Tag Archives: EU

On 8 December ,the European Commission adopted a Communication setting out possible ways of “Reinforcing sanctioning regimes in the financial services sector.” Pointing out that “The financial crisis has put into doubt whether financial market rules are always respected and applied as they should be across the Union,” the Commission has stressed that “Lack of enforcement of EU rules in one Member State may have significant implications for the stability and functioning of the financial system in another Member State.” Presently, Member States are free as regards the choice and application of national sanctions however according to the European Commission “this autonomy should be balanced with the need for effective and consistent application of European law.”

 

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On 6 December, the Employment and Social Policy Council held a policy debate on the draft directive aimed at improving the protection of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding. The majority of the EU Member States rejected the European Parliament’s amendments to extend maternity leave to 20 weeks on full pay.

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In March 2008, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Directive facilitating cross-border enforcement in the field of road safety. Whereas the European Parliament has supported the Commission’s choice of legal basis – “transport policy”, Member States were divided over this issue. Several Member States were not convinced as to the appropriateness of the legal basis chosen by the Commission. In fact, several Member States, including the UK, have stressed that several aspects of the proposal fall under the third pillar, consequently, the proposal should be adopted by the justice and home affairs council, unanimously, and under the consultation procedure.

However, in the meantime, the Lisbon Treaty, entered into force, hence, whether it is based on the "transport policy" or in the “police cooperation” provisions, the proposal would be subject to the ordinary legislative procedure and QMV in the Council. Nevertheless, being based on ‘police co-operation' chapter means that the UK may decide whether it wants to opt in or opt out from the proposal.

This proposal has been a priority for the Belgian Presidency. In fact, the Belgian Presidency ‘s draft compromise represents an improvement to the Commission proposal, as it has proposed to change the legal basis from ‘transport' Article 91(1)(c) TFEU to the ‘police co-operation', Article 87(2) TFEU. Nevertheless, the Transport Council has negotiated the proposal.

On 2 December, the Transport Council "concluded on a political agreement" on the proposal. It seems that a “proper political agreement” would be achieved once the UK and Ireland have decided whether to opt-in or opt out. The Council still has to confirm today’s agreement by adopting its common position, which will be then sent to the European Parliament for a second reading. Once there is an agreement on the final text, and the proposal is adopted, Member states will have two years to transpose the directive into national law, after it enters into force.

Now, the Government has three months to decide whether or not to opt into the proposal. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport , Mike Penning, has said to the European Scrutiny Committee that the Government would take into account road safety, implementations costs as well as the proposal implications for the UK sovereignty. The UK does not have a higher proportion of non-resident traffic from neighbouring countries as other Member States and the proposal would entail undue burdens for the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and UK police forces, consequently the Government should opt out.

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In 2008, the European Commission, stressing that bus and coach passenger’s protection is different from one Member State to another, proposed a draft regulation on the rights of passengers in bus and coach transport. The main aim is to create a set of rights for passengers using bus, on both domestic and international routes, similar to the rights introduced for airline and rail passengers.

The proposal is going through the ordinary legislative procedure (codecision procedure) with QMV required at the Council. Last July, the European Parliament voted on the proposal amending the Council’s common position. Then, the Council rejected the European Parliament's second-reading amendments, consequently a conciliation procedure has been launched. On 30 November the Council and the European Parliament reached agreement on the proposal, which still has to be endorsed by the MEPs and by the Council. The Regulation is expected to be adopted earlier next year and then, it will enter into force two years after publication in the EU Official Journal.

Adopting such proposal would result in better benefits for passengers of bus and coach services. However, operators would have increased costs for compensating passengers who have experienced delays or cancellation of a service. There would also be increased costs to operators from the requirement to provide information and to put in place systems to deal with complaints. The costs of compliance to operators are likely to be passed on to passengers in the form of higher fares.

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The Convention on the stepping up of cross-border co-operation, particularly in combating terrorism, cross-border crime and illegal migration, the so-called Prum Treaty was designed outside the legal framework of the EU by seven Member States, nor the Commission or the other Member States took part in the Treaty negotiations. However, in 2007, it has been incorporated into EU law. It is obvious that the Contracting States designed the Treaty with the aim of incorporating its provisions into EU law. Therefore, this Treaty sets an alarming precedent as a group of Member States have reached an agreement between themselves, which subsequently is incorporated in the EU framework.

The most important aspect of the treaty is the enhanced organised procedures for the exchange of information on the basis of the ‘principle of availability’ related to personal data such as DNA records and fingerprints. The principle of availability means “information for law enforcement purposes needed by the authorities of one Member State should be made available by the authorities of another Member State, subject to certain conditions.

The Council Decision on the stepping up of cross-border cooperation, particularly in combating terrorism and cross-border crime, incorporates in the framework of the European Union the main provisions of the Prum Treaty. The UK was invited to take part in the treaty negotiations but refused to do so. The former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, Joan Ryan, explained to the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee that the Government decided not to be a party to the Prüm Treaty because of “Treaty's provisions on immigration and some other matters.” However, the Labour Government could have vetoed the Council Decision incorporating the Prum Treaty but it didn’t.

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The Greek debt crisis has thrown the Euro zone into the most serious crisis of its 11-year history. The Euro zone’s response to the Greek crisis has exposed its weakness. In fact, the EU leaders were unable to react to it, and when the ship was on the brink of sinking, they decided, through back door meetings, in order to save the euro, to break every Treaty rule which explicitly states that no member state is liable for the debts of another. Since then, Brussels is seeking greater coordination and enhanced surveillance of economic policies in the EU and economic and monetary union (EMU), to reinforce the so-called economic governance. Last June, the European Council agreed to enhance surveillance and coordination of national budgets and economic policies. But the EU leaders have only agreed “a first set of orientations.”

For a long time, the European Commission has been eager to introduce new measures to strengthen coordination among Euro zone member states and supervise their national economic policies, the Greek debt crisis has provided the excuse needed. On 29 September, the European Commission presented, the expected, legislative proposals, on the so-called Economic Governance in the EU and EMU. The Commission proposed broader and enhanced surveillance of fiscal policies as well as macroeconomic policies and structural reforms. Member States will be monitored not just for excessive deficits and debts, but also for imbalances and falling competitiveness. The Task Force on economic governance lead by Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, reached an agreement on the package of measures for economic governance almost three weeks after the European Commission presented its proposals. It adopted a report containing several recommendations and concrete proposals, aiming at achieving “more effective economic governance in the EU and the euro area.

It has become obvious that EMU entails transfer of sovereignty from Member States to Brussels in areas other than monetary policy. The sovereign debt crisis has opened the door for further economic and fiscal policy integration – the EU is moving fast towards the economic government. According to Mr Van Rompuy the task force recommendations and proposals preserve national responsibilities on fiscal and economic policies. But this is a highly misleading statement. If the member states are already in a straightjacket, the situation is set to get worse as their flexibility will be further reduced, particularly with a strengthen stability pact and budgetary surveillance. It is now clear that member states economic and fiscal policies will be further co-ordinated at EU level. National governments would no longer be responsible for a great range of domestic economic policies. Herman Van Rompuy has said that with that report “the European Union made a great step forward in the European Union's economic governance.” The report reads “Endorsement by the European Council of the recommendations in the present report will contribute to strengthening economic governance in the EU and the euro area and can be implemented within the existing Treaties.” The Commission has also been saying that all the proposals are compatible with the Treaty, but one could say that some of the proposals, such as “reverse majority voting" have no legal basis on the treaty. Moreover, although the UK would not be subject to sanctions, some of the Commission proposals on economic coordination and surveillance would also apply to the UK, which is unacceptable. On 28 October, the European Council endorsed, as expected, the report of the Task Force on economic governance.

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The European Commission has been trying, for a long time, unsuccessfully, to introduce Community legislation on nuclear safety, including waste disposal, but last year it won the support of the EU Member States. The Council adopted a Directive establishing a common EU framework for the nuclear safety of nuclear installations. The Convention on Nuclear Safety and the 2006 International Atomic Energy Agency Safety Fundamentals guidelines are voluntary. The Directive incorporates provisions of the Convention on Nuclear Safety and the International Atomic Energy Agency's Safety Fundamentals guidelines into EU legislation, which are now mandatory for all EU Member States. The Directive duplicates the work being carried out within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency and gives the Commission scope to interfere with decisions taken by Member States.

On 3 November, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Council Directive on the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste, which according to the Commission “is a logical next step after the Nuclear Safety Directive.” The aim is to set up an EU legal framework for spent fuel and radioactive waste management. It remains to be seen if Member States would endorsed the draft directive as they already rejected, years ago, a similar legislative proposal. The proposal is going through the consultation procedure and qualified majority voting is required at the Council.

The European Commission is trying to set up a common EU approach for the storage of spent fuel and radioactive waste. Hence, the European Commission is once again interfering with the Member States’ competences, as the civilian use of the nuclear power as well as management of spent fuel and radioactive waste is member states responsibility. If the draft directive is adopted there will be a shifting of the decisions over radioactive waste disposal from the member states to Brussels. However, according to the Commission “The issue of spent fuel and radioactive waste management is clearly an area where national legislation has to be supplemented by legislation at EU level owing to the cross-border aspect of safety.” The Commission proposal would, therefore, interfere with the member states policies on the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste.

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On 27 October, the European Commission presented its plans for a new Single Market Act. In its Communication, the Commission has listed 50 proposals that it plans to implement in the next few years.

The Commission has reiterated its intention to adopt a proposal to revise the Energy Tax Directive. Such proposal would breach the principle of subsidiarity. According to a draft prepared last year by the Commission's taxation and customs department, Member States would be obliged to levy a CO2 tax on fuels in order to cut emissions. The Commission wants to introduce minimum levels of taxation on different types of fuels related to the intensity of their emissions.

Moreover, the Commission is planning to propose, again, next year, a Directive introducing a common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB). It is important to mention that the European Commission has been trying, for a long time, to introduce a CCCTB. Several Member States, such as UK and Ireland, have been showing their opposition to such proposal. Even so, despite all the opposition towards this measure, the European Commission wants to proceed. Therefore, if a unanimous agreement will not be reached at the Council, Algirdas Šemeta will present the proposal under “enhanced cooperation."

Such proposals would be an infringement of Member States sovereignty over taxation, therefore the UK should veto them.

The European Commission has recently adopted a Communication on the EU budget review, starting up the discussion on the financial framework post 2013. The Commission has not presented yet concrete proposals, and has not given any idea about the size of the budget. But, it has presented its ideas on how to reform the EU budget. Now, we have confirmation of what the Commission is up to as regards the reform of the EU financial resources – it wants to introduce EU taxes and scrape the UK rebate. As Bill Cash said. "With the rebate and tax proposals, the EU is making demands that are completely unacceptable to the British people."

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