Tag Archives: MEPs

Sassoli defends MEPs position on EU budget

President David Sassoli reminded EU leaders Parliament approval is needed for the EU seven years budget (MFF) and said MEPs would not accept agreement irrelevant to the European ambitions.

Sassoli was speaking at the start of an EU Council (EUCO) aimed at finding an agreement between member states on the EU’s next long-term budget. The budget for 2021-2027 will be the first since the UK left the EU.

The speaker told the heads of state and government that Parliament was prepared to reject any agreement that did not give the EU the means to address the many challenges it faces.

“We must equip the Union with all the means necessary to address the challenges that we face together,” he said. “The first and most urgent is climate change. The Green Deal offers an ambitious plan for Europe to become the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050. Achieving this will require a major financial effort.

“We need resources to boost growth and development, and to support countries, businesses, and people through this transition. We also need to invest in research to ensure Europe is at the forefront and does not need to rely on importing new technologies to whose development it has not contributed.”

He also said that “the artificial dichotomy between net contributors and beneficiaries” should be broken. “All member states, without exception, profit from the EU.”

Parliament agreed its position on the long-term budget in 2018. Any agreement can only come into effect if approved by the Parliament.

EU-Vietnam free trade approved

The EU-Vietnam trade agreement, the “most modern and ambitious agreement ever concluded between the EU and a developing country”, got Parliament’s support on February 12. (Image: illustration)

These state-of-the-art agreements just adopted present a unique opportunity to further the EU’s goal to become a geopolitical player that defends multilateral trade, rejects protectionism, and raises labour, environmental and human rights standards worldwide. The deals will boost prosperity, create new and better paid jobs, cut costs for companies big and small, and give them better access to each other’s markets” rapporteur Geert Bourgeois (ECR, BE) said.

MEPs gave their consent to the free trade agreement by 401 votes, 192 votes against and 40 abstentions. The “most modern, comprehensive and ambitious agreement ever concluded between the EU and a developing country” will contribute to setting high standards in the region, and could lead to a future region-to-region trade and investment agreement, said the Parliament, in an accompanying resolution adopted by 416 votes for, 187 against and 44 abstentions. The agreement is “a strong signal in favour of free, fair and reciprocal trade, in times of growing protectionist tendencies and serious challenges to multilateral rules-based trade”, MEPs stressed.

The agreement will remove virtually all customs duties between the two parties over the next ten years, including on Europe’s main export products to Vietnam: machinery, cars, and chemicals. It extends to services such as banking, maritime transport and postal, where EU companies will have better access. Companies will also be able to bid on public tenders put out by the Vietnamese government and several cities, including Hanoi. The deal also safeguards 169 emblematic European products.

In addition, the agreement is an instrument to protect the environment and to sustain social progress in Vietnam, including labour rights. It commits Vietnam to apply the Paris Agreement. Vietnam committed to ratify two bills as requested by Parliament, one on the abolition of forced labour, the other on freedom of association, by 2020 and 2023, respectively.

The trade deal can be suspended in case of breaches of human rights.

MEPs stand for Status of Women

MEPs set their priorities for the upcoming UN Commission on the Status of Women
Call for the EU to take strong action against all measures undermining women’s rights.

Ahead of the 64th UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW64) in New York in March, Parliament spelled out its priorities on February 13.
In a resolution adopted by 463 votes in favour, 108 against and 50 abstentions, MEPs deplore that many of the challenges identified by the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 25 years ago are still relevant today.

They call on the Council to ensure a unified EU position and act to counter the backlash against gender equality and all measures undermining women’s rights.

Setting out their priorities for the upcoming UNCSW session in March, MEPs call for measures boosting women’s economic and political empowerment:
greater inclusion of women in the labour market;
more support for female entrepreneurship;
close the gender pay gap (16%) and pension gap (37%);
favour domestic and care responsibilities being shared equally;
promote education for girls and encourage greater participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers;
promote gender-balanced representation at all levels of decision-making, and
unblock the “Women on Boards Directive” in the Council.

To step up protection of women, the EU should:
urgently conclude the EU ratification of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women;
allocate adequate resources to combat gender-based violence and protect victims, and
protect and promote the rights of groups experiencing multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination, e.g. women with disabilities, women of colour, migrant women and LGBTIQ people.

The EU must act globally by promoting and supporting the inclusion of a specific gender chapter in all future EU trade and investment agreements;
condemning the US ‘global gag’ rule, which cuts US funding for international organisations if they provide or lobby for abortion services;
significantly supporting funding for sexual and reproductive health and rights, and
promoting greater participation of women in climate action, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and mediation processes.
Background
The Beijing Declaration was adopted by the UN at the end of the 4th World Conference on Women on 15 September 1995 to promulgate a set of principles on the equality of men and women. The Platform for Action called for strategic actions in areas such as economy, education, health, violence and decision-making

MEPs oppose cats and dogs illegal trade

MEPs want action to tackle the illegal trade in pets in order to better protect animals and punish rule breakers.(Image: social media)
Many pets are traded illegally across the EU generating high profit at a low risk, often providing a profitable source of income for criminal networks.

To clamp down on the illegal trade in pets, the environment and public health committee called for an EU-wide action plan, tougher sanctions and mandatory registration in a resolution adopted on 21 January.

Dogs and cats are the most popular companion animals in the EU and many of us consider them as part of the family. Most EU citizens care about the well-being of their furry friends: 74% believe that companion animals should be better protected.

Trafficking can lead to poor breeding conditions, puppies and kittens being separated from their mothers too early and long journeys under stressful conditions, often without food and water.

It can also pose risks to public health as illegally bred pets are often not vaccinated and can spread rabies, parasites and infectious diseases to humans and livestock. Consumers attracted by low prices often buy companion animals online without being aware of the risks associated.

Parliament called for a compatible EU system of pet registration in a resolution adopted in 2016. The resolution adopted on 21 January call on the European Commission to come up with a proposal for an EU-wide mandatory system for the identification and registration of cats and dogs, more controls and tougher sanctions against those supplying false pet passports. It also calls for a common EU definition of puppy and kitten farms , as differences in animal welfare standards lead to price differences that can be exploited by illegal breeders.

In addition EU breeding rules for pets are needed while EU countries should be encouraged to put in place registers of authorised breeders and sellers. People should be encourage to adopt, rather than buy, companion animals.

Ansip: Artificial intelligence challenges

Ahead of the publication of the Commission’s White Paper on Artificial Intelligence, Renew Europe is the first political group to present a comprehensive vision about the use of AI in Europe, considering the key political implications for the current legislative period. The position paper published today will be presented at our Group meeting to European Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager and Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton, who are overseeing the continent’s digital transition and enhancing Europe’s technological sovereignty.

Defining a common European approach to AI is necessary to avoid that Member States take national measures that will result in a fragmented European framework instead of a single market. As we know, AI is all about data. The availability of data is essential for training AI systems. Making more data available and improving the way in which data is used is crucial for tackling societal challenges, contributing to greener, healthier and more prosperous societies” Andrus ANSIP (pictured), Member of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection said.

New group firmly believes that AI can make a huge contribution to help improving the lives of European citizens and fostering prosperity within the EU. Nevertheless, differing national legislations would prevent us from reaching this goal. Therefore MEPs propose investment capacities, data infrastructure, research, and the definition of common ethical norms to be regulated on the European level. Their goal is to establish a framework, which enables the development of trustworthy, ethically responsible and technically robust AI. This should include legislative actions where needed, starting with mandatory measures to prevent practices that could undermine fundamental rights and freedoms.

RENEW EUROPE position: https://reneweuropegroup.eu/en/news/1427-renew-europe-position-paper-on-artificial-intelligence/

New EU enlargement “methodology”

On 5 February, Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi has presented proposals for a revised enlargement “methodology” to the foreign affairs MEPs. The new “methodology” surfaced after the Council’s reluctance to agree on opening accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania and is expected to “enhance credibility” and give ‘”new impetus” to the enlargement process.

The European Commission put forward a proposal to drive forward the EU accession process, by making it more credible, with a stronger political steer, more dynamic and predictableVárhelyi announced.

The European Union enlargement to the Western Balkans is a top priority for the Commission“, – Olivér Várhelyi continued. “We are working on three tracks: Firstly, today we propose concrete steps on how to enhance the accession process. While we are strengthening and improving the process, the goal remains accession and full EU membership. Secondly, and in parallel, the Commission stands firmly by its recommendations to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania and will soon provide an update on the progress made by these two countries. Thirdly, in preparation of the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb in May, the Commission will come forward with an economic and investment development plan for the region.”

“A more credible process: The accession process needs to build on trust, mutual confidence and clear commitments by the European Union and the Western Balkans. Credibility should be reinforced through an even stronger focus on fundamental reforms, starting with the rule of law, the functioning of democratic institutions and public administration as well as the economy of the candidate countries. When partner countries meet the objective criteria, the Member States shall agree to move forward to the next stage of the process, respecting the merits-based approach.

“A stronger political steer: The political nature of the accession process requires a stronger political steer and engagement at the highest levels. The Commission proposes to increase the opportunities for high level political and policy dialogue, through regular EU-Western Balkans summits and intensified ministerial contacts. Moreover, Member States should be involved more systematically in monitoring and reviewing the process. All bodies under Stabilisation and Association Agreement will focus much more on the key political issues and reforms, while Inter-Governmental Conferences will provide stronger political steering for the negotiations.

“A more dynamic process: To inject further dynamism into the negotiating process, the Commission proposes to group the negotiating chapters in six thematic clusters: fundamentals; internal market; competitiveness and inclusive growth; green agenda and sustainable connectivity; resources, agriculture and cohesion; external relations. Negotiations on each cluster will be open as a whole – after fulfilling the opening benchmarks – rather than on an individual chapter basis. Negotiations on the fundamentals will be open first and closed last and the progress on these will determine the overall pace of negotiations. The timeframe between opening a cluster and closing the individual chapters should be limited, preferably within a year fully dependant on the progress of the reforms.

“A more predictable process: The Commission will provide greater clarity on what the EU expects of enlargement countries at the different stages of the process. It will make clearer what the positive consequences progress on reforms can bring, and what will the negative consequences will be when there is no progress.

“To encourage demanding reforms, the Commission will better define the conditions set for candidates to progress and will provide clear and tangible incentives of direct interest to citizens. Incentives could include accelerated integration and “phasing-in” to individual EU policies, the EU market and EU programmes – while ensuring a level playing field – as well as increased funding and investments. The more candidates advance in their reforms, the more they will advance in the process. Equally, the Commission proposes more decisive measures proportionally sanctioning any serious or prolonged stagnation or backsliding in reform implementation and meeting the requirements of accession process. Negotiations could be put on hold in certain areas, or in the most serious cases, suspended overall, and already closed chapters could be re-opened; benefits of closer integration, like access to EU programmes, could be paused or withdrawn, and the scope and intensity of EU funding could be adjusted downward.

https://twitter.com/vonderleyen/status/1225009804323819522?s=21

“The Commission hopes the Member States will endorse the proposal, in parallel with the opening of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, ahead of the European Union-Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb on 6-7 May. For the summit the Commission will consider how to bring forward investment, socio- economic integration and the rule of law for the Western Balkans region.

https://twitter.com/reneweurope/status/1225059189187321863?s=21

MEPs give consent to Withdrawal Agreement

In Brussels Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have overwhelmingly gave their terms of the UK’s departure from the EU.

MEPs ratified the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement by 621 votes to 49 following an debate highly charged with sentiments and vivid human emotions.

After the vote, MEPs marked the UK’s exit by singing Auld Lang Syne, is a Scots-language poem written by poet Robert Burns in 1788, and set to the tune of a traditional folk song. It is well known in many countries, especially in the English-speaking world, its traditional use being to bid farewell to the old year at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. By extension, it is also sung at funerals, graduations, and as a farewell or ending to other occasions.

Several British MEPs said they hoped the UK would return one day although Eurosceptics, including the Brexit Party’s Nigel Farage, used their final speeches to phrase the departure from the EU.

The UK is due to leave the bloc at 23:00 GMT on Friday. The Withdrawal agreement (WA) is expected to be signed off in Brussels later.

Some MEPs have marked the occasion with songs – others wore “always united” scarves. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen told the UK: “We will always love you.”

Ratification of the Withdrawal agreement, agreed by the UK and EU in October, was not in doubt after it easily cleared its committee stage last week.

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