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May newsletter from Bill Newton Dunn MEP

May 18, 2009 6:00 PM

This is my last report from the European Parliament - until after the European elections on 4th June.

It was an important final session - in which several different votes improved the lot of living animals and the freedom of the internet was protected against the desire of governments to unilaterally curb it.

A new EU law effectively bans imports of products from live seals. They will only be permitted where the seal products result from hunts traditionally conducted by Inuit and other indigenous communities. Otherwise the import is permitted where it is of an occasional nature and consists exclusively of goods for the personal use of the travellers. This is an example of an EU law which was initiated by the European Parliament, following strong pressure from the public.


  • Testing in Laboratories on Live Animals

Parliament voted strongly for tighter controls on the use of live creatures in laboratory experiments. But, due to end-of-legislature calendar constraints, it has not been possible to conduct talks with the Council of Ministers with a view to reaching a first-reading agreement before the European elections in June. The newly-elected Parliament will have to to confirm or amend the outgoing Parliament's position and then negotiate with Member State representatives in order to conclude work on this EU law.


  • Welfare of Animals at moment of slaughter

An EU law which will provide high standards in slaughter-houses right across the EU.

Although knowing it would and should pass, I opposed it in the final vote - because I do not believe that there should be an exemption for pain to be inflicted on animals which are being killed for religious purposes without their being pre-stunned first.


This will not the final version of the EU law, which will be decided unilaterally by the 27 national agriculture ministers. Under current EU Treaty rules, it is considered an "agricultural question" - over which Parliament does not have equal powers with the Council - until the Lisbon Treaty is in force.

  • Protecting the freedom of the internet from interference by governments

EU legislation governing activities of Telecoms has to be brought up to date. In our Second Reading vote this week, we reinstated (407 in favour, 57 votes against, 171 abstentions) our first-reading amendment which requires that "no restriction may be imposed on the fundamental rights and freedoms of end users, without a prior ruling by the judicial authorities (...) save when public security is threatened". The Council had removed this safeguard in their First Reading, wishing to be able to block use of the internet when they so decide. Now there has to be a negotiation between the two chambers, and if there is agreement, another vote by the new parliament in September.


  • Proposed revision of the Working Time Directive - but deadlock between the two EU chambers, so the revision lapses.

Despite protracted negotiations between the two EU chambers (Parliament and Council), there is no agreement on a final text to the new law. Therefore the current 1990s directive remains in force. The Commission can draft a new proposal from scratch but new legislation would need to take account the rulings of the European Court of Justice about doctors' on-call time.


  • Two potentially-interesting new websites

1. On Monday 11th, a new website is to be launched which "is a new online monitoring tool of EU politics. It provides detailed information about EU parliamentarians' voting records and other activities in the European Parliament. makes it possible for citizens, the media, and other stakeholders, to track the performance of their elected representatives and the political groups which they collectively form."


2. Your rights as a Consumer

The Commission have just launched a new website - intended to give everybody a way to check their rights as consumers.


  • Lisbon Treaty ratification continues...

The Czech Senate approved the Lisbon Treaty ratification on 6th May by 54 votes to 20 against. The Treaty will now be sent to President Klaus for signature in order to complete the ratification process. Klaus is their vehemently anti-Lisbon but a powerless head-of-state, so it will be interesting to see what he does about it.

For a moment of levity, see the daily joke on the front-page of my website

Please vote on 4th June !

Very best wishes,