Commission 2015 Work Programme John on Welcome to our round-up of the last European Parliament plenary session here in Strasbourg for 2014, where the Juncker Commission´s growth and red tape-reducing work programme for 2015 has just been presented in Parliament.
Parliament also finally signed off on the hard-fought 2015 EU budget, which had been in some peril because of billions in unpaid bills.
Finally, Parliament also passed a resolution conditionally, repeat conditionally, recognising Palestinian statehood.
We begin our coverage with what promises to be a more politically dynamic year of EU law-making.
Archive John off A digital single market, tougher rules on tackling tax avoidance, a balanced and fair migration agenda and deepening EU integration will enjoy high priority status in 2015, but are not the top priorities, according to European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker.
Juncker statement Plenary Jean-Claude Juncker on
The main priority, without doubt, relates to growth and employment.
For this reason, three months after its confirmation, the Commission has proposed an ambitious investment plan which will keep our minds and our meetings busy during the next six months.
La grande priorité, celle qui ne fait pas de doute, gravite autour des éléments croissance et emploi.
Raison pour laquelle trois semaines après son installation; la Commission a proposé un ambitieux plan d'investissements qui occupera non seulement les esprits, mais aussi nos réunions au cour des six à venir.
Plenary John on Meanwhile, EPP Group Chairman Manfred Weber said it was time to stop the "either or" on austerity measures versus investment.
Manfred Weber, EPP Weber on Manfred Weber, EPP Group Chairman
We have to invest. We have to be engaged in all the questions which are really the top priorities on the table. And that is growth. Those are jobs, especially for the young people in the European Union.
So that is why we are strongly backing and supporting the proposal from Jean Claude Juncker and Frans Timmermans to limit the new proposals and to concentrate and to focus on the main priorities.
The 2015 work programme, 23 new initiatives in all, is also intended to improve and bring the EU closer to becoming an energy union.
An EU Task Force on Investment recently identified 2,000 potential projects worth an estimated €1.3 trillion Euros, including improvements to Europe's infrastructure in areas such as transport and schools.
Manfred Weber, EPP Group Chairman Weber on
Let´s simply act now. And acting means the investment plan of Jean-Claude Juncker to create fresh money for the economy to have proper and good projects where we can invest, especially with private money, because we have enough private money in Europe.
And the second pillar is structural reforms all over Europe. We need on the European level and the national level the engagement to make it easier to invest in the European Union.
John off The Juncker Commission also intends to discard a number of highly contentious social and environmental proposals that will never be voted on in their current form for political or technical reasons: around 80 existing proposals in all.
PTC Budget 2015 John on This week, MEPs gave the go-ahead on the EU budget for 2015...a large step towards funding vitally needed programmes...preventing the collapse of the budget by starting to repay a mountain of old unpaid bills--around 23 billion Euros worth.
John off The overall level of payments in the 2015 budget is set at €141 billion. That includes a vital top-up of 4 billion Euros to help reduce past unpaid bills.
EPP Group member and EU budget expert José Manuel Fernandes.
Interview Fernandes José Manuel Fernandes on
We have a budget for growth, for employment, we managed to increase the compromise for example for research, for small and medium sized enterprises, for youth.
We have also solved the issue of the unpaid on short-term, we have succeeded in stabilizing and giving credibility to the institutions of the European Union. On a un budget pour la croissance, pour l´emploie on a réussi à augmenter l´engagement par exemple pour la recherche, pour les petites et moyennes entreprises, pour la jeunesse. On a aussi résolu la question des impayées à courte terme, on a réussi à stabiliser et à donner ainsi de la crédibilité aux institutions de le Union Européenne.
John off Historically, more than a third of the budget pays for farm subsidies and aid for under-developed regions of the EU. Around 8 billion Euros from the budget is to help kick-start the Juncker Commission´s ambitious investment plan.
Fernandes said further member state funding reform is needed.
It is a situation that we must change because the budget of the European Union does not have much in the way of its own resources; we must work on that to avoid these divergences between Member States.
C'est une situation qu'on doit changer parce que le budget de l´Union Européenne n'a pas des vraies ressources propres et c'est le travail qu'on doit faire pour éviter ces distensions entre états membres.
John off Making more money available for research and development and enabling the EU to do its foreign policy job effectively, including much needed humanitarian relief efforts in the Middle East, will help the EU retain its high profile in these areas.
John on Following on the actions of several European national counterparts, Parliament here has passed a resolution recognising Palestine statehood as part of a permanent two state solution with Israel but with fundamental conditions attached.
John off Coming in the midst of an Israeli election season, it´s a symbolically important step towards pushing Israel and Palestine back to the negotiating table.
A significant majority in Parliament believes early negotiations are necessary, on the basis of the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as capital of both countries.
Elmar Brok, EPP Group member and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee made it clear the vote did not constitute an unconditional recognition of a State of Palestine.
Interview Brok Elmar Brok, Chairman EP Foreign Affairs Committee
This recognition should be part, hand in hand, with the development of the peace talks. We have to press for advancement of the peace talks, and we have to say that settlements are illegal and we have to say also that Palestine, or parts of the Palestinian government, have to recognise the right of Israel to exist.
That's all from this Plenary Session in Strasbourg. See you again in the New Year. And if you want to find out more about the largest political force in the European Parliament, visit eppgroup.eu
Thanks for looking in... and have an enjoyable, safe and healthy holiday season.
Headline European Parliament plenary round-up: Commission Work Programme 2015 - EU Budget - Conditional recognition of Palestine
Description European Commission presents 2015 work programme which will cut red-tape; Parliament passes hard-fought 2015 budget to address foreign policy and unpaid bills priorities; EP also approves conditional recognition of Palestine on the proviso that peace talks continue and progress.
Tags Manfred Weber; Jean Claude Juncker; José Manuel Fernandes; Elmar Brok; 2015 Work Programme; EU Budget; Israel and Palestine; EPP Group; European Commission; European Parliament; Strasbourg