Intensely lobbied tobacco law to be voted THIS WEEK
04.10.13 @ 18:15
Berlin - Members of the European Parliament are gathering in Strasbourg this week, with a long-delayed and heavily lobbied law on tobacco set to be voted on Tuesday (8 October).
The aim of the draft bill is to make tobacco less attractive to young people, by banning flavoured and slim-shaped cigarettes and by increasing the size of health warnings on the package.
The vote should have initially taken place last month, but was postponed amid pressure from the pro-tobacco lobby. A senior Irish official told Reuters there is "unprecedentedly intense lobbying" and that cigarette manufacturers knew about precise details of the law less than 24 hours after it was agreed behind closed doors.
Turning to another touchy subject, MEPs on Wednesday will discuss with EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom whether to suspend an agreement allowing the flow of data from the Belgium-based Swift company recording international bank transfers, given the media reports that the National Security Agency is illegally tapping Swift.
Also on Wednesday, MEPs are set to reject a proposal by the EU commission on harmonising flight and rest times for pilots and cabin crew across the EU.
"We are trying to get a more uniform system in place that the whole of Europe can work to," British MEP Brian Simpson said.
On Thursday, MEPs are set to vote on the EU's new border surveillance system, Eurosur. The system aims to better detect and rescue small ships at sea, to prevent catastrophes such as the one last week off the Italian coast at Lampedusa, where hundreds of migrants from Africa drowned in a capsized boat.
Interior ministers meeting in Luxembourg together with EU foreign affairs czar Catherine Ashton on Tuesday are also set to discuss asylum rules and what else can be done after the Lampedusa disaster. Italy is likely to ask for more solidarity from member states on coping with migrants.
Ministers will also discuss the so-called 'social benefits tourism' with the European Commission.
Interior ministers from Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom in April said nationals from Romania and Bulgaria abuse their social welfare systems.
On Monday, justice ministers in Luxembourg are discussing a revamp of EU data protection rules, aiming to designate a lead data protection supervisor to make it easier for people to file complaints against companies. The lead supervisor would be determined by where the company has its main office.
Justice ministers will also discuss how to protect the euro against counterfeiting and proposals to set up the European Public Prosecutor's office.
Meanwhile, in Germany, coalition talks are set to continue, with Chancellor Angela Merkel meeting the new leaders of the Green Party on Thursday.
A grand coalition with the Social Democrats remains her preferred option, however. Talks could last another few weeks or even months, as there is no legal deadline to form a new government after the 22 September elections.