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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 (9 - 12 February 2004)


Organisation of Working Time - Alejandro Cercas Report

Parliament passed this own-initiative report which seeks to influence the direction of the Commission's review of the 1993 directive laying down a maximum 48-hour working week. It criticises abuses of the individual opt-out clause, especially in the United Kingdom. The report recommends that opt-outs be abolished as quickly as possible, by 1 January 2007 at the latest.

The consultation currently being carried out by the European Commission covers the length of reference periods used when calculating working hours. It also looks at measures to ensure a better balance between work and family life, and the very definition of working hours in the light of recent rulings of the EU Court of Justice on time spent "on call". British Labour, UKIP, Green and SNP MEPs voted to remove the opt-out.

Philip Bushill-Matthews MEP said: "The abolition of our opt-out to the Working Time Directive will seriously damage labour market flexibility in the UK. Research has shown that the majority of British employers and employees are in favour of retaining the opt-out. A limit on working hours would deny people the freedom to choose their working patterns and would prevent millions from earning overtime pay. By voting to remove the UK opt-out, Labour MEPs have ignored the views of their constituents and their own government, and have threatened current working practices in the UK."


Dolphin Friendly Fishing - Kindermann Report

MEPs accepted a proposed Regulation which aims to curb the accidental capture of cetaceans such as dolphins and harbour porpoises in fishing gear as this is threatening the conservation of these species. The report proposes the phasing out of drift nets in the Baltic sea. It also encourages the use of acoustic deterrent devices (pingers) in fisheries where the effectiveness of such devices has been confirmed in reducing incidental catches of cetaceans (whales and dolphins). Since the acquisition of acoustic deterrents is a considerable financial burden for fishermen, they will be assisted from public funds with the investment needed to purchase them.

Neil Parish MEP said: "Unless we take urgent measures to stop the damage inflicted by destructive fishing practices, there is a real possibility that dolphins and porpoises could be wiped out from waters around the UK. These proposals are an important first step to protecting the dolphin and porpoise population. Phasing out the use of drift nets and requiring the use of 'pingers' could save thousands of animals every year. However, it is essential that alternative fishing methods be developed that remove the threat to dolphin and porpoises once and for all. The European Commission must stop extensive consultation and monitoring processes and take real action to halt dolphin deaths."


European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control - Bowis Report

The Bowis report on the Commission's proposal to set up a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control was supported by MEPs. The Centre will help in the fight against diseases such as AIDS, SARS, bird flu, malaria, meningitis and the threat of bio-terrorism by sharing information between Member States to a greater extent than before. It should make it easier to pool resources, skills and specialised knowledge as well as increasing compatibility between the methods and findings of studies done in different national laboratories.

These improvements to the current arrangements are needed if the Centre is to properly carry out its tasks, which are to "identify, assess and communicate current and emerging risks" to human health, whether of natural or criminal origin. The Centre is not intended to take the place of national bodies but to provide them with independent and reliable technical assistance and scientific opinions, as well as playing a co-ordinating and planning role in joint projects.

John Bowis MEP said: "The news bulletins remind us that there is an urgent need to establish a Centre which can support Member States to respond to health threats. Our aim is to replace the ad hoc situation we have now with a formal structure to improve co-operation between Member States on this vital health issue. This proposal demonstrates the positive contribution the EU can make by sharing good practice, research and expertise."


Political Framework for the Next Financial Perspective - Commission Statement

The European Commission presented to Parliament a general communication on the future financial perspectives, entitled 'A prosperous Europe: political calendar and budgetary resources for an enlarged union 2007-2013.' The financial perspectives system aims to reinforce budgetary discipline, control the overall growth in expenditure and ensure the smooth running of the budget procedure.

The net contributors (Germany, France, the UK, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden) again this week called for a ceiling of 1 per cent of Gross National Income.


Scottish Salmon - Commission Statement

Commissioner Byrne made a statement on the safety of Scottish farmed salmon following the recent Science magazine study 'Global Assessment of Organic Contaminants in Farmed Salmon'. Commissioner Byrne told MEPs that the study does not raise new food safety issues as the levels found are consistent with the results from other surveys and from official controls

Struan Stevenson MEP said: "The American research is seriously flawed. EU fish farms undertake rigorous inspection and quality control regimes to ensure that only the highest possible environmental and welfare standards are met. The public is provided with an entirely safe, non-toxic and reliable product."


Avian Flu - Commission Statement

Health Commissioner David Byrne made a statement to MEPs outlining the measures that the Commission has taken to ensure adequate protection against the possible spread of avian flu into the EU. The Commission detailed the steps its has taken in banning the imports of live birds and poultry products from the affected countries and the assistance it has provided.

Contingency plans have been approved for Member States to deal with an outbreak if one occurs, and plans submitted by accession countries are currently under review. The Commission will take further measures on guidelines and consultation procedures in regard to public health if necessary. Member States will continue to share info and take measures via the Early Warning and Response System of the EU.

Neil Parish MEP said: "British consumers are having the wool pulled over their eyes. It is misleading to claim that the EU has banned the importation of all Thai chicken products when cooked and canned chicken meat is still being imported.

The Commission assures us that these products are safe because they are heat-treated, but given Thailand's deceit in denying the outbreak for so long, confirmed today by Mr Byrne, how can we trust these products? British consumers and British farmers have every right to be sceptical.

Conservative MEPs are seeking authorisation in the European Parliament to hold a full-scale public hearing on avian flu and the risks to human and animal health."



Scottish Salmon - Commission Statement

Commissioner Byrne made a statement on the safety of Scottish farmed salmon following the recent Science magazine study 'Global Assessment of Organic Contaminants in Farmed Salmon'. Commissioner Byrne told MEPs that the study does not raise new food safety issues as the levels found are consistent with the results from other surveys and from official controls

Struan Stevenson MEP said: "The American research is seriously flawed. EU fish farms undertake rigorous inspection and quality control regimes to ensure that only the highest possible environmental and welfare standards are met. The public is provided with an entirely safe, non-toxic and reliable product."


Professional Qualifications - Zappala Report

Commissioner Byrne made a statement on the safety of Scottish farmed salmon following the recent Science magazine study 'Global Assessment of Organic Contaminants in Farmed Salmon'. Commissioner Byrne told MEPs that the study does not raise new food safety issues as the levels found are consistent with the results from other surveys and from official controls

Struan Stevenson MEP said: "The American research is seriously flawed. EU fish farms undertake rigorous inspection and quality control regimes to ensure that only the highest possible environmental and welfare standards are met. The public is provided with an entirely safe, non-toxic and reliable product."


  "Mini" Plenary Highlights 28-29 January 2004
  Plenary Highlights 12-15 January 2004
  Plenary Highlights 17-20 November 2003
  "Mini" Plenary Highlights 5-6 November 2003
  Plenary Highlights 20-23 October 2003
  Plenary Highlights 22-25 September 2003
  Plenary Highlights 1-4 September 2003
  Plenary Highlights 30 June - 3 July 2003
  Plenary Highlights 2-5 June 2003
  Plenary Highlights 12-15 May 2003
  Plenary Highlights 7-10 April 2003
    "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