Tunisia and electronic waste top MEPs’ agenda
The European Union’s response to the political upheaval in Tunisia and a debate on this month’s European Council will dominate the European Parliament’s two-day plenary session next week
MEPs will be updated by Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, on Wednesday (2 February) as to what actions the EU will take to support the move to reform in the North African country. Rioting and violent demonstrations led to the toppling of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali on 14 January.
MEPs from the Parliament’s Maghreb delegation have already called for an independent inquiry into the crackdown against protesters in Tunisia over the past month. Some members of the delegation have also called on EU member states and the European Commission to consider suspending negotiations on enhancing the association agreement that the EU currently has with Tunisia.
José Ignacio Salafranca, a Spanish centre-right MEP, has called for the EU to promote Tunisia’s transition to democracy by sending election observers to monitor presidential and legislative elections that are supposed to be held within the next two months.
A group of MEPs will travel to Tunisia on 3-6 February, the first foreign delegation to do so since Ben Ali was toppled.
Ashton and Štefan Füle, the European commissioner for enlargement and neighbourhood policy, have already announced that they are preparing an aid package to promote economic development, good governance and the rule of law and so spur the democratisation of Tunisia.
MEPs will also hear, on Wednesday, from José Manuel Barroso, the Commission president, about what steps EU leaders should take to tackle energy security in Europe and how the EU should promote innovation through economic reforms, topics that will be tackled by the European Council on 4 February (see Page 2).
On Thursday (3 February), MEPs will debate an update to the EU’s rules on how to handle electrical and electronic equipment waste. The report drafted by Karl-Heinz Florenz, a German centre-right MEP, calls for an increase in the rate of collection of such waste equipment as old fridges and microwaves and calls on the EU to do more to prevent the illegal transport of such waste outside the EU. Florenz is also recommending tougher standards on treatment and recycling.
MEPs will also debate the independence referendum in South Sudan and rising food prices around the world. MEPs are also expected to approve a deal to end a World Trade Organization trade dispute over banana imports.