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Summary of Strasbourg Session (18-21 November 2002)

Debate on Enlargement

The European Commission has published its last Strategy Paper which highlights the processes to be accomplished before the integration of 10 new Member States. The Commission considers that Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia fulfil the political criteria and will have fulfilled the economic and acquis criteria within the timeframe foreseen for accession by the European Council.

These countries will be ready for membership from the beginning of 2004. The Commission recommends concluding the accession negotiations with these countries by the end of this year with the aim of signing the Accession Treaty in Spring 2003. As for Bulgaria and Romania, the Commission will strongly support these two countries in achieving their objective to join in 2007.

European Commission President Romano Prodi told Reuters on 12th November 2002 that the European Union would settle for "second best" and admit a divided Cyprus unless there was a political settlement before next month's EU summit. He said: "I should have been happy to have the whole of Cyprus in. Because of the political division, we have to choose the second best - to have part of Cyprus in. If there are new political events that make possible the first choice, we are happy."

Jonathan Evans MEP said: "Enlargement is an historic opportunity to advance the principles for which Europe should stand: free trade, free markets, deregulation, and co-operation. It will also mean more trade, more stability and more prosperity for the existing members of the European Union. Furthermore, the European Union simply cannot ignore the moral duty which it owes to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

"At the Brussels Summit, significant progress was made towards achieving agreement on the entry of ten applicant states at the Copenhagen Council in December. My Party warmly welcomes this. Europe will be a better place as a result of enlargement. I congratulate the Danish Presidency on the skill and commitment it has displayed in reaching this point.

"However, given the fact that we have waited thirteen years for this historic moment, I wish to reiterate that there must be no foot-dragging, no more delay, no last minute vested interests allowed to stand in the way.

"On no account should we allow budgetary discussions to be derailed by reopening issues that have already been settled. In particular, the continuation of the British budgetary abatement was agreed unanimously by Heads of Government at Berlin in 1999. The budgetary abatement is both fair and justified. Any attempt to use it as a smokescreen to disguise unwillingness to reform the CAP must be dismissed as political opportunism."

Foot and Mouth Committee Meeting

In a unanimous cross-party vote, Members of the European Parliament's year-long Inquiry into the foot and mouth crisis agreed its final account of the UK government's handling of the outbreak, ahead of recommending it to the European Parliament in December.

Robert Sturdy MEP said: "Almost every line of this report should shame the government. Its inept handling of the foot and mouth outbreak is now well documented. It is no surprise that the government has done everything in its powers to hide this evidence from the British people.

The report shows that the outbreak could have been better contained if the government had put in place an immediate ban on the movement of animals. It shows how farmers were intimidated, procedures ignored and EU laws flouted.

There is also clear evidence that the government has been falsifying figures in an attempt to play down the true impact of the outbreak. Government figures suggest that 6 million animals were slaughtered. Our findings point to a figure of 10 million."

Tobacco sponsorship and advertising - Medina Ortega Report

The European Parliament voted in favour of a Commission proposal to impose an EU wide ban on tobacco sponsorship and advertising. However, an attempt by Labour MEPs to exempt Formula 1 racing from the ban until 1 October 2006 failed when their amendment was defeated.

Lord Inglewood MEP: "If the Legal Affairs Committee's view is right on the legal implications of this proposal, then this is going to end up in the courts again. This will do nothing to deal with the problems of advertising or smoking."

Common Fisheries Policy - Stevenson Report

The European Parliament voiced its support for the British fishing industry by backing the UK's 12 mile fishing zone. A Conservative amendment to the Stevenson Report on fishing, overwhelmingly supported by MEPs from across Europe, insists that the Common Fisheries Policy should permanently uphold in EU law the UK's 12 mile coastal zone.

The vote occurred during a debate on the Commission's proposals to reform the Common Fisheries Policy (Roadmap).

Struan Stevenson MEP said : "The coastal zone is vital to the UK's fishing industry. Huge numbers of inshore fishing jobs depend on keeping control of these areas. The parliament has now clearly backed our view that British fishermen should be free to fish these waters.

This change is a victory for an industry already threatened by proposals to close our whitefish sector in the North and Irish seas. It is now up to the Council and the Commission to support this change and save our fishing fleets."

Confiscation of Criminal Proceeds - Di Lello Finuoli Report

The European Parliament approved a Danish Presidency proposal which seeks to lay down common rules on the confiscation of proceeds from crime or of property with an equivalent value.

According to the proposal, Member States must adopt measures to enable them to confiscate proceeds from criminal offences which are punishable by a prison sentence of one year or more. However, Member States should also be able to confiscate property which does not directly result from the crime of which the person concerned is convicted, if the crime is punishable by at least a maximum sentence of up to six years.

Timothy Kirkhope MEP said: "Whilst Conservative MEPs support anything which enhances cooperation between Member States' law enforcement agencies, we cannot support any proscriptive European measures such as those proposed by the report. Such matters should be dealt with internally by the individual Member States."

Combating Corruption in the Private Sector - Rutelli Report

The European Parliament voted in favour of a Danish Presidency proposal which seeks to harmonise penalties for corruption in the private sector in Member states.

The aim of the proposal is to ensure that both active and passive corruption in the private sector is a criminal offence in all Member States and that it is punishable by a maximum penalty of between at least 1 and 3 years imprisonment.

Timothy Kirkhope MEP said: "Although Conservative MEPs wish to combat corruption, we believe that this matter should not be legislated on at a European level and should be dealt with internally by Member States. We are more than willing to cooperate with other Member States' authorities but we will not go down the path of harmonised maximum penalties."

VAT Labour-Intensive Services - Randzio-Plath Report

The European Parliament voted in favour of a Commission proposal which seeks to extend the 1999 directive that allows Member States to levy a reduced rate of VAT on labour-intensive services such as hairdressers. The proposal seeks to extend the legislation for another year i.e. until 31 December 2003.

Reports on the Solidarity fund

The European Parliament adopted two resolutions on the setting up of the EU Solidarity Fund for natural disasters, giving the go ahead for the release of funds.

Den Dover MEP said: "I welcome the rapid action taken by the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of Ministers in setting up and mobilising the Solidarity Fund of 1 billion per year, which will be used to provide urgent financial assistance to Member States hit by natural disasters, such as the recent massive flooding.

"All three institutions showed that they were willing and able to respond with feeling and a sense of urgency to the appalling flooding that cost so many lives and removed so many homes and businesses."

'Intelligent Energy for Europe' (2003-2006) - McNally Report

The Commission proposal, supported by the European Parliament, of 'Intelligent Energy for Europe', is an action programme which is to run from 2003 to 2006 and replace measures under the ALTENER, SAVE and SYNERGY Programmes.

Giles Chichester MEP said: "A European Intelligent Energy sounds to me like an oxymoron being used to put a glossy spin on energy efficiency measures by catching our attention. We need yet another proposal for a European Agency like a hole in the head. Stick to saving energy and keep it simple."

Candidate Countries, Framework Programme - Zimmerling Report

The European Parliament supported an own initiative report which seeks to ensure that researchers in applicant countries receive fair treatment, compared to their counterparts in the current Member States, in the forthcoming 6th Research Framework Programme. Roger Helmer MEP said: "If the EU is to welcome new members, we must ensure that our researchers are able to work together and lead the way in this global cutting-edge business. We welcomed this Report as a means of achieving that. "We must particularly focus on bringing in private sector finance and developing research programmes in the candidate countries to ensure that our researchers can compete world-wide."

Additives in Animal Nutrition - Keppelhoff-Wiechert Report

The European Parliament approved a Commission proposal to consolidate EU provisions on additives for use in animal nutrition.

The general objective of this proposed regulation is to re-haul the entire regulatory process taking into account new products, feeding techniques and the short-coming of existing legislation. The regulation will incorporate additives in feeding-stuffs and drinking water as well as the use of additives in silage. Only those additives which do not present a risk to human health, animal health or the environment may be included. Importantly, responsibility for authorisation will rest in the hands of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Neil Parish MEP said: "Animal welfare and food safety are top of the political agenda. While this proposal goes a long way to addressing some of the problems, concerns remain about over-regulation of food producers. The limitations of this directive are however clear - the EU can only regulate for the EU. The question it needs to answer is how does it cope with imported food?"

Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products - Nisticò Report

The European Parliament amended a Commission proposal to ensure a more balanced approach to the regulation of herbal medicines. In doing so, MEPs have set basic quality and safety standards for herbal remedies across Europe. The new rules include a new registration system for traditional herbal medicines. These registered products will be subject to standards on the quantity and quality of their ingredients. The substances will have to prove their safety through "traditional use" which means that they must have been on the market for 30 years - 15 years of which they must have been used in Europe.

The first stages of the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive were voted on in Strasbourg with MEPs backing numerous Conservative amendments supporting essential consumer rights.

John Bowis MEP said: "Following our amendments, products already on the market should now be safeguarded. We have also opened the door that should allow small firms to continue innovating and developing new products in this market.

There have been occasions when some herbal medicinal products have been extremely dangerous so it is right to take action but it is equally right to give consumers the maximum freedom of choice to use the medicines they would like to."

Working Conditions for Temporary Workers - Van den Burg Report

MEPs, including those from the British Labour Party, supported and amended a Commission Directive on temporary workers. Conservative MEPs voted against the proposal.

The proposal claims to provide a minimum EU-wide level of protection to temporary agency workers. However, business costs will soar if, as is proposed, temps are given the same pay and conditions as full-time staff.

The CBI forecasts that around 160,000 jobs could be lost in the UK alone as a result, with nearly 60 per cent of firms offering fewer temp assignments.

Philip Bushill-Matthews MEP said: "The UK does not need this directive at all. Neither does the EU. Europe should be promoting labour flexibility, so that companies can be more responsive to market conditions, rather than placing further restrictions and burdens on businesses.

We are only in this mess because Tony Blair signed up to the Social Chapter the moment he took office. That opened the floodgates to more one-size-fits-all employment legislation that does not fit the UK at all. There have been more new employment regulations imposed on UK business in the last two years than in the previous twenty, and now thanks to Labour MEPs there are more to come."

EIB Annual Report (2001) - van den Burg Report

The European Investment Bank (EIB) now has an authorised capital of 150bn, which is used to fund projects across the EU and in applicant countries. It accounts for some 5% of total investment in the EU, generating 380,000 jobs in infrastructure and a further 40,000 in SMEs. The decision in June of this year to increase capital spending by 50% and to provide emergency flood relief was supported by the European Parliament.

State Aid - Herzog Report

The European Parliament supported this Own initiative Report which calls for a reduction in state aid (which amounted to 82bn across the EU in the year 2000), where it distorts competition. While there was welcome for the Commission's "Scoreboard" which shows the lion's share of aid going to transport, mainly railways, MEPs would still like to see more information from the Commission, enabling an effective comparative analysis of the impact of state aid to be made.

"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