Stand-up Chris on Hello and welcome to our round-up of the European Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg. The week saw action on the dramatic developments in Ukraine, on Switzerland´s moves to restrict immigration, on the quest for a European railway system, and on plans for an EU-wide emergency phone system. We begin with Ukraine, from where a European Parliament delegation has just returned.
European parliament vote on Ukraine Chris off The rapidly evolving situation in Ukraine caught most by surprise. Despite an EU-brokered agreement between the government and opposition, Ukraine´s parliament moved even faster to redirect Ukraine on a European track. This after President Viktor Yanukovych walked away from an Association Agreement with the EU, failed to crush opposition protests in a bloody crackdown, then fled from the capital Kiev.
The European Parliament approved a resolution which calls for moves to help stabilise the country.
Chris off Elmar Brok of the EPP Group is Chairman of the European Parliament´s Foreign Affairs Committee and has returned from a visit to Ukraine.
Pix from Ukraine Elmar Brok, MEP on 00:22
I think we have to help the Ukrainian people now. We have to avoid the default of the country. The people must have jobs, wages and bread. And here we have to help them in the short term. And we have seen how people fought in danger of their own life, for their freedom. They saw Europe as a sign not just for the economic situation. They said we´d like to live like in Poland or Ireland, in the same conditions for our children. And here I think we have to support. This is a great moral victory also for Europe and the European model.
European leaders in Kiev Chris off Much remains in question, as Europe and its international partners support efforts to hold early elections and establish a reformist government. The financial costs could be high as well as the risks, as Russia vies to maintain its influence in the former Soviet land.
Chris on On to Switzerland, where voters have narrowly approved a referendum for tighter immigration controls. That´s jeopardised Swiss-EU agreements that have enabled the free movement of people, goods and services.
Swiss pix Chris off Swiss voters were deeply divided, with barely over 50% voting in favour of limiting immigration. The EU is the country´s largest trading partner, and Switzerland benefits from preferential trade agreements. But many Swiss are concerned that foreigners make up about 25% of the country´s population. Some EU officials have urged caution in retaliating for the referendum, and prefer to wait and see how the Swiss government puts the immigration limits into practice.
Setup McGuinness Chris off Mairead McGuinness is vice chair of the EPP Group.
Interview Mairead McGuinness, Irish MEP, on There are very deep ties and agreements signed between Switzerland and the European Union, and agreements count... So as I look at it now, there´s a period of reflection, to take into account what has happened here, but also to be very clear and say that there are consequences if Switzerland decides that the fundamental freedom of movement which is agreed between the two parties is now to be sundered.
Croatia broll MM continued 1:28
And I think in particular for our Croatian friends who´ve just joined the European Union a couple of months ago, in 2013, they believed that they were entering, that they would have the same arrangement with Switzerland.
We need to be very clear that we want Croatia to be treated as an equal player with all members of the European Union, and that Switzerland would acknowledge that, or indeed there have to be fallout from it.
Erasmus students, research in Switzerland Chris off Officials are hoping to find a solution to preserve agreements on cooperation, like Erasmus studies and the Horizon 2020 program for research and development. But they also warn that trade could stand to suffer if Switzerland pushes ahead with immigration controls.
Chris on Keeping Switzerland in a greater European trade zone strengthens the world´s largest single market. So is creating a single European rail network. The European Parliament has approved a far-reaching measure to break down national barriers and boost rail travel.
Rail in Europe Chris off The Fourth Railway Package will help open up domestic railway markets, creating more competition and improving inter-operability. It guarantees the freedom to provide domestic transport services across Europe. It would improve transparency by requiring the separation of finances between infrastructure and operational costs.
Setup Grosch Chris off The EPP Group´s Mathieu Grosch is rapporteur of the legislation.
Interview Mathieu Grosch, Belgian MEP, on :48
If we know that for instance today, the modal share of rail in passenger transport in Europe in general is around 6%, that means that you have more than 90% on the road. We say if we could increase efficiency of the rail, we could first create jobs, bring partly a solution to congestion in urban areas, on the roads as such. Do a big thing for health because you have less CO2 on the rail. So I think the efficiency of the rail is really a very important issue and we can bring here a European added value because we have no European market.
Railways Chris off The railway package will also establish a single EU-wide certification for trains, to lower costs and ensure inter-operability.
Chris on Finally, an EU standard for emergencies. eCall is a system that alerts emergency services, and the European parliament has approved legislation that will extend its reach across the EU. That number is 112.
eCall pix, road travel, accident cleanup Chris off eCall will become mandatory in all cars across the EU, automatically alerting authorities when an airbag is triggered in an accident. Integrated GPS sends out the location.
Schwab setup Chris off The EPP Group´s Andreas Schwab is a member of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee. He says the mandatory requirement for autos is a way to get all the EU28 to adopt eCall and its number, 112.
Interview Andreas Schwab, German MEP 1:23
We have been calling since quite awhile, since a long time, on member states to introduce this 112 emergency network all over Europe. So that European tourists and businessmen and consumers all over Europe are always available to call this emergency number European-wide. Unfortunately this has not worked as we wanted. But with the introduction of this system into new cars from 2017 onwards, we will improve the infrastructure and we will help to make sure that the 112 emergency number will be available all over Europe for all citizens. And I think that´s a very important step.
Auto travel, eCall
1-1-2 Chris off eCall is one of the EPP Group´s success stories you can find in special in-depth reports on the EPP TV web page, at this link. And don´t forget to put the number your mobile phone - the eCall number is 112.
Chris on That´s it for now from Strasbourg, see you next week in Brussels. And find out more about the largest political force in parliament by checking EPPGroup.eu. Until next time, thanks for watching!
Headline Support for Ukraine - Caution on Swiss immigration referendum - European rail network - EU-wide emergency call system.
Description The European Parliament, supported by the EPP Group, calls for support of Ukraine to help its democratic transition, approves legislation to establish a single market for rail travel in Europe, and a European system for emergency calls, or eCall, using the number 112. The EPP Group, in debate on the Swiss referendum calling for tougher immigration controls, urges a time of reflection. But it also says to remain firm on Europe´s stand on free movement inside the Schengen visa-free zone.
Tags Ukraine, railways, emergency calls, eCall, Switzerland, immigration, Elmar Brok, Andreas Schwab, Mairead McGuinness, Mathieu Grosch, European parliament, EPP Group, Strasbourg