Eu in Brief

The European Parliament rejects the “Swift” agreement”The majority view in the European Parliament is that the correct balance between security, on the one hand, and the protection of civil liberties and fundamental rights, on the other, has not been achieved in the text put to us by the Council”, said EP President Jerzy Buzek, commenting on MEP’s no-vote on the processing and transfer of Financial Messaging Data from the European Union to the United States for purposes of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (SWIFT) in the European Parliament. The EP adopted the new regulations envisaged in the Lisbon Treaty and voted against the proposal of the States Council while endorsing, in the last plenary, the report drawn up by Dutch MEP Hennis-Plasschaert (378 votes in favour, 196 against, 31 abstentions). MEPs now ask “to renegotiate another long-term agreement in compliance with the Lisbon Treaty, notably the Charter of Fundamental Rights”. MEPs’ “concerns on the use of data have not been fully met”. Buzek recalled also that the Lisbon Treaty has given MEPs “a right to veto over international agreements of this kind”.The first woman to be elected CoR PresidentMercedes Bresso, chair of the Piemonte Region (Italy) is the first woman to be elected President of the Council of Regions (consultative organ of the European Union) by 344 members of the Assembly representing EU27 cities and local authorities. She underlined the mission of the CoR (www.cor.europa.eu), “to effectively represent the common interest of all sub-national authorities in Europe”, and added, “The institutional debate is over. It’s time to bring the Treaty of Lisbon to life. We will no longer just ask that regional and local authorities are taken into consideration. We will not just be the yes-man. We will enter the political debate with substantial proposals and we will not – if it is required – shy away from political controversy.” Former MEP and member of the Committee for several years, in her programmatic speech she underlined a series of priorities which include “the improvement of Europe’s cohesion policy and by no means, its renationalisation – the integration of regional and local interests in the debate on the EU’s financial perspectives; the successful implementation of the new legal instrument of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC); the launch of an overhauled Lisbon strategy. Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso from the Murcia region in Spain was elected vice-President. He will replace Bresso as president in 2012.Migrants’ remittance: 32 billion per yearEU27 migrants’ “remittance” amounts to 32 billion euro (figures refer to the end of 2008), compared to 19.4 bn in 2004. Two thirds of the total outflow involves extra-EU27 countries. “The increase in workers’ remittances over recent years was mainly due to a sharp rise in extra-EU27 flows (from 11.5 bn in 2004 to 22.5 bn in 2008” related to EU immigration increase. Conversely, “intra-EU27 flows rose less rapidly” (from 7.9 bn to 9.3 bn in the past five years). “Consequently, the share of extra-EU27 remittances in the total has risen from 59% in 2004 to 71% in 2008”. “Two thirds of the total outflow of workers’ remittances from the EU27 came from Spain (7.8 bn euro), Italy (6.4), France (3.4) and Germany (3.1 bn)”.Internet: the Executive calls to improve child safetyA survey promoted by the EU Commission has shown that “50% of European teenagers give out personal information on the web which can remain online forever and can be seen by anybody”. Following “Safer Internet Day” celebrated last week, the Executive welcomes “actions to protect children using social networking websites taken by the 20 companies who signed the Safer Social Networking Principles last year”. Most of these companies “have empowered minors to tackle online risks by making it easier to change privacy settings, block users or delete unwanted comments and content”. Yet more needs to be done to protect children online, the Commission says. “Minors’ profiles need to be set to private by default and questions or abuse reports have to receive quick and appropriate responses”, said Vice-President Viviane Reding.

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