The EU budget will dominate Brussels this week, with the UK presidency finally presenting its official 2007-2013 proposals on Monday.  The broad outlines of the offer are well-known, but disliked by France and the European Parliament, even though new member states are showing signs of grudging acceptance for structural fund cuts.  Foreign ministers will discuss the UK figures at a conclave on Wednesday, paving the way for ever more intense talks in the run-up to the 15-16 December summit.

European Parliament

The European Parliament sits in Brussels this week for its next session. Highlights of the agenda include:

  • Bird flu - Neil Parish MEP reports;
  • Criminal sanctions for breaking EU laws - question from Lib Dem MEPs Sarah Ludford and Diana Wallis;
  • European Payment Order - Arlene McCarthy MEP;
  • WTO - preparations for Hong Kong meeting.

Bird flu
Neil Parish MEP will lead Wednesday evening's debate on the proposed measures to be taken at EU level in the event of an outbreak of avian flu. His report on the proposed directive addresses issues such as:

  • The need for contingency planning in all EU member countries;
  • Protection for free-range farmers;
  • Compensation for farmers forced to clean up and/or destroy livestock;
  • Isolation zones and movement of eggs/poultry in the event of an outbreak;
  • Cost-effective vaccination regimes;
  • Differences between low pathogenic strain and the high pathogenic H5N1.

118 amendments were adopted at the committee stage, with the full Parliament due to vote its position on Thursday morning. Being a proposal in the field of agriculture, the final decision on the directive lies with the Council of Ministers who are scheduled to meet early in December. Although the measures only take legal effect in 2007, they are likely to form the basis of an EU-wide approach in the event of an outbreak this winter.

Criminal penalties for breaking EU laws
Diana Wallis MEP and Sarah Ludford MEP are two of the co-authors of an oral question to the European Commission on the consequences of a European Court of Justice ruling from September. The ECJ ruling stated that criminal penalties could be applied for breaches of EU law where they concern fundamental rights, such as a 'safe environment'. The MEPs are seeking clarity on how far the impact of the ruling will extend: will it, for example, extend to fundamental rights such as data protection, anti-discrimination and to EU asylum policies? The Commission will give its views in an answer on Wednesday evening.

European Payment Order
Arlene McCarthy MEP leads for the European Parliament in negotiations around the proposed Regulation setting up a European Order for Payment.  The aim is to help resolve problems of unpaid bills in situations where the creditor and debtor are in different EU member countries. Delays can currently occur because of lack of familiarity with another EU country's legal system.

World Trade Organisation - Hong Kong
Trade Minister Ian Pearson MP will kick off this week's session with a statement on preparations for the WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong from 12-18 December. Glenys Kinnock, Robert Sturdy, David Martin, Caroline Lucas and Saj Karim are among the 30 MEPs due to be in Hong Kong at a parallel parliamentary conference on the WTO. They are likely also to speak in Wednesday's debate.

European Commission

The Commission will be busy with eastern Europe and enlargement this week.  President Jose Manuel Barroso will meet Romanian prime minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu on Monday and Estonian leader Andrus Asnip on Wednesday. 

A big Russian delegation including prime minister Mikhail Fradkov and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will sit in on the Commission's meeting on Wednesday.

Enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn will play host to Serbian leader Boris Tadic and Montenegran chief Milo Djukanovic on Thursday.

It is also worth looking out for two interesting cases in the European Court of Justice.  The court rules on German tobacco advertising on Tuesday and cut-price supermarket chain Lidl's marketing style on Wednesday.

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