Food and feed law, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health, plant reproductive material, plant protection products
Both food and feed should be safe and wholesome. In order to meet this goal, a functioning control system must be in place along the whole food chain. Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 lays down general rules on verifying compliance with feed and food law, along with animal health and welfare rules. Overall, the current legal framework has proven to be effective in preventing and counteracting risks. However, in a global market, with agri-food chains becoming longer and more complex, the EU is exposed to new risks. Consequently, improvements in official controls along the agri-food chain have been called for. The proposed regulation revises the existing law to overcome shortcomings in its wording and application. It aims to modernise and integrate the system of official controls by harmonising the rules and ensuring a uniform approach to official controls along the food chain.
This proposal on the prevention, monitoring and control of animal diseases which are transmissible to animals or humans is extremely important for public health, as approximately 70% of our infectious diseases are common to both groups.
Many compromise amendments have been reached between the different political groups, including: a clear link between animal health and welfare (acknowledging that animals are sentient beings); empowering the Commission to adopt urgent measures to tackle diseases with a major impact on public health (with appropriate scrutiny); highlighting the growing problem of antibiotic resistance; the introduction of effective biosecurity measures along borders with third countries; mandatory registration for stray animals which can spread disease; and no repeal of recently adopted EU regulations (such as the beef labelling regulation) in order to keep these regulations under the ordinary legislative procedure.
Section I - European Parliament
The relatively modest number of amendments points to the fact that the S&D Group’s rapporteur, drafted a balanced report which recognises the achievements of the Parliament’s administration but also points to its weaknesses. The report is based on an examination of a number of documents, including the Court of Auditors’ annual report, the annual report of the European Parliament’s internal auditor and the activity reports of individual directorates general.
In the committee on budgetary control, several amendments tabled by the European People’s Party (EPP) were adopted which unfortunately focus more on political infighting before the European Parliamentary elections than on scrutinising the budget appropriately. The S&D Group will seek to amend or delete various texts which: unjustly criticise the European Parliament’s president for withholding an European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) supervisory committee report from committee members; claim that no distinction was made between the roles of the president as leader of an EU institution and as the PES (Party of European Socialists) candidate for the presidency; and call to abolish a director general post for which the appointment procedure has already been finalised.
Measures to reduce the cost of deploying high-speed electronic communications networks
The aim of this regulation is to reduce the cost of deploying high-speed electronic communication networks by providing tools for more cost-efficient physical infrastructures, reduced administrative burdens, joint use of existing infrastructures, harmonised civil engineering works and by enabling increased synergies between electronic communication network providers and companies tasked with managing public-service networks which are suitable for hosting electronic communications networks.
A satisfactory compromise text between the European Parliament and the Council has been found, resulting in a directive based on both the European Parliament’s position and the will of the member states.
European single market for electronic communications
On 11 September 2013, the Commission proposed a legislative package for a ‘connected continent: building a telecoms single market’. It aims to incentivise the sector to invest in new technologies, and adopt new business models, and to remove the obstacles to a single telecoms market. The proposal seeks to reduce the administrative burden of seeking authorisation to operate, co-ordinating radio-spectrum assignment at EU level and increasing network capacity. It will also lead to the elimination of retail roaming charges. But the proposal provoked very mixed reactions from stakeholders, who only supported some of its elements and strongly criticised the proposal's complexity, the lack of official consultation process and the rushed attempt to have it adopted in the current legislature before the next review of the framework for electronic communications.
Despite the many flaws in the proposal, the topic was too important for the Parliament to remain silent and a broad compromise was found among all the political groups on most points. The main outcomes are that all roaming charges for calls, text messages and data within the EU will disappear in December 2015; a review of wholesale charges will now happen in July 2015; improved management of radio frequencies for new mobile applications will now be possible and will allow for innovative uses of wireless broadband, protect broadcasting and stop interference when several devices are used in close proximity. However, no agreement has been found at committee level on one core issue of the proposal: net neutrality. This is the principle that all electronic communications through the internet access service are treated equally, independent of content, application, service, device, source or target.
Mid-term review of the Stockholm Programme
The Stockholm Programme is a multi-annual (2009-2014) strategy which aims to create a Europe of freedom, security and justice. The European Council adopted the Stockholm Programme in 2009 and asked that a mid-term review of its implementation be made during 2012. The most relevant point was the follow up of the Stockholm Programme and the fact that it should no longer be drawn up by Council alone, but, in the spirit of the Lisbon Treaty, in a joint exercise by the Parliament, Council and Commission. Other key points included the evaluation of criminal justice with a justice scoreboard and reference was also made to the ‘Copenhagen criteria’, whereby both candidate countries and existing member states must comply with common values.
The S&D Group collected over 77 signatures, along with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) and the Greens, for an amendment on the need to regularly assess member states’ compliance with the fundamental values of the EU. The aim of the Group is to remain firm and not to water down important references or achievements of the current legislature.
Greenhouse gas emission trading (international aviation emissions)
The international aviation emissions (ETS) ‘stop the clock’ legislation was a temporary derogation from the provisions of the Emissions Trading Standards Directive 2003/87/EC in order to facilitate progress at international level towards a global market-based measure (MBM) for aviation emissions. A new Commission proposal takes an airspace approach to the issue, under which only a specific proportion of emissions (no more than 12nM outside the European Economic Area) from flights to and from non-EU countries are covered, starting in 2014, while ‘stop the clock’ legislation is extended for another year. Flights within the EEA are fully covered.
Community framework for the nuclear safety of nuclear installations
In the aftermath of the Fukushima accident, the Commission, together with the European Nuclear Safety Regulators' Group (ENSREG), have carried out stress tests, which resulted in a number of recommendations and a suggestion to change the Nuclear Safety Directive. This proposal aims at amending, strengthening and supplementing the directive by combining technical improvements with wider safety issues such as governance, transparency and on-site preparedness and response.
The S&D Group (and the report) supported the provisions on periodic self-assessments with peer reviews as well as six-year topical peer reviews, including the provision that the subject of the first topical peer review should be decided upon within three years of the directive entering into force.
69th session of the United Nations General Assembly
The 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) begins in September 2014. This draft to the Council is the European Parliament’s annual recommendation for the UNGA. We have introduced several amendments, notably on: the participation of NGOs in the universal periodic review process (UPR) and in all major human rights sessions in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the International Criminal Court (ICC); the ratification (including all EU member states) of the Kampala amendments on the crime of aggression; the fight against torture and other forms of ill-treatment, especially against children; and the request for a definition of ‘climate refugee’.
Moreover, the S&D Group’s amendments also focus on priorities such as the fight against the death penalty; LGBTI rights; the ratification by all UN members of the UN convention against corruption and the UN convention against transnational organised crime; as well as the establishment of a UN special rapporteur on financial crime, corruption and human rights.
Statutory audits of annual accounts and consolidated accounts
The financial crisis has highlighted weaknesses in the statutory audit process, especially for public-interest entities (PIE), such as banks, insurance companies and listed companies. Given that many banks suffered huge losses from 2007 to 2009, it is difficult to understand how auditors could have given clean audit reports to their clients. Against this background, the Commission proposed both an ambitious regulation and directive in the area of statutory financial auditing of companies. The proposals lay down conditions for carrying out such audits, rules on the organisation and selection of auditors, risks of conflicts of interest which impair the independence of auditors and rules on the (European) supervision of compliance by auditors with those requirements, as well as addressing the barriers to entry into the audit market.
However, the S&D Group intends to table amendments, stressing that we want more fundamental reform. The S&D Group, the Greens and GUE-NGL will vote against the report as this reform will not improve the reliability of audit reports and will not prevent the next crisis. Today's reporting is costly, but does not provide sufficient insight into the annual accounts of listed companies. We want independent auditors to provide independent reports.