Tag Archives: EU

All MEPs, their staff, EU officials and documents must endure a monthly travel from Brussels to Strasbourg. Moreover, the costs of the “travel circus” costs taxpayers around €200 million a year.

During the 2008 summer break, part of the ceiling of the Strasbourg hemicycle collapsed. Obviously, such an event has brought about renewed calls to abandon the Strasbourg seat. Due to the reconstruction work, the first two plenary sessions after the summer recess took place in Brussels rather than Strasbourg. Obviously, such news has been welcomed by the majority of the MEPs, assistants and parliamentary officials. This was an excellent opportunity to realise how much money could be saved if the European Parliament seat was located just in Brussels. In fact, it has been estimated that the European Parliament has already saved around €4 million by having two plenary sessions in Brussels.

The EUobserver reports today: "Travel and accommodation savings of nearly €2 million were made in 2008 when MEPs were forced to relocate to Brussels due to a collapsed ceiling in the European Parliament's Strasbourg plenary chamber, according to documents published this month."  Moreover, "Parliament's secretariat estimates that the additional cost involved in dividing the legislature's political business between Brussels and Strasbourg amounts to about €10 million for each of the 12 main plenary sessions per year, the September 2008 savings being curtailed due to its last-minute nature."

The Dublin Regulation, which came into force in 2003, provides the criteria to establish which Member State is responsible for examining an asylum claim. The main principle is that the Member States which allows an asylum seeker to enter the EU (whether legally or illegally) is responsible for deciding his claim. The European Court of Human Rights has recently ruled that Belgium should not have expelled an asylum seeker to Greece under the so-called Dublin Regulation. The asylum seeker had entered the EU from Greece. In accordance with the EU's 'Dublin II' Regulation, the Belgian authorities submitted a request for the Greek authorities to deal with the asylum claim.

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The Daily Mail reports: “the Coalition will argue that unfair dismissal and compensation claims are increasingly being exploited by disgruntled staff and their lawyers.” The article notes that “The greatest increase in claims has come under EU legislation. Numbers of cases involving the European Working Time Directive - which limits the working week to 48 hours - almost quadrupled last year from 24,000 to 95,200. Numbers of race discrimination claims have gone up by nearly 40 per cent in two years to reach 5,700 last year.”

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In 2008, the Commission adopted a proposal for a Directive on the application of patient’s rights in cross-border healthcare. The proposal aims to help patients exercise their rights to cross border health care in order to codify the case law of the EU Court of Justice.

The EU Member States have been widely divided on the need for such legislative proposal and on how this area should be regulated. Several Member states fear loss of national sovereignty over healthcare and that such proposal could have a negative impact on their ability to organise their respective national health systems or on the safety and security of patients. Nevertheless, the European Parliament and the Council reached an agreement on the proposal last December, and the European Parliament has recently endorsed the compromise deal, adopting, at second reading, the proposal. The Council is expected to formally adopt the Directive in March. Then, the Member States will have till 2013 to transpose it into national law.

The Commission’s original proposal would have made more difficult for the Member States to require prior authorisation for reimbursement of hospital treatment provided in another Member State, restricting, in this way, the Member States responsibility for deciding entitlement to healthcare. The Council was, therefore, able to water down the Commission proposal.

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The European Commission adopted in 2007 a White Paper on Sport, which was its first comprehensive initiative on sport. The White Paper was focused on the societal role of sport, its economic aspects and its organisation in Europe. This paper covered extremely controversial issues such as transfers of players and TV rights. Originally, the EU had no role on sport affairs, and there was no need for that. The Commission has stressed, “sport activity is subject to the application of EU law” as “competition law and Internal Market provisions apply to sport in so far as it constitutes an economic activity.” However, the Lisbon Treaty has given EU competence in this area. At the time, when the White paper was adopted, the Commission has made clear that it was just waiting for the Lisbon Treaty to enter into force to propose concrete proposals for further EU action. The Lisbon Treaty has given the EU a new competence on sport.

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The new Hungarian Presidency of the EU Council of Ministers has successfully shifted attention to Eastern Europe. However, so far, the focus has been for all the wrong reasons. After just two weeks at the helm, Hungary has set the Presidency on a very different course to its Belgian predecessor, clashed horns with EU heavy-weights France and Germany and rolled out a ‘welcome mat’ (a series of ‘carpet maps’ in the Council of the European Union building) that harps back to the Hungarian empire.

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Reform of a rotten practice is a wonderful thing to see. It’s doubly welcome when the change has been long pledged and is massively overdue. So we should for once have something to be happy about as we observe how (in document 2010/C 336/01) the European Commission has set out a list of regulations it has reviewed and has decided to repeal.

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The European Parliament has, recently, endorsed the European Commission’s proposal for a Decision creating a “European Heritage Label.” To Brussels, neither the UNESCOWorld Heritage List nor the Council of Europe’s European Cultural Routes are enough, as it has to have its own Heritage Label. Unlike the World Heritage sites, the European Heritage sites would not be chosen according to their beauty or arquitecture but “on the basis of their European symbolic value.

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In 2009, the European Parliament and the Council adopted a regulation on Credit Rating Agencies and some provisions only became applicable in December 2010. Nevertheless, last June, the European Commission put forward a proposal amending the regulation on credit rating agencies. The Commission has decided to revise the regulation “in order to introduce centralised oversight of credit rating agencies operating in the EU.” Hence, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), the new European supervisory authority would take over from national authorities. In fact, the draft regulation provides very broad powers for the ESMA.

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