The first major proposal of the September plenary session on 11 September saw a welcome environmental victory as the European Parliament voted to reduce sulphur content in marine fuels. Shipping emissions are estimated to cause 50,000 premature deaths each year across the EU. Under the legislation, from 2015 ships will have to use fuel with a 0.1% sulphur content in waters which have already been designated Sulphur Emission Control Areas at the International Maritime Organisation (the IMO) – this includes the North Sea and the Channel.
Three Conservative MEPs opposed this proposal – Vicky Ford and Robert Sturdy from the East of England and Jacqui Foster (North West) as did UKIP
Also on Tuesday, the Parliament voted on its policy priorities in response to the European Commission’s proposed Work Programme for 2012-13. The emphasis was on banking supervision and measures to tackle the economic crisis, particularly youth employment. MEPs called for better consumer rights and updated product safety legislation, but a right-wing majority voted to delete calls to protect the most vulnerable consumers who are affected most by energy prices and miss-sold financial services.
Both Conservative and Liberal Democrat MEPs voted to against improved consumer rights, as did UKIP and BNP.
The following day, the European Parliament voted on to bring in new legislation to protect victims of crime, wherever they are in the EU. The minimum standards include the right to translation and psychological support services, from the moment the crime is reported. The report was adopted overwhelmingly – only 9 MEPs voted against. These were UKIP MEPs Dartmouth (South West), Agnew (East), Andreasen (South East), Bufton (South West), Helmer (East Midlands) and Nuttall (North West). BNP MEPs Griffin and Brons and one French MEP.
Conservation of fish stocks and reform of the Common Fish Policy was also on the agenda on Wednesday. MEPs gave the go-ahead to the European Commission to impose sanctions on non-EU countries overfishing in the North East Atlantic, and passed new legislation on consumer labelling.
Last but not least, in his State of the Union speech European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso announced plans for closer banking and political union, including the possibility of a treaty change. In a heated debate which followed, Green Group Leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit told UKIP’s Earl of Dartmouth to ‘join the modern world’, adding ‘Mister Earl, why can’t you understand that the times of the earls is over?