European Parliament is about citizens and their daily life. Perhaps nobody, or just a few people, realize what and how much the EU institution does for them. With the European elections to be held in Italy in few hours, there is still the risk that somebody don’t know what he’s going to vote for. During these five years a lot of legislative proposals passed, with MEPs who actively worked to give better solutions to the very low-ambition proposals put forward by the European Commission.
It would be not an easy task trying to summarize five years of Parliamentary activity, considering also all time dedicated to Brexit, which took the political agenda of all EU institutions hostage since the day after the British referendum. A lot of extra-work was added to the “normal” course. Nevertheless, despite crisis and unexpected events a lot of useful results were produced. Since elections are behind the corner, we believe it is important to offer some examples of achievements reached between 2014 and 2019 for everybody’s sake.
Reconciling work and family life
In January this year, the European Parliament reached an agreement with the EU Council on the new legislation on parental rights. The Parliament was able to foresee a minimum of ten working days paternity leave for fathers and equivalent second parents (where recognized by national law) paid at the level of sick pay. MEPs also added two months of non-transferable and paid parental leave.
Furthermore, Parliament and Council agreed the Member States must offer 5 days per year of carer’s leave for workers providing personal care to a relative or a person living in the same household and with a serious medical condition or age-related impairment. Last but not least, working parents and carers would be able to request an adjustment to their working patterns including, where feasible, through remote working or flexible schedules.
Cheaper international phone calls
In June 2018 the European Parliament and the Council of the EU reached a political agreement to update the EU’s telecoms rules. Entered into force last week, the new legislation ensures that international calls within the EU will not cost more than €0.19 per minute (+ VAT), both for fix lines and for mobile phones, and €0.06 for sms (+ VAT).
What does it mean in practice? Currently with an Italian national tariff plan calls from landlines would cost €0.89 per minute. To talk two hours a month with a friend or relative in another Member State of the European Union, we therefore spend €105. Thanks to new tariffs a maximum rate of €0.23 per minute (€0,19 + VAT), the expense would fall to €27 for the same duration of calls. This is four times less than before, at a total savings of €78 per month.
On-line shopping: end of discrimination on the Internet
In November 2017, the EU institutions agreed a new regulation banning unjustified geo-blocking and discrimination practices to foster e-commerce and cross-border access to goods and services in the EU.
The European Parliament pushed for that. As a consequence, on-line traders are today prohibited from blocking or limiting access to on-line interfaces and from re-routing web-customers. New rules entered into force in December 2018.
Less pollution, more breathable air in town
Since September 2018, new cars sold in the EU must pass more reliable emissions tests in real driving conditions and an improved laboratory test. More important, new rules on clean vehicles as agreed at the end of the inter-institutional negotiations, in December 2018, sets a 37.5% target for reducing EU fleet- wide emissions for new cars by 2030. This is far above the 30% initially proposed by the Commission and close to the 40% demanded by the Parliament. For new vans, the 2030 target is raised to 31%, compared to the 30% level proposed by the Commission and supported by the Council.
More EU money to fight youth unemployment
In 2014, as part of the agreement on the 2014-2020 MFF, the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) was launched. This special financial envelop supports young people living in areas with youth unemployment rates higher than 25%. It finances the provision of apprenticeships, traineeships, job placements and further education leading to qualifications. It is dedicated to all European aged between 15 and 24, but Italy obtained to extend the YEI to all under 30.
In its position on the 2016 budget, the European Parliament decided to propose new commitments in 2016 for the continuation of the YEI, whose entire financial envelope was frontloaded in the years 2014-2015.
MEPs’ work didn’t end there. In its resolution on the 2017 budget, they proposed to keep funding the YEI and granting an additional €1,500 million in commitment appropriations to enable its continuation.
In 2018, after Parliamentary works, the commitment appropriations for young European reached the amount of €350 million, more than initially proposed by the Commission (€233.3 million). Finally in the negotiations on the EU annual budget for 2019, allocation was significantly increased to €580 million thanks to the ambition of MEPs.
More people studying and training themselves abroad
Raise your hand if you don’t know Erasmus, now called Erasmus+. The European Union’s program dedicated to education, training, youth and sport is one of the best-known EU initiatives. About 5 million people had a studying experience or a training in another EU Member States since the creation of the program, in 1987.
The European Parliament secured an extra €240 million for the Erasmus+ budget in 2019, meaning that the program can be made available to more people and make a bigger difference in helping young people to get an improved start in life.
In its May 2018 proposal for the new Erasmus program within the next general Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF 2021-2027), the European Commission incorporated the recommendations of the European Parliament to reach out more to people with fewer opportunities, including people with disabilities. While the European Commission had proposed a budget of just €30 billion in current prices for the whole period, the European Parliament proposes an increased envelope of €46.758 billion in current prices to ensure better inclusion. It allocates 83% to education and training,10.3% to youth actions, and 2% to sport. Negotiations on MFF will resume in autumn. Meanwhile the European Parliament set its priorities.