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A review of the European Parliament in 2007

Institutions - 03-01-2008 - 11:03
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2007 was quite a year for the European Parliament and the European Union. The new Treaty of Lisbon was signed by the heads of state and government on 13 December.  The new Treaty, once ratified, will lead to greater and wider powers for the European Parliament.  On 25 March, the EU marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome.
 
2007 started with the enlargement of the European Union to Romania and Bulgaria increasing the size of the EU to 27 Member States and the European Parliament to 785 MEPs. Germany held the six month rotating EU Presidency. 
 
In January, MEPs elected Hans-Gert Pöttering as the new EP President, taking over from President Josep Borrell.  President Pöttering serves a two and a half year term until the next European elections in June 2009.  The European Parliament welcomed Observers from the Romania and Bulgaria.   January also saw the formation of a small new political group – Identity Tradition and Sovereignty, the group did not see the year out and was dissolved in November when the Romanian delegation quit.
 
In February, MEPs adopted a hard-hitting report into alleged illegal CIA activities in Europe. MEPs expressed a variety of opinions with some condemning the CIA and EU Member State governments whilst others called the report anti-American propaganda based on speculative media reports. 
 
In March, MEPs marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome and welcomed the Berlin Declaration signed by the European Parliament, Council and Commission.
 
In April, the House voted in favour of setting up a new temporary committee on climate change, whose mandate among others, is to formulate proposals on the European Union’s future integrated policy on climate change and to coordinate the European Parliament’s position with a view to negotiating the international framework for climate policy after 2012.
 
Also in April, the President of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam addressed the European Parliament.
 
May saw the legislative highlight of the year with the European Parliament adopting a regulation leading to cheaper roaming rates for mobile phone calls.  According to the regulation, the average wholesale charge (excl. VAT) that a "visited" operator can levy on a roaming customer’s "home" operator for the provision of roaming calls will be capped at €0.30 per minute.  (The Council, at the outset of negotiations, had proposed placing a cap of €0.36 on the average wholesale price)
 
On 20 May, Bulgaria held its first-ever European elections, electing 18 MEPs.
 
In June, the European Parliament adopted a report overwhelmingly backing the calls made by its Committee of Inquiry into Equitable Life for the UK government to compensate victims of the company's near-collapse and for wide-ranging changes to be made in the drafting and implementation of EU financial services legislation. 
 
The House also adopted an agreement on a proposed EU-wide ban on trading in cat and dog fur. The first-reading scraps an exemption allowing trade in fur from cats and dogs if they were "not bred or killed for fur production". 
 
Portugal took over the rotating Presidency at the beginning of July 2007 with Prime Minister José Sócrates setting out the Presidency’s priorities to the European Parliament.
 
In July, MEPs passed a ban on non-electrical mercury thermometers and other mercury instruments for general sale to the public, thereby dropping its earlier call for an open-ended derogation for barometer manufacturers and accepting Council's proposal for a two-year exemption instead. The draft directive prohibiting the sale on the EU market of these devices is part of a broad strategy on mercury, a metal which is highly toxic to humans, ecosystems and wildlife.
 
In September, the Parliament adopted a resolution on the restrictions imposed by the EU on liquids that passengers can take on board aeroplanes. MEPs called upon the Commission to review urgently and – if no further conclusive facts are brought forward – to repeal Regulation (EC) No 1546/2006 (introduction of liquids onto aircraft).
 
Also in September, The House adopted three conciliation agreements on the third railway package. The agreements, dealing with the opening up of the rail market, a European licence for train drivers and the rights of rail passengers, were reached after the Council accepted the EP's final demand for a review every five years of any exemptions Member States grant their domestic railway networks from the rules on passenger rights.
In October, MEPs adopted a report on the new allocation of seats in the European Parliament after the next legislative elections, in 2009. After much negotiation, the June 2009 elections will see 751 MEPs elected in the 27 Member States.  
 
The European Parliament adopted a non-binding report which calls for legislation to cap average emissions from all new passenger cars at 125g CO2/km as of 2015.  The report pre-empted a Commission proposal on the same topic.
 
Also in October, the European Parliament’s first edition of the Lux Prize for European cinema was awarded in October to "On the Edge of Heaven" ("Auf der anderen Seite").
 
In November, the European Parliament adopted a report approving the Charter of Fundamental Rights urging both the UK and Poland to make every effort to arrive, after all, at a consensus on the unrestricted applicability of the Charter.  
 
MEPs also reached agreement on the control of the acquisition and possession of weapons, the legislation introduces rules enhancing safety with respect to gun ownership, while not inconveniencing hunters, target shooters and other legitimate owners.
 
Also in November, MEPs adopted a resolution on the enlargement of the Schengen area of free movement to the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia, stressing  the symbolic and historic importance of the event with a view to ending the former divisions in Europe.
 
On 25 November 2007, Romania elected 35 MEPs in their first-ever European elections. 
 
In December, the European Parliament hosted a ceremony of proclamation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights amid protests from a minority of MEPs calling for a referendum. 
 
MEPs awarded the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought to the Sudanese human rights lawyer Salih Mahmoud Osman for his work on Darfur.  
 
MEPs adopted the EU budget for 2008 which gave the financial backing to both the new European Institute of Technology and the EU’s satellite navigation system – Galileo.  The 2008 budget represents an increase of 5.7% on 2007, a sign that 2008 could be even more intense for the European Parliament.
 
Other important topics
 
Among the other legislative highlights of the year affecting the lives of nearly 500 million people were: the revision maximum concentration levels for the atmospheric microparticles or dust most hazardous to human health, the definitions for the labelling of alcoholic drinks including whisky and vodka, the control of the use of pesticides and the rules on product placement for television. 
 
REF.: 20071217TMN15631

Institutions

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Hans-Gert Pöttering elected President of the European Parliament
16.01.07
 
Hans-Gert Pöttering was elected President of Parliament after the first round of voting. He received 450 votes in favour (65.31 per cent of the valid votes). The 61-year-old German Christian-Democrat will lead the European Parliament for two and a half years until the next European elections in June 2009.
 
Proclamation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights by the three European institutions
12.12.07
 
Hans-Gert Pöttering, European Parliament President, José Manuel Barroso, Commission President, and José Sócrates, Portuguese Prime Minister and President-in-office of the EU Council, signed the Charter of Fundamental Rights in a formal ceremony at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 12 December 2007.
 
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Transport

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Blind-spot mirrors to be retrofitted to older lorries
10.05.07
 
Parliament adopted a first-reading report approving with amendments a Commission draft directive calling for blind-spot mirrors to be "retrofitted" to heavy lorries which have been in operation since 2000. The deadline will be 31 March 2009. Each year, 400 Europeans - many of them children on bikes - are killed when lorry drivers changing direction at a crossing or roundabout fail to see them in a blind spot around the vehicle.
 
Third rail package approved - opening up the rail market and European licences for train drivers
10.05.07
 
The House adopted three conciliation agreements on the third railway package. The agreements, dealing with the opening up of the rail market, a European licence for train drivers and the rights of rail passengers, were reached in June this year after the Council accepted the EP's final demand for a review every five years of any exemptions Member States grant their domestic railway networks from the rules on passenger rights.
 
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Women's rights/Equal opportunities

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Daphne III set to combat violence against children, young people and women
22.05.07
 
The European Parliament adopted at the second reading Daphne III, the EU's specific programme to prevent and combat violence against children, young people and women. The third phase of Daphne covers the period 2007-2013 and has a budget of €116.85m. The programme is open to administrations, local municipalities, NGOs, research centres and other related bodies from all the Member States, candidate countries, EFTA states and the countries of the Western Balkans.
 
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Justice and Home Affairs

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CIA activities in Europe: European Parliament adopts final report deploring passivity from some Member States
14.02.07
 
Over one thousand CIA-operated flights used European airspace from 2001 to 2005 and temporary secret detention facilities "may have been located at US military bases" in Europe, says the European Parliament in its final report on illegal CIA activities in Europe, adopted on Wednesday, 14 February 2007.
 
Rapid response teams to tackle illegal immigration
26.04.07
 
Parliament on 26 April approved a regulation providing for special rapid response teams to be set up to give technical and operational assistance in the case of major influxes of illegal migrants over the external borders of any EU Member State. This report is the fruit of a first-reading agreement with Council and was adopted in plenary today by 526 votes 63 with 28 abstentions.
 
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Environment

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MEPs vote to set up a new temporary committee on climate change
25.04.07
 
MEPs voted in favour of setting up a new temporary committee on climate change on a proposal from the Conference of Presidents. The committee will have 60 members and its mandate will be one year. MEPs decided to set up the temporary committee on climate change, invested with various powers.
 
A European strategy for flood risk management
25.04.07
 
Rivers know no borders. Nor do floods. Because of this, in the wake of the disasters of 2002 and 2005 the EU Member States agreed, on a proposal from the Commission, to do more to share the management of flood risks. In a vote today, 25 April, Parliament beefed up the proposed measures and approved an agreement reached with the Council. As a result the new directive is all but adopted. The Member States will have two years to apply it.
 
Ban on sale of mercury measuring instruments - MEPs agree two year exemption for barometers
10.07.07
 
The European Parliament approved, at second reading, a ban on non-electrical mercury thermometers and other mercury instruments for general sale to the public, thereby dropping its earlier call for an open-ended derogation for barometer manufacturers and accepting Council's proposal for a two-year exemption instead. The draft directive prohibiting the sale on the EU market of these devices is part of a broad strategy on mercury, a metal which is highly toxic to humans, ecosystems and wildlife.
 
European Parliament votes at first reading on pesticides package
23.10.07
 
New EU legislation on pesticides was approved with amendments by the European Parliament at first reading. MEPs voted to ban aerial spraying with pesticides and to prohibit the use of pesticides in buffer zones round water courses. They also approved plans to ban or at least restrict pesticides in parks and sports grounds. However, they threw out proposals to divide the EU into three zones for the purposes of approving new pesticide products.
 
MEPs back cuts in cars' CO2 emissions
24.10.2007
 
About 19% of EU CO2 emissions are produced by passenger cars and light-commercial vehicles. The automotive industry's voluntary commitment to slash emissions has proven a "failure", however -- this, according to a report by the European Parliament, adopted today by a large majority, which calls for legislation to cap average emissions from all new passenger cars at 125g CO2/km as of 2015.
 
Air quality - MEPs set maximum concentration of microparticles
11.12.07
 
The European Parliament adopted a second-reading legislative report which provides for maximum concentration levels for the atmospheric microparticles or dust most hazardous to human health, the PM2.5, which were not regulated until now. The report is the basis of an agreement with the Council on the directive on air quality.
 
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Economic and Monetary Affairs

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First reading deal on prudential assessment of bank takeovers
13.03.07
 
Parliament has given a first reading to a directive changing European rules on how mergers of banks and other financial institutions are approved. Since the text adopted has been already been agreed in informal negotiations with the Council, the proposals should enter force without further changes.
 
Simpler, cheaper cross-border payments on the way
30.04.07
 
MEPs adopted a legal framework designed to make cashless payments – such as card transactions, bank transfers and direct debits – simpler and cheaper, paving the way for the creation a single Euro payments area. A deal with the Council means the legislation will enter into force at this first reading stage, giving the banking industry the time it needs to meet its 2010 target.
 
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Consumers

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MEPs call for a complete ban on the cat and dog fur trade in the EU
19.06.07
 
The European Parliament adopted a report on a proposed EU-wide ban on trading in cat and dog fur. The first-reading scraps an exemption allowing trade in fur from cats and dogs if they were "not bred or killed for fur production". MEPs fear this would leave a "gaping loophole" in the legislation, which traders would quickly exploit.
 
MEPs lighten EU rules on gun ownership
29.11.07
 
MEPs adopted a legislative report which calls for new measures to update a 1991 directive on firearms to bring it into line with a UN Protocol on firearms and to generally update the text. The new agreed legislation classifies convertible weapons as firearms, ensure that all firearms sold in the EU are traceable to their owners. The legislation introduces rules enhancing safety with respect to gun ownership, while not inconveniencing hunters, target shooters and other legitimate owners.
 
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Information Society

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MEPs deliver on cheaper roaming, calling for rates to drop by the summer holidays
23.05.2007
 
The European Parliament voted through a first-reading compromise agreement on "Roaming on public mobile networks", the fruit of recent talks between MEPs and the Council Presidency. In doing so – and in negotiating a prompt entry into force of the regulation – the EP and the other EU institutions are working to ensure that consumers can benefit from cheaper roaming rates in time for the summer holidays. The compromise was adopted by an overwhelming majority of members in a show of hands.
 
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Food Safety

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Vodka 'whisky whiskey' definitions go down smoothly for MEPs
19.06.07
 
MEPs adopted first-reading report and settled on a definition of vodka that would allow the drink to be produced from any agricultural material, provided that it was appropriately labelled. The co-decision report by Horst Schnellhardt (EPP-ED, DE) was adopted in Strasbourg today, setting out the definitions and labelling of spirit drinks in the EU. The first-reading compromise with the Council, clears the way for the regulation to come before a final Council vote probably in September.
 
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Culture

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LUX Prize for European cinema awarded to "Auf der anderen Seite " ("On the edge of Heaven")
24.10.07
 
The Turkish-German co production "On the Edge of Heaven" ("Auf der anderen Seite") won the first edition of the European Parliament LUX (light) Prize for European cinema. The German Actress Hanna Schygulla received the trophy from EP President Hans-Gert Pöttering in front of the Members of the European Parliament, and representatives from the other films in competition. MEPs voted for the winning film from a short-list of three
 
New TV and product placement rules should be applied before end 2009
29.11.07
 
The European Parliament approved new EU rules on TV advertising and product placement. The new directive on Audiovisual Media Services is a modernisation of the 'TV without frontiers' directive and now also covers new media services such as Web TV and on-demand services. With the Parliament's approval today, the rules would have to be implemented in the Member States by the end of 2009.
 
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Human Rights

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Sakharov Prize 2007 for Freedom of Thought awarded to Sudanese lawyer Salih Mahmoud Osman
11.12.2007
 
The European Parliament's 2007 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was awarded in Strasbourg on 11 December to this year's winner, Sudanese human rights lawyer Salih Mahmoud Osman, by EP President Hans-Gert Pöttering. Addressing a packed Strasbourg plenary chamber, Mr Osman spoke of the horrors taking place in Darfur and of the need for the international community to intervene, even against the wishes of the Sudanese government.
 
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Schengen

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MEPs congratulate nine new Member States for joining the Schengen area
15.11.07
 
In adopting a joint resolution on the enlargement of the Schengen area of free movement to the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia, MEPs stress the symbolic and historic importance of the event with a view to ending the former divisions in Europe. MEPs congratulate them on the tremendous efforts in order to be ready and to respect all the Schengen requirements in such a short period of time.
 
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Budgets

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Final EU 2008 Budget €120.3bn. 5.7% increase in 2007, go ahead for Galileo and the European Institute of Technology
13.12.07
 
The European Parliament adopted its second reading of the 2008 EU budget. The EU general budget for 2008 will be €120 346 758 612 in payment appropriations, nearly 0.96% of the total GNI of the Member States. The 2008 budget is an increase of 5.7% on the 2007 figure. The European Parliament's second reading concludes the annual budgetary procedure and it was officially signed in the EP in Brussels on 18 December at 3pm.
 
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Agriculture

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Wine: Parliament sets out its position on reform plans
12.12.07
 
Parliament adopted a non-binding report, under the consultation procedure, on the Commission's plans to overhaul the rules governing the wine sector. The aim of the reform is to bring the EU wine sector more into line with market trends such as shifting consumption patterns, enabling European wines to become more competitive on internal and world markets.
 
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External Relations

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Indian President speaks of three "Indo-European missions" to promote global peace and prosperity
24.04.07
 
The President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, welcomed "with great pleasure" the President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, to address the house at the Plenary Session today. With reference to Dr Kalam's role as "an architect of the Indian Space and Nuclear program", President Pöttering said "We are very pleased that India is benefiting in research programmes funded by the EU and is working together with the EU on Galileo."
 
King Abdullah II of Jordan addresses the European Parliament
12.12.07
 
In an address to a formal sitting of the House in Strasbourg on Wednesday, 12 December, King Abdullah II of Jordan focused on the prospects for peace in the Middle East and relations between that region and the European Union. Introducing the King, EP President Hans-Gert Pöttering reminded the House that this was his third visit to the European Parliament. King Abdullah's address today, said Mr Pöttering, was "a clear indication of our common future in the Mediterranean region".
 
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