European Parliament approves Barroso II

The European Parliament has approved by a very large majority, 488 votes in favour, 137 against and 72 abstentions, the Barroso II team on Tuesday 9 February, in Strasbourg.

The new Commission begins to work today, Wednesday the 10 February and its mandate will expire on 31 October 2014.

The major political groups (the EPP, the Socialist Group (S&D) and the Liberal Group (ALDE)) supported the new Commission, the Greens/EFA, the GUE/NGL, the Europe Freedom and Democracy Group (EFD) and non-attached members voted against and the Conservative Group (ECR) abstained.

Barroso asserted in front of the plenary that the main priorities of the new Commission (already presented to the EP in September 2009) will be to tackle the current economic and social situation in the EU, the fight against climate change, developing social cohesion, the creation of the freedom and security area, and strengthening Europe’s place in the world.

As part of the new framework agreement between the EP and the Commission, in which the main elements were approved by MEPs on Tuesday Barroso committed to carry on social impact analysis when there is a new legislative proposal.

According to the resolution in order to place the Parliament on an equal footing with the Council where the ordinary legislative procedure applies the Commission should:

1) Provide to the EP similar access to information than that guaranteed to the Council on legislative and budgetary matters

2) Provide full documentation to the EP on the Council’s meetings with national experts on the preparation and implementation of EU legislation

3) React to the EP’s legislative initiative within three months and present a proposal within one year or in case of refusal by the executive explain to the plenary the reasons that led to such a decision

4) Recognise the EP’s enhanced role in international negotiations (following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty) by providing it with “immediate and full” information at “every stage of negotiations” and by giving it observer status at international conferences.

5) Defend the EP’s position during the negotiation of the European External Action Service and involve it in the revision of the better legislation’ interinstitutional agreement.

6) through its President hold regular dialogue with the EP president .

Despite, President Barroso promised to abide by it during the second phase of negotiations on procedural matters that will get under way, the Parliament did not obtain everything it wanted. First of all, the Commission did not accept to allow the European Parliament to hold hearings of future EU ambassadors. Secondly, although Barroso chose to set a deadline for Parliament’s power of initiative, he did not agree to systematically respond to EP requests, to keep from hindering the Commission’s right of initiative. Finally, It also remains to be seen how far the Commission will agree to go on delivering information upstream to Parliament on certain aspects of EU external policy.

Now that the Barroso II has been approved by the European Parliament it is interesting to look back at what the newly elected commissioners responsible for the area of freedom, security and justice presented during the auditions held in January in front of the legislative assembly.

The Commissioners related to the area of freedom, security and justice Ms Viviane Reding will be the Vice-President of the European Commission and the Commissioner for European Justice, Fundamental Rights, Citizenship and Equal Opportunities. During her hearing, held in January, Ms Reding stated that her main objective will be to create a single justice area and enhancing equal opportunities policies, ending any forms of discrimination and, above all strengthening the legal instruments against violence towards women. In specific the three priorities presented to the Parliament in the field of Justice are:

(1) guaranteeing accused persons and suspects clear rights in the EU

(2) ensuring strong fairness rules in trials and prisons, and

(3) enhancing victims’ rights.

Ms Reding also highlighted the importance of “free circulation of administrative documents and European authentic acts” and therefore announced the publication, at the start of the year, of a Green Paper on the free movement of civil and political rights, expected at the beginning of 2010. Always in this domain, the newly elected Commissioner aims to turn Eurojust, into “a European public prosecutor’s office”. Concerning the promotion and respect of fundamental rights the Commissioner explained back in January that there will be a very specific impact evaluation on our fundamental rights. Ms Reding specified that equal opportunities should be fully integrated into employment and this would be a priority of the Belgian presidency of the Union. Finally Ms Reding stated that together with the Commissioner for Internal Affairs, Cecilia Malmström they will bring forward 169 initiatives under the Stockholm Programme.

Concerning her part, Cecilia Malmström during her hearing held on 19 January, presented immigration and the review of security legislation as the main priorities for the Commission. In relation to immigration three directives will be presented in 2010, namely: seasonal work, internal changes within multilateral companies and payment to trainees. Always in January, the newly elected Commissioner indicated that she propose a strengthening of Frontex at the beginning of 2010. The other main objective is the implementation of an internal security strategy in the EU, although little legislation will be put forward in this domain. Ms Malmström announced a review of the data retention measure at the beginning of 2011 which together the setting up of the Second Generation Information System (SIS II) she will tackle as soon as possible. She also affirmed that she supported the creation of the post of European coordinator of fighting human trafficking. The Commissioner stated that she will also present a communication on the fight against corruption and that she is keen in cooperating with Ms Reding in this domain.

LB

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