David Martin MEP

Labour Member of the European Parliament and one of the six MEPs representing Scotland in Brussels and Strasbourg

Strasbourg Roundup, July 2015

Round-up of the European Parliament Plenary Session, Strasbourg, 06 - 09 July, 2015

It was a big week at the European Parliament with a jam-packed agenda, and there were some significant international issues debated and agonised over, including Greece and TTIP.

The biggest story of the week was Greece. With the question of a third bailout still awaiting its resolution, Labour MEPs and our sister parties in the S&D Group led a strong call last week to agree a deal and for the Greek Government and its creditors to find new solutions to a prevent further uncertainty. The causes of the Greek crisis are incredibly complex and the responsibility does not lie solely in the hands of one party. That said, it is tragic that the Greek people are having to pay such a high price for the failures of their political leaders and the international community.

Following on from our success in helping to abolish roaming fees across the EU (coming into effect June 2017), Labour MEPs supported several measures to improve passenger experiences on EU transport networks. These included calling on the Commission to ensure that all journeys on public transport can be completed using single-ticketing options, and offer clear real-time information on fares and journey times. We pushed for ensuring equal access to transport for passengers with reduced mobility and other special needs. The Parliament also supported Labour's call for low-cost internet throughout the European transport system, particularly to facilitate e-booking and travel information access on-the-go.

Labour MEPs voted for greater corporate governance in the EU through the Shareholders' Rights Directive. We voted to emphasise the imperativeness of greater openness and for shareholders to have the right to hold directors to account over remuneration. We believe shareholders have a right to know where their companies make their profits and pay their taxes. The directive will now go to EU member states for further negotiation.

Labour MEPs also supported the creation of a plan to support developing countries tackle tax avoidance. A plan would be a move towards UN sustainable development goals and completing the Millennium Development Goals. The amount of unpaid tax in developing countries is estimated at $104 billion a year and developing countries urgently need the money from tax for health care and education. Measures should accountancy improvements such as country-by-country reporting for multinationals to ensure they pay their fair pay of tax.

We were very pleased to have the support of fellow MEPs when we called for Member States to take action against zero hours contracts. With an estimated 1.8 million people in the UK on a zero hours contract, and millions more in the same awful working conditions across Europe, this was a positive step, putting pressure on European governments.

The other major vote that attracted media attention was the Parliament's resolution on the ongoing TTIP negotiations. This resolution was not a yes or no vote on TTIP, but merely a chance for the European Parliament to outline what it would like to see in any final deal that is agreed. Ultimately the Parliament will be able to vote for or against the deal, and the Commission will now have to take into account the recommendations in this report and bear in mind the position of MEPs. Labour and S&D MEPs were instrumental in securing several key demands, including demands for the ratification of core International Labour Organisation conventions on workers' rights to be enforced on both sides of the Atlantic. We said that our food and environment standards should be protected, and that all public services - regardless of how they are financed - must be excluded.

The Labour position is clear: we want a good TTIP, but we will vote down a bad TTIP. Our recommendations now go to the Commission for ongoing negotiations. During the plenary debate last week I urged the Commission to keep the Parliament's demands in its top pocket and refer to them at all times.

 

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