fully informed of the process.
What is "fresh" chicken?
Poultry meat that has been frozen and then thawed should not be described as "fresh", says a report by the EP Agriculture Committee that is scheduled for a vote on Tuesday (5 May). The report also expresses strong disapproval of the use of substances such as chlorine to decontaminate chicken carcasses. Members of the Agriculture Committee agree with the Commission that only meat which has been kept at a temperature between -2°C and +4°C should be described as "fresh".
Laboratory research: limiting animal testing without hampering scientific progress
The of animals in scientific experiments needs to be limited and their welfare improved. But this must be done without hindering research in Europe into fighting diseases, says a report by Neil Parish (EPP-ED, UK) which will be debated on Monday (4 May). Around 12 million animals are used for scientific research in the EU every year. This number should be reduced to a minimum and any planned tests subjected to compulsory ethical assessment, to take account of the public's concerns, according to a draft directive that has be approved under the co-decision procedure by the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers. These goals are broadly endorsed in the report by Mr Parish.
Viable rules on the welfare of animals at the time of slaughter
Parliament will vote on plans to tighten up the rules on animal welfare at the time of slaughter. The Agriculture Committee is urging that unnecessary suffering by animals be broadly avoided but that an exemption be granted for ritual slaughter, on the grounds that religious freedom must be respected. Every year in the European Union, 360 million pigs, cattle, sheep and goats are killed, as are over 4 billion poultry birds and 25 million animals reared for fur.
Rosé wines and permitted oenological practices
Several MEPs will be putting questions to the Commission on rosé wines and permitted oenological practices. In the context of the discussion of the regulations implementing the CMO in wine, the Commission intends to rescind the provisions in force until 31 July 2009 concerning oenological practices so as to lift the ban on blending white wines with red wines without a protected designation of origin (PDI) or protected geographical indication (PGI) to produce rosé wine.
Lisbon Treaty: Increased powers for national parliaments
A joint debate on the Lisbon Treaty will take place on Wednesday evening at 9pm. A comprehensive review of the European Union's new institutional structure, should the Lisbon Treaty enter into force in 2009 as foreseen by the December 2008 European Council, is being put forward by the Constitutional Affairs Committee. A report by Jo Leinen (PES, DE) on the "New tasks and responsibilities of the EP for the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty" and another by Elmar Brok (EPP-ED, DE) on the "Development of the relations between the EP and national parliaments in the frame of the Lisbon Treaty" are two of the reports included in the package to be discussed.
Lisbon Treaty: balancing the EU institutional framework
The June European election results must be taken into account when nominating the President of the new Commission, says the Constitutional Affairs Committee. The legal implications and the changes to the institutional balance of the Lisbon Treaty, if and when it enters into force, are addressed in the report by Jean-Luc Dehaene (EPP-ED, BE)
MEPs to welcome the financial and institutional changes brought by the Lisbon Treaty
The Lisbon Treaty brings a number of "major changes in the area of the Union's finances, in particular as regards inter-institutional relations and decision-making procedures", according to a report by the Committee on Budgets. The rapporteur, Catherine Guy-Quint (PES, FR) welcomes the clarification of the decision making process, the increases in the power of the European Parliament and the improved "democratic scrutiny and transparency of the Union's finances."
European Parliament reform
Amendments to Parliament's Rules of Procedure, taking up changes agreed by the political groups in a third package of reforms to update its internal procedures, are being put forward by Richard Corbett (PES, UK) for the Constitutional Affairs Committee. These reforms complete a process begun two years ago. The first two packages, adopted in 2007 and 2008, dealt with plenary sessions, EP reports, the legislative process and inter-institutional relations.The Committee also recommends approving another report to provide for changes in Parliament's Rules of Procedure that would come into force if and when the Lisbon Treaty is ratified by all Member States.
Commission should put forward a proposal to adopt the European Citizens' Initiative, say MEPs
The Commission is being called on by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs to prepare a proposal to adopt the European Citizen's Initiative, once the Lisbon Treaty has been brought into force. According to proposals laid out by rapporteur, Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann (GUE/NGL, DE), the Citizens' Initiative will, for the first time, allow citizens of the European Union a "direct role in the exercise of the European Union's sovereign power", and in the creation of legislative proposals.
Pollution at sea: MEPs vote for compulsory criminal law penalties
More effective measures to combat pollution at sea through stricter legal penalties in EU law are being put forward in a legislative report by the Transport Committee. Parliament and Council have reached a first-reading agreement that will be debated and put to the vote.
Airport slots: MEPs agree to suspend the "use it or lose it" rule
Airline companies hit by the economic slowdown will benefit from relaxed rules on the allocation of airport slots, allowing them not to lose unused slots, according to a report on a draft Regulation for the Transport Committee. Air carriers will be entitled to the same series of slots during the summer 2010 scheduling season as were allocated to them during the summer 2009 season, even if they use them less than 80% of the time this year, according to the draft Regulation revising rules laid out by the EU in 1993 (Regulation EEC No 95/93.)
Petrol vapour recovery during refuelling of passenger cars at service stations
Petrol contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that evaporate inside the fuel tank, filling the empty space in the tank above the fuel. As a vehicle is refuelled, these vapours are pushed out of the tank by the incoming fuel and, unless captured, escape into the atmosphere out of the top of the vehicle filler pipe. Dimitrios Papadimoulis (GUE/NGL, EL) will be putting forward a legislative report on vapour recovery during refuelling of passenger cars at service stations.
Situation in the Republic of Moldova
Parliament will vote on a resolution on the situation in the Republic of Moldova to follow up its plenary debate of 23 April after violent protests took place in that country amid claims by opposition parties that the parliamentary elections of 5 April were rigged. A delegation of MEPs went to Moldova from 26 to 29 April on a fact-finding mission.
Women's rights and empowerment for women are 'crucial' to the success of EU's external policy, according to MEPs
The Committee on Foreign Affairs states that as well as ensuring that gender mainstreaming is a priority in external policies, the EU can lead by example by increasing the number of women in high-level positions, increasing personnel working on gender issues and by providing gender-related training to key staff on European Security and Defence Policy missions. Women's rights are central to the success of the EU's external policies on aid, development, enlargement, neighbourhood policy, conflict resolution, security, peace-building and international trade, according to a report drafted by Libor Rouček (PES, CZ).
The democratic process in Turkey
MEPs will discuss the progress of democratic reform in Turkey in Strasbourg next week. In a plenary resolution adopted on 12 March this year, Parliament criticised reforms made so far as being insufficient and stressed the need for the Turkish government "to prove its political will to continue the reform process" to which it committed itself in 2005. The resolution also called for a settlement of the Kurdish question.
MEPs debate outcome of UN Conference against Racism
The outcome of the Durban Review Conference aimed at tackling racism around the globe, which was held in Geneva from Monday 20 April to Friday 24 April, will be debated by MEPs on Wednesday 6 May following statements by the Council and Commission. The 2009 UN World Conference against Racism in Geneva was also known as the Durban Review Conference or Durban II, being named after the first such conference held in the South African city in 2001.
Parliament assesses progress on human rights in the world in 2008
The gradual retreat of the death penalty round the world and the progress made on women's and children's rights are among positive developments noted in the EP's 2008 draft annual report on human rights being submitted to the plenary by the Foreign Affairs Committee. However, the European Union could promote human rights more effectively, says the report. Another question is whether the EU always lives up to its own principles, for example when dealing with terrorism and immigration.
MEDIA MUNDUS: European cinema goes global
Parliament is expected to approve a €15 million funding package aimed at boosting the worldwide competitiveness of Europe's audiovisual industry and fostering cooperation with non-EU countries. Parliament will be voting on a report from the Culture Committee. A first-reading agreement with Council is expected.
Human rights in the world
As usual the session ends with three debates and votes on human rights issues in the world. On this occasion, the topics are:
Venezuela: the case of Manuel Rosales
Pre-session press briefing:
European Parliament (Strasbourg) - 4.30pm, Monday, 4 May 2009 - LOW N-1/201