EU Accession to the ECHR
The EU accession to the ECHR debate in plenary on Thursday saw a divergence in political groups, particularly it divided the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition, illustrating that there is little coherence between National and EU party policy. It was only Labour UK Members who were consistent on this issue. Part of the debate concerned the British led proposals to reform the ECHR. The United Kingdom, which holds the Presidency of the Council of Europe until May, has made proposals, together with France, to reform the European Court of Human Rights.
Human Rights in the World On Wednesday the European Parliament adopted its annual report on human rights in the world, paying close attention to EU action for the human rights of LGBT people. The report also comments on a range of new measures, including the creation of an EU Special Representative on Human Rights. In adopting the report, MEPs voted overwhelmingly to change the future direction of the EU’s human rights policy. The European Parliament adopted the report with the LGBT rights amendment was passed by 353 votes to 268 with 52 abstentions, with no Tories voting in favour of it.
When represented with the proposals on Tuesday evening, Catherine Ashton spoke about the importance of coherence for human rights between the internal and external policies of the EU, which she highlighted as an important tool for the universality of human rights.
Passenger Name Records
Put to the vote on Thursday was a new deal on the transfer of EU air passengers’ personal data to the US Department of Homeland Security. It lays down legal requirements for; inter alia, data storage periods, and the purpose of data use and data protection safeguards. The new agreement was approved by the European Parliament on Thursday.
The economy was once more extensively debated in Plenary. On Tuesday discussed were measures to help member states experiencing difficulties with their financial stability, while the following day MEPs discussed the crisis with Commission president José Manuel Barroso.
Measures to combat tax evasion in the EU, kick-start Europe’s stalled economies, improve employment rights and enhance social protection for those who work in another country were also on the agenda for Wednesday and Thursday.
New Environment Strategy
The EU’s next flagship environment strategy, the Seventh Environment Action Programme, must take steps and set targets to protect the EU’s environment said MEPs voting on a resolution on Friday. Parliament says the 7th EAP should help mainstream climate change and other environmental objectives across all policy areas, particularly in industry, transport, agriculture and fisheries.
Higher political priority should go to preserving and restoring damaged ecosystems, said Parliament in a separate resolution also adopted on Friday. As the EU failed to meet its overall biodiversity target for 2010, biodiversity conservation should now be built into key EU policies, it adds. The adopted resolution is a follow-up to the EU biodiversity strategy for 2020, as tabled by the European Commission in May 2011.
Welcoming of Croatian ObserversPresident Schulz opened the session by welcoming twelve Croatian observer MEPs. Taking part in group and committee meetings would prepare them to represent their citizens fully when Croatia joins the EU, hopefully on 1 July 2013, he said, adding that Croatia’s desire to join shows that “despite the economic crisis, the EU is still pulling together”. President Schulz noted that the European Parliament had already ratified Croatia’s EU Accession Treaty, and said that its accession would be an historic day for Croatia, the EU and the whole of the Western Balkans.