European Investment Bank annual report 2012
The European Investment Bank is a key player in supporting the European economy, boosting growth and creating jobs. It is a vital instrument to achieve the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy, such as building infrastructure to drive growth, cutting-edge innovation and competitiveness.
Every year the European Parliament scrutinises the banking activities of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and its activity, financial and statistical reports. In this report, the rapporteur focused on the EIB’s governance, compliance and control framework, on strengthening support for small businesses, on its contribution to EU external policies and on its co-operation with other international financial institutions, including issues of transparency and non-co-operative jurisdictions.
Sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality
This report on prostitution and sexual exploitation is based on the directives on victims of violence and human trafficking. According to several reports approximately 40-42 million people are involved in prostitution globally and around 96% of the prostitutes are women. The first Eurostat report with official data on prostitution was published in April 2013 and it focused on human trafficking in the EU between 2008 and 2010. It found that 62% of the trafficked women are victims of sexual exploitation and that many of the trafficked women come from within the EU. Furthermore, prostitution is connected with organised crime, and is second only to drugs in its scope and according to the Havoscope website, yields revenue of approximately $186 billion per year worldwide.
This report is trying to change the perspective on prostitution from the supply to the demand side and therefore endorses the Nordic model of criminalising the client rather than the prostitute, who should have all adequate help and should not be condemned or stigmatised when often suffering from trauma, drug or alcohol addiction and facing a higher mortality rate than women in general. Programmes to help women to escape from prostitution should be developed.
Manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products
Following the plenary vote on the Commission proposal as amended in October 2013, the rapporteur sought a mandate to start negotiations with the Council. This request was approved by a vast majority and the report was referred back to the environment committee. A series of informal trilogues were held with a view to agreeing a compromise text. Negotiations were concluded successfully and the outcome is close to Parliament’s position voted in October. If Parliament adopts the compromise, this dossier can be concluded in first reading.
The main aim of the directive is to deter young people from taking up smoking. Misleading flavours and packages have been banned and rules on E-cigarettes have been established. EU member states have the freedom to go further on packaging if they choose to.
European Semester for economic policy co-ordination: employment and social aspects
The Annual Growth Survey launched the European Semester by setting out the broad EU economic priorities for the year to come. It is the first step in the annual cycle. The draft Joint Employment Report attached to the Annual Growth Survey assesses the social and employment situation in the EU. This year, for the first time, the Joint Employment Report includes a scoreboard allowing for identification of major employment and social problems.
It is important to strengthen the position of the Parliament in the overall European Semester process in order to emphasise the need to tackle the social consequences of the economic crisis and to provide sustainable and inclusive growth solutions, promoting quality employment and raising social standards. Promoting quality employment and strengthening social consolidation should be the EU’s priority, in line with the Europe 2020 strategy.
European Semester for economic policy co-ordination: annual growth survey 2014
The report calls for a change in economic strategy to ensure that the focus is not only on fiscal consolidation but also on growth and employment friendly policies. The report calls for the creation of a European funding mechanism that will serve as an incentive for more convergence in the EU, to repair the damage caused by the austerity policies of the past few years.
The Commission finally accepts that growth and jobs should be at the heart of economic policy - rather than a narrow focus on fiscal discipline. It has also recognised that all EU countries have to engage in managing the crisis, not just countries in financial difficulty. Economic growth has not recovered and Europe is in danger of stagnation and deflation, as outlined in the recent independent Annual Growth Survey 2014.
Single European railway area
This proposition, as adopted in committee, sets out the rules for the opening of the market for passenger rail transport services. It preserves the integrated structures and makes it compatible with an open market with several players operating on the network. Access to the market can be limited if the viability of services performed under a public service contract is compromised and so countries shall remain free to choose the how their network is organised and to revert to a more integrated model at any time. The compromise text prioritises the separation of financial flows: revenue from the infrastructure manager should be reinvested into the sector while loans between entities of a holding structure should be under the supervision of the regulatory body. Despite strict separation of accounts it is still possible to co-operate with other entities of the holding, as long as the co-operation is covered by a contract under existing market conditions.
The rapporteur intends to table some amendments in plenary to ensure improved co-operation between infrastructure managers and railway undertakings in the context of integrated structures, provided that strict conditions on non-discrimination and transparency apply, as in the case of separated structures.
Fund for European aid to the most deprived
The S&D Group took the lead regarding the establishment of the new Fund for European aid to the most deprived (FEAD), a new tool to alleviate the most severe forms of poverty, namely food and material deprivation in all EU countries. The S&D Group ensured that the Fund's budget was increased and can only be used to support the most deprived. Furthermore key stakeholders such as food banks, charities and civil society must be consulted and involved in the design, operation and monitoring of national schemes which implement the programme.
FEAD is a sign of European solidarity with those hit hardest by the crisis, even though the increased budget is still far from being enough. In 2010 nearly one quarter of Europeans (120 million people) were at risk of poverty and social exclusion. The budget is reserved for the aid to the most deprived and should not be used for other cohesion fund activities. FEAD is only a complement to national policies; the responsibility and obligation to combat and eliminate poverty remains with member states.
Deployment of the eCall in-vehicle system
On 13 June 2013, the European Commission adopted two proposals to ensure that, by October 2015, all new cars will be equipped with an eCall system which will automatically call emergency services (by dialling 112 - Europe's single emergency number) in the event of a serious accident. Even if passengers are unable to speak, eCall creates a voice link to the closest Public Safety Answering Point and sends an emergency message. The system allows emergency calls to be made without language difficulties and may significantly contribute to reducing the number of road deaths and injuries in Europe by cutting emergency-service response times. The quicker response could save around 2500 lives a year and the severity of injuries should be considerably reduced in many cases. The eCall system not only improves incident management but reduces traffic congestion resulting from accidents and the possibility of secondary accidents. Private in-vehicle emergency call services do already exist and account for 0.7 % of all vehicles in EU, but none offers full EU-wide coverage.
European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps - EU aid volunteers
On 19 September 2012, the Commission adopted a proposal for a regulation establishing, for the first time, the European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps. Its objective is to express the EU's humanitarian values and solidarity with people in need, through the promotion of an effective and visible EU Aid Corps, which strengthens the EU's capacity to respond to humanitarian crises and to build the capacity and resilience of vulnerable or disaster-affected communities beyond the EU. The Commission’s approach is to make it complementary to existing structures and organisations and avoid duplication of effort. The actions of the Corps are to be guided by humanitarian principles (the European Humanitarian Aid Consensus), although some humanitarian partners have expressed doubts about the initiative, specifically about the genuine added value and financing.
In preparing the report, lessons have been learned from the various pilot projects carried out in the past or still under way which are linked to the proposal. Therefore, EU aid volunteers will be only be deployed in humanitarian aid operations in third countries in response to man-made crises or natural disasters and never in cases of armed conflicts or internal disturbances. A forum for consultation, bringing together representatives of the Commission, EU countries and the sending/hosting organisations, should be established when the programme is launched.
European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Co-operation and Training (Europol)
The main purpose of this regulation is to establish the EU Agency for Law Enforcement Co-operation and Training (Europol),repealing Decision 2009/371/JHA, and aligning it with the Lisbon treaty by increasing its accountability. The proposal also aims to strengthen democratic governance and parliamentary scrutiny of Europol at both European and national level. The European Parliament and national parliaments will receive annual activity reports and final accounts each year, and receive information such as annual and multiannual work programmes, threat assessments, strategic analyses and general situation reports.
The proposal strengthens and clarifies the data-protection regime including giving the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) overall supervision of Europol's processing of personal data, enhancing access rights to personal data, further specifying the uses of personal data and introducing the necessary safeguards.