7-10 October 2013 EP votes: Tobacco Products Directive, Environmental Impact Assessment, Trade relations with China and Taiwan, and more

In this month’s edition:

1. MEPs adopt a watered-down Tobacco Directive

2. Centre-left pushes through environmental impact assessments on shale gas projects

3. Centre-left fails to block new Commission proposal on flight pilots’ working time

4. MEPs deplore gendercide, but disagree over prenatal sex selection

5. MEPs ask for upgrade of commercial ties with China and Taiwan


1. MEPs adopt a watered-down Tobacco Directive

The revised Tobacco Directive, proposed by the Commission and amended by the European Parliament, aims to discourage the youth from smoking, by imposing stricter rules on health warnings, packaging, labels and ingredients. Following the voting session, the MEPs granted a mandate to Rapporteur Linda McAvan (S&D, UK) to continue the negotiations with the Council of Ministers in view of an agreement at first reading. The mandate was approved by 620 in favour to 43 against, with 14 abstentions.

However, some of the key provisions of the text were highly disputed. Firstly, the size of the warning label on the cigarettes package was finally set at 65%, a compromise position, after the Commission had proposed 75% and the EPP group drafted an amendment that said 50%. The balance was tilted by the ALDE group, who voted against 75%, but in favour of 65%, thus making the difference between the political forces at the left and those at the right of it.

Here is how each of the political groups voted on the amendment that put the warning label size at 65%:


Text proposed by the Commission

Amendment (by ALDE)

(c) cover 75% of the external area of both the front and back surface of the unit packet and any outside packaging; (c) cover 65% of the external area of both the front and back surface of the unit packet and any outside packaging;

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Click here to see how each MEP voted.

This is how the political groups voted on the amendment that asked for this area to be of only 50%:


Text proposed by the Commission

Amendment (by EPP)

(c) cover 75% of the external area of both the front and back surface of the unit packet and any outside packaging; (c) cover 50% of the external area of both the front and back surface of the unit packet and any outside packaging;

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This point has generated a noticeable fracture in the EPP Group:

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While MEPs agreed on banning certain flavours in tobacco, the ban on menthol will be subject to a 5 years derogation (as set in amendment 95), a decision supported by EPP, ECR and EFD. ALDE Members’ votes were split, a majority voting against.

Text proposed by the Commission

Amendment

10b.

The use of menthol in all its commercial forms known on the date of publication of this directive shall be exempted from the application of Article 6 for a period of 5 years from the date referred to in Article 25(1).

Justification

The transitional period for the positive list is already 3 years. By adding 5 years, tobacco industry can use menthol for 8 more years after the entry into force of this directive.

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Click here to see how each MEP voted.

2. Centre-left pushes through environmental impact assessments on shale gas projects


The EP adopted a report that amends the existing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive. The report covers a variety of projects, for which environmental sustainability criteria are set out.

A controversial amendment proposed that shale gas and other non-conventional hydrocarbons projects would be subject to compulsory environmental impact assessment. A part of MEPs argued that these environmental concerns need to be addressed in the form of EIA, while others believed that this would add too much red tape to this industry. The amendment was pushed through by a centre-left coalition made up by the S&D, ALDE, Greens/EFA and GUE-NGL groups, with EPP, ECR and EFD voting against. However, some national party delegations from these three groups defected. For example, the S&D Polish delegation voted against the EIA, while most of the Belgian, Irish, Dutch and Romanian EPP Members voted in favour (against their own group).

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Click here to see how each MEP voted on this amendment.

Another key vote was on the introduction of measures aimed to ensure easy access to information to the public. The principle of consulting the public and taking its opinion into account, at any given stage of development of a project subject to environmental impact assessments, was also included in the text. The amendment passed with 347 votes in favour to 306 against.

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ALDE MEPs votes were split, two thirds of the group voting against the amendment, alongside EPP and EFD Members.

shalegas3

Click here to see how each MEP voted on this amendment.

At the end of a heated debate and tight votes, Rapporteur Andrea Zanoni (ALDE, IT) was eventually granted a mandate to start negotiations with the EU Council, 322 Members voting in favour and 311 against.

shalegas4

Click here to see how each MEP voted at the final vote.

3. Centre-left fails to block new Commission proposal on flight pilots’ working time

Despite the rejection in the Transport Committee, the Commission’s draft measures on flight time rules for pilots received a green light from the plenary on Wednesday. The Commission can now proceed to the adoption of the implementing act (under Regulatory Procedure with Scrutiny), which is meant to increase flight safety in the EU, by establishing maximum fly and rest time.

The resolution to oppose the Commission’s proposal required an absolute majority to pass, however only 218 MEPs supported it, while 387 voted against. The winning majority was formed by EPP, ALDE and ECR groups. The position of S&D MEPs was split: 67 Members voted in favour, 57 against and 48 abstained.

Click here to see how each MEP voted.

4. MEPs deplore gendercide, but disagree over prenatal sex selection

A non-binding resolution drafted by the Committee on Women Rights and Gender Equality was adopted this week in the Strasbourg plenary session. The report tackles gendercide, defined as the deliberative and gender based killing of people. The report asks Member States to treat gendercide as crime and violation of human rights and proposes measures to reduce abuses on women and to promote gender balance.

The resolution passed with wide support (567 votes in favour to 17 against), all EP groups supporting it.

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However, a controversy occurred when a group of centre-right MEPs proposed a set of amendments which define gendercide as sex selective abortion. A key amendment on this was voted through by the narrowest of margins, passing with 1 extra vote in favour (316 to 315 votes). The amendment stresses that no Union assistance should be provided to any organism that supports in any way actions that involve coercive abortion, forced sterilisation or determination of foetal sex (that results in prenatal sex or infanticide). MEPs from EPP, ECR and EFD groups succeeded in passing this through by securing a winning majority with the help of a handful of Members from the other groups voting against (Maltese S&D and Irish ALDE).

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Click here to see how each MEP voted.

5. MEPs ask for upgrade of commercial ties with China and Taiwan

The European Parliament voted for an upgrade in EU-China trade relations, asking the European Commission to start negotiations with China for a bilateral investment agreement, which will replace the current 26 national bilateral agreements. The final vote on this non-binding resolution was by show of hands, hence no information on how individual MEPs voted can be provided.

However, two key aspects of the document were voted by roll call. Firstly, the exclusion of the investor-to-state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS) from the agreement, a position proposed and supported by the left wing groups in the EP. However, this amendment did not pass through, being opposed by a centre-right majority (ALDE, EPP and ECR) who ensured that the reference to ISDS was kept in the final text.

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Click here to see how each MEP voted on this amendment.

Another key point addressed in the resolution is EU’s role in promoting fundamental values while conducting its commercial policy. An amendment asking for binding clauses on subjects such as environment protection and human rights was adopted with the support of ALDE, S&D, Greens/EFA and GUE-NGL groups, while EPP and ECR opposed it.


Motion for a resolution

Amendment

23. Stresses that investment agreements concluded by the EU must respect the capacity for public intervention, in particular when pursuing public policy objectives such as social and environmental criteria, human rights, the fight against counterfeiting, security, workers’ and consumers’ rights, public health and safety, industrial policy and cultural diversity; calls for the inclusion of the respective specific clauses in the agreement, provided that such measures do not nullify the benefits accruing from the commitments made by the parties; 23. Stresses that investment agreements concluded by the EU must not be in contradiction with the fundamental values that the EU wishes to promote through its external policies and must not undermine the capacity for public intervention, in particular when pursuing public policy objectives such as social and environmental criteria, human rights, the fight against counterfeiting, security, workers’ and consumers’ rights, public health and safety, industrial policy and cultural diversity; calls for the inclusion of the respective specific and binding clauses in the agreement;

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Click here to see how the MEPs voted on this amendment.

In a different resolution, a majority of MEPs voted to ask for the start of EU-Taiwan trade negotiations, with only the Greens/EFA and GUE-NGL opposing.

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Click here to see how each MEP voted.

For more information, contact Doru Frantescu, VoteWatch Europe policy director, at [email protected] or +32 2 318 11 88.