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Jobs, car safety, biofuels and plastic bags - all in a day's work at the European Parliament

Posted by Nick Prag at 30 April 2015, 21:30 CET |
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Who says Euro-MPs don't do much or what they do has little relation to, or impact on, real life? Certainly nobody who attended their plenary session in Strasbourg this week, where their agenda was full with a number of important issues that affect us all.

On Wednesday, the Parliament debated the tragedies in the Mediterranean. MEPs called on the Union to do everything possible to prevent further loss of life at sea, specifically expanding the mandate of "Triton" operation in the Mediterranean to include "search and rescue operations at EU level", according to their resolution.

MEPs also call for a binding quota for distributing asylum seekers among all EU countries, bigger contributions to resettlement programmes, better cooperation with third countries and tougher measures against people smugglers.

At the session, they also approved European Social Fund rule changes which will allow one billion euro in EU funding to be delivered to help Member States get up to 650,000 young people into work in 2015.

Also this week, MEPs called on the Commission to bring forward measures to label the calorie content of alcoholic beverages. Their resolution called for a new EU Alcohol Strategy which focuses on alcohol consumption by minors, and EU-wide labelling to discourage drink driving and drinking while pregnant.

An important measure on road safety this week: MEPs gave the green light for automatic emergency call devices to be fitted in all new car models from spring 2018. Road accidents took 25,700 lives in the EU in 2014; it is estimated that the new devices could cut this death toll by an estimated 10 per cent a year.

On Tuesday, Parliament voted to support a shift towards advanced biofuels, with a draft law to cap crop-derived biofuel production and accelerate the shift to alternative sources. This aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions caused by the growing use of farm land for biofuel crops.

MEPs also passed a draft law giving fishermen two years to "adapt" before sanctions for failing to comply with the new fish “discard” ban take effect.

They voted for a clamp down on the wasteful use of plastic carrier bags, meaning that EU countries will be required to reduce the use of the commonest and most polluting plastic bags drastically under new rules.

And they debated a new EU forest strategy, calling for better management to boost rural jobs; sustainable fishing in the Baltic Sea; and called on the EU’s new technology institute and projects to clarify their 2013 accounts.

This week's wide-ranging and important schedule shows more than ever how much more the European Parliament is than just a political talking shop.

Most MEPs take their role as co-legislators seriously, carefully scrutinising EU legislation, of which so much crosses Member State borders, and supervising the work of the EU institutions. Nobody can say Parliament isn't giving its money's worth, or that they do a job that doesn't need doing.

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Nick Prag

Nick Prag

Nick Prag is founder and managing editor of EUbusiness.com. Prior to EUbusiness, he was senior editor at Europe Online SA in Luxembourg, where he played a major part in the launch of Europe Online International.