There were several big moments during this month's Strasbourg session. We heard the annual State of the European Union address by Commission President Jean Claude-Juncker. Mr. Juncker particularly focussed on the refugee crisis and economic questions currently facing the EU. The developments in the refugee crisis over the summer were heatedly discussed by MEPs, with my group, The Socialists and Democrats, leading the calls for substantive action to aid the refugees from the European Commission and EU Governments.
Pre-empting this week's meeting of European ministers, MEPs in the European Parliament held a debate on what steps they would like to see taken to accommodate and facilitate the asylum of refugees. Labour MEPs were at the forefront of those calling for a collective and humanitarian approach to dealing with the crisis. According to new proposals set out by Mr. Juncker, in addition to the original 40000 refugees to be taken from Syrian refugee camps, and additional 120,000 should be relocated across EU member states as an emergency response. Juncker also emphasised that a permanent mechanism would be necessary. Despite knowing that the UK - due to an existing opt-out on EU Migration policy - Conservative and UKIP MEPs refused to support these proposals. These measures would ease the burden on the 'entry states' where entry points are now becoming vastly crowded. Across 28 member states this should be more than an acceptable holding measure until more detailed plans can be agreed. We urge David Cameron to increase his offer of 20,000 refugees over 5 years and opt-in to the EU's emergency measures.
Labour MEPs backed measures to strengthen the EU's ban on seal products across the EU. Since the ban came into effect in 2009, over two million seals have been saved from the common practise of clubbing seals for their fur and meat. The proposal won overwhelming support from MEPs across the parliament, ensuring that millions more seals will continue to be saved from this barbaric practice.
Following our July call for European action against zero hours contracts and other forms of precarious employment, Labour MEPs united in renewing pressure on the European Commission and European member states to publicly set out effective means of ensuring that if you work regular hours you have a regular contract. The European Commission was asked what new measures and policies it has for combating precarious employment and EU national governments were asked what progress they had made, and what steps they were taking to ensure that youth unemployment does not lead to a rise in precarious unemployment among young people. It is unacceptable for people to have to live in financial insecurity whilst they are in work, and Labour MEPs will continue to press for European action.
I voted for a European ban on cloning in animal production for farm purposes of all species, and any food products derived from animal clones or their descendants. Cloning for research, medical or conservation purposes will continue, but the new measures, supported by Labour MEPs would address strong concerns over animal welfare and the conditions of cloned animals. Labour MEPs believe that animal welfare, food standards and biodiversity in our farming system should be protected and that is why I voted for this ban.
Labour MEPs voted for the EU to approve a breakthrough agreement at the World Trade Organization to tackle corruption and inefficiency in global trade. This is the first multilateral deal reached under the WTO since its creation in 1995 and will make it easier for exporters to comply with border measures by modifying customs procedures. This will include simplifying document requirements, promoting electronic payments and increasing the publication of accessible information on customs laws, increasing transparency.
Proposals for a more stringent process for European Commissioner Confirmation hearings were put to the vote in Strasbourg. Labour MEPs backed these proposals, supporting measures that will give MEPs more power to scrutinise candidates. In a report authored by a Labour MEP, these steps will include giving MEPs the right to ask follow-up questions, hold second hearings and give governments a deadline by which to propose their candidates. The report also calls for more gender balance in the Commission, by requiring each candidate to put forward a male and a female candidate for President of the European Commission from which to choose from.
I voted for the European Commission to set out plans to tackle human trafficking. This progress report from the Commission is long overdue and now more than ever, it is necessary to examine how EU countries are tackling the problem and for the Commission to then commit to renewing its strategy. This should include a clear gender perspective.