Two years to adopt anti-trafficking law

THE Irish government has been given a deadline of Spring 2013 to enact tough new legislation finalised in Europe this week aimed at combating human trafficking.

THE Irish government has been given a deadline of Spring 2013 to enact tough new legislation finalised in Europe this week aimed at combating human trafficking.

The EU directive sets minimum penalties for traffickers in all member states of between five and ten years’ imprisonment where a victim’s life is endangered, criminal organisations are involved or where children or exploited. The directive also asks member states to consider establishing as a criminal offence “the use of services of a victim with the knowledge that he or she has been trafficked.”

Welcoming the legislation, Ireland East MEP Liam Aylward said Irish law will have to be adapted quickly if victims of trafficking are to be protected. “Trafficking means much more than the movement of people for profit, it involves coercion, violence and exploitation and the violation of the basic human rights of the victims. It is clear that prevention of this heinous crime requires a coordinated international approach and all Member States across the EU must implement it soon, before the 2013 deadline if possible,” said the Fianna Fáil MEP.

More than 1.2 million people are trafficked globally each year, with 40 per cent of these victims are exploited for prostitution and a further 30 per cent for menial labour.

ECB ignores call to

become shareholder

THE President of the European Central Bank chose not to answer a direct suggestion by Irish MEP Gay Mitchell this week that the ECB become a permanent shareholder in the Irish banking system.

The Fine Gael MEP confronted the top banker head on about the ECB’s role in Irish banks, claiming it could provide greater stability to the sector by recapitalising the banks as a shareholder rather than a lender.

Jean Claude Trichet refused to comment on the notion, but he did respond when Gay Mitchell expressed the view that it was too much to ask the Irish government to both control the public finances and at the same time recapitalise the banks.

“With appropriate and wise efforts, Ireland can do it and will do it,” said Mr Trichet, who also rejected an allegation that interest rates set by the ECB in 2004 and 2005 were too low and had helped fuel excessive borrowing. The ECB President said although the rates may have been too low for Ireland, they had been “appropriate from a Eurozone perspective”.

Mr Mitchell is the latest Irish politician to have lashed out at the ECB for unwittingly playing a part in overheating the housing sector by keeping interest rates low. “Yet it is the Irish taxpayer that has had to take all the responsibility for the fall-out,” complained Mr Mitchell.

Human salmonella down 50%

NEW EU figures show that the number of cases of human salmonella poisoning has almost halved in five years. 196,000 Europeans contracted the food-borne bacteria in 2004, however this figure had dropped to 108,000 by 2009.

The sharp decrease is being hailed as a victory for a Europe-wide campaign to reduce salmonella through a range of measures including quality control regulations and publicity campaigns. Salmonellosis is passed to humans through contaminated food products, particularly through inadequately prepared poultry. It can cause serious gastroenteritis which sometimes leads to death.

Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness, a member of the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee, says the EU made a commitment in 203 to reduce incidences of salmonella.

“In flocks of poultry, targets for reduction of the salmonella bacteria were set. Ireland and other member states introduced strict control programmes and restrictions on the trade of products from infected flocks,” she said.

However the Fine Gael MEP warned that continued vigilance must be maintained to make further inroads into reducing the number of salmonella food poisoning incidences.

MEPs vote for less

Strasbourg sessions

IN a move that could pave the beginning of the end of the European Parliament’s controversial ‘dual seat’ in Brussels and Strasbourg, MEPs have voted to merge some plenary sessions in a bid to reduce carbon emissions and travel costs.

In October 2012 and 2013, two plenary sessions will be combined into a single week in order to spare the parliament one trip to the French city. It’s estimated the decision could save €15 million from the EU budget and reduce Co2 emissions by 1,600 tonnes a year, while maintaining the obligation under EU treaties to hold 12 plenary sessions a year in Strasbourg. However the secret ballot, which was approved by 357 votes in favour and 253 against, has provoked wide-ranging reaction from MEPs themselves.

French and German MEPs who have long defended the Strasbourg seat as symbol of European reconciliation are considering legal action at the European Court of Justice. They have also dismissed as “fantasy” claims that travelling to Strasbourg costs €150 million a year, insisting that the real figure is between €50 and €70 million. On the other extreme, some opponents say the decision does not go far enough, and that the entire “travelling circus” should be abolished altogether.

Ireland East MEP Nessa Childers, who voted in favour of merging sessions, said most MEPs feel the monthly trip undermines the credibility of the European Parliament. “We have to explain to citizens why the parliament’s seat was placed in Strasbourg and pay respect to that, but also say that times have changed and now this is impractical and too expensive,” said the Labour MEP.

Mr Mitchell is the latest Irish politician to have lashed out at the ECB for unwittingly playing a part in overheating the housing sector by keeping interest rates low. “Yet it is the Irish taxpayer that has had to take all the responsibility for the fall-out,” complained Mr Mitchell.