Dec 12 2011
Final Strasbourg session of 2011
MEPs will have a busy time in our final session of 2011. First of we will have to review the disastrous December European Council where UK Prime Minister David Cameron jeopardised the UK future in the European Union (EU). We will then assess the Polish Presidency which comes to an end on 01 January 2012 when Denmark takes over.
On Wednesday the 2011 Sakharov prize for freedom of thought will be awarded by President Jerzy Buzek to five “Arab Spring” activists, for their contribution to historic changes in the Arab world, at a ceremony at noon on Wednesday, 14 December, in the plenary chamber.
Increasingly we are being asked to look at the position of victims of crime and EU-wide protection for crime victims. Crime victims who are granted protection from their aggressors in one EU Member State could get similar protection if they move to another, under new rules to be voted by Parliament on Tuesday. These rules, already agreed with national governments, would protect victims of, for instance, gender violence, harassment, abduction, stalking or attempted murder. This legislation will be beneficial to women. In the EU domestic violence affects one in four women. Thus this legislation would also help towards the policy of zero violence against women and children.
We are also looking to introduce legislation to reduce wrongful arrest. A “letter of rights” to help ensure fair trials across the EU will be a step forward for justice. Anyone suspected or accused of having committed a crime in the EU would have to be promptly informed of his or her procedural rights in easy-to-understand language, under a draft law to be voted on Tuesday. Any suspect who is then arrested or detained would also have the right to a written “letter of rights”, to which MEPs added the further rights to remain silent, the right to urgent medical care and the right to contact relatives.
On the labour front we are hoping to introduce common rights and single work and residence permit for non-EU workers. Third country migrants working legally within the EU should enjoy comparable rights to those of EU nationals as regards working conditions, social security and access to public services, under a new “single permit” law to be voted on Tuesday. The draft law, already informally agreed by Parliament and the Council, would also cut red tape, by enabling foreign workers to obtain work and residence permits via a single procedure.
In an area close to my heart we will debate with Catherine Ashton on security policy and human rights. MEPs will discuss the impact of the financial crisis on the defence sector and human rights developments with EU foreign policy with High Representative Catherine Ashton on Tuesday afternoon.
Washing powders throughout the EU will need to be almost phosphate-free in future if the proposed tough limits wins the support of the European Parliament and Council.
Last but not least a report steered by my colleague Michael Cashman (West Midlands, Lab) on public access to documents, aimed at improving the transparency of the EU institutions will be debated by the Strasbourg Parliament. The aim of the report is to update and strengthen an existing regulation following the treaty of Lisbon. However the discussions between the Parliament and the Council so far have shown strongly diverging views on the way forward.
All in all a pretty tough week before we break for Xmas!