MEPs meet in Strasbourg this week for a plenary session of the European Parliament. Highlights of the agenda include:
- Tony Blair on preparations for Hampton Court EU meeting
- EU budget 2006
- Waste transport regulation
- Greenhouse gas emissions
Tony Blair in Strasbourg
Prime Minister Tony Blair is due to address MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday in his capacity as President of the EU Council. The Prime Minister will set out his priorities and aims for the informal European Council meeting which takes place at Hampton Court near London on Thursday. The purpose of the meeting is that the 25 EU heads of state or government have the chance to discuss the future of the European social model in the context of globalisation. It will be the first gathering of EU leaders since June, when they fell out over how to fund the EU from 2007-2013. Since then, the EU has been having an ideological debate about its future economic direction with the two sides polarised between an Anglo-Saxon and a French vision of the way forward.
EU budget 2006
Wednesday morning sees the 1st reading debate on the EU budget for 2006. If the full Parliament follows the position of the Budgets Committee, the 1st reading will re-instate most of the cuts suggested by the Council of Ministers. MEPs are focusing particularly on increases for the research and education programmes. One ground-breaking amendment proposes to scrap the €1bn subsidy for tobacco growers and re-invest part of the money on anti-smoking campaigns. Another area of controversy is support for projects outside the EU's borders, including aid for the reconstruction of Iraq and for tsunami victims.
The 2nd reading of the 2006 budget is due to take place in December in Strasbourg. This is the last year of the current 7-year 'financial perspective' period. Negotiations are still underway on a new overall 7-year budget for 2007-2013.
Transport of waste
MEPs have their 2nd reading of the proposed Regulation on shipments of waste on Monday. Among the amendments maintained in the Environment Committee are that ships as well as aircraft should be included in the list of potentially dangerous waste, with a ban on ships sent to non-EU countries for breaking up and scrap. The aim is also to discourage exports of household rubbish.
Greenhouse gas emissions - fridges & car air-conditioning
Two proposals for Regulations also receive their 2nd reading on Tuesday (debate Monday). One concerns general rules on emissions of fluorinated gases; the other is specifically on car air-conditioning systems.
Knowing the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of greenhouse gases is key to be being able to measure any reductions in emissions. MEPs in the Environment Committee have called for products with a GWP of less than 50 to be used in phones, fridges and general air conditioning (but not cars, which are covered by the specific regulation). Amendments passed in committee also attempt to speed up the banning of hydrofluorocarbons in some aerosols by 2006; in foam (by 2009); in domestic fridges (4 years after the regulation enters into force).
For Bulgaria and Romania, this will be an important week. The European Commission is due to publish its progress reports for the two accession countries on Tuesday 25 October. The reports will contribute to an over all evaluation by member states of whether the two will be ready to join the EU in 2007, as promised. To date, question marks have been raised about judicial reform and corruption in both countries.
On the same day, industry commissioner Gunter Verheugen will outline how the commission plans to simplify parts of the vast body of EU law. This is part of an overall deregulation exercise to counter accusations of too much Brussels red tape.