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This is for people who want more information on actual reports/legislation going through the Parliament.

Summary of Strasbourg Session (10-13 March 2003)

EU Budget

Details of a damning report, highlighting inaccuracies at the heart of the EU budget for 2001 were published in the Financial Times on Thursday. The memo was from the Head of the Internal Audit body, Jules Muis, to the Head of the Budgets Department, and was copied to European Commissioners.

Mr Muis was "scathing" about the preparation of the accounts, which have also been criticised by the EU Court of Auditors and Marta Andreasen, the suspended former chief accountant.

Mr Muis claimed the Commission's accounting control systems were "rudimentary", and complained there were hardly any checks made on the quality of statements made by each department head, which "repetitively opens the Commission to a high level of reputational risk." The Commission's budget department was described as "severely under-resourced" and the weakness of the budget control systems was a cause of "major concern".

Significantly, in relation to the budget as a whole, he warned that questions might arise on the "reliability of not only the accounts but also the system/process as a whole". The memo comes at a time when the Commission is seeking approval of the 2001 budget from the Budgets Committee next week and from the whole European Parliament in April.

Chris Heaton-Harris MEP said: "This material appears to blow a hole in the reliability of the accounts that the Commission has presented for 2001. Given this new information, how is anyone expected to sign off the accounts next month? It is a disgrace that this important sensitive information has only come to light because of a leak to the press. The Commission should publish all the facts as a matter of urgency."

GATS within the WTO - Commission Statement

The Commission made a statement on the latest development on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The current GATS negotiations propose to further open market access to foreign competition sectors such as professional services, computer services, other business services, postal services, telecommunication services, distribution, environmental services, financial services, tourism and transport services.

Sir Robert Atkins MEP said: "Conservatives have been at the forefront of pressuring the Commission to keep Parliament informed as to the progress of the GATS negotiations, the principles of which we broadly support, and we welcome the precedent set by Commissioner Lamy's statement. We will continue to monitor this very important issue which has major implications both for the UK and the rest of the world."

Compulsory Use Of Seatbelts - Petersen Report

The European Parliament backed proposals to tighten UK car safety measures, which currently require children under three to be restrained only if baby/child seats are in place. However, the changes fall short of insisting on compulsory seatbelts in school buses. For children who use school buses, these journeys are their most frequent and potentially the most hazardous.

Jacqueline Foster MEP said: "Whilst we welcome the tightening of UK laws and the insistence of improved safety for children, this law is a missed opportunity for the protection of school children. If the EU wanted to really improve road safety for children it should have insisted on compulsory restraints for one of the most frequently made journeys made by children - the school bus trip. Parents should feel safe in the knowledge that their children are as safe on the school bus as they are in their cars."

Port Services - Jarzembowski Report

The European Parliament supported the European Council's proposals on market access to port services.

Crisis In The White Fish Sector - Oral Question to the Commission

The European Parliament called on the Commission to provide £100 million to aid the fishing industry. 20,000 jobs are at threat in the UK whitefish sector due to catch and quota cuts and the reduction in allowable fishing days. Struan Stevenson MEP, Chairman of the Fisheries Committee in the European Parliament, has demanded that the European Commission allocate over £100 million in aid to help the beleaguered fishermen and other affected parties. He also called on the Commission to agree to less harsh long term proposals for cod recovery, which would protect jobs in the industry as well as leading to a sustainable fishery.

Struan Stevenson MEP said: "The existing aid package is woefully inadequate. We will continue to fight to ensure that sufficient aid is in place to compensate fishermen and ancillary workers for the loss of their livelihood. The European Commission is planning to release its permanent cod recovery proposals later this year. Meanwhile, the drastic cuts in allowable catch and quotas and the savage reduction in days at sea will continue. This is disastrous for the fishing industry, who face an uncertain future with no guarantee of compensation for the loss of income imposed on them by the EU."

Reform Of The Budgetary Procedure - Wynn Report

The European Parliament supported a proposal which calls for an overhaul and simplification of the EU budget procedure.

The proposal seeks to abandon the distinction between compulsory and non-compulsory expenditure. The resulting decision-making system would be based on budgetary co-decision. In the event of any disagreement between Parliament and Council, Parliament would have the final say on the total expenditure within the limit of revenue determined by the Council. However, the Council would have the final say on the breakdown of revenue between the different categories of resources.

Pensions - Karas Report

UK savers are set to benefit from the adoption of an EU Directive on pensions. The Directive, which was adopted by the European Parliament, no longer includes damaging measures that would have been very costly to the UK pensions industry. The European Commission and the European Council have already agreed upon the Directive, and the Parliament's vote in favour of the report means the Directive can now be implemented.

Theresa Villiers MEP said: "I am very pleased that damaging amendments which would have outlawed lump sum payments have been rejected. Conservative MEPs fought hard against these amendments which would have damaged UK pensions at a time when they are already under pressure from Labour's tax raid on pensions and the collapse in stock markets. Today's vote will deliver a workable framework for setting up pan-European pension funds, which will benefit savers by increasing the return on their investments."

Situation Of The European Economy - García-Margallo y Marfil Report

The European Parliament supported a Commission proposals to increase the pace of structural economic reforms as a means of boosting growth in the European economy.

European Central Bank - Friedrich Report

The European Parliament rejected as too complex a proposal coming from the ECB to replace the current voting system on the Board with a "rotation" system allocating each National Central Bank governor to one of three groups, reflecting the size of the economy in the country concerned.

Instead MEPs called for the retention of existing voting rights for all Central Bank governors and the continuation of decisions by the Governing Board to be taken by a simple majority.

Harmonisation Of GNI - Lulling Report

The European Parliament supported a Commission proposal to apply a new system – the European System of Integrated Economic Accounts (ESA 95) for calculating Gross National Product (GNP). In future it is to be called GNI or Gross National Income.

Data Protection Agreement - Air Passengers - Commission Statement

The European Parliament supported a resolution regretting the joint declaration by US and EU officials of 19 February which allows European airlines to transfer data on passengers flying to the US to US Customs personal.

The resolution states that this constitutes an infringement of the European directive on the protection of personal data. It wants the European Commission to suspend this "agreement", which is considered to lack any legal basis. In the meantime Parliament will determine if an action may be brought before the European Court of Justice. Parliament's Committee on Citizens' Rights will hold a hearing on this matter on 25 March.

Freezing Of Assets - Hernandez Mollar Report

The European Parliament supported a resolution on the freezing of funds and economic resources directed against certain persons and entities associated with Usama bin Laden, the Al-Qaida network and the Taliban.

The Security Council decided that provision has to be made for certain exceptions to the freezing of funds and economic resources. These exceptions should be granted on grounds of humanitarian need

European Employment Strategy - Mann Report

The European Parliament rejected proposals to create framework conditions for more growth and investment. The proposals called for this to be achieved by harmonising conditions in European markets and adjusting tax bases to encourage entrepreneurship.

Access to EU Archives - Oreja Arburúa Report

The European Parliament supported a proposal relating to access to the archives of the European Institutions. Timothy Kirkhope MEP said: "We support openness, accountability and simplification of European information and services."

Drug Precursors - Pirker Report

The European Parliament supported a proposal relating to drug precursors. Timothy Kirkhope MEP said: "I shall support this report as there is a need to co-operate in controlling such substances."

Protection for Children Using The Internet - Newton Dunn Report

The European Parliament called for new measures to combat illegal and harmful content on the Internet.

Iraq - Council and Commission statements

The Council and Commission made statements on the latest developments in the Iraqi crisis.

The statement follows the extraordinary European Council of 17th February. The EU's objective for Iraq "remains full and effective disarmament in accordance with the relevant UNSC resolutions, in particular resolution 1441". Parliament will have a chance to debate the so-called "second UN resolution". For approval, any resolution needs the backing of nine of the 15 Council Members and must not be vetoed by any of the five permanent Members.

Jonathan Evans MEP said: "The events of recent months have displayed two important truths for Europe. First, we undermine the unity of NATO at our peril. Some anti-American voices in Europe have played out their contempt for all things American. And we have seen some politicians in Europe who are prepared to weaken NATO and the transatlantic alliance in their aim of developing Europe as an antagonist or counterweight rather than an ally of the United States. As British Conservatives, I want to make it clear beyond any doubt that we stand resolutely behind NATO as the bedrock of our security and defence. I make no apology for repeating our belief in NATO and the value we attach to our partnership with the United States. The actions of France, Germany and Belgium in fermenting division within the alliance over the crucial issue of Turkey's security are in my view deplorable.

Second, the concepts of a Common Foreign and Security Policy or some Common European Defence Policy have surely been fatally undermined. French politicians cannot have it both ways on this. Common, or in reality, majority policies in these areas are neither desirable nor achievable. The bullying behaviour by President Chirac towards several candidate countries in Central and Eastern Europe over their support for United States policy on Iraq was shameful. Free nations who intend to join this Union should not be treated like wayward children.

The coming days will be a test of the will of the international community and of the credibility of the United Nations. But let there be no doubt about this, the responsibility for avoiding war remains squarely with Saddam Hussein and it is up to him to choose peace."

Macedonia - Council and Commission Statement

The European Parliament welcomed the European Council's decision to take over the NATO operation 'Allied Harmony' in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as the EU's first-ever military mission. No date has yet been set for the EU to take over the operation.

Geoffrey Van Orden MEP said: "The existence of a separate European Security and Defence Policy has been a factor in weakening the coherence of the NATO Alliance, contributing to recent splits. The EU's takeover of the NATO operation in FYROM will not contribute any additional military assets, but merely the complication of an additional political authority to which NATO's Deputy Commander will have to answer."

Gender Mainstreaming - Gröner Report

The European Parliament called for the setting up of a High-Level Group on Gender Equality to be chaired by the Parliament's President.

Gender Equality using the Structural Funds - Avilés Perea Report

The European Parliament adopted a non-binding resolution on equality of opportunities between women and men in the use of the Structural Funds.

European Union Consumer Protection - Thyssen Report

The European Parliament welcomed the Commission Green Paper on the future of EU consumer protection but emphasised the need for simpler, more understandable and better focused legislation that would be easier to enforce.

Plenary Highlights 10-13 February 2003
Plenary Highlights 13-16 January 2003
Plenary Highlights 17-20 December 2002
Plenary Highlights 18-21 November 2002
"Mini" Plenary Highlights 6-7 November 2002
Plenary Highlights 21-24 October 2002
Plenary Highlights 23-26 September 2002
Plenary Highlights 2-7 September 2002