Focus
 

Eurozone, 2011 budgets, Auditors, food quality in Brussels March Plenary

Institutions - 22-03-2010 - 17:34
Share / Save
Social networking sites
Favorites
 
2011 budget priorities on agenda

Overhead view of people with documents

UPDATED: The economy of the euro-zone was under the spotlight when MEPs met in Brussels on 24-25 March. European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet was in plenary to take part in the annual debate on the euro-zone and public finances. Also on the agenda was Parliament's priorities for the 2011 budget and a discussion ahead of the EU summit on 25-26 March.

Among the other items on this week's plenary were agricultural product quality and the appointment of 10 members of the Court of Auditors which audits the EU's accounts.
 
See the sections below for a full run-down of what happened.
 
 
REF.: 20100319FCS70977

Newsletter - 24-25 March 2010 - Brussels plenary session

Top of pageNext
 
2011 budget: Parliament to spell out its priorities
Young people, economic recovery and research should be the top priorities for next year's EU budget, says a draft resolution from the EP Budgets Committee which will be put to the vote on Thursday. It also seeks to step up pressure on the other EU institutions, firstly to give Parliament more say in the set-up of the European External Action Service and secondly to launch the long-awaited review of the EU's multiannual budget.

Eurozone and economic governance: debate with ECB President Trichet
Economic governance and monetary policy will take centre stage on Thursday as MEPs hold their annual debate on the euro area with ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet. Parliament will then vote on three resolutions: on the euro area and public finances, the work of the ECB in 2008 and the appointment of the new ECB vice-president.

MEPs' give their views ahead of EU spring summit
On the eve of the Spring European Council taking place on 25-26 March in Brussels, MEPs will discuss the main topics on the summit agenda: the Union's new strategy for jobs and growth (the Europe 2020 Strategy), the implementation of exit strategies from the current economic crisis and the follow-up to the Copenhagen conference on climate change.

Food quality: legislation needed
The compulsory labelling of farm produce gives consumers valuable information about food quality and can boost farmers' competitiveness, says a draft resolution by the EP Agriculture Committee on which the full Parliament will vote on Thursday. Protecting EU geographical indications and traditional specialities from counterfeiting also helps safeguard food quality, argues the committee, which believes legislation is needed in this area.

Appointment of 10 members of Court of Auditors
Parliament will vote on the appointment of seven new members of the European Court of Auditors and the re-appointment of three others. Parliament's vote is not binding but the candidates have declared they will resign should they not receive the support of MEPs. All the candidates were approved by the Budgetary Control Committee on 16 March.
 
 
 

Further information :

Top of pageNext

EP president condemns killing of French policeman and arrests of Cuban activists

Top of pageNextPrevious
 
The entrance to the Chamber in Brussels just before the opening of the session on Wednesday.

The entrance to the Chamber in Brussels just before the opening of the session on Wednesday.

At the start of Thursday's plenary sitting, Parliament's President Jerzy Buzek made statements to the House about two recent events. He condemned the killing of French policeman Jean-Serge Nerin by the Basque separatist group ETA on 16 March and expressed support for members of the Cuban opposition group Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) who have been arrested by the Cuban authorities.  Ladies in White was awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for human rights in 2005. 
 
On Wednesday, at the start of the session, the House approved a small number of changes to the agenda announced by President Buzek. Among these, the debate on the meeting of G20 employment ministers was brought forward from Thursday to Wednesday, replacing the debate on air safety, which was postponed to the April plenary. In addition, Parliament will vote this Thursday on guidelines for FRONTEX surveillance of the EU's maritime external borders.
 
 

Further information :

Top of pageNextPrevious

Parliament approves appointment of 10 members of Court of Auditors

Top of pageNextPrevious
 
Aerial view of the Court of Auditors, Luxembourg. ©European Union/Architects:Jim Clemes and Paul Noel

Aerial view of the Court of Auditors, Luxembourg. ©European Union/Architects:Jim Clemes and Paul Noel

Parliament on Thursday approved the candidacies of seven new members of the European Court of Auditors and the re-appointment of three more.  All the nominees can now be formally appointed by the EU Council of Ministers.
 
One of the approved candidates was Eoin O'Shea of Ireland, replacing Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, who has become Ireland's new European Commissioner.
 
The European Court of Auditors has one member from each EU Member State. On 6 May, nine members reach the end of their term of office. In addition, the Irish post has been vacant since Máire Geoghegan-Quinn stood down. Last week the Budgetary Control Committee held formal hearings of the seven new candidates and three current members seeking renewed mandates, before recommending that the full Parliament approve all ten.
 
Parliament's vote was not legally binding but the candidates had declared they would resign should they not receive the support of MEPs.
 
The ten candidates were approved, by secret ballot, as follows:
  • Milan Martin Cvikl, Slovenia, 549 votes in favour, 19 against and 53 abstentions
  • Rasa Budbergytė, Lithuania, 545 votes in favour, 21 against and 56 abstentions
  • Kersti Kaljulaid, Estonia (renewal) , 561 votes in favour, 13 against and 50 abstentions
  • Igors Ludboržs, Latvia  (renewal) , 557 votes in favour, 8 against and 57 abstentions
  • Szabolcs Fazakas, Hungary, 348 votes in favour, 213 against and 60 abstentions
  • Ladislav Balko, Slovakia, 556 votes in favour, 11 against and 52 abstentions
  • Louis Galea, Malta, 553 votes in favour, 17 against and 52 abstentions
  • Augustyn Bronisław Kubik, Poland, 568 votes in favour, 8 against and 48 abstentions
  • Jan Kinšt, the Czech republic (renewal) , 558 votes in favour, 8 against and 48 abstentions
  • Eoin O'Shea, Ireland, 573 votes in favour, 6 against and 51 abstentions
 
The Council of Ministers is expected to appoint Eoin O'Shea through written procedure on 30 March. He will then serve for the remaining two years of Máire Geoghegan-Quinn's mandate. The other nine candidates are to be appointed, also by the Council, on 19 April, for a period of six years, starting when the current mandates end.
 
As the Court of Auditors' role is to check that EU funds are correctly spent and accounted for, it works closely with the Budgetary Control Committee, which also scrutinises EU spending and assesses whether the EU institutions should be granted discharges for their budget management.
 
The Rapporteur was Spanish Socialist Inés Ayala Sender.
 
 
 
Top of pageNextPrevious

Food quality: legislation needed

Top of pageNextPrevious
 
An usher stands at the back of the Chamber in Brussels

An usher stands at the back of the Chamber in Brussels

The compulsory labelling of farm produce gives consumers valuable information about food quality and can boost farmers' competitiveness, said the European Parliament on Thursday. Protecting EU geographical indications and traditional specialities from counterfeiting also helps safeguard food quality, argue MEPs, who believe legislation is needed in this area.
 
Plans for an EU food quality policy, intended to add value to the economies of Europe's regions, are set out in a resolution drafted by Italian MEP Giancarlo Scotta (Europe of Freedom and Democracy) and approved by Parliament as a whole on Thursday. This resolution responds to a Commission consultation paper on EU food quality policy and forms part of a wider debate in Parliament on the future aims of the Common Agricultural Policy.
 
"Putting emphasis on food quality policy represents one of the responses" to globalising markets and "a development opportunity for many disadvantaged areas", said Mr Scottà in a debate on Wednesday. Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said he would put forward legislative proposals for an EU quality policy by the end of this year. "I am going to force myself to take into consideration your ideas and suggestions", when drafting the new rules, he told MEPs.
 
Protecting geographical indications: more power to rights owners...
 
MEPs agreed on the need to keep the current system of geographical indications (GIs), and in particular its two main tools: the protected designation of origin (PDO), for agricultural products entirely produced within a given geographical area, and the protected geographical indication (PGI), for products closely linked to a geographical area, where at least one stage of production takes place.
 
To remedy shortcomings of this system, such as its failure to prevent usurpation of GIs within and beyond the EU, Parliament proposes amending existing legislation to give consortia of GI owners a role in managing PDO and PGI products.
 
A third system of labelling available in the EU is the "traditional guaranteed speciality" (TGS), which stresses the product's traditional composition or means of production.
 
...and WTO rules 
 
A binding multilateral register of all GI products worldwide, to be agreed at the WTO (under TRIPS Article 23), is essential to fight usurpation and counterfeiting, says the resolution. MEPs also call on the Commission to provide GI bodies with financial and technical support to tackle these problems.
 
"Country of origin" on food labels
 
To better inform consumers, the country of origin, in the case of fresh products, should be well indicated to ensure full traceability and transparency. This should be done without creating any excessive costs and by investigating alternatives to traditional labelling, such as bar codes or web sites. Supplementary information should be made voluntary, to avoid overloading labels and thus confusing consumers, says the approved text.
 
The Commission is also asked to study various options for introducing new information tools, including new EU quality logo, which should be made available exclusively to agricultural products resulting entirely from production in the EU.
 
 
 
Top of pageNextPrevious

MEPs discuss Eurozone issues and governance with Jean-Claude Trichet and Olli Rehn

Top of pageNextPrevious
 
The resolution warns the ECB not to overreact to inflation risks, so as not to kill off any green shoots

The resolution warns the ECB not to overreact to inflation risks, so as not to kill off any green shoots

Economic governance and monetary policy took centre stage in Thursday's annual debate on the Euro area with ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet and European Commissioner Olli Rehn. MEPs voted three resolutions, on the Euro area and public finances, the work of the ECB in 2008, and the appointment of candidate ECB Vice-President Vitor Constâncio, whom they backed for the post.
 
In the debate with Mssrs Trichet and Rehn, many MEPs stressed the need for more economic governance and that Europe is not yet out of the financial crisis.  "We are now in the second phase of the crisis, characterised by massive public deficits", Sven Giegold (Greens/EFA), warned, whereas Liem Hoang Ngoc (S&D)    criticised Germany, "for leading us into a deflationary spiral crisis".
 
"We have to strengthen the budgetary co-ordination of Member States, and in all other economic areas too", said Sophie Auconie (EPP, FR), echoing a general sentiment among MEPs on the need for binding rules and stricter observance of the stability and growth pact rules.
 
In view of the Greek crisis, rules should be developed to allow the ECB to support Greece more, said Jurgen Klute (GUE/NGL).  Ramon Tremosa i Balcells (ALDE), said it would be helpful to talk up the usefulness of the Euro itself.  "The Euro is not suffering a crisis.  There are some specific fiscal crises, but the Euro is still an envied tool around the world", he said.  Other MEPs echoed this. 
 
Adding a nuance, Kay Swinburne (ECR), said that the very different attitudes to spending and saving in the Eurozone were always going to be an issue for the success of the whole area.  Godfrey Bloom (EFD) took a completely different line.  "I seem to be living in a parallel reality hearing about the success of the Euro.  No, the Euro has not been successful at all", he said
 
Don't overreact to inflation risks
 
Parliament's resolution on the work of the ECB questions whether it was aggressive enough in reducing interest rates in response to the financial crisis and stresses that the extra liquidity injected may not have reached small and medium-sized enterprises, but instead have been used by some banks to improve their margins and cover losses. Edward Scicluna (S&D) stressed this point also in the presentation of the resolution whereas Mr Trichet argued exactly the opposite.
 
On post-crisis measures, the resolution warns the ECB not to overreact to inflation risks, so as not to kill off any green shoots.  It also calls for more help for non-Euro Member States.  Finally, Parliament asks the ECB to present its views on setting up a clearing house for credit default swaps within the Eurozone. In his reply, Mr Trichet said that European central clearing will be essential, and that regulators should be able to investigate suspicious speculative behaviour.
 
Economic governance and monitoring
 
The resolution on the Euro area and public finances calls for a revamp of the EMU framework and economic governance within the Eurozone, including binding new commitments between Member States.  It also suggests that reducing deficits and debt are only part of the solution to current economic imbalances and calls for better scrutiny of statistics of aspiring Eurozone countries.  The resolution warns against constraining wages too much in order to reduce deficits, since lower salaries slow down economic growth.
 
ECB Vice-President
 
Finally, MEPs adopted a resolution recommending the approval of Vitor Constâncio as ECB Vice-President.  His nomination will now be officially approved by the European Council.
 
Top of pageNextPrevious

2011 budget: Parliaments spells out its priorities

Top of pagePrevious
 
MEPs voted to back budget proposals for next year by 558 votes to 48

MEPs voted to back budget proposals for next year by 558 votes to 48

Young people, economic recovery and research should be the EU's top budgetary priorities, said the European Parliament on Thursday, when it became the first EU institution to adopt an opinion on next year's budget.  MEPs also emphasised the urgent need to review EU's multiannual budget and reiterated their demand to have more say in the set-up of the European External Action Service.
 
Young people will have an important role to play in the EU's recovery from the financial and economic crisis and should therefore receive support, particularly in finding their first job, says the EP resolution. Among measures suggested by MEPs are the promotion of language studies and a new mobility programme called "Erasmus first job".
 
During the debate on Wednesday evening, the suggested emphasis on youth policy was supported by Budgets Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski. The Commission will adopt the draft budget (the first formal step in the budgetary procedure) on 27 April. The same day, the Commissioner will present this proposal to the Budgets Committee.
 
Economic recovery and agriculture
 
To help economic recovery, Parliament wants the EU to provide more funding for research and innovative, especially green, technologies as well more pilot projects for small and medium-sized firms in rural areas.
 
The 2011 budget procedure is the first where Parliament will decide jointly with the Council on the whole budget, including agriculture. Regarding agriculture, MEPs underlined the importance to keep it "competitive and able to meet the new environmental challenges post-Copenhagen".
 
Influence over EEAS
 
MEPs also plan to use the budget procedure as a means of exercising their general right of parliamentary scrutiny over the new European External Action Service (EEAS).  The draft resolution states "to increase the EP’s involvement in the shaping and management of the EU’s external relations, it will fully exercise its scrutiny over the budget and budgetary control of EEAS".
 
Long-term budget review
 
MEPs also asked the Commission to launch the mid-term review of EU's long-term budget (for the years 2007-2013) before the summer. Such a review is "an absolute necessity", says the draft resolution, since the current budget framework has not allowed the EU to "react properly and satisfactorily to various challenges that have arisen in recent years". Parliament has been pressing for this review for some time.
 
Regarding Parliament's own budget, "legislative excellence" is one priority. Another is making the Lisbon treaty work effectively.
 
Parliament voted by 558 votes to 48 with 16 abstentions to approve the resolution on the main part of the EU budget (managed by the Commission), which was drafted by Polish MEP Sidonia Elżbieta Jędrzejewska (EPP).  It approved by show of hands the resolution by German member Helga Trüpel (Greens/EFA) on the administrative budgets of the other EU institutions. 
 
 
 
Top of pagePrevious