A Selection of the best questions MEPs asked EU institutions on your behalf.
Whether you think of them as a democratic Antichrist or quite the opposite, a manifestation and celebration of (trans-) democracy, the European elections are finally upon us. That means MEPs are packing their precious belongings and heading back home to campaign for reelection. But before they board their Ryanair flights (we wish!) many members of the European Parliament took the opportunity to pose a question or two to the European Commission and Council. Altogether we have registered 1812 questions for the month of April and just like each month before, last month also showed some interesting trends in MEP enquiries. With tensions rising to new highs, and with Ukraine being on the brink of a civil war, MEPs dedicated a considerable number of questions to the conflict that is not only a geopolitical problem but also undermines the EU’s own authority (more than 20 questions, e.g. 1, 2, 3). Staying with the theme of foreign affairs, parliamentarians also showed concern over the ban of Twitter by Turkey (e.g. 1, 2, and 3). Furthermore, the recent decision of Switzerland to severe ties with Europe still warrants significant attention from MEPs (e.g. 1, 2) as does the ongoing negotiations on TTIP (e.g. 1, 2).
The most legalistic question
With a title almost as long as a question itself you know you have come across an enquiry of the utmost legalistic nature. But behind these technical terms, MEP Salvador Sedó i Alabart’s enquiry is of the utmost importance as it seeks a better implementation of legal provisions protecting Human Rights in Europe and abroad.
‘Level of implementation of the EU guidelines on the promotion of compliance with international humanitarian law (mainstreaming of international humanitarian law in EU human rights policy)’ by MEP Salvador Sedó i Alabart (EPP, ES)
The current action plan on human rights and democracy includes four actions as regards the promotion of compliance with international humanitarian law (IHL). The current action plan calls, inter alia, for measures ‘to continue to support IHL dissemination to all warring parties, including armed non State actors’ (paragraph 21(b)) and provides for the ‘systematic use of political dialogue and demarche campaigns to encourage third countries to ratify core IHL instruments and implement IHL obligations’ (paragraph 21 (c)).
1. What actions have been implemented as regards IHL dissemination to warring parties and in which specific conflicts?
2. What instruments and conflict situations have been prioritised for demarche campaigns? Which follow-up is carried out vis-à-vis countries refusing to fulfil their obligations under IHL and/or refusing to ratify core IHL instruments?
3. In order to limit the effects of armed conflict on civilians and prevent human rights violations in conflict situation, will the Council consider including other means of action to reflect the recommendations outlined in the EU guidelines on the promotion of compliance with IHL in the next action plan on human rights and democracy? In particular, will the EU consider including specific actions relating to campaigns to the general public on specific conflicts (see paragraph 16(c)), cooperation with other international bodies (see paragraph 16(e)) and the promotion of enactment of national penal legislation punishing violations of IHL (see paragraph 16(g))?
The most local question
For sure, we have all been closely following the story of Tania the elephant from the Târgu Mureș zoo in Romania. For those who are resigned on animal rights, however, luckily MEP Phil Bennion is on the case.
‘Tania the elephant at Târgu Mureș zoo in Romania’ by MEP Phil Bennion (ALDE, UK)
Following concerns raised by my constituents about Tania the elephant, can the Commission confirm if any progress has been made regarding the improvements recommended following the inspection visit by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) in 2013, and if the Commission has any further plans to carry out any inspections of Târgu Mureș zoo in 2014/2015, given that it is imperative that this situation is addressed as a matter of urgency in order to ensure that Romania meets the standards set down in the EU’s Zoos Directive?
The Most EU relevant question
MEP Véronique De Keyser questions whether citizens’ initiative – designed to open up the decision-making process at the EU level to ordinary citizens (or so the theory goes) – can also prove counterproductive if used against the values and goals upheld by the EU.
‘Eligibility to be a sponsor of a citizens’ initiative’ by MEP Véronique De Keyser (S&D, BE)
Are organisations whose public statements are at odds with the Charter of Fundamental Rights eligible to be organisers and sponsors of a citizens’ initiative? In that connection, do the homophobic statements and/or statements resolutely hostile to women’s rights which can be found on the websites of the associations which supported the ‘One of us’ initiative not represent a serious problem? What is the Commission’s stance on this matter?
The Most Eurosceptic Question
In case you have missed the last edition of Daily Mail or Herald Express, worry no more; MEP Nicole Sinclaire knows exactly what is currently trending among the Eurosceptic part of the British population.
‘Posting of workers’ by MEP Nicole Sinclaire (NI, UK)
How can the Commission reassure British citizens that the enforcement of Directive 96/71/EC concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services will not be detrimental to British workers? Why was this Directive not enforced by the Commission at some point over the last 18 years?
The best rhetorically gifted and politically charged question
For those familiar with science-fiction literature and anticipation stories such as the film Matrix, the concept of artificial uteruses might be familiar. MEP Crisitiana Muscardini is VERY concerned by the idea of children being born as machines and the dramatic language used in the following question deeply reflects her strong beliefs.
‘Artificial uteruses and abominations of science’ by MEP Cristiana Muscardini (ECR, IT)
British geneticist Aarathi Prasad writes in her essay “Like a Virgin: How Science is Redesigning the Rules of Sex” that science will make it possible to have children without having sex and without having to sustain a pregnancy, thanks to the use of an “external artificial uterus”. The mere idea sends chills down one’s spine, and is being expounded with ideological furore by the scientist behind the “virgin births”, according to whom “the sexual roles assigned on the basis of gender have been used to oppress women and to justify prejudice against homosexuals.” Researcher Hung-ching Liu from Cornell University in New York is already working on the construction of an external artificial uterus and the creation of artificial egg and sperm cells. But what humanity could a person have who is the product of an artificial creation and not of the love of two parents? We understand the help that science can offer to couples who are unable to have children, but this goes far beyond that: anticipating a world in which it is not nature that produces life but machines, where the birth of children will be brought about in the laboratory using eugenics that are not too far removed from Action T4, Nazi Germany’s euthanasia programme.
Can the Commission answer the following questions:
1. Is it aware of this situation?
2.Can it tell us whether this type of research is regulated within Member States?
3. Can it guarantee that it will not offer any funding whatsoever to scientific research of this kind?
4. Does it not think, given the growing importance of the Directorate-General Joint Research Centre and of the Commission itself in this field, that it should consider opening a bioethical studies centre to investigate and open up a debate on these issues, in order to prevent these abhorrent science fiction theories from becoming a reality in the EU?
The most unexpected question
MEP Cristiana Muscardini take two; taking one’s dog on holiday by plane does not always pay off…
‘Animals in planes’ by MEP Cristiana Muscardini (ECR, IT)
A passenger paid EUR 120 for a ticket to take his 32-kg dog with him on a trip from Linate to Lanzarote, but the airline first mislaid the dog and then sent it to Las Palmas before finally handing it back to the owner, bleeding, with multiple injuries and a broken tooth.
Can the Commission say whether it:
1. is aware of this matter?
2. knows of similar cases involving airlines in the Member States?
3. thinks that, to avoid regrettable incidents which could even result in death, a control and traceability system similar to that used for ‘ordinary’ luggage should also be used for animal transport containers?
Answers to the questions from previous months
- Most local: Compensation following dental work in Germany
- Most EU relevant: Voting rights of EU citizens living abroad
- Most Eurosceptic: Participation by Commission President Barroso in conference on the ‘extreme right’
- Best rhetorical: Statements by the President of the Commission on Scotland and the Union