Last week, Green Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) met in Strasbourg for the European Parliament’s December plenary, the last one of 2017. Like so often, the agenda was full of burning issues along with many positive outcomes:
- Outcome of the PANA committee: Panama Papers
The European Parliament's committee of inquiry into money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion (PANA), set up at the beginning of the year, was tasked to investigate last year’s Panama Papers scandal. During the December plenary, it concluded its findings and tabled numerous recommendations:
The European Parliament voted with a large majority (492 in favour / 50 against / 136 abstentions) in favour of the final recommendations of the committee.
Huge support for a strong report to fight tax avoidance after #PanamaPapers! Now we look to the Council to stop blocking needed proposals. if they continue to block we need to move to co-decision and majority voting to stop multinationals pitting countries against each other pic.twitter.com/wJVgRCscaH— Molly Scott Cato MEP (@MollyMEP) December 13, 2017
The recommendations include a number of demands from the Greens/EFA group:
- Establishing a Permanent Inquiry committee.
- No European Union (EU) funds should end up in, tax havens or financial companies or intermediaries that are affiliated with tax havens.
- Tax policies should be adopted in the EU under a co-decision policy, with equal decision-power from the European Parliament. Currently, tax issues are dealt with unanimity in the European Council, meaning that any member state can veto legislation.
- Offshore companies with links to the EU should be subject to similar auditing and disclosure obligations as companies in Europe.
- The European Commission should investigate member states for possible breaches of EU law.
DEAL! @Europarl_EN and @EU2017EE reached an agreement today to upgrade anti-money laundering rules. 🇪🇺 Europe will be first continent to introduce public registers for beneficial owners of companies 🤘🍾👏 #PanamaPapers impact pic.twitter.com/A5jZVHuPSD— Catherine Olier (@CatherineOlier) December 15, 2017
This is a great victory for the Greens/EFA group, as they successfully fended off efforts to water-down the proposal. During the voting, no major alliances were formed (such as EPP, ECR and ALDE). Instead, many Green amendments were supported by various groups. This concludes that all lobbying efforts were effective and Green standpoints are carried broadly on the issue of tax justice!
The follow-up will depend on the European Commission, who must turn this recommendation into a legislative proposal. If a proposal is created, the ordinary legislative procedure may take effect. We hope for a legislative adoption in 2018. Watch this space!
- European strategy for low-emission mobility
The European Environmental Agency (EEA) states that transport is the EU’s biggest climate problem, with increasing greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector in the EU.
Because of this, the European Parliament adopted a promising own-initiative report drafted by Greens/EFA MEP Bas Eickhout.
Congratulations to our MEP @BasEickhout whose report on transport emission targets was adopted today in #EPlenary. It's time to bring the EU's transport sector in line with the #ParisAgreement! https://t.co/ZRIU4Ye4Cp— Greens in the EP (@GreensEP) December 14, 2017
The report sets out several measures to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in the transport sector, which are:
- More renewables in transport and more stringent standards for cars and vans.
- The phasing out of CO2 emitting cars.
- A swift reduction of diesel cars and support towards the European Commission’s stance of opening infringement procedures on member states that do not comply.
- Białowieża forest: The European Commission vs Poland
In July, the European Commission referred Poland to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over the continued logging in the protected Białowieża forest. Białowieża is the last remaining primeval forest in Europe, but trees that have lived for up to half a millennium are being cut to the ground. Illegal logging by the Polish government has led to 180,000 trees being felled this year.
The ECJ has ruled that Poland must stop the logging immediately but the destruction has not ceased. Most notably, Poland’s Environment Minister, Jan Szyszko, attended the hearing but rejected the European Commission’s accusations of his country breaking EU rules. Therefore, the European Court of Justice will continue its case and will issue its opinion on 20 February 2018.
We've teamed up with the Polish Green Party and the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament to campaign to save the Białowieża. Join us and help show the Polish government that European citizens are united in preserving our common heritage in three easy steps. Join the campaign!
Join the hundreds of people from all over Europe who send their support to activists protecting the #Bialowieza forest:— European Greens (@europeangreens) December 14, 2017
✅ Take a picture with your message of support
✅ Upload your photo 🔗 https://t.co/ziq0Sna94f
✅ Share it on social media using #SaveBialowieza & #Szyszko pic.twitter.com/o9zRrnFVMh
- The Greens/EFA nominee for the Sakharov Prize: Lolita Chavez
Every year, the European Parliament awards the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to people or groups that have dedicated their lives to protecting human rights and freedom of thought.
This year’s winner was the Democratic Opposition in Venezuela, which was nominated by the European Parliament’s Christian democratic (EPP) and liberal (ALDE) groups. The Greens/EFA group had nominated Aura Lolita Chávez Ixcaquic, a Guatemalan environmental and human rights defender from the Maya Quiché people. She has been a powerful voice for the protection of women’s and indigenous rights against threats posed by corporate interests.
Lolita, together with the GUE/NGL group nominee, Swedish-Eritrean journalist Davit Isaak, were invited to the European Parliament’s plenary in December for the award ceremony.
When Lolita was mentioned by the Parliament's President, Antonio Tajani, she held up a poster with a message urging the EU to take action in preventing human rights violations caused by transnational companies and that affect principally indigenous people, to a long-lasting applause by all present in the Parliament.
Photo of the day: Our #SakharovPrize nominee Lolita Chavez stands up in the @Europarl_EN to condemn #humanrights violations in Latin America perpetrated by transnational corporations.— Greens in the EP (@GreensEP) December 13, 2017
She will keep fighting for indigenous and women's rights, and we'll stand with her! 💚 pic.twitter.com/KNAgNQD5wp
Despite not winning the award, Lolita thanked Green MEPs for their solidarity. Green MEPs will carefully follow her return to Guatemala and support her through the different threats and court cases she is confronted with. This is to give back a little bit of all the inspiration she has given them, and all Greens, so far.