EPP Group mourns the passing of Wilfried Martens, as European Parliament debates immigration and extremism, approves tou



Edited Package
At the Parliament, candles for those who perished off Lampedusa. The Italian vacation haven has also become a symbol of Europe's dilemma over refugees. A tragic symbol of late, after a boat from Africa capsized, killing hundreds of people. The EPP Group called for a parliamentary debate on what urgent measures should be taken.

Salvatore Iacolino, Italian MEP on

We need compensatory measures. Regarding Lampedusa, and those all affected centers. And 30 million euros promised today by Barroso are a partial response.

We need a policy of rehabilitation, of redistribution of burdens. After the first reception of the refugees, we must maintain a distinct division between the economic immigrants and those who have a right to asylum. One needs a common European approach, for mutual support.

The EPP Group is also concerned about the massive flow of refugees from the conflict in Syria and supports the view of the parliament´s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee to help the refugees. But the EPP Group also insists there should be no regularisation of refugees, but rather resident permits, access to accommodation and employment during the time refugees need to be protected.

Manfred Weber, German MEP on

We as the EPP Group have concrete requests. First, Europe must be in a position to prepare concrete contingencies. ...We must be on the ground to help neighbouring states. ... It´s not just about technical questions over there, rather it´s the question of whether Europe shows humanity, whether Europe shows heart. For that, we need the European Council to put the issue on the agenda and decide concrete solutions for the refugee problematic.

Across the EU, some 49,000 Syrians have sought asylum in a two-year-old conflict that has left more than 100,000 people dead and millions homeless.

Debate also intensified over extremists who could seek to enter the European Parliament in elections next spring, raising the question of how free should free speech be among political parties.

Greek judges have jailed the leader of the extreme-right party Golden Dawn and three MPs for crossing the line by inciting to violence and allegedly engaging in violent crime. Greek authorities have arrested a number of leaders in the anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-European party on charges of murder, extortion, money laundering and unauthorised weapons possession.
But the head of the Socialists and Democrats, Hannes Swoboda, has said the planned Greek presidency of the EU in January would be "unacceptable" if the EPP-led Greek government fails to stop Golden Dawn´s alleged criminal activities, and should perhaps ban the party altogether. That drew a counter-attack from EPP MEP Georgios Papanikolaou.

Georgios Papanikolaou, Greek MEP on

Papanikolaou believes the answer to the rise of extremism is economic development and transparency in political institutions.

Georgios Papanikolaou, Greek MEP on

The European solution has two aspects. First, relaxing tough austerity and putting the emphasis on the recovery, and the creation of opportunities for youth. And secondly, a greater transparency in the political decisions of the European Union. Because beyond the crisis, citizens are attracted to extremist parties to express their anger because they consider that the decisions regarding their daily lives are taken somewhere far away and in a way that they don´t understand.

On to action. The parliament has agreed to tighten the regulation of tobacco that kills an estimated 700,000 Europeans a year.

The tougher EU Tobacco Directive is a hard-fought victory for the health of all Europeans, smokers and non-smokers alike, especially the young, says the EPP Group's shadow rapporteur Karl-Heinz Florenz.

Karl-Heinz Florenz, German MEP, on

I really have worked for many years, step by step. We suffered many setbacks. It's all about keeping youth from starting to smoke. That is the goal, and it takes years.

The legislation would require tobacco companies to submit a list of ingredients in their cigarettes that would be tested to determine if they can be on a "positive list" of ingredients. The others would be banned.

Karl-Heinz Florenz, German MEP, on

At the moment we have 7 to 800 chemicals that can be mixed in. 60 to 70 are in every cigarette. And they are burned under one's nose, and that is what's dangerous.

The directive would require warning labels covering 65% of the package, and would phase out menthol cigarettes attractive to women and youth.

Karl-Heinz Florenz, German MEP, on

That is our main focus, that young people don't start to smoke, and that they also aren't driven by attractive marketing measures. ....
That´s what we want to prevent. Tobacco should taste like tobacco and not like a flavour, or menthol, or perhaps chemicals.

The parliament decided that electronic, or e-cigarettes, would be treated as a tobacco product, avoiding more limited marketing as pharmaceuticals. The Parliament will hold a final vote on the Tobacco Directive after negotiation with the European Council.

Finally, another step toward a single market in Europe, by establishing a European professional card that lets people take their skills across borders. It's part of an effort to smooth the flow of people, goods and services across the EU28, to create more jobs.

The revised European directive approved by the parliament would speed the recognition of professional qualifications. 800 regulated professions are to be covered by the modernised directive. Doctors, nurses, architects and other professionals will be able to work outside their home countries. Constance Le Grip is shadow rapporteur of the legislation.

We wanted to make simpler, more effective, more operational, more concrete, the procedures to recognise professional qualifications, to begin to create a real European labour market.

A professional card will take the form of an electronic certificate, allowing professionals to become established in another EU member state. There will also be a warning mechanism, especially in the medical sector, to speed information exchange about professional issues and protect patients as well as consumers.

To advance along two lines that are mobility, the reinforcement of mobility, and security and the reinforcement of protection that we owe to our fellow citizens, to our consumers, to our patients. Those were the commitments of the EPP.

Over the past 15 years, more than 230,000 EU citizens have sought to establish their professional credentials on an EU level. This amended directive will help to boost that figure, and the potential growth behind it.

That´s all for now from the Strasbourg session. See you next week from Brussels.

And find out more about the largest force in parliament by checking eppgroup.eu. Thanks for watching!
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  • Ioannis Zografos
    EPP TV Managing Producer
    +32(0) 2 284 18 45