EPP TV Plenary Reports
The European Parliament debated the French President’s future-minded EU reform ideas with the EPP Group calling for greater security for Europeans. Parliament approved legislation to intensify efforts in cracking down on terrorist financing through money-laundering and organised crime. MEPs approved a Resolution calling for an independent probe into the murder of an investigative journalist and his partner in February, the second such killing in the EU in six months. And MEPs debated what action to take in the wake of the Facebook scandal in which the firm Cambridge Analytica accessed millions of users’ data for political intelligence purposes.
Antonio Tajani MEP was chosen during this plenary session as the EPP Group's candidate for the post of President of the European Parliament. “It is our goal to build bridges and not to use the President’s office for political purposes”, emphasised Group Chairman Manfred Weber MEP following the results of the internal elections. The Parliament took a step further towards better, faster and cheaper railway services in Europe, approved the Ecuador-EU/Colombia & Peru Trade Agreement, and set the foreign and security policy priorities for Europe. The EPP Group Chairman urged the EU Heads of State and Government to act on Syria stressing that appeasement with Russia is not an option.
EPP Group candidate for the post of the President of the European Parliament
The EPP Group elected Antonio Tajani this week as its candidate for the post of President of the European Parliament.
“I am proud that we have designated our nominee after a democratic, open and transparent process”, said Manfred Weber MEP, EPP Group Chairman.
“I would like to thank Mairead McGuinness, Alain Lamassoure and Alojz Peterle wholeheartedly for participating in this primary and for keeping democracy alive. Our Group is now fully united behind our candidate. As the largest group in the European Parliament, we take our responsibility very seriously and want to make sure that Europe delivers. This is why we see no alternative to cooperation between pro-European forces inside our House."
“With his experience, Antonio Tajani will be a bridge builder between the political forces inside our House and a strong voice outside.”
Antonio Tajani (63 years old) has been a Member of the European Parliament since 1994. He was Vice-President of the European Commission from 2008 until 2014, first as Commissioner for Transport (2008-10), then as Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship (2010-14). He became the First Vice-President of the European Parliament in 2014 and has been Vice-President of the European People's Party since 2002.
The EPP Group candidates for the posts of Vice-Presidents of the European Parliament are: Rainer Wieland, Mairead McGuinness, Ramon Luis Valcarcel Siso and Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz.
The EPP Group candidates for the posts of Quaestors of the European Parliament are: Andrey Kovatchev and Elisabeth Morin-Chartier.
The elections for Parliament's Presidency will take place mid-January 2017 during the first plenary session in Strasbourg.
Debate on the preparation of the European Council meeting on 15-16 December
"Europe is absent. The international community has failed in Syria”, said Manfred Weber MEP, the EPP Group Chairman, during the plenary debate in the European Parliament ahead of this week's European Council.
“Hundreds of thousands of civilians, women and children are experiencing hell on earth in Aleppo right now. At the European Council meeting this week, Europe has to act by making sure that humanitarian aid and assistance gets to the people on the ground. We also need to improve the reception of refugees in Europe”, he said.
“We need to state very clearly that the situation in Aleppo only developed the way it did because of the Russian bombing of women and children. President Putin has blood on his hands. Therefore appeasement with Russia is not an option. We therefore support the extension of sanctions to Russia.”
On Turkey, Manfred Weber expressed solidarity with the victims of the recent attacks in Istanbul: “We are reaching out and want to cooperate with Turkey, in particular in the fight against terror. But it is clear that Turkey is going in the wrong direction on many fronts. This is why the accession negotiations with Turkey should be suspended.”
On the situation in Europe, Manfred Weber stressed the need to avoid blockades preventing Europe from delivering. “Now is not the time for party political fights. We have made a lot of progress in the past two and a half years because the two biggest parties in the European Parliament have worked together. The European Parliament should be proud of its work.”
“We don’t want to give power to the populists and extremists in this House”, Manfred Weber concluded.
Modernisation of Copyright Rules
A modernisation of copyright rules to fit the digital age is probably the single most important reform we can envisage to make a worthy living for our many artists, creators and designers in the cultural and creative sector”, said Co-Rapporteur Christian Ehler MEP before the adoption of a joint initiative Report from the Industry and Culture Committees of the European Parliament.
The value of cultural and creative works has been diverted away from the users, rights holders, artists and producers, largely to the benefit of platform operators. This has to change.
“The transfer of value has created an inefficient and unfair market and threatens the long-term health of the EU’s cultural and creative sectors and the success of the Digital Single Market. This unjust situation has to change. The YouTubes and Googles of this world have to stop hiding behind the safe harbour provisions of the E-Commerce Directive”, continued Ehler.
The Report is thus the very first attempt to deal with the issue and come up with a coherent policy for the big and growing part of the EU economy that consists of cultural and creative industries comprising everything from architecture to artistic crafts to movies, television and video games, fashion, music, books etc.
“We have designed a blueprint and a vision for the sector’s future, a vision that will help to foster growth, unlock the innovative potential of the sector and ensure a balanced legal framework for creators and their partners and consumers alike”, said Ehler.
Besides the very important issue of a copyrights reform, it touches on combating counterfeits in the fashion industry, education and training the sector, access to finance and preservations of skills - the European savoir-faire in creative industries.
As it is, the three million enterprises in the creative industries sector provide more than 12 million full-time jobs to Europe, which means that no less that 7.5 percent of the EU workforce is engaged in this sector. The turnover amounts to €1500 billion, while the added value is approximately €509 billion. In fact, it is bigger than both the automotive production and chemical production in the EU.
Fundamental Rights in the EU in 2015
"This Report is a good basis for guaranteeing the rights of vulnerable groups, such as people with disabilities, the elderly, minorities, children and women”, said Jószef Nagy MEP, soon after the vote on the European Parliament Resolution addressing the key fundamental rights challenges in the European Union in 2015, notably in the fields of migration, protecting children and the online environment. The European Parliament approved the Report by a large majority.
The Rapporteur said: "Numerous, unsolved problems Europe-wide cause discontent among the public and fuel extremism. We call on the EU and its Member States to provide more help to those in need, show more understanding towards minorities and ensure that institutions work fairly. With regard to the security and migration crisis, we ask for reasonable solidarity and responsibility, more cooperation and effective protection of our external borders."
The Resolution calls on EU governments to guarantee that reception facilities do not deprive people of their fundamental rights to dignified living conditions and to pay special attention to the needs of vulnerable groups, such as asylum seekers with special needs and women and children, in particular those who are on their own.
MEPs also included a list of measures that can protect children from trafficking and other abuses. They deplore the “increasing levels of hate speech from within certain institutions, political parties and media organisations” and call on the EU to set an example by “opposing hate speech within the institutions”.
"This Report is an achievement in itself as we reached exceptional compromises. It is very difficult to find the balance between freedom and security, the border line between hate speech and freedom of speech, but we managed to define the biggest threats to democracy”, concluded the MEP.
Energy Union Package
“Increasing competitiveness and strengthening the weight of industry in the EU economy has to go hand-in-hand with our climate and energy objectives and should be further strengthened in the run-up to 2030”, said Krišjānis Kariņš MEP, the EPP Group's Spokesman in the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, in relation to the European Commission's statement on 'Clean Energy for All'.
“We also want to get the best deal for our consumers, which means that we need to remove barriers and market distortions in the electricity market to increase competition in Europe”, he added.
The technologies needed to enhance energy efficiency will provide for a lot of job creation and increases in the competitiveness of industry in the European Union - an aspect that is very important for the EPP Group.
“The Commission approach of putting energy efficiency first is the right one. Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the increased target of 30% increase in energy efficiency will help us to achieve our commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement”, said Peter Liese MEP, EPP Group Spokesman in the EP’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.
He says that it is better to spend the money on our innovative industry and SMEs than to send it to Putin or the oil sheikhs.
“And I welcome the balanced approach on Ecodesign. It is fully in line with the EPP Group priorities that the Commission doesn't regulate shower heads and toasters but that, on other devices, energy savings are possible without any loss of comfort for consumers”, Liese concluded.
4th Railway Package
A step further towards better, faster and cheaper railway services in Europe was taken on Wednesday after the European Parliament adopted the 4th railway legislative package. The new reforms consist of market-opening for new competitors, fair and independent governance, higher safety standards and oversight and a significant reduction in unnecessary bureaucracy and administrative burdens.
The EPP Group Transport Spokesman and Rapporteur, Wim van de Camp MEP, said: "This vote is a cautious but positive step towards a genuine European railway area where the passenger comes first. Rail passengers are set to gain from better services at lower prices due to increased competition."
The EPP Group’s Shadow Rapporteurs, Andor Deli MEP and Markus Ferber MEP, emphasised the importance of the next ten years for the success of European railways: "Despite increasing competition for freight within Europe, we still lack cross-border connections between cities and regions for passengers. If rail wants to catch up with low-cost airlines it needs to make better use of the limited investments available and implement these new rules urgently and ambitiously", they stressed.
A freer market also means less subsidies and more transparent procedures when awarding contracts to service providers. "We are finally pushing back the sector’s dependence on state subsidies by setting rules on compensation, demanding more transparency and including objective pro-traveller criteria, like punctuality or travel comfort, in the public tendering procedures used in the sector", Van de Camp concluded.
Foreign and Security Policy for Europe (CFSP)
The EU is surrounded by serious foreign policy conflicts that have direct and serious consequences for the security and well-being of European citizens, whether in the form of terrorism, massive refugee flows or disinformation campaigns aimed at dividing our societies. The Report on the Implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, that was voted on Wednesday, emphasises the EU's Global Strategy.
"The last light of hope is dying out in Aleppo. Despite all the efforts deployed so far, the EU has been absent and our High Representative has been working hard, only to conclude that, if the policy of the carrots hasn’t worked so far, neither have the sticks brought their effect", said Elmar Brok MEP, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and author of the Report on the Implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. “It will be up to the European Council at its upcoming summit to show the way forward in terms of the Common Foreign and Security Policy", he insisted.
"The passivity that we often showed is no longer permitted. 70% - or even more - of European citizens claim that more Europe is needed when it comes to security. It is now important to change the mindset of the Member States so that they become more favourable to joint diplomacy, which would enable them to act together, and more efficiently. It is the Member States, not EU citizens, that have been blocking this development so far”, insisted Elmar Brok.
As the lines between external and internal threats become more and more blurred, the EPP Group believes that the EU’s external action can only work if based on the three pillars: Defence, Development and Diplomacy – defined as the three 'Ds'.
“The migratory movements which were preoccupying us continue; in Europe itself, violations of international rights are being committed in a war-like way, as we have witnessed in Ukraine. In the Mediterranean, development problems are at the origin of growing insecurity and of a growing number of people wanting to leave. It has become evident that Russia’s behaviour is contrary to international law, including as regards the US Presidential campaign, which in turn undermines the credibility of NATO itself. This implies that we need to develop our own defence capabilities and be able to take over from NATO if the latter appears unable to function as it should", added Brok.
“Development is a condition for security, but only when stability and the rule of law are granted. For this, we need to strengthen our cooperation in the field of security and defence. Member States need to better spend money through creating synergies, also in terms of defence research. I hope that the developments that we have witnessed over recent years can be translated into concrete decisions at the upcoming Council meeting”, he said.
“It is about nothing more than giving EU citizens the security they aspire to, to confront the fears fuelled by populists. As democrats, we need to provide security based on development and on human rights”, he stressed.
Ecuador EU/Colombia and Peru Trade Agreement
MEPs adopted a Report that backs the accession of Ecuador to the Trade Agreement between the EU and its Member States, on the one part, and Colombia and Peru, on the other part. The EPP Group believes that Ecuador's accession to the Trade Agreement should be a step forward in the alliance with important and fast-growing countries in a region that is turning more and more to Asia and the Pacific.
Support for victims of Thalidomide
A medicine called Thalidomide that was used in the late 1950s and early 1960s in some European countries caused malformations in newborns. MEPs debated measures to support the victims of Thalidomide at European level this week in plenary.
Improving Paediatric Research
"Every year in Europe, 6000 children die of cancer. Research in the field of paediatrics, especially on childhood cancer, remains far too sparse. In the 10 years since the entry-into-force of the 2006 Paediatric Medicines Regulations, only two anti-cancer drugs have come onto the market. This situation is no longer sustainable and we ask the European Commission to improve the current legislation", said Françoise Grossetête MEP, following the adoption of a Resolution on the subject in the European Parliament plenary session.
While the European Commission is due to publish a report on the implementation of the 2006 Paediatric Medicines Regulations in 2017, Françoise Grossetête wants it to act as soon as possible: “I have seen too many parents who have lost their children for lack of treatments, even though they are suffering from diseases that can be treated in adults."
The Resolution, backed from the beginning by the EPP Group, promotes various concrete proposals to the European Commission, including the review of the many exemptions that often prevent laboratories from their obligations to carry out 'Paediatric Investigation Plans'. "The implementation of these plans, which was made mandatory by the 2006 Regulations, is not respected because of rigid procedures, the narrowness of the market and the complexity of science", explained Grossetête.
To reverse this trend, MEPs are also calling on the European Commission to put in place a genuine incentive system for research that punishes industrials who do not play ball. This system should also make it possible to encourage laboratories, via tax incentives or extensions of patent protection for example, to develop only paediatric indications that are not necessarily 'modelled' on adult products.
Emissions Trading System (ETS)
"We want a balanced reform of the Emissions Trading System (ETS) - the necessary ambitions to guarantee the implementation of the Paris Agreement, while at the same time, sufficient protection for those industrial sectors that are exposed to fierce international competition. These guarantees are included in the package adopted by the European Parliament’s Environment Committee. It strikes the right balance between climate efforts on the one hand, and jobs and competitiveness on the other hand”, said Ivo Belet MEP, who is in charge of the ETS dossier for the Environment Committee on behalf of the EPP Group, following the adoption by the committee of its position on the ETS reform this week.
Belet continued: “A well-functioning ETS is the best incentive for our industry to reduce emissions gradually and to make the switch to clean energy and production. What we need is a realistic, feasible approach that can count on broad support in Parliament so that the EP can be a strong partner in the trilogue negotiations with the Council of Ministers.”
Giovanni La Via MEP, Chairman of the Environment Committee, added: “Following the European Commission’s proposal, and the 650 amendments tabled to it, the Environment Committee delivered a strong signal to the Council. This was an ambitious, yet balanced vote, and the EPP Group had a strong say, thanks to the hard work of our Shadow Rapporteur and Spokesman. We need to implement the Paris Agreement and meet our climate targets without endangering the competitiveness of our industries.”
Peter Liese MEP, EPP Group Spokesman in the Environment Committee, added: "Ambitious climate policy combined with the appropriate protection of industry against competitors from third countries is the right mix to achieve a competitive low carbon economy in 2050." Liese particularly welcomed the innovation fund: "It will help industry develop new low-carbon technologies and innovation in energy-intensive industries."
The plenary vote on the post-2020 ETS reform is scheduled for February.
Angela Kaladjis - EPP Group Press and Communications Service