Plenary focus - March
European Council Meeting conclusions
Heads of states and governments are on the verge of running the EU into the ground with their selfish and neoliberal market policies in recent decades. With the failed austerity policies, Brexit vote and growing nationalism, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that only a radical change will ensure the EU’s survival. The wrong approach is to have a two-speed Europe that would further increase the existing social and economic imbalances between member states and create first-, second- and third-tier EU citizens. The same goes for having a stronger military and defence union, which wouldn’t improve security at all. Juncker´s five scenarios for the future of the EU are, in fact, one neoliberal scenario with different approaches. We propose a sixth and totally different scenario: the renewal of a social and democratic union of citizens; an EU with minimum social standards that protect citizens from poverty and prevent social dumping; an EU with common solutions to the migration challenge based on solidarity that allow safe and legal access for refugees; and an EU where citizens’ needs are placed before profits.
João Pimenta Lopes
Equal treatment between men and women in access to and supply of goods and services
In spite of the existing Directive, discrimination and inequalities remain. It is unacceptable that women are still confronted with having to pay for higher insurance in pension schemes, experiencing difficulties in getting access to housing and loan approvals, and facing discrimination in medical services related to pregnancy and maternity.
An integrated EU policy for the Arctic
Regarding the increased interest in the Arctic, the report stresses the importance of peaceful international cooperation as well as continued dialogue with Russia. We therefore support the report. However, it is biased towards the militarisation of the region - only focusing on increased military interest of Russia without mentioning other actors like NATO - and it is weaker than the EU-Commission’s Joint Communication.
An integrated EU policy for the Arctic
The Arctic is one of the least polluted and best preserved areas in the world. Climate change and technological development are changing the nature of the Arctic rapidly. Changes can also be positive, however, potentially bringing about better living conditions and for the well-being of the people. Unfortunately, climate change also threatens these possibilities, so action is needed. I therefore welcome the EU’s report in drawing attention to, and bringing understanding of, the Arctic to the wider world.
Conflict minerals vote
We did it! A fruitful cooperation between civil society organisations and progressive forces in parliaments and ministries has succeeded. The conflict minerals regulation vote on Thursday will establish mandatory provisions for European enterprises to apply due diligence in their sourcing of gold, tantalum, tin and tungsten. The goal is to end the business model of the warlords. This also comes just weeks after Donald Trump announced plans to scrap a similar provision in the Dodd-Frank Act. This is the correct response from Europe.
Regulation and funding of European political parties and foundations
To listen carefully and to reconcile divergent views were not one of the personal goals of the former EPP rapporteur on this file: ‘He who works poorly must stay behind’. This regulation came into force only recently, but European parties had been pushing for significant changes for many months. They want more political freedoms and, at the same time, a real political framework that corresponds with their political doctrine.
Minimum standards for the protection of farm rabbits
It is very important that the plenary will agree on the amendment on binding legislation for minimum standards for farm rabbits. It would otherwise be a disgrace for animal and consumer protection in Europe. Next week, MEPs have the opportunity to show whether animal and consumer protection are more important to them than paying lip service to the voters.
Equality between women and men in the EU in 2014 to 2015
As a result of austerity policies, the feminisation of poverty has increased in the EU as cutbacks in public care and health services has evolved into the reprivatisation of care - moving the responsibilities of society back to the households, and mostly to women. This is therefore a very important report as it addresses some of the root causes of inequality and urges member states to support ‘horizontal solutions’.
A move towards a truly circular economy is a move towards the model of society that we want to create: a society that guarantees adequate and sustainable management of resources; fosters prevention, reuse and recycling; and reduces the waste that we generate. It is a question of social transformation which means designing a new productive paradigm that preserves public and environmental interest. Whilst GUE/NGL has been pushing for more ambitious changes to the proposals, I believe that the revised directives are at least moving in the right direction.