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Stress-free holidays for 120 million consumers – European Parliament backs new rules on package travel

March 24, 2014 Comments off

Stress-free holidays for 120 million consumers – European Parliament backs new rules on package travel
Source: European Parliament

The European Parliament backed today (610 votes for, 58 against and 13 abstentions) the European Commission’s proposal modernising EU rules on package holidays (IP/13/663). Existing EU rules on package travel holidays date back to 1990. Under the new rules, the Package Travel Directive will enter the digital age and better protect 120 million consumers who buy customised travel arrangements – especially online – and are not covered under today’s EU rules. The reform will bolster protection for consumers by increasing transparency about the kind of travel product they are buying and by strengthening their rights in case something goes wrong. Businesses will also benefit as the new Directive will scrap outdated information requirements such as the need to reprint brochures and will make sure that national insolvency protection schemes are recognised across borders.

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Psychiatry as a Tool for Coercion in Post-Soviet Countries

August 29, 2013 Comments off

Psychiatry as a Tool for Coercion in Post-Soviet Countries
Source: European Parliament

During the 1960-1980s in the USSR, psychiatry was turned into a tool of repression. Soviet psychiatry was cut off from world psychiatry and developed its own – highly institutional and biologically oriented – course, providing at the same time a “scientific justification” for declaring dissidents mentally ill. Since the collapse of the USSR there have been frequent reports of persons hospitalized for non-medical reasons, mostly in the Russian Federation and Ukraine. The abuses are caused by an underdeveloped mental health profession with little knowledge of medical ethics and professional responsibilities of physicians; by a system that is highly abusive and not able to guarantee the rights of patients; because of corrupt societies where also psychiatric diagnoses are for sale; because of lack of financing and interest by the authorities and in some cases because of a deteriorating political climate in which local authorities feel safe to use psychiatry again as a tool of repression. Through targeted interventions from outside the situation could be considerably ameliorated and a clear break with the past could be made possible. In this respect the European Parliament can play a crucial role in empowering those who wish to make a clear break with the Soviet past.

The Role of Hezbollah in Post-Conflict Lebanon

August 8, 2013 Comments off

The Role of Hezbollah in Post-Conflict Lebanon (PDF)
Source: European Parliament

The Lebanese Hezbollah is a difficult organisation to grasp; it’s several identities – be it as movement, a political party, and armed resistance group or as a terrorist – are nevertheless all intertwined at the Lebanese level. Born in a Lebanese C BRIEFING an Islamic organisation context, operating from a Lebanese territorial point of view, Hezbollah has integrated the Lebanese political system and has built its existence on the liberation of Lebanon. That notwithstanding, its pan-Islamic outlook and its strong narrative have contributed to its reputation as a fundamentally globally acting jihadi organisation. Although Hezbollah has managed to establish itself as a constant feature on the Lebanese political scene, its weapons’ arsenal are now questioned by other Lebanese, and its engagement in Syria fundamentally threaten Lebanese civil peace.

CRS — The European Parliament

August 5, 2013 Comments off

The European Parliament (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The 766-member European Parliament (EP) is a key institution of the European Union (EU), a unique political and economic partnership composed of 28 member states. The EP is the only EU institution that is directly elected. Although the EP does not formally initiate EU legislation, it plays a significant role in the EU’s legislative and budgeting processes, and works closely with the two other main EU bodies, the European Commission and the Council of the European Union (also known as the Council of Ministers).

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) serve five-year terms. The most recent EP elections were held in June 2009. The EP currently has seven political groups, which caucus according to political ideology rather than nationality, plus a number of “non-attached” or independent members. The EP has 20 standing committees that are key actors in the adoption of EU legislation and a total of 41 delegations that maintain international parliament-to-parliament relations. The EP is led by a President, who oversees its work and represents the EP externally.

Once limited to being a consultative assembly, the EP has accumulated more power over time. Experts assert that the EU’s latest effort at institutional reform—the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force on December 1, 2009—increases the relative power of the EP within the EU considerably. The EP now shares legislative power with the Council of Ministers in most policy areas, giving the EP the right to accept, amend, or reject the vast majority of EU laws (with some exceptions in areas such as tax matters or foreign policy). The Lisbon Treaty also gives the EP the power to decide on the allocation of the EU budget jointly with the Council, the right to approve or reject international agreements, and greater decision-making authority on trade-related issues. At the same time, some analysts contend that the EP still lacks the legitimacy of national parliaments. Those of this view note the perpetually low voter turnout for EP elections, and assert that many European citizens remain unaware of the EP’s role within the EU.

The EP has not been shy about exerting its new powers under the Lisbon Treaty, and in some areas, with implications for U.S. interests. Long-standing EP concerns about U.S. data privacy safeguards contributed to the EP’s initial rejection in February 2010 of the U.S.-EU SWIFT agreement allowing U.S. authorities access to European financial data to help counter terrorism (a revised accord was eventually approved in July 2010). EP worries about whether the United States could guarantee a sufficient level of protection for European citizens’ personal data also necessitated a new round of U.S.-EU negotiations on another anti-terrorism measure that permits the sharing of airline Passenger Name Record (PNR) data. Following the recent revelations of U.S. National Security Agency surveillance programs and news reports alleging that U.S. intelligence agencies have monitored EU diplomatic offices, many analysts worry about whether future U.S.-EU information-sharing agreements will be able to secure the necessary EP approval. In addition, EP approval will ultimately be required to allow any eventual U.S.-EU agreement on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) to enter into force.

Ties between the EP and the U.S. Congress are long-standing, and institutional cooperation currently exists through the Transatlantic Legislators’ Dialogue (TLD). In light of the EP’s new powers following the entrance into force of the Lisbon Treaty, especially those that have increased the EP’s role as an actor in the conduct of U.S.-EU relations, the EP and its activities may be of increasing interest to the 113 th Congress. Also see CRS Report RS21372, The European Union: Questions and Answers , by Kristin Archick.

EU — Energy Infrastructure Priorities

March 18, 2011 Comments off

Energy Infrastructure Priorities (PDF)
Source: European Parliament

Energy infrastructure priorities are made on the basis of long-term energy models with underlying assumptions influencing the model results. This briefing paper analyses long-term assumptions up to 2050. It recommends that energy savings targets, CO2 reduction targets and third country interconnections for renewable electricity import are used as underlying assumptions for a longer term Impact Assessment of infrastructure priorities. Furthermore, it is recommended to set intermediate targets for 2030 and 2040.

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