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Parliamentary Highlights

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

Summary of Strasbourg Session (7-10 April 2003)

Haulage Industry - Grosch Report

Road haulage drivers in the UK will have to spend hours sitting new written, oral and practical exams thanks to new EU laws.

The new rules will mean that cash-strapped haulage companies will have to make time, during working hours, for their drivers to sit these exams, as well as providing a further 35 hours of refresher courses at regular intervals. These new tests are unnecessary in the UK, where drivers already undergo extensive training.

These new rules come at a time when the road haulage industry estimates that EU regulations could cost 40 billion by 2010.

Philip Bradbourn MEP said: "This directive is completely unnecessary in British terms. Our safety record on Britain's roads is far better than our European counterparts, yet our companies will have to comply with expensive measures imposed by Brussels.

This matter should be one entirely for the UK to determine, not one for the EU to interfere with. The additional cost of this unnecessary training will fall on an already beleaguered haulage sector and consumers will suffer as costs of transporting goods rise. I am not against increasing road safety, but in Britain our record proves that we have some of the safest commercial drivers in Europe."

European Masters Degree - De Sarnez Report

The European Parliament adopted a resolution approving the setting up of the Erasmus World programme.

The aim of the new Erasmus programme is to enhance quality in higher education and promote inter-cultural understanding. The new programme is aimed not just at Europeans like the present Erasmus programme but, as its name suggests, at candidates from all over the world.

Restorative Justice - Klamt Report

The European Parliament adopted a non-binding resolution on the setting up of a European network of national contact points for restorative justice.

Forestry Tractors - Gargani Report

The European Parliament approved the Council common position without amendments on type-approval of agricultural or forestry tractors

Litigation Procedure - Wuermeling Report

The European Parliament supported this report which states that parties involved in a litigation procedure should be able to appeal according to their national law against the issuing of an enforcement order or the refusal thereof.

Budget Discharge - Casaca Report

MEPs voted to sign off the EU's accounts for 2001, despite allegations of fraud, mismanagement and waste.

Delaying the signing off of the accounts is the only measure that the European Parliament can use to send a message to the Commission that it will not allow business to proceed unless real reforms are implemented.

Recent information, that came to light following the sacking of the EU's former chief accountant Marta Andreasen and leaked internal documents, has shown that the reform of the EU's accounts is a long way off.

Chris Heaton-Harris MEP said: "Europe's taxpayers have been cheated for too long by the fraud and mismanagement in the EU accounts. MEPs had the chance to send a message to the European Commission that it must change its ways, but it seems that most were intent on ignoring this. These Members, including British Labour and Liberal MEPs, should explain to the electorate why they have passed this opportunity up and given the Commission the impression that business as usual is fine."

Enlargement - Various reports

The European Parliament gave its final assent to the ten countries seeking Membership of the European Union.

Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, are now set to join the EU in 2004.

Jonathan Evans MEP said: "Enlargement is an historic opportunity to anchor the accession countries in peace, prosperity and democracy.

Our Party can take great pride that enlargement is now, finally, within our grasp. Margaret Thatcher was the chief architect of the policy of bringing this continent together when the Berlin Wall fell thirteen years ago. After fifty years of struggle against Communism, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and the others will at last take their seat at the European top table. Europe will be a better place as a result."

Family Reunification - Cerdeira Morterero Report

The European Parliament adopted a non-binding resolution on the right to family reunification - the UK has opted out of this particular directive.

MEPs voted for a range of non-binding amendments making not only spouses but also registered and unmarried partners, irrespective of sex, eligible for family reunification, if the host Member State treats unmarried or registered partners in the same manner as married couples.

Parliament's Calendar - Resolution

The European Parliament voted to reduce the number of plenary sessions it will hold in Strasbourg next year to 10.

Normally Parliament is required to meet at least 12 times in Strasbourg, though this is reduced to 11 in election years. That requirement is laid down in a protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam. The French Government is said to be considering legal moves against the Parliament.

ESDP - Morillon Report

A far-reaching European defence policy was agreed by the European Parliament.

MEPs called for the strengthening of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), a further step on the road to European integration.

Geoffrey Van Orden MEP said: "Following the experience of the Iraq crisis, Mr Blair must realise the folly and mischief of creating EU defence institutions which merely exacerbate divisions between Europe and the United States.

The EU is putting its political pretensions before the real security interests of the citizens of the United Kingdom and the other Member States. The ESDP is one of its most ill-advised and dangerous policy ambitions. It produces no additional troops and has no other purpose than to exclude the United States from defence and security decision-making. The splits that fractured Western solidarity in the lead-up to the Iraq war were a deliberate consequence of the French self-interest that drives the ESDP.

I hope, in spite of the great Anglo-American solidarity over Iraq, that the United States will no longer merely take on trust Mr Blair's promotion of EU Defence Policy. Both should now know better."

Human Tissues and Cells - Liese Report

The European Parliament adopted over 80 amendments to the Commission proposal to set quality and safety standards for the donation, procurement, testing, processing, storage and distribution of human tissues and cells.

While generally welcoming the proposal, the Parliament adopted amendments concerning the scope of the directive, compensation for tissue and cell donation, donor consent, donor anonymity and ethical issues.

Specifically, MEPs voted to ban the use of cloned cells and tissues in transplants until further scientific advances are made.

John Bowis MEP said: "It is clear that greater advances are needed before this young science (the use of cloned cells and tissues in transplants) is used on humans. The experience of the Australian cloned sheep Matilda, which disintegrated, shows the enormous uncertainty and potential damage to human health of the use of cloned cells in transplants.

In general, these proposals are all about protecting human health. They were not intended to interfere with research into stem cells or trading rights of industry. While certain aspects of the proposals still need clarification, we now have a proposal that can be built upon to gain wide support and ensure the protection of human health."

Non Commercial Movement of Pets - Evans Report

The European Parliament supported the agreement reached with the European Council on the non-commercial movement of pets.

The main purpose of the regulation is to facilitate the free movement of pet animals while guaranteeing a high level of protection for human and animal health. To that end, it seeks to harmonise animal health measures and the controls on non-commercial movements of pet animals within the Community and from non-member countries.

Sweeteners Used in Foodstuffs - Ferreira Report

The European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on the Commission to tighten up the new restrictions it is proposing on cyclamates in soft drinks.

It is concerned at claims that cyclamates, used as low-calorie sweeteners in drinks consumed in large quantities by children and teenagers in particular, pose health hazards. It believes that the Commission's plan to reduce the maximum levels of cyclamates from the current level of 400 mg/l to 350 mg/l. does not go far enough. The European Parliament supported a Green Party amendment which reduces the limit to 100 mg/l (and brings it down further from the limit of 250 mg/l previously demanded by the Environment Committee). It also voted to extend the new limit to milk-based drinks in addition to water-based drinks.

Detergents - Nobilia Report

The European Parliament voted to amended and tighten up the draft regulation from the Commission on detergents by including stricter conditions on derogations from biodegradability rules and clearer labelling for consumers.

GM crops - Auroi report

The European Parliament voted to amend a Commission proposal to state that Member States must stipulate that non-genetically modified varieties of seed which contain GMOs may not be placed on the market, or must remain below as low a threshold as possible where traces authorised under Community law are unavoidable in seed.

Return by Air of Illegal Third Party Nationals - Kirkhope Report

This report, which supports a German initiative to aid in the speedy return of third country nationals residing illegally in the EU, was referred back to the Citizens' Freedoms Committee.

UN Convention on Drugs - Buitenweg Report

The Parliament rejected this recommendation on the reform of the UN Conventions on drugs. MEPs voted to maintain the current UN Conventions.

Information and Communication Strategy - Bayona de Perogordo Report

Parliament adopted an own-initiative resolution on an information and communication strategy for the EU. MEPs underline the crucial importance of information policy in the context of enlargement and of drafting a European Constitution.

Christopher Beazley MEP said: "This report is important in the context of the forthcoming Enlargement to Central and Eastern European Countries and in particular the recognition of the need for information to be produced in all languages and lesser used European languages".

"Mini" Plenary Highlights 26-27 March 2003
Plenary Highlights 10-13 March 2003
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