This WEEK in the European Union
By Honor Mahony
The European Parliament will meet for the penultimate time before dissolving for the June European election with some heavy duty legislation up for discussion and vote, while the European Commission is set to unveil controversial proposals on reforming the bloc's Common Fisheries Policy.
One of the most important laws, set for approval by euro-deputies on Wednesday (22 April), concerns liberalising the EU's gas and electricity sectors. The package gives member state liberalising - or unbundling - options while strengthening the role of national and European regulators. Agreement on the compromise proposal came only after months of wrangling with Germany and France particularly opposed to the commission's original stronger proposals.
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The European Parliament will also vote on extending the rights of EU patients to have medical treatment in another member state (Thursday) as well as on lowering charges for mobile phone calling, texting and internet browsing while abroad within the EU (Wednesday).
Thursday will see deputies decide on whether to extend copyright on music recordings from 50 to 95 years, while draft laws on the supervision of the insurance sector and another on credit rating agencies will be put to the vote at the end of the week.
The recent civil unrest in Moldova resulting in a heavy-handed crackdown on protesters by the authorities will come up for discussion on Thursday, while MEPs have yet to resolve a dispute with the council (representing member states) on how it spends its money on security and defence missions with the issue up for debate on Wednesday.
Meeting on Tuesday, the European Commissioners are set to agree on a controversial reform of the EU's fisheries policy. A leaked draft of the paper last week indicated that Brussels wants to radically cut the EU's fishing fleet capacity in a bid to boost fishing stocks. The proposals come as French fisherman last week blockaded English Channel ferry ports in protest at their lack of work, reduced by restricted fishing quotas agreed by the EU.
The commission is also due to agree a paper on updating the criteria for giving aid to farmers in regionally difficult areas.
Both of these papers will be discussed by EU farm ministers at a regular meeting in Brussels later in the week.
EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner will on Tuesday present progress reports on how 12 countries neighbouring the EU (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Moldova, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Tunisia and Ukraine) are doing in deepening ties with the bloc.
Part of the European Neighbourhood Policy, the EU says it tailor-makes every agreement but countries such as Ukraine have in the past criticised the policies for being too uniform and lacking in ambition.
On Monday, EU consumer affairs commissioner Meglena Kuneva will give an overview of the progress made in the field of product safety in 2008, with the EU's rapid alert system for dangerous products registering 1,545 alerts last year, up from 1,355 in 2007.