During a busy Parliament committee week in Brussels, the Constitutional Affairs committee was a hub of activity with discussion focusing on UK proposals for reform of the EU and the transparency of access to the European Parliament by lobbyists.
UK’s EU reform plans badly received in Brussels
On Monday UK Europe minister David Lidington took part in a lively debate with MEPs in Brussels around David Cameron’s proposals for EU reform set out in the Telegraph newspaper last weekend. Lidington attempted to placate MEPs by saying that the majority of the proposed changes could be made without reform of the treaties, for example a stricter implementation of the Lisbon Treaty’s ‘yellow card’ procedure. The procedure obliges the European Commission to revise legislation if one third of national parliaments object to it within eight weeks of publication. Freedom of movement was another topic that MEPs were keen to quiz the minister on and Lidington was accused of trying to remove ‘labour’ from the freedom of movement principles enshrined in the EU’s treaties.
EU transparency register: another step forward
The same parliament committee also discussed transparency this week. In an attempt to encourage more organisations to sign up to the EU institutions’ ‘transparency register’ the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs committee adopted a report offering new incentives. These mainly relate to facilitating access to parliament and MEPs and increasing participation in parliamentary activity for example through the organisation of events. The report also called on the European Commission to put forward proposals to make signature compulsory by 2016 and for organisations to be obliged to disclose full details of all clients represented by each organisation. The report was adopted unanimously by the committee.
Transport and road safety
The topic of road safety was high on the agenda of the transport committee with MEPs calling for safe, more environmentally friendly trucks. Mayor of London, Boris Johnson is a passionate supporter of the proposed reforms seeing them as a way to reduce accidents involving cyclists and he is critical of the UK government who look set to oppose the plans. The Parliament decision needs to be approved by the 28 EU member states before it can become law and will be voted on at the April plenary session. Lorry makers are lobbying for new designs to be prohibited until 2025. This vote follows an event in Brussels six weeks ago that brought together a coalition of 130 cities, trade unions, cyclists’ organisations, hauliers’ associations, retailers, green and safety campaigners calling upon MEPs to support proposals.
Finally, the glamorous Concert Noble in Brussels was the venue for the annual MEP Awards ceremony held in Brussels on Tuesday. UK MEPs swept the floor taking home awards in the Environment, Financial Services, Internal Market and ‘use of social media’ categories. The event recognises politicians for their outstanding work during the current legislature and this, the 10th anniversary of the event, saw the highest participation from MEPs with 480 casting their votes.
EU Account Director, Dods