.PTC opener John on Hello and welcome to our round-up of the European Parliament's plenary session here in Strasbourg, the last before European elections taking place between the 22nd and 25th of May.
The week saw votes on closer European banking union, supplementary pension rights, possible new sanctions against Russia over the growing crisis in eastern Ukraine, and a new boost for EU disaster relief.
But we begin our coverage with the growing threat of civil war in eastern Ukraine, and Parliament´s efforts to help find a peaceful and democratic solution.
John off The EPP Group called for new sanctions over provocative pro-Russian actions in the east of the country.
The EPP also wants the EU to sign free trade agreements with Moldova and Georgia within the next few months. Both are former Soviet Republics and both are under threat from Moscow.
Ukrainian pix Donetsk region, etc pro Russian demos
Daul at presser John off In his last press conference as EPP Group President, Joseph Daul said Russia was playing a risky game by posting an estimated 40,000 troops on its borders with eastern Ukraine.
Interview Joseph Daul, President EPP Group I believe the Russians are playing with fire. And I already told many journalists yesterday:
We haven´t discussed this enough with Putin. It´s tough to work with this guy; I know. But now it´s gone too far.
He doesn´t respect borders anymore or international law. This can´t go on. Ich glaub, Russland spielt mit dem Feuer. Und ich habe schon gestern manche Journalisten gesagt:
Wir haben nicht genug mit Putin geredet. Das ist schwer mit diesem Mann zu arbeiten; dass weiss ich. Aber jetzt geht es zu weit. Er halt die Grenzen nicht mehr ein oder die internationale Regel. Das kann man nicht zulassen.
Setup John off Daul added that stronger measures against Russia were unavoidable.
Interview Joseph Daul, President EPP Group
Now we have to initiate sanctions. We don´t have an army and we don´t want to start a war. We can´t start a war.
But now the sanctions have to be made tougher. And we certainly know what it means for Europe when we use sanctions. It will hit us hard too.
Wir muessen jetzt mal mit den Sanktionen anfangen. Wir haben gar keine Armee und wir wollen kein Krieg machen. Wir koennen kein Krieg machen. Aber die Sanktionen muessen jetzt haerter werden. Und wir wissen das dass auch was bestimmt fuer Europa bedeutet wenn wir Sanktionen nehmen. Das kommt auch auf uns dazu.
Pix John off Although not a member of either the EU or NATO, Ukraine´s territorial integrity and its very future will surely play a key role in the upcoming European Parliament election campaign.
PTC John on This week also marked an historic vote in favour of EPP-backed legislation to make Europe's banks safer for citizens and the financial system as a whole.
European Parliament vote footage John off The final part of the banking union, the so-called Single Resolution Mechanism, will help better protect taxpayers against the very failure of banks supposedly "too big to fail."
The banking union includes a harmonisation of national deposit-guarantee schemes and a centralized system to wind down troubled euro-zone banks.
European Parliament vote footage John off Gunnar Hökmark is EPP Vice Chair and an author of the 400-page-thick banking union legislation.
He said taxpayers had suffered enough at the hands of reckless banking policies and insufficient safety guarantees.
Gunnar Hökmark, EPP Group I´m proud of this legislation because it means that taxpayers won´t make losses on banks anymore. Those who will make the losses are shareholders and those who are financing banks.
They will all know that they have the same risks as everywhere else in the economy. So we have in that sense restored market economy.
Pix banking union Hökmark also said the directive on bank recovery and resolution of credit institutions would help restore banks´ ability to provide credit to small and medium sized businesses.
Interview Gunnar Hökmark, EPP Group When banks are getting more credible as they will be, banks will be able to finance more investments: Small and medium enterprises will have a better future with this.
Banking union John off
Advocates say the new legislation will help prevent a repeat of the banking sector meltdown which still haunts financial markets even today.
PTC Bridge John on Pension funds were among those badly hit by the banking crisis.
Now the Pension RIGHTS of workers coming from other EU member states will be guaranteed-- thanks to new rules drafted by EPP Group member Ria Oomen-Ruijten.
Pension pix John off Until now EU workers had large problems building up supplementary pension rights when they worked outside their home country.
Now workers as young as 21 and those who work a minimum of three years, as opposed to the old rule of five, will be eligible to start building a pension.
Interview Ria Oomen-Ruijten, Dutch EPP Group member What we arranged now is that supplementary pensions are no longer lost. That means when you worked three years and you built up supplementary pension then you keep it. Your rights are perhaps dormant, but you have an equal treatment with the active worker or with the pensioner.
Pix John off
Around six and a half million people within the EU are employed outside their home country.
With austerity measures squeezing state pensions, the need for a second retirement nest egg is greater than ever.
But long waiting periods have meant foreign workers cannot start building up their pensions, a dis-incentive which hurts the free movement of workers within the EU.
Ria Oomen-Ruijten´s message to them?
Interview Ria Oomen-Ruijten, EPP Group, Netherlands
Europe cares for those who use the free movement of persons.
Pix pensions John off Now thanks to her efforts, workers can rest easier that they will not put at risk their future retirement money by seeking work abroad.
John on Finally, the EU Solidarity Fund, providing national and inter-regional disaster relief, was signed off by Parliament... thanks to strong EPP Group backing.
It means the EU can in future move faster and with greater funding to help people in stricken areas get back on their feet more quickly.
Disaster pix John off The 500 million Euro-a-year fund was set up to respond to major natural disasters and express European solidarity with disaster-stricken regions inside the EU.
Estaràs setup John off The EPP Group´s expert on the issue is Spanish MEP Rosa Estaràs-Ferragut.
Interview Estaràs The aim of this amendment is to speed up relief, to make it more effective, and to eliminate difficulties after the experiences of the past thirteen years. Lo que hemos pretendido con esta modificación es agilizar que sea eficaz, eliminar estas dificultades y que sea un fondo mucho más útil después de la experiencia de trece años.
John off Since its inception in 2002, the Fund has been used for dozens of disasters ranging from earthquakes to floods, and from drought to forest fires.
Two dozen European countries have so far received more than three billion Euros in relief.
Estaràs-Ferragut said the improved funding and reaction time will produce immediate results for citizens.
Interview Rosa Estaràs-Ferragut What´s most important for the citizens is that once a disaster takes place they´ll know in a very short time if they can get help from the European Union.
That means they´ll have the chance to receive a cash advance straight away ...and will receive the help as soon as disaster strikes. Lo más importante para los ciudadanos es que desde que se produce la catástrofe sabrán en muy poco tiempo , en prácticamente al momento, si pueden tener la ayuda de la Unión Europea o no. Van a poder tener un anticipo prácticamente inmediato, y por lo tanto van a poder percibir esta ayuda al momento cero.
John off The new guidelines mean that advance disaster payment limits will be sharply raised, and technical assistance to disaster areas will also be factored in.
Pix from EPP Group meeting with Juncker
PTC Close John on
John on That´s all from Strasbourg. The European election season now kicks off in earnest.
Jean-Claude Juncker is the candidate of the EPP political family, running for the Presidency of the Commission AND of the European Union. He met with the EPP Group members to formulate election strategy before taking his message on the road to voters.
And finally, yes, remember to go and vote--Do it as your Good Right--and because it´s the Right Thing to Do.
Find out more about the largest political force in Parliament by going to eppgroup.eu. Thanks for looking in.
Headline Plenary round-up: EP backs tougher action on Ukraine, passes historic banking union laws and improved pension, disaster relief rules.
Description Parliament backs tougher Ukraine measures; passes historic banking union, improved pension and disaster relief legislation in last sitting before May European elections.
Tags Eastern Ukraine, Russia, Banking Reform, EU Pensions, EU Solidarity Fund, Joseph Daul, Gunnar Hökmark, Ria Oomen-Ruijten, Rosa Estaràs Ferragut, European Parliament, EPP Group, Strasbourg