The annual formal address by the Commission president has already become a highlight of the parliamentary year, following its introduction in the Lisbon Treaty. With MEPs returning to continued fears over the future of the Eurozone, after a summer trying to escape the chaos, they hoped for warm words from Mr Barroso. The more euro-enthusiastic members of the parliament were certainly cheered by his calls for the EU to become a true "federation of nation states", with deeper economic and political union. However, Eurosceptic members were less than impressed, with Conservative group leader Martin Callanan saying that the time had come for new leadership at the head of the EU.
Syrian violence condemned
Action urged on Syria conflict
The violence in Syria intensified in the summer, with the fighting reaching the capital, Damascus, and the historic cities of Homs and Aleppo. It dominated an afternoon of foreign affairs debates with the EU's High Representative Baroness Ashton, who appealed for an end to the violence. For the outspoken leader of the Liberal group, Guy Verhofstadt, that was not enough. He said the EU needed to stop waiting for an agreement to be reached in the UN Security Council, urging the EU to lead a "coalition of the willing" in taking necessary action to end the violence. These calls did not go down well with all MEPs, however. His fellow Belgian, Véronique de Keyser, called this tantamount to a demand for war.
Energy efficiency enthusiasm
MEPs debated the energy efficiency directive.
It was a busy week for voting through key pieces of legislation. After months of negotiations with EU governments, the Commission's flagship energy efficiency directive got the nod from MEPs. The package of laws will ensure that public buildings become increasingly energy efficienct. The parliament's lead negotiator on the directive, the Green MEP from Luxembourg, Claude Turmes, hailed it as an "anti-crisis directive". However, there was disappointment from some quarters that the original proposal for a EU-wide target of 20% efficiency saving by 2020 was replaced by an amendment allowing each country to set their own targets, subject to assessment from the Commission.
EU funding arguments linger on
The Council set out its position on the 2013 budget.
The question of the EU's funding is rarely far from the thoughts of MEPs, and this week was no exception. The latest stage in the annual budgetary process saw the Council of Ministers - which represents EU governments - formally putting their proposals to the parliament. The European Commission wants to increase the EU's budget by 6.8% next year, to pay for projects already agreed to by member states. The Council, on the other hand, thinks the limit should be kept to just 2.79%, a decision politely described by the Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski as "disappointing". With the Council and Commission's cards now firmly on the table, MEPs, who traditionally side with the Commission, will set out their position in October. This then fires the starting gun on weeks of intense negotiations before an agreement is - supposedly - reached in December.
Victims' rights directive backed by MEPs
MEPs debated the victims rights directive.
An emotionally-charged debate on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks saw MEPs give broad backing to a new package of laws designed to ensure minimum standards across the EU for victims of crime. All victims will now have free access to services such as interpretation and psychological assistance, wherever in the EU the crime takes place. Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said it was a sign that EU policymaking is about "real people - not just institutions". The directive also contains special treatment for the families of the victims of terror attacks, and MEPs paused during the debate to remember everyone whose lives had been lost in such atrocities.
Also this week:
- Putin government under fire over imprisonment of punk band
- political row in
spills over to Strasbourg
- EU governments urged to come clean over allegations of CIA
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