23/02/2012 Europe and you: European programme for food aid for the most vulnerable saved for 2012 and 2013

Every week looks at what the European Union does for you, your rights, your health and your daily life. This week the plenary session is taking place in Strasbourg, and the deputies will have the opportunity to speak about the creation of a single payment space, the reassignment of cohesion funds towards employment or maintaining the PEAD for 2012 and 2013.

Towards a single payment space in Europe

In its plenary session in Strasbourg on Tuesday the European parliament adopted with a large majority, on a first reading, a legislative resolution on a proposal for regulations for bank transfers between European countries, which will conclude many years of negotiations in Europe on the issue.
SEPA (Single Euro Payment Area) which is currently being created will apply to the 27 member countries as well as Switzerland, Norway, Monaco, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Over six years, 123 billion euros in savings will be made, due to the competition between banks that will lower prices. The deadline for the application of these new regulations has been put at February 2014.

According to the rapporteur Sari Essayah (Finland-EPP) ‘This regulation would really be beneficial for citizens. The biggest advantage would be to be able to make a payment from any bank account within the member countries with the same conditions as a normal domestic bank transfer.’ Businesses will not be forgotten, as ‘they will also benefit, as they will not now need to have additional accounts for different kinds of payments in Europe’.

With this resolution, bank transfers between European countries will become easier, quicker and less expensive, and they will be increasingly like domestic bank transfers. For example, a citizen that works in a different member country would not have to open a new bank account; he could receive payment in his bank account in his country of origin. It will also be possible to pay bills in another country via a bank account in another country, and internet commerce will also be made easier.

Allocate cohesion funds for youth employment

Currently 22 billion Euros of European social funds (a third of its budget for 2007-2013) and 60 billion Euros of the Regional cohesion funds (a fifth of their budget for 2007-2013) have not yet been allocated to specific projects according to the European Commission. They have suggested that these funds be redistributed to finance projects destined to help small businesses to fight against unemployment and especially to encourage youth employment.

On Monday the European Parliament asked the Commission about its project to reallocate this 82 billion euro. According to Danuta Hübner (Poland-EPP), president of the Commission for regional development, the way in which the European Commission presented its suggestion was ‘worrying’. European deputies think that the proposal gives the wrong impression, that the cohesion policy was not getting results. They have highlighted the importance of involving the regions and other concerned parties. In reaction to the declaration from the European Commissioner on Regional policy, Johannes Hahn, who said that it was ‘up to member countries to say if they wanted to change their programmes.’

Programme for food aid for the most vulnerable European citizens saved for 2012 and 2013

European deputies have debated on and passed a vote in favour of modifying the regulation on the financial situation with regard to the European programme for food aid to the most vulnerable. The vote was on the compromise obtained last November that unblocked 500 million euro per year for 2012 and 2013, before eventually finding a long term solution.
43 million Europeans are affected by food poverty, 18 million used the programme in 2011 and 80 million people live below the poverty line on our continent.

The compromise reached on 14 November came after a decree from the European Court of Justice, which ruled on six member states, one of the being Germany, which opposed the allocation of funds ear-marked for the food program, under the agriculture budget, be used for social policy. With this decree the budget allocated to the PEAD will go from 500 to 113 Euros. This compromise allows for its continued funding for 2012 and 2013, but it has joined the call for it to be gradually abandoned, as it no longer spreads the agricultural surplus, and has become assimilated into the national social policies and is no longer part of the CAP.

This vote has caused several reactions from the European Parliament.
According to the rapporteur Czeslaw Adam Siekierski (Poland-EPP) the Parliament does not have a lot of room for maneuvering in order to have sufficient negotiations to modify the Council’s position. Karima Delli (France-Greens) welcomes the vote, but reminds us that ‘there is still some uncertainty with regards to aid for the most vulnerable after 2014.’

The president of the Green group, José Bové, has highlighted the need to ‘create sustainable production systems and local supply, while also looking to significantly decrease the amount of food wastage, so as to guarantee everyone the right to healthy food at an affordable price’.

For her part Rachida Dati (France- EPP) welcomes the Parliament’s decision; ‘This decision is the minimum for the associations and over 13 million Europeans that benefit from it today’, and then she referred to the need to ‘ensure that the PEAD is in the EU budget after 2013…the end of this programme would be a sad symbol of the end of solidarity in Europe’.

According to the socialist Estelle Grelier ‘this agreement is essential for the millions of Europeans adversely affected by the crisis’. But the French euro deputy says that she is concerned as ‘the European Right has ensured that the PEAD will disappear after 2014: the German Chancellor, Mrs. Merkel, is moving forward in her objective to stop all community financing of this kind of social policy from that date onwards.’ So she encourages ‘the Commission and the Council to implement concrete solutions that will insure the long term existence of PEAD, which is a symbol of a social Europe and one that we will fight for!’

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