As the parliamentary year draws to a close, we are taking a look back at the EPP Group in action, reviewing a selection of its main activities, proposals and regulations that were adopted in the European Parliament.

The 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework – an investment plan for Europe

For a year, the EPP Group has been fighting to get the best out of the EU's 960 billion euro budget to ensure jobs and better economic growth for its citizens. Following extensive negotiations between the EU's institutions on the Multiannual Financial Framework for the period from 2014 to 2020, a political deal was reached just before the June Summit, establishing a real investment plan for Europe.

We needed a more flexible budget which allows every unspent Euro to go to those areas where they are most needed. Joseph Daul

Tackling youth unemployment

Six billion euros will be ploughed into combating youth unemployment, prioritising resources on regions where more than 25% of young people are out of work.

President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, stressed: “We will speed up the youth employment initiative and frontload the funds so that the initial six billion euros are invested in the following two years and not spread thinly over the full seven years of the MFF period.”

Throughout the negotiations the leaders of the largest political groups steadfastly rejected the deal by the Council to do more with less money, and their firmness paid off.

More budget flexibility to better channel money

“We couldn’t resign ourselves to a limited budget without finding a solution for optimising our investments. We needed a more flexible budget which allows every unspent Euro to go to those areas where they are most needed. Hence the flexibility to use unused margins. We could not settle for a seven-year austerity budget. Europe must be able to react quickly to the changes our continent faces. This is why the revision clause was agreed so that in 2016 the next Parliament’s voice will be heard,” testifies EPP Group Chairman Joseph Daul.

Create a liquid market for small and medium-sized enterprises, which account for 85% of all new jobs that were created in the last ten years

As a result of Parliament’s insistence, funding for Horizon 2020, the EU’s framework programme for research and innovation, Erasmus and COSME, the new programme for the Competitiveness of enterprises and SMEs, will also be frontloaded.

The European Central Bank and the EU's Investment Bank will pool together their loans, up to 100 billion euros, to create a liquid market for small and medium-sized enterprises, which account for 85% of all new jobs that were created in the last ten years.

Employment policies however remain a national competence and the EU institutions urged governments to take advantage of what's on offer and implement structural reforms in their countries as soon as possible.

A new Common Agricultural Policy

The EPP Group went on to lead the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, to make it more efficient and responsive to the current needs of the agricultural industry and citizens’ expectations, given these economic times of hardship.

The new CAP reflects the EU's strong response to the ongoing challenges of food safety and climate change, and plays a key part in promoting smart and sustainable growth and jobs in rural areas.

The new CAP reflects the EU's strong response to the ongoing challenges of food safety and climate change, and plays a key part in promoting smart and sustainable growth and jobs in rural areas.

Austrian Member Elisabeth Köstinger says: “I think it is very important to point out that rural development policy is also growth policy. We want to motivate our farmers to create new ideas on how to make cooperatives, how to carry out direct marketing. In general, what we want is to agree on a very good legislative package that would give farmers the framework to do this.”

Under the reforms, agricultural subsidies to big, industrial farms will be reduced by 30%. Some of that money will be redistributed to smaller farms, particularly those that use eco-friendly methods.

Agricultural subsidies to big, industrial farms will be reduced by 30%. Some of that money will be redistributed to smaller farms, particularly those that use eco-friendly methods.

“European farmers, all thirteen and a half million of them, are up against eight or nine big distributors who establish the prices in the market. So where I consider, and where the EPP Group considers that the Commission has not gone far enough, is in giving farmers the power to organise themselves to sell their products together, so as to stand up to these distributors, which are of course much bigger. And that requires a change to EU competition law,” says French Member Michel Dantin.

The new policy is due to come into effect in 2014 following formal adoption of the reforms later this year.

A common European Patent to stimulate a creative and innovative Europe

Up until last year it could have cost you tens of thousands of euros to patent a hot new idea, but after a 30-year deadlock all that has changed, thanks to action here at the European Parliament.

In a bid to speed up innovation in Europe, it approved Unitary Patent Protection, making it easier and cheaper for firms to compete in Europe and beyond. A Unified Patent Court was established, rules set on translating patents and litigation costs cut from tens of thousands to just a few thousand euros.

Through this reform, we can stimulate and develop this system so that our continent is always as competitive as possible. Raffaele Baldassarre

The EPP Group’s spokesperson on the issue, Raffaele Baldassarre, said a common European Patent will make the EU a more attractive place to create and innovate.

“Naturally we inserted an amendment that allows, within the regulation, reimbursement of translation costs for small and medium-size enterprises, for research centres, for universities, to favour circulation. Though this reform, we can stimulate and develop this system so that our continent is always as competitive as possible,” said Baldassarre.

Overcoming remaining barriers in the Digital Single Market

EPP Group members have been pushing to complete a fragmented Digital Single Market and use it as a tool to boost economic recovery. The Commission has since estimated that by doing so, the online Single Market could bring in 110 billion euros every year.

I want to help make our SMEs able to compete on equal terms with the big companies selling their products all over Europe on the web. Pablo Arias

Spanish Member Pablo Arias authored a report which focused on helping small and medium-sized enterprises in particular by simplifying the rules to break down national barriers to growth. According to Arias, “SMEs are being held back by market fragmentation. To give you an idea, an SME has to have 27 different websites to sell their products in the 27 Member States of the European Union, and all this in a so-called internal market. It is important that they do not feel scared about using the Internet, and my report is very clear about that. I want to help make our SMES able to compete on equal terms with the big companies selling their products all over Europe on the web.”

Strengthened passenger rights – more transparency, easier claims

If you’re planning on travelling anywhere this summer, fear not! You can now expect fairer treatment if your coach, train or flight is delayed or cancelled, or if your luggage is lost or damaged, thanks to new measures to strengthen your passenger rights, as EPP Group Coordinator for the new legislation, Mathieu Grosch, explains: “I think it is a good moment now to change some basic aspects. For instance, what is an extraordinary event? Is a strike one? YES. Now, the Commission has clarified that a strike is an extraordinary event while a technical problem on the airplane, for instance, is not. So therefore for the second one you will have compensation and for the first one no.”

The main objective is to guarantee that passengers arrive at their destination as quickly as possible.

From now on airlines are obliged to give their customers clear information on what is happening within half an hour. You have the right to cancel your travel when your trip is disrupted and any delay over five hours entitles you to be reimbursed, or re-routed, because, after all, the main objective is to guarantee that passengers arrive at their destination as quickly as possible.

The measures also include stricter sanctioning for air carriers that do not comply and clearer complaint-handling procedures. Mathieu Grosch wants to continue work on this to make it even more beneficial to fly European: “Now we want to have a regulatory body in every country, but already in the airport itself, the passenger should be able to go and claim their rights, which is not possible in every airport for the moment.”

Welcome to Croatia, our 28th Member State!

And the year finished on a high with Croatia becoming the EU’s 28th Member State on 1 July.

The 28th Member State has accomplished a lot, becoming a fully-fledged member of the biggest club of democracies just 18 years after a devastating war. As it looks ahead to a successful EU membership, it may inspire the hopes of other Western Balkan countries waiting to join this monumental union, which today represents the concerns and aspirations of 500 million people.

Five Members have become part of our Group. Andrej Plenkovic, Dubravka Suica, Ivana Maletic, Zdravka Busic and Davor Ivo Stier. We look forward to working with them until the end of this legislative term.

This parliamentary year has been one of courage, dedication and achievements. But to really get Europe safely out of the global recession there is still a long path ahead. The EPP Group will continue to attack it with integrity and conviction, ensuring more Europe, better growth and more jobs for its citizens.

In the meantime, enjoy the summer!

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