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National angle - Background
 

An overview of the European Parliament in action at the midway point of the legislature July 2004-December 2006

Institutions - United Kingdom - 11-01-2007 - 15:28
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The 1 January 2007 marks the midway point of the sixth European parliamentary term. During the January plenary session in Strasbourg, MEPs will elect a new European Parliament President and 14 Vice-Presidents for the remaining two and half years. Outgoing European Parliament President Josep Borrell Fontelles will also make his last address to the House as President. The midway point in this parliamentary term is a timely opportunity to give an overview of the legislature so far.

The European Parliament changed dramatically in 2004.  Following the historic enlargement of the EU from 15 to 25 Member States on 1 May 2004, European Parliament elections were held in June 2004 in all 25 Member States.  The number of MEPs increased from 626 to 732.  As a consequence, the number of official working languages increased from 11 to 20 with a mind-boggling possible 380 different language combinations for interpretation. From 1 January 2007, the number of MEPs rises temporarily to 785 with the addition of 35 Romanian 18 Bulgarian MEPs. After the European elections in 2009, the total number reduces to 736 MEPs.  Also from 1 January 2007, the number of official languages rises from 20 to 23 with the addition of Romanian, Bulgarian and Irish. 
 
One of Parliament's first duties after the 2004 European elections was to vote on the new European Commission, made up of 25 Commissioners.  MEPs proved decisive with the House rejecting the first Italian candidate Rocco Buttiglione, before the House finally voted in favour of José Manuel Barroso's team in November 2004.  In May 2005, Parliament also had to face the "no" votes on the Constitution in France and the Netherlands, MEPs had voted 500 votes to 137 with 40 abstentions in favour of the Constitutional Treaty in January 2005.
 
From a legislative point of view, Parliament's position on the much debated Services Directive which aims to facilitate the provision of cross-border services by removing obstacles to the free movement of services in the internal was taken up by EU government and eventually adopted by MEPs in November 2006.  In December 2006, the European Parliament adopted the compromise it negotiated with Council on the new regulation for chemicals, REACH, which will oblige producers to register all those chemical substances produced or imported above a total quantity of 1 tonne per year. Registration will affect about 30,000 substances.
 
As for Parliament budgetary powers, in May 2006, Parliament adopted a report on the EU financial perspective for 2007-2013.  After two years of hard negotiations with the EU Council of Ministers, the European Parliament managed to obtain €4 billion more than the EU Member States had originally been prepared to spend. MEPs had long sought to increase the EU budget substantially, to match the EU's growing ambitions.  However, faced with the inflexibility of some Member States and the risk of a major crisis if the financial perspectives were not adopted on schedule, they opted for a "realistic" agreement, focusing their efforts on those policy areas that they deemed most important.
 
Below are selected headlines showing the European Parliament in action, exercising its supervisory, legislative and budgetary powers during the plenary sessions held in Strasbourg and Brussels.  
 
More information with extended articles on some of the key topics can be found here:
 
A roundup of all the press releases published during each plenary can be found here:
 
REF.: 20061221BKG01704

Internal Market, Energy and Industry

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Services Directive reaches final stage - EP position prevails
(15.11.2006)
 
The Services Directive, which aims to facilitate the provision of cross-border services by removing obstacles to the free movement of services in the internal market, reached its final stage with the European Parliament approving the Council common position with minor changes. The final position adopted by Parliament broadly reflects the Parliament's first reading position achieving a balance between competition and social protection.
 
 
No directive on software patents
(Vote: 06.07.2005)
 
There will not be any EU legislation on the computer-implemented invention. Parliament rejected, by 648 votes to 14 with 18 abstentions, the so-called software patent directive, putting an end to a passionate three year debate.
 
Before the vote, rapporteur Michel ROCARD (PES, FR) said Parliament was split fifty-fifty on the issue and all political groups decided to reject the text rather than risk a result they could not accept. He added: "There is collective anger throughout the Parliament because of the way the directive was handled by the Commission and the Council," recalling the contested approval of the common position.  He said the vote is a clear invitation to the Commission and the Council to show full respect to the EP in future. He concluded that "this legislation is not mature for adoption."
 
 
 
MEPs set new rules on TV commercials and product placement
(13.12.2006)
 
The European Parliament backed a proposed overhaul of the advertising rules for TV channels in Europe, including a new approach to product placement. In widening the scope of the so-called Television without Frontiers Directive to all Audiovisual Media Services, MEPs also voted to include new means of broadcasting. Parliament agreed to allow breaks for commercials in movies and some other TV programmes every 30 minutes.
 
Product placement should be soon legal all across Europe but subject to common EU wide limits.
 
 

Time for action on energy efficiency and supply diversity
(04.10.2005)
 
MEPs are calling for Europe to diversify its energy sources and to promote energy conservation and renewable energy, given the continuous increase in the price of oil and its effects on both businesses and the public. They want the EU to be the least fossil-fuel dependent and most energy-efficient economy in the world by 2020.
 
 
 
Maximising the potential of energy efficiency
(01.06.2006) 
 
The European Parliament says energy efficiency is the greatest, fastest and cheapest reaction to energy security worries, rising and volatile energy prices and environmental concerns. MEPs are calling for existing legislation in the field to be implemented and for the Commission to develop new measures in its forthcoming Energy Efficiency Action Plan.
 
 
 
A cleaner, greener future for EU energy policy?
(14.12.2006)
 
The European Parliament says there should be binding targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions and on increasing the use of renewable energy sources. These views are set out in a wide ranging report on the Commission's energy strategy proposals, adopted by a large majority on 14 December 2006.
 
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Environment

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Parliament adopts REACH - new EU chemicals legislation and new chemicals agency
(13.12.2006)
 
Parliament adopted the compromise it negotiated with Council on the new regulation for chemicals, REACH, which will oblige producers to register all those chemical substances produced or imported above a total quantity of 1 tonne per year. Registration will affect about 30,000 substances. For more hazardous substances, producers will have to submit a substitution plan to replace them with safer alternatives.
 
 
When no alternative exists, producers will have to present a research plan aimed at finding one. The compromise package agreed with the Council and tabled by 4 political groups (EPP-ED, PES, ALDE and UEN), was approved with 529 in favour, 98 against and 24 abstentions.
 
 
 
Batteries to be collected and recycled, nature protected
(04.07.2006)
 
After two years of negotiation, MEPs approved a directive which will ensure that schemes for collecting spent portable batteries and accumulators are set up throughout Europe by 2008. Only six Member States currently have such schemes. Collected batteries will be recycled. Strict limits to the content of cadmium and mercury in batteries have also been fixed, as these substances are harmful to the environment and health.
 
 
 
Safer bathing in cleaner water
(18.01.2006)
 
Fancy a swim? From 2013 at the latest, consumers will be able to check out the safety of EU bathing sites on the Internet before taking to the water, thanks to legislation approved by the European Parliament. Information will also be posted at the swimming locations. The Parliament negotiated ruthlessly with EU ministers over three years to strengthen standards and to improve the quality of conditions across the EU.
 
 
Cleaner groundwater on the way - conciliation approved
(12.12.2006)
 
The European Parliament approved an agreement reached in conciliation with the Council in October on legislation to improve the cleanliness standards of groundwater. During the conciliation talks, Parliament's negotiating team successfully pushed for stricter measures by Member States to prevent inputs into groundwater of hazardous substances.
 
 

Less Fluorinated-gases in European atmosphere
(06.04.2006)
 
Fluorinated gases are not the solution! Used since the 1990s to replace ozone-depleting CFCs they are found mostly in refrigeration and air-conditioning systems, but also in windows, fire extinguishers, insulating foam or even sport shoes. But they have now also been incriminated in global warming. The European Parliament adopted two new laws to reduce, or prohibit, their use. This should help Member States to meet their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.
 
 
 
Cleaner air in Europe: more ambitious targets but greater flexibility
(26.9.2006 - First reading)
 
MEPs adopted a codecision report (first reading) by Holger Krahmer (ALDE, DE) on the directive on the quality of ambient air, with 571 votes in favour, 43 against and 18 abstentions. Parliament called for more ambitious targets than those set out by the Commission for cutting maximum concentrations of pollutants, in particular PM2.5.
 
 
 
Better coordination will reduce the risk of floods
(13.6.2006 - First reading)
 
Since almost 80 per cent of European rivers flow across borders and coastlines are shared, MEPs are calling on EU countries to coordinate flood risk assessment and management. Legislation amended on Tuesday, 13 June 2005 says the focus should be on risk rather than floods and urges Member States to draw up flood risk maps. While emphasising the environmental impact of floods, the law leaves it up to Member States to develop specific measures for special areas.
 
 
Mercury thermometers soon to be museum pieces but derogation for barometers
20-11-2006
Parliament adopted a first reading report by 582 votes in favour to 17 against and 21 abstentions restricting the marketing of certain non-electrical measuring devices containing mercury. The draft directive outlaws the sale of certain measuring devices containing mercury. The directive would ban the sale of certain new non-electrical measuring devices containing mercury, as this metal poses a serious risk to health. The Council must now reach a common position.
 
 
 
MEPs adopt written declaration on banning seal products in the EU
(11-09-2006)
 
The European Parliament adopted a written declaration on banning seal products in the European Union. The House requests the Commission to immediately draft a regulation to ban the import, export and sale of all harp and hooded seal products. MEPs consider that this regulation should not have an impact on traditional Inuit seal hunting which, however, only accounts for 3% of the current hunt.
 
 
Directive on 'humane' animal traps rejected
(17.11.2005)
 
The issue of 'humane' animal trapping standards continues to divide the European Commission and Parliament. MEPs voted to reject of a draft directive designed to bring EU law into line with international agreements reached with Russia, Canada and the United States. It is now for the whole Parliament to decide the issue, which is subject to the co-decision procedure.
 
 
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Transport

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Newly issued driving licences in credit-card format from 2013
(14.12.2006)
 
As from 2013, all newly issued or replacement driving licences will be in a single EU-wide credit card format, according to legislation given second reading approval by the Parliament. The new format will replace the more than 110 existing different models in the Member States.
 
 
Parliament sinks port services proposals
(18.01.2006)
 
The European Parliament for a second time torpedoed proposals on market access to port services. Many MEPs demanded in its place legislation on transparency and fair competition between ports. A number of MEPs also criticised the omission of Parliament's wishes on self-handling and pilot services, which were extremely controversial points of the first ports package.
 
 
A common blacklist for unsafe airlines
(16.11.2005)
 
The European Parliament has given the green light for the introduction of an EU-wide blacklist of airlines that do not meet safety requirements. Airlines that fail to comply will be subject to an operating ban throughout the EU. Also, passenger rights are to be strengthened by informing them of the identity of the operating carrier. Passengers will also have a right to compensation should the carrier be included on the blacklist after the reservation has been made.
 
 
Parliament votes on strict rules for 'Sky Marshals'
(15.06.2006 - First reading)
 
Parliament is insisting on strict regulation of the use of ‘Sky Marshals’ on board aircraft. This is one of the amendments adopted by MEPs to Commission plans to update the common EU aviation security rules introduced after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. The issue now goes before the plenary session.
 
 

Parliament strengthens rights of air passengers with disabilities
(16.12.2005)
 
The European Parliament adopted a legislative resolution that considerably improves the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air. They may not be refused transportation on the grounds of their disabilities. Also, they have to be given - without additional charge - the assistance to meet their particular needs at airports, enabling them, e.g. to board the aircraft, proceed from the check-in to the aircraft or reach connecting flights when in transit.
 
 
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Public Health and Consumer Protection

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Food safety: MEPs vote on health claims and additions to food
(16.05.2006)
 
MEPs approved tougher rules for foods claiming to provide nutritional and health benefits. They want clear definitions for claims that foods are "low energy", "low fat", "high fibre" or even "reduce cholesterol". The European Parliament also looked at harmonising national rules on the addition of vitamins and minerals to foods in order to improve consumer protection and the free circulation of goods within the EU.
 
 
EP vote should mean more medicine development for children
(01.06.2006)
 
It will now be easier for pharmaceutical firms to develop infant medicines after Parliament's vote aimed at ending the current situation, under which most children take small doses of medication developed for adults, which may not correspond to their metabolism and can even be harmful. Drug companies which develop effective and safe tests for paediatric medicine will receive a six-month patent extension. Only those firms meeting strict standards will be allowed to market infant medicine will receive a six-month patent extension. Only those firms meeting strict standards will be allowed to market infant medicine.
 
 
 
Fight against breast cancer in the enlarged EU
(25.10.2006)
 
In adopting a joint resolution on breast cancer in the enlarged EU, MEPs call on the European Commission to present without delay the progress report, which it called for by 2006 in its resolution of 5 June 2003, on the steps taken by the Member States to lower breast cancer mortality rates. The joint resolution was adopted with 641 votes in favour, 11 against with 4 abstentions.
 
 
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Action Programmes

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Long-term budget makes its way through European Parliament
(30.05.2006)
 
On 17 May 2006, The European Parliament approved the EU's budget for the coming seven years, but underlined the need to resolve a number of shortcomings, including funding, during the budget review in 2009. Following Parliament's approval, it was signed into law by the EP, Commission and the Council. MEPs welcome the extra €4 billion to be used on EP priorities, but said the higher figures approved by Parliament last June would have offered the best way of funding EU policies.
 
The agreement was signed by European Parliament President Josep Borrell, by Austrian Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel for the EU Presidency and by the European Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget, Dalia Grybauskaite.
 
 
Green light for seventh framework research programme for 2007-2013
(30.11.2006)
 
The European Parliament gave the go-ahead for the EU's research and development funding for the period 2007-2013, when MEPs adopted 10 reports relating to the 7th Framework Research Programme (FP7). This programme, the EU's main instrument for funding scientific research, will have a budget of more than €54 billion over its seven-year life.
 
 
MEPs approve €308bn Structural Funds 2007-13 package
(04.07.2006)
 
Parliament gave the green-light to the Structural Funds package for 2007 to 2013 with the adoption of five separate reports. They define the objectives, the financial resources available and the criteria for their allocation in an enlarged EU. Around €308 billion - or 35.7 per cent of the total EU budget - will now be available to spend, as scheduled, from 1 January 2007. The Structural Funds aim to increase solidarity and reduce disparities between regions of the EU.
 
 
 
International Fund for Ireland: EP favours continued EU funding, but with new legal basis
13.12.2006
 
The EU should go on contributing €15 million per year to the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) until it is wound up in 2010, but Parliament should have co-decision powers over this funding, rather than merely being consulted. This was the message that came out of Parliament's plenary which recommends changing the IFI's legal basis.
 
 
PEACE Programme for Ireland set to be extended   
11.01.2005
 
Parliament approved, by 598 votes in favour, 15 against and 18 abstentions, the extension of the duration of the PEACE programme. The Commission is proposing that Regulation (EC) No 1260/1999 be amended so as to extend the implementation of the PEACE programme by two years until the end of 2006, coinciding with the programming period for the Structural Funds. This coincides with a proposal to extend the annual Community contribution of €15m to the International Fund for Ireland for the same period. The wider aim, therefore, is to align the measures financed by these two instruments with interventions carried out in the region under EU cohesion policy.
 
 
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Justice and Home Affairs

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Investigation into transport and illegal detention of prisoners in Europe by CIA - committee membership approved
(19.01.2006)
 
Do CIA detention centres exist in Europe? Has the CIA been using European airports to transport terrorist suspects to places where they could face torture? These are two questions that lie at the heart of a new temporary committee set up by the Parliament . The cross-party committee of 46 MEPs will also examine whether European governments knew about these alleged practices - and if EU citizens have been involved.
 
 
 
CIA "directly responsible" in some cases for illegal activities in Europe , says Parliament
(06.07.2006)
 
The CIA was in some cases directly responsible for the "illegal seizure, removal, abduction and detention of terrorist suspects" in Europe, says an interim report adopted by the European Parliament. The report also criticises the involvement and complicity by certain EU States. MEPs have also given the responsible Temporary Committee the green light to continue its work for another six months. The report was adopted by 389 votes in favour, 137 against with 55 abstentions.
 
 
 
European Parliament sets out its views on immigration
(28.09.2006)
 
Just few days after the Justice and Home Affairs Council met in Tampere, MEPs adopted a resolution drafted by the PES, ALDE, Greens and EUL/NGL groups aiming to draft some basic lines on how the European Union should handle immigration.
 
 
MEPs urge Member States to ensure respect for same-sex partnerships
(18.01.2006)
 
Member States need to ensure that "same-sex partners enjoy the same respect, dignity and protection as the rest of society" urged MEPs in a resolution condemning homophobia in Europe.
 
 
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Economic and Social Affairs

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Working hours opt-out to end: on-call time to count as working time
(11.05.2005 - First reading)
 
MEPs want the right of individual workers to opt out of the maximum 48-hour working week to be scrapped three years after the new working hours directive enters into force (Amendment 20 adopted with 378 votes in favour, 262 against with 15 abstentions). They also want hours "on-call" to count as working time in most cases. Parliament took these decisions when it adopted a legislative report by Alejandro CERCAS (PES, ES) by 345 votes to 264 against, with 43 abstentions.
 
 
Fewer driving hours mean fewer accidents - final deal approved - digital tachographs in May 2006
(01.02.2006)
 
Road accidents caused by driver fatigue should be reduced when Parliament approved measures that will lead to all new trucks and buses in the European Union being fitted with digital tachographs from 1 May 2006. The measure will carefully monitor the hours the vehicle is driven and form part of a package of road safety legislation approved by Parliament that includes for the first time a list of common serious road safety infringements.
 
 
New rules for flight-time limitations and rest periods
(05.07.2006)
 
Parliament adopted a second reading report on establishing harmonised technical provisions of aircraft engaged in commercial air transportation. These new provisions include, inter alia, flight and duty time limitations and rest requirements, instruments and equipment, communication and navigation equipment, maintenance and transport of dangerous goods by air.
 
 
 
Integration of EU mortgage market should benefit the public directly
20-11-2006
 
MEPs say a well-focused integration of the market would bring benefits to consumers. They adopted a report on the issue on as Parliament’s response to a Commission discussion paper on the mortgage market.  The report says that any EU level action should aim principally at directly improving the situation for the public, notably by widening access to mortgages, for example to people with fixed term contracts.
 
 
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Institutional Affairs

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Parliament approves the new Commission
(18.11.2004)
 
MEPs voted by 449 votes in favour to 149 votes against with 82 abstentions approvingthe new European Commission team.
 
Parliament President Josep BORRELL said this had been a significant milestone in democracy. Europe needed a strong Commission and a credible Parliament. Whatever the disagreements, he was happy this debate had taken place. Parliament, he said, now looked forward to a new partnership with the Commission, based on mutual respect and confidence, for a more democratic and efficient European Union.
 
 
A clear "yes" to the Constitution
(12.1.2005)
 
By a large majority, the European Parliament has endorsed the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe and says it "wholeheartedly supports its ratification." The report by Richard CORBETT (PES, UK) and Íñigo MÉNDEZ DE VIGO (EPP-ED, ES) was adopted by 500 votes in favour to 137 votes against, with 40 abstentions.
 
The report contains two parts: the first part is the formal parliamentary resolution, written in language seeking to be as accessible as possible for the general public, which aims to explain to European citizens the advantages of the Constitution compared to the existing treaties. The second part is the explanatory statement, a much longer document which analyses in depth the changes introduced in the Constitution. The co-rapporteurs decided to use the term 'Constitution' throughout rather than 'constitutional treaty.'
 
 
MEPs ask the European Council for clear proposal on constitutional process (14.06.2006)
 
In adopting a joint resolution with 347 votes in favour 212 against and 70 abstentions on the next steps for the period of reflection and analysis on the Future of Europe, MEPs confirmed their commitment to achieving without undue delay a constitutional settlement for the European Union as well as its endorsement of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe.
 

Turkey's prospects for EU membership - "yes .... but"
(15.12.2004)
 
The EU should begin accession negotiations with Turkey "without undue delay". Two days before a decision by the European Council, MEPs adopted a resolution saying that Turkey has made impressive progress in respecting the political criteria, enough for negotiations on EU membership to start. The resolution was adopted by 407 votes in favour, 262 against and 29 abstentions in a secret ballot (under rule 162 of Parliament's Rules of Procedure).
 
 
European Parliament critical of slowdown in Turkey's reform process
(27.9.2006)
 
In adopting a report on Turkey's progress towards accession, MEPs were critical of the slowdown in the reform process. Relations with Cyprus and Armenia, as well as restrictions on freedom of expression and religion, figured prominently in the report adopted by 429 votes in favour to 71 against with 125 abstentions. MEPs nevertheless welcomed some recent steps by the Turkish government in the fields of combating torture, fighting corruption and extending women's rights.
 
 
European Parliament strongly supports the Statute for MEPs
(23.6.2005)
 
Parliament approved by 403 votes in favour, 89 against and 92 abstentions, a resolution by Giuseppe GARGANI (EPP-ED, IT) on the Statute for Members of the European Parliament. The text supports the compromise proposed by the Council, thus giving national governments the opportunity to back up the text under the current Luxembourg Presidency.
 
 
Parliament gives green light to Bulgaria and Romania
(13.4.2005)
 
The European Parliament has given the green light for the entry of Romania and Bulgaria into the EU. On the accession of Romania, MEPs voted by 497 in favour, 93 against and 71 abstentions. On Bulgaria, there were 522 votes in favour, 70 against and 69 abstentions. At the very last moment Parliament forced the Council into restoring its budgetary rights as regards the funding to be allocated to Romania and Bulgaria until 2009, sums which had been laid down in the Accession Treaty.
 
Earlier, Parliament had exacted the right to push for postponement of accession by a year should either country fail to take the necessary measures still outstanding before they can become members This was especially important to Parliament, taking into consideration that both countries are scheduled to join on 1 January 2007.
 
 
Written declaration: MEPs call for international adoptions from Romania
(11.7.2006)
 
The European Parliament has adopted a written declaration calling on the Romanian authorities to take due account of Parliament's opinion and to consequently resume without delay consideration of pending cases of international adoptions, in the best interests of the children, and to authorise international adoption where appropriate.
 
 
Tribute to the late Phillip Whitehead
16.01.2006
 
Opening the session, President Josep BORRELL paid tribute to Phillip WHITEHEAD, the British Labour MEP for the East Midlands, who died on 31 December 2005.
 
 
Tony Blair tells MEPs how Europe should face up to globalisation
3.11.2005
Tony BLAIR, President-in-Office of the EU Council, told MEPs that it was necessary to get Europe moving again and get it moving in the right direction. There were three main aims: first, to get agreement at the Hampton Court summit on what was the right direction for Europe and its economy; second, to agree on a set of new priority areas reflecting that direction; third, to get a budget deal in December 2005 in the light of these priorities.
 
 
President of the European Parliament "horrified by the terrorist attacks on London"
07.07.2005
Parliament President Josep BORRELL held one-minute's silence after news of a coordinated series of attacks in London on Thursday morning, 7 July 2005. 
 
 
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60th anniversary of World War II

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09.05.2005
Commemorating the 60th anniversary of the ending of the Second World War in Europe, Parliament's President Josep BORRELL recalled the horrors of war: "regions had been reduced to rubble, 60 million people dead and 30 million displaced people". He further recalled that the war had continued until 16 August 1945 in the Pacific.
 
 
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External Relations

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European Parliament calls on the US Administration to close Guantánamo Bay detention facility
(13.6.2006)
 
In adopting a joint resolution by a large majority on the situation of prisoners at Guantánamo, MEPs reiterated their call on the US Administration to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility and insists that every prisoner should be treated in accordance with international humanitarian law and, if charged, tried without delay in a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial court of law or international tribunal.
 
 
EP critical of Russian human rights record, hopeful on trade cooperation
(13.12.2006)
 
MEPs adopted a resolution on the EU-Russia held in Helsinki on 24 November 2005. The document is critical of human rights abuses in the country, especially in the field of torture and the freedom of expression. At the same time, the House welcomed the agreement on overflight rights in Siberia and urged closer cooperation on energy issues.
 
 
"Corruption hurts the poor": MEPs back report on development aid and the fight against corruption
(06.04.2006)
 
MEPs have called for tougher measures in the fight against corruption and more effective EU aid. Noting that 25% of Africa's GDP is lost annually to corruption, - the report calls on all EU members to implement the OECD and UN Conventions on corruption and for greater accountability and openness in EU aid programmes. Good governance, media freedom, developing budget capacity in developing countries and boosting civil society "watchdogs" are just some measures proposed.
 
 
 
Tsunami aid - pledged money must be spent   
13.01.2005
 
In a joint resolution adopted by Parliament with 560 votes in favour, 1 against and 19 abstentions, MEPs expressed their condolences and deepest sympathy to the peoples and governments of the afflicted countries, as well as to all the families of victims in Southeast Asia, East Africa, Europe and elsewhere. The House expressed its thanks to the people of the countries affected for the way they responded to the human disaster, despite their own personal suffering and loss, giving so much succour to European nationals affected by the disaster.
 
 
Situation in Gaza - MEPs express indignation at Israeli operation and call on militias to respect truce
(16.11.2006)
 
In adopting a joint resolution on the situation in Gaza, MEPs expressed their deep indignation at the Israeli military operation carried out in Beit Hanun and in Gaza, and condemned the Israeli army’s use of disproportionate action. MEPs called on the Palestinian militias to put an end to the firing of rockets into Israeli territory, which is indiscriminate and deliberately targets civilians, to respect the truce and to refrain from further escalation of the conflict.
 
 
Palestinian elections: MEPs call for new government to renounce violence and recognise Israel
(02.02.2006)
 
In reaction to the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections on 25 January, MEPs want the EU to remain the biggest aid donor to the Palestinian Authority, on condition that the new Palestinian government renounces violence and recognises the state of Israel.
 
 
Iranian nuclear dispute: MEPs support UN Security Council involvement
(15.02.2006)
 
Tension is growing between Iran and the international community over Iran's decision to resume its nuclear research programme, and due to lack of confidence that the nuclear programme is exclusively meant for peaceful purposes. In a resolution adopted on 15 December 2006, the European Parliament affirms that this issue must be resolved in accordance with the rules of international law, and considers that the involvement of the UN Security Council is a necessary step.
 
 
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Human Rights - Sakharov Prize

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Belarus opposition leader Aliaksandr Milinkevich - 2006 European Parliament Sakharov Prize Winner for Freedom of Thought
 
Leader of the Belarusian Opposition Aliaksandr Milinkevich received the 2006 Sakharov Prize from European Parliament President Borrell. Each year, the Parliament awards the Sakharov prize to exceptional people or organisations fighting against oppression, intolerance and injustice. The aim is to help them in their efforts to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law around the world.
 
 
Mr Milinkevich gave the €50,000 awarded with the prize to the human rights NGO - the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
 
 
 
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Women's Rights/Equal opportunities

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European Institute for Gender Equality to be set up in Vilnius
(13.12.2006)
 
The Parliament took a step forward to promote equal opportunities between men and women. It adopted a second-reading report, based on an agreement with the Council and the Commission, which will enable the new European Institute for Gender Equality to start work in 2007.
 
 
Daphne III - fighting violence against children, young people and women - MEPs call for an increase in the budget
(05.09.2006) first reading
 
Parliament adopted a first-reading report on the successful EU programme seeking to combat and prevent violence against children, young people and women: Daphne. The Parliament calls for a budget of €125 million for 2007-2013 as compared to €116.85 million in the Commission's proposal. MEPs also want to include domestic violence, genital mutilation and protection of victims as objectives of the programme.
 
Initially the Commission proposed a single programme covering "Daphne" and "Drugs and Prevention and information". In May 2006, the Commission presented a modified proposal taking into account the Parliament's request to split the two programmes.  The report was adopted with 552 votes in favour 51 against with 64 abstentions.
 
 
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Agriculture and Fisheries

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MEPs seek tough measures on bird flu
(01.12.2005)
 
The European Parliament is pushing for tougher measures to control bird flu. It wants improved early warning systems so that the authorities are immediately informed about any outbreak of the virus even if it is low pathogenic flu with few symptoms, because that can mutate into the highly pathogenic deadly form. The Parliament also urges the development of low-cost vaccines for poultry and a coordinated emergency plan in the event of human contamination.
 
 
EP calls for stricter animal protection and animal welfare rules
(12.10.2006)
 
Parliament adopted a report by a large majority - 565 votes in favour to 29 against and 15 abstentions - calling for stricter animal welfare rules in the EU. The report called on the Commission to submit plans for animal protection labelling, to urge the strengthening of animal protection in WTO negotiations, and to ban seal and 'cruelty products' imports into the Union.
 
 
 
Reform of direct payments under the CAP - proposal rejected
20-11-2006
 
Parliament rejected a Commission proposal on laying down rules for voluntary modulation of direct payments, establishing common rules for direct support schemes under the common agricultural policy and establishing certain support schemes for farmers. The proposal was rejected by 64 votes in favour to 559 against and 16 abstentions. Parliament adopted a report on support for rural development recommending that Parliament approve the Commission proposal.
 
 
EP calls for stricter animal protection and animal welfare rules
13-10-2006
 
Parliament adopted a report by a large majority - 565 votes in favour to 29 against and 15 abstentions - calling for stricter animal welfare rules in the EU. The report calls on the Commission to submit plans for animal protection labelling, to urge the strengthening of animal protection in WTO negotiations, and to ban seal and 'cruelty products' imports into the Union.
 
 
Mad cow disease: ten years later, vigilance the watchword
22-05-2006
 
Even though British beef is permitted on French plates again, a new regulation on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) has been voted on in the first reading between the Council and the European Parliament.
 
 
MEPs support the retention of the Shetland fisheries box for a further three years
14.02.06 Fisheries
 
In an own-initiative report on the current restrictions within the Common Fisheries Policy, MEPs welcomed the Commission's decision to "maintain the Shetland Box for a further three years" and to "retain the Plaice Box and associated access restrictions pending further study".
 
 
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Budgets

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2004 discharge: sharp criticism but support for purchase of Strasbourg buildings
02.10.2006
 
In adopting the report by Markus FERBER (EPP-ED, DE) by 535 votes in favour to 45 against and 51 abstentions, MEPs granted the EP President discharge for the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2004. Parliament closely scrutinised the issue of the Winston Churchill and Salvador de Madariaga buildings in Strasbourg and concluded it "could be" reasonable to seek to purchase them.
 
 
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Petitions

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Equitable Life - Committee of Inquiry mandate extended
10-07-2006
 
MEPs have endorsed the interim report of the committee of inquiry into the crisis of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, which asked for its one-year mandate to be extended by three months (i.e. to April 2007) to enable it to take account of a report by the UK Parliamentary Ombudsman which is due for publication in November.
 
Spanish property law - MEPs call on the Commission to act
13.12.2005
 
MEPs adopted a report by 550 votes in favour, 45 against with 25 abstentions on the alleged abuse of the Valencian Land Law known as the LRAU and its effect on European citizens.
 
 
Lloyd's of London Names - MEPs pile further pressure on European Commission   
23.06.2005
 
Parliament adopted a resolution calling on the Commission to provide a specific response to the questions raised in its report of September 2003 (Perry report) either in this debate or within two months in writing and resolves to initiate proceedings pursuant to Article 232 of the Treaty against the Commission should the Commission fail to respond. MEPs recall that they reserve the right to initiate further investigatory measures should they be required, bearing in mind three new petitions which have been tabled in 2005 concerning the same Directive by other Lloyd’s Names.
 
 
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Sport

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Tackling racism in football: MEPs want matches stopped in serious cases
20-03-2006
 
Parliament adopted a resolution strongly condemning all forms of racism at football matches, both on and off the field. Parliament calls on the UEFA and all other competition organisers in Europe to ensure that referees have the option, according to clear and strict guidelines, to stop or abandon matches in the event of serious racist abuse.
 
 
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Consumers

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One size doesn't fit all: MEPs back deregulation of pre-packed product sizes - no threat to pint of milk (Consumers)
02.02.2006
 
The European Parliament gave its qualified approval to newly proposed legislation aimed at deregulating package sizes for pre-packed products. Once implemented, the law is certain to affect a wide range of products available to all European consumers.
 
 
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European Council

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PM Tony Blair: "a moment of decision for Europe"   
 
Council statement - Programme of the British Presidency
23.06.2005
Tony BLAIR told MEPs that whatever they disagreed on, everyone agreed that a profound debate about the future of Europe was underway. He said this could not be resolved by trading insults or in terms of personalities, but only by an open and frank exchange of ideas.
 
 
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