This has been a particularly busy fortnight for MEPs. In particular the last week has seen all MEPs meet in plenary session in Strasbourg.
This is when committees and political groups present the results of their work. It is also during the plenary that MEPs participate in decision making, agreeing reports and positions on issues which in turn inform EU policy. There have been a number of important votes this week, and it is a good week to answer two questions (positively!): ‘What does Europe ever do for us?’ And ‘What difference do Green MEPs make?’ Read on to find out the answers to those two questions…
A Green success story in the battle to strengthen corporate tax transparency and combat tax evasion. The Parliament this week adopted draft legislation introducing a country-by-country reporting obligation for corporations, something the Greens have long been pushing for.
Earlier in the week Greens revealed the findings of country-by-country data from 26 EU banks which revealed they have been systematically shifting their profits, over-reporting them in places identifiable as tax havens, whilst appearing to under-report them in places where they have major centres of operation. Molly says:
“Results from country-by-country reporting for banks provide clear evidence of profit shifting and show this is a useful and powerful tool in helping to identify and crack down on tax avoidance. I am delighted MEPs have backed Green proposals to extend country-by-country reporting to all sectors.”
The panoramic view
The European Parliament has adopted by a large majority a report reviewing the EU’s current copyright framework, authored by the vice-president of the Greens/EFA group, Julia Reda. This report includes ‘Freedom of Panorama’ – the right to create and share images and photographs of public spaces without the threat of having to compensate for use of copyright. There had been earlier fears that an amendment put forward by a French MEP in the Legal Affairs Committee, and adopted following support from a cross-group of MEPs, would prevent Freedom of Panorama. However this amendment was voted down. Molly says:
“Many constituents have contacted me on this issue. This was an overly restrictive and unworkable amendment and contrary to the original intentions of copyright reforms. I am delighted that the European Parliament has defended freedom of panorama and called for copyright reform.”
Making the world go round
The European Parliament has adopted a report on the ‘circular economy’ – the idea of keeping products and materials in use for as long as possible and then recovering resources from them. The report’s central demands are for less waste, better product design and less dependence on imports of raw materials. There are also calls for binding reduction targets for waste in general, for food waste and for marine litter, as well as the need for an absolute reduction in resource consumption.
Molly recently visited Wyke farms in Somerset, a good example of the circular economy in action. The farm generates biogas from its own on-site anaerobic plant, which converts 75,000 tonnes of biodegradable waste into energy. The wastes include farmyard manure, slurry and apple pomace amongst other things. The biogas is used as energy to fuel the cheese dairy and the company has become the UK’s first national cheddar brand to be 100% self-sufficient in its own green energy. Molly says:
“Wyke Farms are leading the way in demonstrating the idea of a circular economy. By using natural assets that are found on many farms and businesses in the region, they are eliminating waste and generating energy at the same time.”
Green report on green jobs
The European Parliament has adopted a report on green jobs drafted by Green MEP Jean Lambert. The report looks at the potential of the green economy in creating jobs. Jean said:
“This report sends a strong signal to the European Commission on the need for ambitious proposals on the shift to a green and resource efficient economy. The report highlights that implementing existing EU energy efficiency and savings measures could create up to 2 million new jobs with the potential for another 3 million in the renewables sector.”
More on this story from the Greens/EFA website
Speaking against TTIP
Molly received applause in the European Parliament this week when she had an opportunity to speak against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal. Greens have been at the forefront of the campaign against this EU-US deal. You can view her speech here.
Despite heavy criticism from millions of citizens, consumers, trade unions, and SMEs, the ‘grand coalition’ of centre-left and centre-right groups voted in favour of a pro-TTIP position. Molly says:
“The story does not end here; TTIP still has a long way to go and Greens will continue to oppose this toxic trade deal that would weaken labour rights, environmental regulations, and food safety laws.”
More on this story from the Greens/EFA website
Cider challenge to MPs
Molly has issued a challenge to the region’s MPs, urging them to sign an Early Day Motion calling for a duty exemption for small-scale cider producers. The EDM, which has gained cross-party support, follows the announcement earlier this year that the European Commission has ordered the UK government to amend its excise duty scheme exempting such producers. The EDM urges the Government to reject the European Commission’s request and maintain the current position. Molly said:
“Cider production is an important local industry in the South West and such a move threatens the viability of many small scale producers. I hope those who represent the West Country in Westminster will show their support for both producers and consumers by signing this EDM.”
The future for Hinkley C nuclear power station remains uncertain with two legal challenges now filed – one from the Austrian government, the other from Greenpeace and German and Austrian utility companies. Molly is also challenging the European Commission on whether the upgrade to the grid being offered to Hinkley amounts to unfair competition under EU competition law. See more on this story.