This week was another fast moving week in the post Referendum roller coaster that we are living through. By the end of the week there seemed to have been big shifts on both accessing the single market and freedom of movement and, for once, Theresa May didn’t rush to undermine her ministers. However, it is still very far from clear what direction the government will take on these headline issues. Being part of the Single Market and Freedom of Movement are fundamental to the shape of our future relationship with the EU but in reality the devil will also be in the details - what will happen with research collaboration, certification for manufacturing sectors or medicines approvals? It is the Government’s job to pay attention to these details as well as the headlines.
EU funds for gender equality
This week I presented my report to the women's rights and gender equality committee on EU Funds for gender equality. The report highlights the sporadic nature of the implementation of gender mainstreaming in EU budget allocations and spending decisions. The report issues specific recommendations including all EU budget titles to pursue equally strong gender targets and gender mainstreaming standards, increasing the level of funds allocated to achieving the objectives of gender strategic engagement in the next multi-annual financial framework, and regular training programmes and technical support on gender mainstreaming tools for all staff involved in policy making and budgetary procedures.
On Thursday I led Labour MEPs in voting to approve the final agreement on the 2017 EU budget agreed with Member States . We need the European Union to function as effectively as possible whatever happens with regard to Brexit, this budget is part of delivering that stability. The budget includes funding for our regions, our scientists, our farmers, and non-governmental organisations across the UK. The UK government has yet to outline its plans on what will replace EU funding after Brexit. This budgetary agreement also included amendments to the 2016 budget to increase financing in the field of migration, refugees and security as well as reducing spending in administration. Increases in spending areas such as actions to address youth unemployment fall within the overarching multi-annual financial framework.
Euronest Partnership meeting
I also co-chaired a meeting of the Euronest parliamentary assembly – a forum with the EU’s eastern neighbours of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. We discussed economic integration in the EU's Eastern neighbourhood, energy security and youth unemployment, an issue that is of concern in both the EU and our Eastern Partner countries.
S&D wins crucial Environment committee votes
This week I stepped in with several colleagues to help pass a vote in the Environment committee of the European Parliament on new measures to combat the emissions cheating of car manufacturers that came to light in the Volkswagen scandal last year.
The Parliament’s proposals address the systemic failures identified over the last year by the inquiry committee into emissions measurements in the automotive sector (EMIS). One of the main S&D objectives is to strengthen market surveillance at the EU level by establishing an EU Agency in charge of tests and inspections to oversee the accuracy of the implementation of EU rules at national level. We ultimately got the support we needed to provide sufficient and adequate financing.
I was delighted to meet with the ‘Dorset Red Ramblers’, a group of constituents who travelled to Belgium to learn more about how I represent their constituency here in Brussels. We discussed the current political climate, including the upcoming Italian constitutional referendum, the French presidential election and the re-run of the Austrian election. Following our discussion, the group enjoyed a presentation from a member of the visitor’s service who explained the structures of key institutions and answered questions on immigration in Europe, the rise of populism, CETA and of course, Brexit. Many of the constituents also sat in on a FEMM committee meeting where I presented my report on EU funds for gender inequality. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging visit for both myself and my staff, and I hope the group benefited from their trip!
I also had the pleasure of meeting Marian Nicholson who is a board member of Pain Alliance Europe, a trustee of Pain UK, and the director of Shingles Support Society in the UK. Marian was joined by Joop van Griensven, president of PAE. We discussed the psychological impact of being forced out of work and the stigma that still surrounds many chronic pain conditions. Employers need encouragement to help people with chronic pain back to work, a process which can benefit not only the sufferer, but also families and society as a whole. It was a useful and engaging discussion and following the meeting I was happy to sign Written Declaration 0112/2016 on Access to Employment for those affected by Neurological Disorders and Chronic Pain Conditions.