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Friday, April 24, 2009

Good Timing

Today we published a briefing on the European Parliament, outlining both its importance to the lives of everyday people and its faults. The briefing argues that the EP could make several simple reforms that could help put it back in touch with voters, such as:

- Reducing wages by 20% and allowances by 10% from the levels that will comence with the new Parliament in June.

- Ending the ridiculous and expensive monthly trip from Brussels to Strasbourg.

- Publishing the official figures for MEPs’ salary, pension and expense entitlements in one easily accessible document and oblige MEPs to publish all their expenses.

- Reimbursing all unused expenses back to the EU budget.

We don't want to spoil the surprise, so the rest can be found here.

As it happens, yesterday was a particularly busy day for the Parliament:

The Parliament passed a huge piece of legislation, which will allow EU citizens to seek healthcare in other EU states and be reimbursed for the treatment through national healthcare schemes back home. Needless to say, this could have serious cosequences for the NHS.

MEPs also voted to postpone approval of the Council of Ministers' budget, an admission that EU institutions should be more transparent about how they spend taxpayers' money. A positive step but we need to remember that this is the first time since 1970 that the Parliament has deemed it necessary to look closely at how the Council spends public funds .

MEPs also approved new, far-reaching rules for credit rating agencies.

They voted to extend music copyright from 50 to 70 years (amending a Commission proposal which had the extension at 95 years) - very important stuff.

MEPs also voted on tightening the standards for energy efficiency in homes. This will mean that all new homes must produce their own energy on-site by 2019.

And last (but unfortunately) not least, the EP held a bogus vote on its outrageous second pensions scheme - once again manifesting its more unpleasant side and the need for reform of the institution.

Events in Strasbourg yesterday show that the Parliament does take real decisions that affect people's lives. With more and more regulations being decided by the EU, the expected record low turnout in this June's elections should be a concern no matter what your view is on the EU integration project as a whole.

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