06 Feb 2014
Welcome to our summary of the European Parliament's latest Plenary session in Strasbourg. This week, bloodshed in Ukraine is a top talking point. There were also resolutions on copyright and licensing of online rights across the EU, and on conditions of entry and residence for seasonally employed migrant workers. We begin our coverage with Ukraine, and strong words from the Parliament.
Ukraine has been in turmoil now for months. The western half of the country wants closer ties with the EU. Its eastern, Russian speaking half want closer ties too--but with Russia and its Customs Union.
Protests have gone on since November, when the Yanukovych government backed away from closer EU ties and agreed a loan with Russia. A prominent opposition leader was allegedly beaten and tortured. The EU and Russia are naturally placed to mediate.
But European People's Party President Joseph Daul strongly indicated that Putin´s Russia is compromised. …
We are very, very concerned. Because we see what´s happening there; people are being tortured. How these organisations are, those fighting for freedom and for Europe. That they have to die for that (cutaway)...This cannot go on and I say again "the white snows of Sochi are now red with the blood of Ukraine."
Daul also said the EU is doing all it can to keep the pressure on the Yanukovych government-- but a a lot depends on Putin.
Ukraine is dependent on Europe and also dependent on Russia. And we have to bring back healthy common sense. (cutaway) Yes we had discussions again there this week. I know that was difficult. And I also know they were not easy. But I say, also with Putin, I suppose he has a bit of democracy in his blood. And a bit of democracy has to be applied in Ukraine as it does in all of Europe.
Meanwhile Elmar Brok, chairman of Parliament´s Foreign Affairs committee and part of last week´s official delegation to Ukraine, wasted no words in assigning blame for the unrest in Kiev and elsewhere.
We want people to be able to demonstrate peacefully without having to live in fear of the State.
We`re in favour of beginning the constitutional process with an immediate implementation of the Constitution of 2004, under which Yanukovych was, after all, elected. And on this basis the swift organisation of new elections, in respect of the electoral law in order to reduce the possibilities for fraud.
Then the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee played the sanctions card.
If the Ukrainian government continues cracking down on the peaceful demonstrators we must look at the possibility of taking measures against those government officials who are responsible for peaceful demonstrators being thrown in prison and tortured.
This must also include travel bans to the EU and checking their bank accounts to see if the money in there is clean.
Opposition figures say they will do all in their power to re-establish Ukraine`s close ties to the EU…but they, and the EU, may yet be forced to compromise on Vladimir Putin´s terms if Ukraine`s collapse is to be avoided.
Winning better copyright terms in recorded music, a 6 billion Euro a year industry, is good news for creative artists and companies alike. The Digital Single Market also wins; through simplifying the online offer of pan-European music services.
Much of the credit goes to EPP Group rapporteur Marielle Gallo, who fought hard in Parliament´s Legal Affairs Committee to ensure artists are fairly paid for their work.
Safeguarding cultural diversity is crucial, Gallo said, to the success of the Digital Single Market. It also makes it easier to launch an online music service without having first to clear it with 28 different Member State collection agencies.
Nonetheless collection companies still have vast power by taking in copyright money and deciding how and when the artist receives it.
Thanks to this text, European platforms and start-ups will need to take up contact with fewer collecting organisations which grant licenses, making the online use of a global musical repertoire possible.
This is a real innovation. Because say a Spaniard or a Greek living in Brussels will be able to gain faster and cheaper access to music from his or her country of origin as well.
Gallo said that above all greater ease of licensing benefits EU citizens, who can then more easily access content. It´s also business friendly.
This Directive proves that it´s relatively easy to adapt copyright and similar rights to the digital world. And it`s proof that copyright is not an obstacle but rather something which can facilitate and foster the digital single market today.
All of this ensures that the creators themselves take a more active role in deciding how and where their copyright material is used.
Gallo said Europe needs more digital success stories; a European iTunes, for example.
It´s about greater recognition and protection of the contributions that EU recording artists make.
And speaking of greater protection, a new Parliamentary Directive would grant secure legal status to the more than one hundred thousand seasonal workers-- crop harvesters and tourism staff for example-- who come from non-EU Countries to the EU each year to work.
The Directive proposes the first EU scheme on circular migration: that is, workers who live outside the EU and come every year for the same season. Duration of stay for a seasonal worker is set between a five month minimum and nine month maximum.
It´s about equal treatment on working conditions, minimum wages, leave and holidays that EU-nationals enjoy.
It recognises the large contribution migrant workers annually make to the EU economy.
And it´s also about fighting exploitation and discrimination disguised as "legal restrictions."
Véronique Mathieu Houillon, French EPP Group coordinator on the Justice and Home Affairs committee, summed up the benefits.
Next step-- what do we do to maintain our ideal of justice? We guarantee our workers dignified treatment and the same work conditions as EU workers...because Europe is not a purveyor of misery.
And then what do we do to protect our EU citizens and in particular their jobs? We avoid unfair competition by implementing the same wages, the same working hours and the same holidays for foreign and EU workers.
At the same time the proposal is meant to appease critics fearful of an increase in unemployment "benefits tourism" or those swapping seasonal work for an asylum application. Mathieu Houillon said SMEs also stand to benefit from the proposed changes to seasonal workers´s status.
Depending on the Member State, SMEs would be able to choose the number of foreign temporary workers it wants to employ, which would amount to chosen and quantified immigration.
Finally, the proposed directive establishes a fast track 90 day procedure for admitting seasonal employees who until now, have often had to wait a lot longer for their offers and contracts to come through.
That´s all for now from the Strasbourg plenary session. See you again next week from Brussels.
Find out more about the activities of the largest political force in Parliament by going to eppgroup.eu. Thanks for looking in, and see you again soon.
Ukraine top Plenary talking point -- Parliament also moves to protect artist and seasonal workers´ rights.
The latest European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg hears calls for greater EU intervention to halt the violence and restore rule of law in Ukraine. Also new agreements on safeguarding the copyright works of artists and the legal status of migrant workers in the EU.
European Parliament, EPP Group, Ukraine, EU-Russia, seasonal workers, digital copyright protection, Digital Single Market, Joseph Daul, Marielle Gallo, Elmar Brok, Véronique Mathieu Houillon, Strasbourg
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