European Parliament

MEPs meet in Strasbourg on 9-13 May for a plenary session
of the European Parliament. Highlights of the agenda include:

  • Working Time Directive
  • Bathing Water Directive
  • Recognition
    of Qualifications
  • Cross-Border Company Mergers
  • 6th
    VAT Directive

Working Time Directive

Tuesday morning sees one of the main debates of this
European Parliament session as MEPs discuss their 1st reading of the proposal
to amend the Working Time Directive.The main issues up for debate will be:

  • The opt-out from the 48-hour week limit;
  • The reference
    period for calculating the 48-hour average;
  • The definition of 'on-call'
    time;
  • Ensuring that workers who have more than one job are covered.

At the committee stage, amendments to the European Commission proposal were
adopted that would end the opt-out three years after the directive comes into
force. A majority of MEPs in committee also voted for the entire on-call period
to be included in the calculation of working time. The reference period for
calculating the 48-hour average could be extended to 12 months, but only after
consulting employees or through collective agreements. The vote will be held
on Wednesday.

Bathing Water Directive

The 1976 Bathing Water Directive has had
a massive impact on the quality of bathing waters around coastlines. The
proposal to update the 1976 directive now reaches its 2nd reading and will
be the subject
of Monday's main debate in the European Parliament and a vote on Tuesday.
MEPs will be discussing amendments to the proposal which include:

  • Faster deadline of 2011 for achieving "good" quality
    water status; · Deletion of a new category of "sufficient" quality;
  • Whether to differentiate between coastal and inland waters;
  • How
    to deal with emergencies such as floods, accidents;
  • What system
    of symbols to make available to the public to indicate water quality.

Many of the votes at committee stage were close and any amendment at 2nd reading
requires 367 MEPs to vote in favour for it to be passed, so the outcome on
Tuesday is far from clear. If the Council of Ministers does not accept all
the amendments adopted, conciliation between Parliament and Council will follow
in order to agree the final text.

Recognition of Qualifications

Proposed changes
to the rules on mutual recognition of professional diplomas return to the
European Parliament for their 2nd reading on Tuesday. The aim is to make
it easier for
professionals to provide services in another EU Member State (the sectors
affected are listed in the annexes to the proposal and include: accountants,
architects,
engineers). In the 30+ amendments adopted at committee stage, however,
MEPs have been looking to give host countries greater powers to check qualifications
before allowing individuals to practise. Amendments cover a range of issues,
including: the role of professional bodies; the number of levels of training
to be recognised; and the type of documents to be provided for evidence
of
experience.

Cross-Border Company Mergers

Tuesday sees the 1st reading of
a proposed new directive on cross-border mergers of companies with share
capital. The aim of the directive is to overcome complex differences in
national laws
on company mergers that lead to costly legal requirements. Many of
the 30+ amendments adopted at committee stage look to enhance employee rights
when two or more companies merge, with a particular focus on companies with
500
or more employees. Another amendment would extend the period for implementing
the directive from 18 months to 2 years after its adoption.

6th VAT
Directive

Ian
Hudghton MEP (Scottish National Party, Scotland) has drafted the
European Parliament's
report on the proposed re-casting of the 1977 VAT Directive. The
directive has been amended so many times in 28 years that the text was increasingly
difficult to follow. A 'recasting' of the directive rewrites into one
text all previous
amendments to the directive without changing the substance of the
VAT
rules.
MEPs are likely to approve the proposal without amendment.

 

European
Commission

All eyes are on Moscow on Monday 9 May as 56 world leaders,
including US
President George Bush and Chinese head Hu Jintao, gather to celebrate
the 60th anniversary
of VE day by watching a military parade in Red square.

European
Commission leader José Manuel Barroso and current EU president
Jean-Claude Juncker will stay in Moscow on Tuesday to finalise a road
map for EU-Russia
co-operation
in the fields of the economy, external security, freedom
and justice and education.

Estonia and Latvia also aim to sign outstanding
border agreements with Russia
on Tuesday morning.

External relations commissioner Benita
Ferrero-Waldner is to take part in an EU-China trojka on Wednesday and
Thursday in Beijing,
where talk could turn to China’s worsening relations
with Taiwan.

Back home, the European affairs ministers of
the four Visegrad states, Poland, Hungary,
Slovakia and the Czech republic, will meet in Budapest on
Tuesday to discuss tactics for the 2007-2013 EU budget.

On
the same
day in Strasbourg, justice
commissioner Franco Frattini will reveal plans for closer
cooperation on immigration and asylum control under the aegis
of the Hague’s
liberty, security and justice programme. Mr Frattini may
also issue an intermediate decision on the
German visa scandal this week, which saw tens of thousands
of eastern Europeans slip into the Schengen zone between
2000 and 2003.

On Wednesday and Thursday,
competition commissioner Neelie Kroes will meet Romanian
and Bulgarian finance ministers in Bucharest and Sofia, while
Mr
Barroso will round off the commission’s
week by giving an address to the Council on Foreign Relations
in New York on Friday.

 

OTHER EVENTS

EU-Russia Summit, Moscow:
10 May 2005

European Society of
Association Executives Seminar, Brussels: 10-11 May
2005

Presidency Workshop on REACH, Luxembourg: 10-11 May 2005

European
Institute of Public Administration
- Competition Policy in the Electricity Industry,
Maastricht: 12-13 May 2005

Informal ECOFIN meeting, Luxembourg:
13-14 May 2005

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