Another momentous week here in the European Parliament in Strasbourg...
Members backed new measures aimed at fighting organised crime and adopted new EU-wide health and safety guidelines on the use of high risk medical devices.
Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was finally able to come here to Strasbourg to collect the Sakharov Prize-- 23 years after it was awarded to her.
Meanwhile the Civil Liberties Committee has agreed to tougher restrictions on the online use and storage of EU citizens' personal data.
We start our coverage though on medical devices...
New revised rules adopted in Parliament will help improve the certification and monitoring process of agencies which inspect and approve all forms of medical devices.
Quite often such devices include tests for diabetes --even online testing for DNA samples. These tests are often of poor quality and lead to false and thus dangerous medical conclusions for EU citizens.
Rapporteur and member of the EPP Group Peter Liese cited a faulty German HIV test, carrying the 'CE' stamp of approval, as just one example.
Peter Liese, German Member EPP Group 00:38-01:03 (Seance clip): That means the test would say for example that there was no virus but in reality the patient was already infected with HIV, from all corresponding sources, for example from a blood transfusion or sexual contact. So the current legislation is not sufficient, it doesn't sufficiently protect patients and we need to make improvements. I'm very pleased that we have broad consensus on many of these aspects.
Nearly a dozen recent audits of agencies have led to the temporary suspension of two of them, as well as the removal of some dangerously misleading testing devices.
Manufacturers and vendors of such devices would also come under closer scrutiny through the set-up of an EU Portal for reporting serious incidents, according to EPP Group Member Mairead McGuinness.
Mairead McGuinness, Irish MEP, EPP Group 1:35-01:50 (Seance clip): We also need much tighter post-market scrutiny and surveillance so that when a problem is detected there`s feedback of that information right through the system and there is a rapid reaction to it. I think that`s crucial for effective regulation of medical devices.
Tighter restrictions on testing by patients themselves and not professionals would also be implemented under the revised rules. EPP members say the changes will lead to higher consumer confidence in medical testing, particularly for high risk illnesses, as well as increased industry innovation.
Parliament also approved a final report setting out an ambitious action plan aimed at fighting organised crime and the money laundering which sustains it.
18 months in the making, the report recognises organised crime`s drain on the European economy, by some estimates accounting for 120 billion Euros or 4 to 5% of untaxed GDP, as well as the dire human cost extracted.
Salvatore Iacolino, rapporteur of the report and EPP member, said it was long past time for more coordinated EU efforts to stamp out mafia-related corruption.
Salvatore Iacolino, Italian MEP, EPP Group : We hope that the adoption of this report will present us with a new shared challenge to deal with cross-border crime and with mafia organisations and their corruption and money laundering.
Among the areas Iacolino highlighted were drugs, small arms and human trafficking, and he made pointed reference to the "trafficking of death" by those who sought profit to bring refugees to the shores of Europe via Lampadusa and other EU frontier outposts.
Salvatore Iacolino : We want our economies to be legal; we want entrepreneurs to be able to compete freely and fairly in any Member State for markets. And we want to exclude companies that have received final convictions for organised crime or for abuses within public procurement procedures.
The final report also calls for the criminalisation of sports-rigging and match fixing. It also calls for a European Day of Memory every year on October 23rd, the date of the report`s adoption this week, to remember all the victims of organised crime.
She won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1990, the year her party won historic free elections--results which were ignored by the ruling Burmese military regime which had jailed her. Now 23 years later Aung San Suu Kyi was able to come here to Strasbourg to accept the honour.
It was a long time coming, with 15 years of house arrest along the way. But her message on freedom of thought was timeless.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese opposition leader : Freedom of thought begins with the right to ask questions and this right our people in Burma have not had in so long that some of our young people do not quite know how to ask questions.
Suu Kyi then eloquently concluded by thanking Europe`s citizens, through its elected representatives in Parliament, for their support in her long fight against political oppression.
Aung San Suu Kyi: I would like to say there will come a time too when our own people can make their own contribution to the world. I`m confident that the young people of Burma now will one day be valued citizens of the world helping to promote those rights and those achievements of which Professor Sakharov would have approved. Thank you (extended applause)
And finally, new action was taken by the Civil Liberties Committee as part of wider data privacy legislation aimed at protecting EU citizen`s personal information online, regardless of where it is stored in the world.
Axel Voss, EPP Group member and Rapporteur for the Committee for Civil Liberties, said the measures approved would send out a strong signal.
Axel Voss German MEP on: The signal is we would like to have the data protection for the citizens and on the other hand the business models for the companies.
Those measures would not only allow citizens the right to erase their personal data from commercial servers, they would also levy heavy fines which could amount to billions of Euros on the larger technology companies which do not comply.
If agreement is reached in upcoming negotiations with the European Council, a final vote could take place in Strasbourg in coming months.
That's all for now from the Strasbourg plenary session. See you again soon in Brussels. In the meantime find out more about the activities of Parliament`s largest political force by going to eppgroup.eu. Thanks for looking in.
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