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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 (17-20 December 2002)

Classification and Hierarchy of Acts in the EU - Bourlanges Report

The European Parliament supported proposals to overhaul the names for the various types of EU law.

The key themes behind the proposed changes are "simplification, democratisation and specialisation" and the basic rule would be "one act, one procedure, one name", entailing a classification of EU acts by function: constitutional, legislative and implementation.

Prosecution of War Crimes - Kirkhope Report

The European Parliament has called for amendments to the Danish Presidency's proposal on the investigation and prosecution of inter alia war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Contrary to the Danish proposal, the Parliament has called for the initiative to not include terrorism, since terrorism cannot be considered as the same as war crimes and therefore merits a separate decision. Instead, the report defines the scope to include genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined in the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Timothy Kirkhope MEP said: "My report represents a significant step forward in our efforts to obtain justice for those who are persecuted in times of war, but it does this in such a way as to respect Member States' own legal traditions and sovereignty. No new European bodies and no harmonised penalties are proposed. It is possible to achieve results by co-operation not harmonisation and I hope that my report will lead the way in this area."

Co-operation on Disqualifications - Sousa Pinto Report

The European Parliament objected to a proposal by the Danish Presidency to increase co-operation between Member States with regard to disqualifications - in particular disqualifications imposed as part of a judgement or as a corollary of a criminal conviction (with the exception of driving disqualifications). The aim of the Danish initiative is to restrict convicted persons' access to employment in any Member State.

The report, passed by MEPs, reflects disappointment that Denmark confined itself to presenting an initiative aimed merely at enabling the Member States to exchange details on disqualifications, which will not bring about any progress in the fight against organised crime, nor in the application of mutual recognition of court decisions in criminal matters.

Timothy Kirkhope MEP said: "Conservative MEPs do not believe that mutual recognition is necessary in this field. Disqualifications should remain a matter for intergovernmental co-operation. As such, we voted in favour of the rapporteur's suggestion (i.e. to reject the Council proposal) but for different reasons than those given by the rapporteur in his Explanatory Statement."

Foot and Mouth disease - Wolfgang Kreissl-Dorfler Report

The European Parliament overwhelmingly supported the conclusions of the year long Inquiry into the Foot and Mouth outbreak which calls for compensation to be extended beyond the farming sector. The report states that:

"It is unacceptable that only farmers - in whose interest the non-vaccination policy is being pursued - should receive compensation under Decision 90/424/EEC for livestock lost in an FMD outbreak while other farmers and those in other sectors of the economy - particularly tourism and sport - are compelled to foot the bill for their own losses arising from this policy. The rules on compensation need to be reviewed in light of this."

Among the report's other findings is the following:

"it is doubtful whether the contiguous cull strategy was really responsible for curbing the epidemic";

"bureaucratic and formalistic procedures…delays in decision-making and carrying out measures by the authorities, particularly in connection with the disposal of animal carcasses, the lack of effective contingency plans, inadequately informed veterinary staff. Staff shortages at the locally established disease control units, and violations of animal welfare legislation during culls...These shortcomings and the sometimes inadequate information policy caused considerable stress among those concerned... In individual cases, it was reported that farmers who were affected had been intimidated and pressurised in connection with the culls".

Neil Parish MEP said: "Our rural economy was devastated by the outbreak and this report says so. It shames the government and though compensation will be little to those lives destroyed by the handling of the crisis, it will at least go some way to recognising their plight.

The report, coupled with today's vote, sends out a clear message - that the government's handling of the outbreak was a shambles. They got it wrong and our farmers have had to pay the price for their failure. The report confirms what we and the farming community have known since the outbreak - that this Labour Government is supremely arrogant, inefficient and needlessly made a bad situation much, much, worse."

Complaint - Lambert Report

The European Parliament supported the Ombudsman's move to prevent anti-discriminatory employment practices by the Commission.

The Commission had been preventing national experts seconded to the Commission from working on a part-time basis. The report states that statistics show that there is a significant higher proportion of women who wish to work on a part-time rather than full-time basis and that preventing seconded experts from working part-time is clearly discriminatory.

Roy Perry MEP said: "The EU likes to pass laws imposing non-discriminatory practices on employers across the Union, and they are right to do so, but they should also set a good example in their own employment practices. We fully support the Ombudsman in his move to get the Commission to practice what it preaches."

Complaint "Statewatch" - Astrid Thors Report

The European Parliament also backed moves by the Ombudsman to make the Council honour commitments it has made towards greater transparency. In particular, the Council has agreed to make a register of documents, referred to in arriving at a decision, more freely available.

Roy Perry MEP said: "Openness and transparency is an important ingredient in democracy and we congratulate the Ombudsman in pushing the Council of Ministers to be more open in its dealings with citizens. We are pleased that in this case the Council has responded positively and agreed to make registers of documents referred to in arriving at a decision, more freely available. Without accurate registers of documents it is difficult to know what is going on. This is pushing Europe further down the American route of freedom of access and we applaud that."

The Movement of Sheep and Goats - Jackson Report

The European Parliament approved a Commission proposal on the reinforcement of controls on the movement of sheep and goats. The purpose of the Commission proposal is to reinforce the controls on intra-EU trade in sheep and goats so as to align these requirements to those approved for animal species susceptible to the same diseases. This proposal is part of a package of the Commission's legislative activities to prevent the spread of major infectious diseases, if they were to occur in the EU.

Budget 2003 - Farm report

MEPs followed the advice of the Budgets Committee and approved the budget for 2003 which stands at €99.68bn.

Flexibility Instruments - Colom i Naval Report

Parliament approved the allocation of €27 million for the reconversion of the Spanish and Portuguese fishing fleets, following the failure to reach a fisheries agreement with Morocco. The total compensation figure comes to some €197 million. Conservatives voted against the proposal.

Human Blood and Blood Components - Nistico Report

Parliament gave its approval to a directive setting standards of quality and safety for the collection, testing, processing, storage and distribution of human blood.

The proposal, which includes the requirement for donors to be examined by qualified health professionals, aims to increase public confidence in the safety of blood and blood products.

John Bowis MEP said: "Patients in the UK need to know that the blood that they are getting is both safe and secure. This proposal will go some way to ensuring a safe supply of blood across the European Union, and to restoring public confidence in this vital service."

Dangerous Substances - Ries Report

Parliament voted to endorse new legislation that will ban two chemicals which are currently used widely to fire-proof furniture, upholstery and electrical appliances but which have been found to harm human health and the environment.

The provisions of the new directive were agreed in conciliation negotiations between Parliament and Council after Parliament held out at second reading to extend the ban on the flame-retardant chemical pentaBDE which was originally proposed by the Commission to cover the related substance octaBDE and to restrict the use of decaBDE.

Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment - Florence Report

MEPs supported proposals designed to encourage recycling of electronic equipment.

Member States will in future have to recycle used printers, computers and other electrical items, instead of disposing them via landfill. In a separate victory for consumers, the new laws will also make it illegal for companies to put smart chips in ink cartridges for computer printers which prevent them being refilled.

Robert Goodwill MEP said: "This is great news for the environment, but the British Government must act now to avoid another fiasco like the fridge mountain.

Britain has no choice but to catch up with the rest of Europe and make a concerted effort to recycle these products. The British Government must make sure that local authorities have the necessary information and resources to deal with these new recycling needs.

On a separate note, consumers who are fed up with being ripped off when they need to replace the ink cartridges in their computer printers will be pleased with the requirement, pushed through at the eleventh hour by MEPs, to outlaw this practice which is both restrictive and environmentally unfriendly."

Restrictions on Use of Hazardous Substances - Florence Report

This agreement with the European Council relates to the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment and recommends that from 1 July 2006 certain substances be banned in new electrical equipment. This ban applies to lead, mercury, cadmium, polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE).

Access to Environmental Information - Eija-Riitta Anneli Korhola Report

Parliament voted to approve the agreement reached between Parliament and the European Council on a new directive that will give the public easier access to information on environmental matters held by public authorities and will improve the quality of the information supplied.

The original proposal was of particular concern to the Meteorological Office and Ordinance Survey in the UK, as they rely on charging fees to finance the cost of their operations and the report as drafted would have made all this type of environmental information public property. Conservative amendments were accepted by the Committee to allow these services to continue to charge for this information. The European Parliament supported the proposal that as a starting point, information should be provided for free but that charges, limited to "a reasonable amount", may be levied. A market-based charge can be made for information provided on a commercial basis.

Robert Goodwill MEP said: "Whilst we support moves to make as much information on the environment available to citizens free of charge, this should not jeopardise the very collection of this information. Without our amendments the UK Met office would have either been forced out of business or made to rely on the tax payer to fund its activities."

EC/Hong Kong agreement - Watson Report

Although unhappy with some aspects of the agreement negotiated between the European Commission and the Chinese Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong on the return of illegal immigrants, the European Parliament gave its approval to the agreement.

Parliament considers that the human rights clause is too weak, as it does not refer explicitly to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the 1951 Geneva Convention. Nevertheless, it was prepared to approve the agreement as there is only a small number of illegal immigrants from Hong Kong in the EU and visa requirements for Hong Kong citizens have been abolished.

Timothy Kirkhope MEP said: "Given the special nature of our relations with Hong Kong, Conservative MEPs believe that this is a necessary measure and therefore voted in favour of the report."

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