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Review of the European Parliament in 2007

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2007 was quite a year for the European Parliament and the European Union. The new Treaty of Lisbon was signed by the heads of state and government on 13 December.  The new Treaty, once ratified, will lead to greater and wider powers for the European Parliament.  On 25 March, the EU marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome.
 
2007 started with the enlargement of the European Union to Romania and Bulgaria increasing the size of the EU to 27 Member States and the European Parliament to 785 MEPs. Germany held the six month rotating EU Presidency. 
 
In January, MEPs elected Hans-Gert Pöttering as the new EP President, taking over from President Josep Borrell.  President Pöttering serves a two and a half year term until the next European elections in June 2009.  The European Parliament welcomed Observers from the Romania and Bulgaria.   January also saw the formation of a small new political group – Identity Tradition and Sovereignty, the group did not see the year out and was dissolved in November when the Romanian delegation quit.
 
In February, MEPs adopted a hard-hitting report into alleged illegal CIA activities in Europe. MEPs expressed a variety of opinions with some condemning the CIA and EU Member State governments whilst others called the report anti-American propaganda based on speculative media reports. 
 
In March, MEPs marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome and welcomed the Berlin Declaration signed by the European Parliament, Council and Commission.
 
In April, the House voted in favour of setting up a new temporary committee on climate change, whose mandate among others, is to formulate proposals on the European Union’s future integrated policy on climate change and to coordinate the European Parliament’s position with a view to negotiating the international framework for climate policy after 2012.
 
Also in April, the President of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam addressed the European Parliament.
 
May saw the legislative highlight of the year with the European Parliament adopting a regulation leading to cheaper roaming rates for mobile phone calls.  According to the regulation, the average wholesale charge (excl. VAT) that a "visited" operator can levy on a roaming customer’s "home" operator for the provision of roaming calls will be capped at EUR 0.30 per minute.  (The Council, at the outset of negotiations, had proposed placing a cap of EUR 0.36 on the average wholesale price)
 
On 20 May, Bulgaria held its first-ever European elections, electing 18 MEPs.
 
In June, the European Parliament adopted a report overwhelmingly backing the calls made by its Committee of Inquiry into Equitable Life for the UK government to compensate victims of the company's near-collapse and for wide-ranging changes to be made in the drafting and implementation of EU financial services legislation. 
 
The House also adopted an agreement on a proposed EU-wide ban on trading in cat and dog fur. The first-reading scraps an exemption allowing trade in fur from cats and dogs if they were "not bred or killed for fur production". 
 
Portugal took over the rotating Presidency at the beginning of July 2007 with Prime Minister José Sócrates setting out the Presidency’s priorities to the European Parliament.
 
In July, MEPs passed a ban on non-electrical mercury thermometers and other mercury instruments for general sale to the public, thereby dropping its earlier call for an open-ended derogation for barometer manufacturers and accepting Council's proposal for a two-year exemption instead. The draft directive prohibiting the sale on the EU market of these devices is part of a broad strategy on mercury, a metal which is highly toxic to humans, ecosystems and wildlife.
 
In September, the Parliament adopted a resolution on the restrictions imposed by the EU on liquids that passengers can take on board aeroplanes. MEPs called upon the Commission to review urgently and – if no further conclusive facts are brought forward – to repeal Regulation (EC) No 1546/2006 (introduction of liquids onto aircraft).
 
Also in September, The House adopted three conciliation agreements on the third railway package. The agreements, dealing with the opening up of the rail market, a European licence for train drivers and the rights of rail passengers, were reached after the Council accepted the EP's final demand for a review every five years of any exemptions Member States grant their domestic railway networks from the rules on passenger rights.

In October, MEPs adopted a report on the new allocation of seats in the European Parliament after the next legislative elections, in 2009. After much negotiation, the June 2009 elections will see 751 MEPs elected in the 27 Member States.  
 
The European Parliament adopted a non-binding report which calls for legislation to cap average emissions from all new passenger cars at 125g CO2/km as of 2015.  The report pre-empted a Commission proposal on the same topic.
 
Also in October, the European Parliament’s first edition of the Lux Prize for European cinema was awarded in October to "On the Edge of Heaven" ("Auf der anderen Seite").
 
In November, the European Parliament adopted a report approving the Charter of Fundamental Rights urging both the UK and Poland to make every effort to arrive, after all, at a consensus on the unrestricted applicability of the Charter.  
 
MEPs also reached agreement on the control of the acquisition and possession of weapons, the legislation introduces rules enhancing safety with respect to gun ownership, while not inconveniencing hunters, target shooters and other legitimate owners.
 
Also in November, MEPs adopted a resolution on the enlargement of the Schengen area of free movement to the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia, stressing  the symbolic and historic importance of the event with a view to ending the former divisions in Europe.
 
On 25 November 2007, Romania elected 35 MEPs in their first-ever European elections. 
 
In December, the European Parliament hosted a ceremony of proclamation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights amid protests from a minority of MEPs calling for a referendum. 
 
MEPs awarded the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought to the Sudanese human rights lawyer Salih Mahmoud Osman for his work on Darfur.  
 
MEPs adopted the EU budget for 2008 which gave the financial backing to both the new European Institute of Technology and the EU’s satellite navigation system – Galileo.  The 2008 budget represents an increase of 5.7% on 2007, a sign that 2008 could be even more intense for the European Parliament.
 
Other important topics
 
Among the other legislative highlights of the year affecting the lives of nearly 500 million people were: the revision maximum concentration levels for the atmospheric microparticles or dust most hazardous to human health, the definitions for the labelling of alcoholic drinks including whisky and vodka, the control of the use of pesticides and the rules on product placement for television.


Source: European Parliament


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