Saturday, February 21, 2009

EU: CIA flights, illegal worker sanctions and an attack on Lisbon Treaty

Source: European Parliament

The plenary on Thursday saw a controversial speech by Czech President Václav Klaus and a rejoinder from EP President Pöttering. The EP adopted a resolution on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners and backed sanctions for employers of illegal immigrants.

Mr Klaus, who is well known for his opposition to the Lisbon Treaty, and who has frequently expressed sceptical views about the direction of the EU, criticized the decision-making system of the EU as "different from classic parliamentary democracy". He pleaded for a greater shift of competencies to EU countries. "Are you really convinced that everything you decide in this hall must be decided here and not on the level of the member states?" he asked.

Mr Klaus said the Lisbon Treaty would worsen the EU's democratic deficit, and questioned the role of the EP.

During his speech a number of MEPs demonstratively walked out of the plenary chamber. At the same time, his views were vociferously supported by some members of political groups opposing the Lisbon Treaty.

Responding, EP President Hans-Gert Pöttering described Mr Klaus's views as "an expression of the diversity in Europe" but pointed out that "in a democracy it's the view of the majority that counts". Without the EP, he warned, Europe would be in the hands of bureaucrats. Mr Pöttering reminded Mr Klaus that, for all his criticism, he owed his freedom to speak this way to the fact that "we live in European democracy where everyone can express his or her own opinion," – something which had not always been the case in the parliaments of the European continent.

"Sanctions directive" adopted

MEPs adopted the report by Italian Socialist Claudio Fava on sanctions for employers of illegal immigrants by a big majority. The sanctions directive will be a further weapon in the struggle to combat illegal immigration. Employers could now be fined, banned or criminally charged if seen to be employing, exploiting or trafficking illegal workers.

Illegal movement and detention of prisoners

MEPs also called for EU member states to "bear a particular share of political, moral and legal responsibility for transportation and detention" in Guantanamo. When they adopted a resolution on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transportation and illegal detention of prisoners. Several EU countries have been involved in extraordinary renditions.

Other key votes

MEPs backed proposals on stricter global controls on whaling, called for a reduction in value added tax on restaurants, audio books and local services among other items and backed a stronger relationship between the EU and NATO.
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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