Strasbourg Plenary Session, 9 - 12 February 2015
It was a busy week in Strasbourg last week with debates and votes on food labelling and road safety. In breaks between debates and voting this week I had meetings on democracy and election observation, looking at ways the European Parliament can support capacity-building and democratic engagement in developing countries. From my previous experience as the EU Chief Observer to the 2010 elections in Tanzania I was particularly interested to hear how the EU can support the democratic process here.
MEPs working on the conflict minerals legislation also met this week to discuss our progress. In the Foreign Affairs committee I have tabled over 100 amendments to strengthen the Commission proposal for a mandatory scheme to require due diligence reporting of European companies to ensure the minerals they use have not come from high-conflict areas. Voting in committee on this legislation will take place over the next month. I also attended a report-back from the EU's Chief Negotiator for TTIP who updated MEPs on the latest round of negotiations. I am continuing to stress to the Commission that the protection of public services and EU standards as well as the removal of ISDS from the negotiations are key.
Labour MEPs voted in support of a resolution that will introduce mandatory EU-wide country of origin food labelling for all foods which contain processed meat from April this year. Following the horse meat scandal three years ago, this was an outcome supported by an overwhelming majority of British consumers. Notably, UKIP MEPS, despite pledging two weeks ago in their 100-point election pledge that they would back the resolution, failed to do so. Once again they chose to ignore an opportunity to take action that would benefit the UK.
On the Parliament floor a resolution was adopted calling for on the Saudi Arabian leadership to action the unconditional release of Raif Badawi, his lawyer, and all human rights defenders imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of speech. In light of the recent attacks in Paris and the increasing coverage and awareness of consequences facing journalists and bloggers in Egypt, Turkey and across the world, we must continue to demand that the governing bodies of these states tackle human rights abuses, including freedom of expression.
Labour MEPs called for the European Commission to set out measures detailing their plans to end the practice of Female Genital Mutilation and for the EU to back United Nation target to eradicate FGM worldwide. In a speech to the European Parliament, Julie Ward MEP (Labour) said that 'a zero tolerance policy for the practice of FGM must come about with more tolerance of open discussion of the practice, and the suffering it brings'.