Issue 8 / September I 2008
EU-Russia relations dominate plenary
By Ioannis Zografos
The crisis in Georgia and the future of EU-Russia relations have dominated the
European Parliament's plenary session in Brussels. Immediately after the
extraordinary EU summit, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner presented
its conclusions to Parliament.
He said that the European Council has asked its President to pursue discussions
to ensure the full application of the Six-Point Agreement. The President of the
Council, along with the President of the Commission and the EU's High
Representative, will visit Moscow on the 8th of September. "The bilateral
negotiations on the partnership agreement will be postponed until Russian troops
have been withdrawn", he added.
MEPs welcomed the decision - they have asked the Council and the Commission
to show determination in negotiating with Moscow and to make it clear that
Russia has to respect international law.
"Russia has the same rights and duties of all states in the international
community. One of these duties is to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity
and inviolability of internationally-recognised borders. But by invading and
occupying Georgian territory and recognising the independence of the
secessionist Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the Russian
authorities have systematically violated each of these three fundamental
principles of international law."
Elmar Brok MEP (DE) called for calm in dealing with Russia, and also asked for
support for Georgia's reconstruction.
"It is important to make it clear that we do not accept certain things, but - in order
to avoid an escalation - at the same time, we must make it clear that we should
remain on speaking terms with all parties involved. We need to strengthen
ourselves and this means strengthening our friends", he said.
Social Europe - job creation is the key to future progress
By Gunnar Larsson
Two months ago, the Commission unveiled its social package, based on
consultation with European social partners. This package was the main topic of
the key debate during the Parliament's plenary session. Joseph Daul (F),
Chairman of the EPP-ED Group, welcomed the Commission's proposals, but was
not entirely satisfied. "My Group would like to see the Commission go further,
with more concrete measures. The fight against poverty, the integration into
labour markets of those now excluded, the promotion of worker mobility and
improvement of workers' training, are areas which require clear, concrete
measures and a strong commitment from the European Union and its Member
States", he said.
"We believe the most effective tool we have is economic growth", Daul
continued. "We are convinced that to achieve the Lisbon goals, we have to
promote entrepreneurship, because only businesses can create jobs. We must
improve the image of the European entrepreneur and convince young people to
start businesses. We must also promote a competitive environment for our
businesses and in particular we must support small and medium-sized
companies, which are the key to job creation."
Daul called for an increased application of 'flexicurity' in Europe. "The concept of
flexicurity has demonstrated its efficiency where it has been introduced", he
claimed. "It provides businesses with the flexibility needed to be competitive in
the global marketplace, while protecting workers."
Philip Bushill-Matthews (UK), Member of the Committee on Employment and
Social Affairs and Rapporteur on the European Works Council Directive, which is
part of the social package, also emphasised the importance of job creation.
"We respect the importance of the rights of workers, but my political group would
also highlight the rights of non-workers - those people who currently do not have
a job, who have been frozen out of the job market for whatever reason, and who
want to have a job", he said. He concluded: "They are increasingly important,
especially in these difficult times of a global credit crunch where unemployment is
likely to get worse before it gets better. So we have to make certain that
everything that we do helps the creation of jobs and helps more individuals into
More rights for consumers and a European Body to regulate
By Pedro López de Pablo
The European Parliament this week debated the reform of the rules governing
telecom markets since 2002 to take account of new technologies - wireless,
mobile, digital TV - and to boost the growth potential of a sector with 500 million
consumers, which already represents 3% of EU GDP and accounts for 25% of
overall economic growth.
Increasing the benefits and rights of consumers and assuring fair competition by
the creation of a Body of European Regulators in Telecom (BERT), have been
the two top priorities for the new regulatory framework supported by the EPP-ED
Malcolm Harbour (UK), responsible for the Directive which will regulate users'
rights, explained that the aim of the reform was to provide consumers with better
information on their rights because electronic communications offers are now
more complex and diverse than before.
"We want empowered, well-informed consumers to make their choices on the
basis of maximum information on price, on what is included in the service, on
whether there are any restrictions and on whether the cost of a handset is
included if they take a longer contract. We want them to be able to shop easily
and to be able to transfer their number quickly. We also want them to be able to
study the length of the contract and for the length of the contract not to be used
as a restriction when they try to move", he said.
The new Directive will also check consumers' entitlements, for example, to data
security, security and availability of networks, good quality of universal
emergency services or equivalent access to communications for disabled people.
The other main point of the new legislation is the Body of European Regulators in
Telecom (BERT) to improve a 'co-regulation' system between national regulators
and the European Commission. Pilar del Castillo (ES), author of the proposal,
said that rather than the creation of a new authority with a big bureaucratic
structure and a heavy budget, BERT will be a most "coherent and consistent"
solution because what the markets need now is to share responsibility to develop
Parliament supports ban on animal clones for food
MEPs have massively voted for a ban on animal cloning for the purposes of
Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Neil Parish
MEP (UK), asked the Commission on Tuesday to clarify its position on animal
cloning, specifically whether or not it finds cloning animals and their offspring for
food production ethically justified. Mr Parish went on to ask the Commission what
steps it had taken to prevent the import of cloned animals, and whether any new
proposals were in the pipeline to prohibit this practice.
The European Commissioner for Health said the Commission was evaluating
what steps to take following an opinion by EFSA (European Food Safety
Authority) adopted in July, which highlights uncertainties regarding the health and
welfare of animal clones.
The Commissioner added that although efficiency of animal cloning had
improved, mortality rates and adverse health effects were still higher in clones
than in sexually reproduced animals, and that the European Group on Ethics in
Science and New Technologies (EGE) had found in a report published in
January 2008 that there were no convincing arguments to clone animals for food
supply. The results of a Eurobarometer survey, examining the public's opinion on
the issue, are soon to be published.
Parliament's Resolution, tabled by the Chairman on behalf of the Agriculture
Committee, was adopted on Wednesday by an overwhelming majority.
Visa Information System: EPP-ED supports safe and quick
crossings of the Schengen border
By Klemen Žumer
At their first plenary meeting in Brussels after the summer recess, Members of
the European Parliament discussed a report by Mihael Brejc (SL) on the use of
the Visa Information System (VIS) under the Schengen Borders Code.
Brejc expressed his satisfaction with the final text: "This arrangement will be
helpful for EU citizens and third-country nationals requiring a visa to enter the
European Union. It will reduce queues at border crossings while also ensuring
security at the EU external borders."
Mr Brejc presented the chronology of the development of this report and stressed
key issues regarding the use of the Visa Information System (VIS) as proposed
by the European Commission. The initial proposal suggested systematic checks
of each visa number and taking fingerprints from all third-country nationals every
time they cross the Schengen border. "Such systematic checks by consulting the
VIS for third-country nationals holding a visa every time they cross an external
border will largely increase waiting times at border crossings, particularly in the
tourist season and at the beginning and end of public holidays", said Brejc. "That
would harm not only visa holders, but EU citizens as well."
After several consultations with the Commission and the Council, Mihael Brejc
MEP put forward a compromise solution whereby systematic checks by
consulting the VIS for third-country nationals holding a visa will be at times of
intense traffic on a random basis.
The new Visa Information System (VIS) allows Member States' authorities, such
as police and customs, to instantly check on the validity of visas. VIS helps avoid
the multiple granting of visas, avoids illegal entry at borders and accelerates the
repatriation of third-country nationals whose visas have expired.
New Coastal Zone Policy can yield €660m gain for Fisheries and
Aquaculture in Europe
The vast majority of the European Parliament adopted a report by Ioannis
Gklavakis (GR) on Fisheries and Aquaculture in the context of Integrated Coastal
Zone Management in Europe.
The idea of Integrated Coastal Zone Management was first mooted in 1994,
when a Council Resolution stressed the need for a Community strategy for
coastal zones based on the principles of sustainable development. The coastal
areas are today the most intensively exploited regions and have up to 50% more
population from continental regions. At the same time, they have strategic
importance for the EU's economy because they constitute a basic source of food
and raw material. Furthermore, they play a vital role in transport and trade, they
include rich ecosystems and they constitute a preferred destination for
entertainment. According to an evaluation of a European Committee, the
implementation of the new policy will make a profit of between €130-€660m per
year. The main aspects of the report are:
Long-term planning involving representatives of all sectors in coastal
Effective coordination of the competent authorities in managing these
Regional cooperation including third countries
The establishment of a supporting body if the coordination shortcomings
Mr Gklavakis stressed that the Integrated Coastal Zone Management constitutes
a suitable framework for the sustainable development of coastal zones and the
viable development of activities pursued in these zones, emphasising fisheries
New classification of chemicals to improve safety
The classification and labelling of chemicals in the EU will follow international
rules by 2011. This week, the European Parliament adopted a Directive on the
implementation of the so-called Globally Harmonised System of Classification
and Labelling (GHS). The aim of the GHS is the international harmonisation of
classification and labelling systems, for example for transport, protection of
consumers and the environment. An agreement on the Directive was reached
between the Parliament and Council before the vote. "The new labelling leads to
a better understanding and more transparency for consumers. Warning symbols
for substances used in households will be the same throughout the world", said
Amalia Sartori (IT), who is the European Parliament's Rapporteur.
The new classifications have already been incorporated in the new EU chemicals
policy REACH. However, GHS provides for new warning symbols. The new
pictogrammes take the form of an octothorpe with a red margin and a black
symbol on a white background. They replace the current symbols with a yellow-
orange background. For substances, the new GHS standards will be binding as
from 2011. For blends, the new provisions apply as from June 2015. Parliament
negotiated testing on animals to be reduced.
Parliament wants better market access for hydrogen vehicles
By Knut Goelz
The plenary of the European Parliament has almost unanimously adopted a
report by German MEP Anja Weisgerber regarding type approvals of hydrogen-
powered motor vehicles: "Hydrogen power is an alternative to conventional
engines. However, up to now there was no functioning internal market for
hydrogen-powered vehicles in the EU. Parliament has therefore paved the way
for this new technology by establishing EU-wide minimum standards and
licensing criteria in the European Union", she said.
Together with biofuels and electrical drives, hydrogen power can provide a
substantial contribution to reduce dependence on oil, to lower air pollution and to
reach CO2 aims in the traffic sector. There are already manufacturers with
practical experience regarding hydrogen-powered cars. With the adoption of EU-
wide criteria, the European Union can establish itself ahead of global research
and ensure investment security for market access of this future technology. By
setting minimum standards, the European Union could now also provide
guidance for global licensing in this sector.
Furthermore, research and development of hydrogen power is an example of
how the European Union can set basic conditions for new technologies. "Here,
we are setting an example by showing how the European Union strengthens the
economy by the promotion of new technologies and thus provides jobs", the
Rapporteur underlined. Car manufacturers are willing and innovative enough to
invest in new technologies. Thus the economy is also ready to take part in a
public partnership for the promotion of the European hydrogen economy adding
up to €940m.
Towards a more efficient and sustainable European freight
By Greet Gysen
The first plenary session of the European Parliament after the summer break
concluded with an own-initiative report on European freight transport. With this
report, Parliament gave its input to three Commission documents aimed at
boosting the efficiency, integration and sustainability of freight transport. Shadow
Rapporteur Mathieu Grosch (BE) underlined that a more sustainable and efficient
freight transport is the key to coping with global economic competition, to
increasing road safety and meeting the EU's objectives as regards climate
change and energy saving.
Mathieu Grosch stressed that all modes of transport need to be used in an
optimal way: "We have to strive to choose the most appropriate and most
efficient mode of transport for each load and improve compatibility between
different modes of transport. High-speed railway lines, for example, constitute a
valuable and eco-friendly alternative to air transport for light transport during the
A more efficient freight transport requires further standardisation, Grosch
underlined. "We need to achieve standard information flows and make sure that
data is interoperable. For the same reason, we also support the creation of a
single international intermodal transport document."
Grosch stressed that transport is an important source of employment and that
Member States should invest in the logistics education delivered by their
The transport sector is responsible for almost 30% of CO2 emissions in Europe
and freight transport is expected to grow by 50% in tonne-kilometres between
2000 and 2020.
Decisive influence of environmental factors and climate change
By Theo Georgitsopoulos
The new health threats caused by climate change and the emission of
electromagnetic radiation will be taken into consideration in the European
Environment and Health Action Plan 2004-2010. Shadow Rapporteur Antonios
Trakatellis (GR) added amendments to the Mid-Term Review of the plan which
was voted at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Brussels.
Mr Trakatellis worked closely with the Rapporteur and included in the
the recognition that climate change will play a critical role in the increased
appearance of certain diseases, due to the changes in the nature of the
ecosystems as well as the changes in the temperature and humidity of
animals, plants, insects, protozoans, germs and viruses
the continuous accumulation of scientific data which provides evidence for
the fact that some types of cancer, such as cancer of the bladder, bone
cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, breast cancer and others, are attributed
to the effect of chemical substances, radiation, particles that exist in the
air, but also to the effect of other environmental factors
the necessity to take into account, regarding the impact of environmental
factors on human health as the main starting point, the vulnerable groups
such as pregnant women, newborns, children and elderly people.
the need to epidemiologically register the number of persons who become
ill due to the effects of the environment in order to provide a clear picture
of the diseases that are merely attributed to environmental factors
Calls on the Council to amend its Recommendation 1999/519/EC in order
to take into account the Member States' best practices and thus to set
stricter exposure limits for all equipment which emit electromagnetic
waves in the frequencies between 0.1 MHz and 300 GHz
Mr Trakatellis criticised the insufficiency of the forecast budget, pointing out that
the profits of an effective European strategy in the sector of environmental health
will be multiple and diffused in all sectors.