In a wide-ranging speech that covered issues from Greece to climate change, the main focus was the current refugee crisis. Mr Juncker called for a list of safe countries to be drawn up to help fast-track refugees and announced plans to redistribute 160,000 refugees across Member States. His message was blunt: all Member States must play their part. Tough words, but with millions of people on the move across the Middle East and North Africa, is it enough? Will he be able to carry the Member States with him in the long run?
In a nod to the current UK renegotiations, Mr Juncker stated he wanted a fair deal for the UK. He conceded the UK was correct to describe the EU as too bureaucratic. A greater surprise was that he shares something with Nigel Farage – a sense of humour. Who will be laughing in 2017 though?
The good and the bad
In other news it was a good week for opponents of cloning as MEPs voted by a sizeable majority in favour of Renata Sommer MEP’s report which strengthens a partial cloning ban to cover all farm animals, their offspring, and imported cloned food and feed. The Commission had only sought to ban the cloning of five key farming species and the import of live clones.
However, it was bad week for MEPs seeking to maintain EU spending as Member States demanded cuts to the EU budget of half a billion euros. Expect fireworks as MEPs and Member States continue to clash on this issue in the coming weeks. It was also a bad week for some European employers with the European Court of Justice ruling that the journeys made by workers with no fixed or habitual place of work at the beginning and the end of the day count as working time.
Die Hard comebacks
Voters often accuse politicians of not listening. Well one politician, or should that be former politician, is taking this to new lengths. It is reported that former German Socialist MEP Bernd Posselt is refusing to accept the verdict of his electorate who voted him out of office in last May’s European Elections and continues turning up to parliament.
Using a pass for former MEPs, Mr Posselt accesses the Parliament, works in a shared office, and catches up with former colleagues in bars. He even watches debates from the public gallery and sits in committee meetings of his party group. In Germany he hosts surgeries to address the concerns of his former constituents. Now, before the TaxPayers’ Alliance rise in outrage at this flagrant waste of European taxpayers’ money, Mr Posselt meets all the costs from his own pocket!
Finally, Brussels watchers will remember that one of the most contentious issues in the Parliament was the revision of the Tobacco Products Directive, in particular the decision to include e-cigarettes, regulating them at the EU-level for the first time. Well the TPD is about to be back on the agenda as UK-based e-cigarette manufacturer Totally Wicked have just found out that their legal challenge to Article 20 of the TPD will be heard in the ECJ on the 1st October; popcorn at the ready!