Bra wars, avian flu, air safety, terrorism and Turkish EU entry are at the
top of the European political agenda.

Bras

Europe’s textile crisis – dubbed ‘bra
wars’ by the media – has generated negative headlines for Brussels
over the last few weeks. Europe’s trade chief Peter Mandelson will be seeking
a quick resolution to stop the row escalating before the EU-China summit.

Birds

EU
health officials will be nervously monitoring migrating wild birds amid an
avian flu scare following an outbreak of the dangerous H5N1 virus in Russia.
The virus
has not entered Europe but a weekend alarm over a low pathogenic version of
avian flu in Finnish seagulls may set the pattern for scares to come.

Terror

After
terror
attacks in London this July, security is top of the agenda as countries such
as the UK, current holders of the EU presidency, France and Italy crack down.
Commission proposals to set minimum standards for the expulsion of failed asylum
seekers may clash with moves in some members states to deport radical Islamists.
EU measures on electronic surveillance and moves to tackle Islamist and other
extremism will also loom large into the autumn.

Turkey

Turkey’s EU membership
bid will be under the spotlight too. France has raised new objections to Ankara’s
failure to recognise the Republic of Cyprus – not a current EU precondition
for Turkey’s entry negotiations to begin. Germany’s centre-right
opposition, predicted to win national elections on September 18, have stepped
up calls for a ‘privileged partnership’ alternative to full membership
for Turkey. The issue is set to pose a headache for the British EU presidency
as Europe is already committed to the opening of negotiations with Turkey on
October 3.

Europe's future

Matters are not helped by the political linkage of
Turkey to referendum defeats for the EU constitution and debate over Europe’s
future. The EU’s fault-lines over the European constitution and Brussels
budgets for 2007 to 2013 will re-emerge in this debate and as politicians settle
down to ‘business as usual’. Added to the mix will be Germany’s
expected new government and continuing political turbulence in France.

Tony
Blair’s
pre-summer pledge to agree the future of Europe’s social model at an
informal EU summit in October may open up new fronts in a battle for the meaning
of Europe.

European
Parliament

The European Parliament will be sitting in plenary from 5 to 8 September.
Highlights of the agenda include:

  • UK Ministers in Strasbourg
    Home Secretary
    Charles Clarke will make a statement to MEPs on terrorism on Wednesday morning
    - the first opportunity for the European Parliament to debate the consequences
    of the London bombings in July.
  • Optical Radiation directive (2nd reading)
    This directive is aimed in particular at protecting workers from damage to
    their eyes at the workplace. It is the final part of a package of new rules
    in the
    health and safety field, following on from the noise, vibrations and electromagnetic
    waves directives.

    The directive lays down exposure limits and sets out how and
    when a risk assessment is necessary. Amendments adopted at the committee stage
    make a distinction between natural radiation (e.g. from sunlight) and artificial
    radiation (e.g. from lasers), with the definition of employer obligations under
    the former remaining for Member States to decide. Should the committee amendments
    be adopted in the full Parliament, this will mean no EU rules on what builders
    or barmaids should wear, as reported in parts of the UK media this summer.

  • Waste
    extractive industries directive (2nd reading)
    MEPs will have their 2nd reading
    of the proposed directive updating rules on managing waste from the mining
    industries. For the UK, the directive brings back memories of the Aberfan disaster
    in 1966.
    However more recent incidents occurred in Italy in 1985 and the fear is that
    the risk of disaster is particularly acute in some of the new Central and Eastern
    European EU Member States.
  • Paediatric medicines directive (1st reading)
    Few pharmaceutical companies produce drugs aimed specifically at children because
    the clinical trials are more difficult and the time taken to perfect them is
    longer. This proposed Regulation aims to achieve a change in pharmaceutical
    companies' attitudes by extending the life of patents or supplementary protection
    certificates.

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